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3-12-08, Blog #1: Success of Fire Department Consent Decree Needed in Minneapolis Department. City should consider Alex Jackson an excellent choice for Chief of Minnenapolis Fire Department.

We just learned that Alex Jackson has been appointed Acting Fire Chief because Chief James Clack left to be Chief of the Baltimore Fire Department. Congratulations to both. Alex Jackson is an excellent choice for immediate Acting Chief. He will also be an excellent choice for permanent Chief.

I know Alex. I grew up with his dad.

Whether the major nominates him for continuing on as Chief will say a lot about the Mayor.

Because the City refused to cooperate either with the federal government, its fire fighters, or its own citizens, it cost the tax payers dearly, having been fined one million dollars, in two separate fines of $500,000 each. What did the city care? Its not their money. Its tax payers' money. Shamefully, the department was finally put under federal receivership, which lasted 21 years, 1979 - 1990.

The Fire Department is now considered the best in the nation in terms of its diversity. The 21 years of receivership resulted in our high standards today. I was privileged to serve on the appointed oversight committee. We held over 200 meetings. I never missed one of them over that 21 year span of time.

Alex Jackson came into the department in the 3 rd class under the federal consent decree. It is the federal consent decree that caused the department, kicking and screaming, into being an department. We would all agree that it is the better for that. Integrated means equal access and equal opportunity were upheld. The integration wouldn't have happened without the decree.

This is why we foresee the same thing needing to be done with the Police Department.

Alex Jackson is an example of what citizens in a community can do when they put their minds to it and follow through, as our oversight committee did.

Some moments are made for history. This is one of them. And although at this date we don't yet know what the outcome of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination will be, we do know that the very fact that a Black American may soon be the nominee, has electrified non-whites around the world, where it is topic #1. For them he embodies the hope he speaks about. Whether he makes it or not, he has already demonstrated to the world that we have come a long way and that we serve as a beacon of hope for them.

We have a long way to go (24% of Blacks are still in poverty, compared to 8% of whites). But Obama holds out the hope that yes, we can do it, although most of us would prefer greater speed and would respond as Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding why waiting longer is not the answer.

In the same way, Alex Jackson, as a Black citizen, demonstrates to all that with equal access and equal opportunity, all who are qualified can make it, that all can sit at the city's table. Alex Jackson's appointment to permanent Chief will go a long way to restore Dr. King's criteria of the content of character over color or gender which has grabbed the imagination as the key criteria to a large segment of this year's voters.

We congratulate Alex Jackson and urge the Mayor and City Council to do the right thing: make Alex Chief, not because he is Black, but because he is qualified, because he has earned it and because he has demonstrate what a wonderful leader he is, perfect, in my view, for the position of Chief of the Fired Department.

Posted 3-12-08, 1:27 p.m

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

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