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Our DEEPEST Thanks to SULLIVAN & GALLESHAW
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds Michigan BAN on Racial Preferences 6 – 2!



Pro-PREFERENCES Demonstrators in Michigan





In a case that doesn't address the malicious abuse of “disparate impact,” the U.S. Supreme Court DID uphold the voter’s right to ban things like racial preferences, if they “feel it wise to do so.”

Michigan’s Proposition 2 remains in effect. In a 6-2 decision, the justices ruled that the court had no authority to set aside state laws that let the voters decide if they want race to be among criteria that colleges use in admissions criteria. Their opinion reverses a lower court ruling that struck down Michigan’s ban, but made clear that the justices were not about to wade into larger questions about opportunities and race.

“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority. “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

The vote was 6 – 2 because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because she’d previously worked on the case as Solicitor General. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor comprised the dissent.

Seven other states currently have such bans in place a growing number of others have such proposals winding through state legislatures. This decision opens the door to more such voter enacted bans.

STILL, this is only partly good news, because until the pernicious abuse of disparate impact is addressed, the war on merit and standards and true equality of opportunity (everyone held to the SAME high standards) will continue to be waged.


JMK

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interminably Weak



Shelby Steele



Monday, March 31st, 2014


Author Shelby Steele has written that programs, preferences and set-asides that target women and minorities cause these groups to be viewed “as almost interminably weak” and place a “pitying stigma” on even the most hard - earned achievement. This belief has been echoed across at least 40 years by Fire Commissioner Gus Beekman (the second black man to hold that position, and someone who rose through the uniformed ranks from Firefighter to Chief of Department)) who counseled that no one should seek special treatment and “that any pressures applied by the Fire Department (in the form of standards and competitive examinations) are designed to propel men forward rather than to hold them back” all the way to current Firefighter Angel Vazquez of Engine 71 (the Merit Matters Battalion 14 Representative) whose sustained outrage, loudly and repeatedly expressed, at the idea that blacks and Hispanics cannot compete with whites on written tests I hear on a regular basis. And FF Vazquez is not alone – countless firefighters of all races and ranks also reject the proposition that some races are inferior to others and can’t achieve success without the benevolent (in truth, malevolent) assistance of lawsuits and quotas. One Hispanic Firefighter even suggested that some sort of identifying mark be added to our uniforms so that NYC residents and fellow firefighters will know that he earned his job.

This Release is being written and distributed on the day a trial was to begin to determine if NYC and the FDNY intentionally discriminated against minorities (although that’s not exactly true as Asians, Native Americans and “other” were determined by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to be “strong” enough to compete on written tests). Only blacks and Hispanics are to receive a stigma, courtesy of the Vulcan Society (but not, it is important to note, the Hispanic Society – they refused to join the Vulcans in the lawsuit). Consider the following facts which detail the expensive and extensive efforts by NYC and the FDNY, stretching back decades, to integrate:

In order to entice people of color and women into joining the FDNY, the city of New York has:

* Complied with a 1973 quota for blacks that resulted in blacks comprising nearly 8% of the firefighting ranks. The incorrect belief expressed in court documents that the percentage of blacks has “held steady at around 3%” since that time to now would not have been posited had the judge accepted my offer of help.

* Spent well over $20 million on recruitment since the 1980s

* Established a Fire Cadet program

* Established an Explorer program

* Extended established filing periods for tests so more minorities could sign up. This has been done repeatedly, most recently for the 2012 entry test.

* Geared tests towards factors that would enable minority and women applicants to compete for and enhance their chances of being considered for positions as firefighters. The 2007 test was designed to get as many applicants as possible to pass.

* Established city residency credits to benefit minority applicants, even applying the credit retroactively to a test given two years earlier.
Established a Pass/Fail Promotion test from EMS titles to Firefighter to increase the number of minority and female firefighters.

* Given a test on which credit was given for wrong answers.

* Established a high school whose mission is to get female and minority students interested in firefighting

* Celebrated with one of the original female firefighters, Linore Simmond, when she was awarded the Isaac Liberman Public Service Award for her contributions to FDNY minority recruitment efforts. This was awarded in 1994 and came with a $3,500 cash award - does Paul Washington continue to claim that recruitment efforts in the past (this was 20 years ago) were pitiful? Does that mean this award earned by an African-American woman was, in truth, not earned?

* Appointed Battalion Chief Phil Parr, so highly regarded that he was a finalist to be Fire Commissioner in 2009 and has recently been mentioned again for this position, to head the Recruitment Unit. Again I ask - does Paul Washington think the appointment of this African-American was a pitiful effort? And, if so, why did Washington turn down the chance to run the Recruitment Unit himself when it was offered to him?

* Worked with the NY Sports Club in establishing a program to help females pass the physical
Established a Fire Service Fellowship at John Jay College

* Made “a Hell of an effort” to bring as many people of color into the FDNY as possible according to Doug White when he, an African-American, was Commissioner of Personnel under Mayor David Dinkins. Mr. White is currently an Assistant Commissioner in the FDNY and still very involved in its minority recruitment effort.

That is quite an impressive list (and it isn’t even complete). New York City sure has a funny way of intentionally discriminating against minorities.

One of the recurring falsehoods implied repeatedly in this debate is that it is the overwhelmingly white FDNY that makes up the tests that “discriminate” against minorities. The truth is that it is the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS – formerly known as the Department of Personnel, where Doug White was once Commissioner) which performs this task – and DCAS is a majority minority agency. Does anyone seriously think that DCAS is conspiring to keep minorities, especially blacks (because the Hispanic numbers in the FDNY are rising naturally as Hispanics decide they want the job, and then prepare) out of the FDNY? Blacks are the most over-represented group in city employment, employment gained by taking tests prepared by – you guessed it – DCAS.

What of those tests? Since they are at the center of this lawsuit, anyone hoping to understand the issues surrounding it or comment intelligently should familiarize themselves with the tests – and this is easily done. Simply go to the NY Times website:


Once there, search for the 1999 and 2002 FDNY entry tests. You will quickly and easily see that these were essentially “open book” tests; all the information necessary to answer each question correctly was provided directly above the question. No, really, it was.

So there will be no trial beginning today. The NYC Administration decided to settle the case (words like “surrender” and “abandoning” were used to describe this decision) and “broad injunctive relief” will be utilized to achieve certain goals (which includes seeking “an increase in the number of blacks at all ranks within the department” according to court documents – a goal which should concern all that quota promotions are on the horizon and also shake up any apathetic incumbents who hope to be promoted in the future).

No trial, but no end to our advocacy, either. If anything, being abandoned and watching too many both within and outside of the FDNY surrendering only energizes us, and we take inspiration from the words of USMC General Lewis “Chesty” Puller: “We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem! Now we can fire in any direction!”


Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters
516-848-9847 cell

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Historic Opportunity for Bill de Blasio


Mayor Bill de Blasio




Tuesday, March 25th, 2014


Following last week’s settlement of the Vulcan Society lawsuit against NYC and the FDNY, Mayor de Blasio stated the following:

“We strive for a government that looks like New York City. We need a government that looks like New York City”.

We have two suggestions for how he can help make this happen. Here’s our first:

Bill de Blasio should resign as Mayor so that Letitia James, the NYC Public Advocate and next in line, can succeed him.

NYC has never had a female Mayor, and has only had one black one. That doesn’t “look like NYC” so we are calling on Bill de Blasio to turn his words into actions and avoid any charges of hypocrisy that may appear if he does not act now that this path to a more inclusive NYC government has been revealed.

He may also face criticism because of his reliance on the “Tale of Two Cities” theme during his campaign if he does not act on our suggestion. Are all people to be treated equally – held to the same standard regarding traffic and jaywalking laws or demands that employment decisions be made on the basis of race and/or gender – or is the Mayor exempt?

Expanding on this (and this is our second suggestion for making government look like NYC), why are quotas and numerous other expensive efforts ONLY being utilized to achieve racial balance in the FDNY? There are numerous NYC agencies that are more racially out of balance than the FDNY (they are: Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Aging, Youth and Community Services, HPD, Parks, HRA, Homeless Services, Probation, ACS and ironically the Equal Employment Practices Commission(!)). In addition, blacks are the most over-represented group in city employment (24% of the population, 36% of city workers) and in the Department of Education approximately 85% of teachers are female although studies exist that suggest boys learn better from men.

Do we have Two Cities, in which some imbalances are acceptable and some are not? Truth be told, we do, but this double standard (like all instances of unequal treatment) only exists because it has been allowed to exist.

We will be taking action in conjunction with this Release to give the Mayor’s office and Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter (who said, “When we see any member of our community excluded from an opportunity to succeed, it is our responsibility to act”) an opportunity to, again, turn words into actions. To, in Mr. Carter’s words, meet their responsibility to act.

I know that many reading this will consider our call for the Mayor to resign to be absurd – and I agree. It is. But it is no more absurd than arguing that reading comprehension is not required to be a firefighter (as the Vulcan lawyers did; worse yet, Nicholas Garaufis accepted this argument) or that current black and Hispanic firefighters are victims of discrimination because they would have been hired sooner if not for racism or that open book tests which contain the answers right above the questions are too hard for blacks and Hispanics to compete with white people on or...

You get the idea.

In closing, we are well aware that the suggestions we are making herein run counter to our principles and everything we stand for – but desperate times call for desperate measures. We are facing the possibility of having a Chief Diversity Officer in the FDNY much like Mark Lloyd, who held the same title in the Federal Communications Commission and believed that white people had to step down from positions of power so more minorities could hold those positions. Faced with this possibility and others with similar aims, we hope to draw attention to and effect the decisions that are going to be made regarding the FDNY. One way of doing that is demonstrating absurdity by being absurd; thus our call –

Mayor de Blasio should resign.

Tish James for Mayor!


Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When It Rains It Pours


Thomas von Essen




March 18th, 2014


(Note: I had started working on this response to Thomas Von Essen’s attack on the FDNY when the settlement regarding the Vulcan lawsuit was announced. This Release will concentrate on said attack and a future one will discuss the settlement.)

The first question posed by everyone I spoke to about former UFA President and Fire Commissioner Tom Von Essen’s claim that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia were rampant within the FDNY was this:

“If things were that bad what did you do about it, Tommy?”

To be sure, this is an important and relevant question. After all, Tom was a Union official, then Union President. In the latter position he had the ear of Fire Commissioner Howard Safir...and then he himself became Commissioner. The top dog; able to influence policy, create programs, make speeches, announce a “zero tolerance policy”, utilize teachable moments. Since leaving the FDNY he has continued to hold a high profile and make regular media appearances. So, again, we ask:


“What did you do about it, Tommy?”

Did he speak out and refute these members and supporters of the Vulcan Society in August 2011 when they testified under oath in Federal Court:

Paul Washington, a Captain and past President of the Vulcans: The FDNY is a great job and his firefighter father loved it. He indicated that he derives a great deal of personal satisfaction from being a firefighter and explained his decision not to retire when he could have like this: “I love the job”.

Mike Marshall, a Lieutenant and Vulcan VP: He informed the Court that he has 30 years on the FDNY (he, like Washington, could have retired long ago) and his son had 6 years on. This indicates that not only does Marshall like the job, he even recommended it to his son.

Rusebell Wilson, a named Plaintiff-Intervenor in the lawsuit and black firefighter, said of the firehouse: “It’s like being at home”.

Candido Nunez, another named Plaintiff-Intervenor in the lawsuit (who self-identifies as African-American although he was born in Honduras and was not a citizen when he took the test) testified that the FDNY is the greatest job, that his co-workers are a family and a Brotherhood, and that he has never faced discrimination anywhere in the FDNY.

Did he speak out and refute these female members of the FDNY:

Sarinya Srisakul, a firefighter and President of the United Women Firefighters, who said, “I feel like I have 30 brothers” when asked about her relationship with the members of her company. She characterized herself as feeling welcome and said of the evaluation period all new firefighters, male and female, go through, “Once you get past that, it’s pretty golden”.

Daiana Mielnik, a firefighter who said, “I didn’t expect it (sexism) and it didn’t happen”.

Kinga Mielnik (her sister) also a firefighter who said, “I’ve only had really good experiences on the job”.

Michelle Maglione, currently the FDNY Assistant Commissioner for Recruitment and Diversity, who said the FDNY “is the best job in the world”.

How about refuting his fellow Fire Commissioners Gus Beekman and Carlos Rivera, who were strong supporters of the civil service merit system? Comm. Beekman was black (like Robert Lowery, who was appointed Fire Commissioner in 1966) and Comm. Rivera Hispanic, and both men managed to rise up through the FDNY hierarchy from firefighter to the very top.

Perhaps Tommy is ignorant of, or just chooses to ignore the fact that the entire Executive Board of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association issued a Resolution dated July 9th, 1963 condemning in the strongest terms the fact that firefighters were used to suppress blacks who were protesting in Birmingham, Alabama (the use of fire hoses on protestors during the civil rights era has become an iconic symbol of hatred and oppression from that time). In addition, the UFOA requested all its affiliated organizations “to issue immediate and vigorous declarations condemning the deplorable purpose for which the Fire Fighters of Birmingham, Alabama were used”.

Tommy should contact Merit Matters about this issue. We enjoy the official endorsement of both Fire FLAG (representing gay firefighters) and Ner Tamid (the Jewish fraternal group). We can put him (or any enterprising media type who would like to practice journalism and get to the bottom of this story) in touch with members of these groups to refute his outrageous, self-serving and baseless claims of rampant hatred. We can also put him in touch with Asian and Hispanic members who hold ranks from firefighter to Chief (as well as white firefighters married to black and Hispanic women) who are extremely eager to go on the record with their negative opinion of Tommy and his claims.

The FDNY is a microcosm of society so can never hope to be completely free of bigotry and hatred (we witness it routinely in demands for and use of quotas) but when hatred is used by those with dangerous, bitter, selfish or reckless agendas we will respond. A lie told three times becomes the truth and statements like those made by Tommy are made to create a narrative or reach a goal, whether that be to use dangerous and reckless statements to create a false perception and demand action – or to secure another appointment as Fire Commissioner.

Expect opposition Tommy.


Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell

Friday, March 14, 2014

Yet Another Double Standard?








The FDNY is allegedly investigating FF. Liz Osgood over “HIPAA violations” and violating the Department’s regulation stating; “All members are prohibited from making statements that are disruptive to the operations of the Department. Any statements that would disclose confidential information including, but not limited to, statements about: A. Non-final Department policies; B. Investigations; C. Legal proceedings; D. Security precautions; E. Medical information of others including, but not limited to, the identity of patients, the medical status of a patient, and the home address and telephone number of a patient; and F. Other information protected from disclosure by law, are prohibited.”

IF that is true, then why was an “unnamed fire official” recently allowed to comment publically on FF Osgood’s medical status, noting, “Ms. Osgood’s high use of medical leave over the past nine years should have disqualified her from promotion in the first place,” as that statement clearly references FF Osgood’s medical STATUS.

And WHY was United Women Firefighters (UWF) President Sarinya Srisakul’s comments about Ms. Tapia’s medical condition, that, “on the second attempt, she had a respiratory infection but didn’t speak up about it, wanting to keep her head down and avoid asking for accommodation since she was just a probationary Firefighter,” NOT considered as much a violation of patient confidentiality as any other such statement? Fact is, statements charging preferential treatment regarding unprecedented extensions are no different, in terms of revealing such “confidential” information as those defending such treatment.

In a December 3rd, 2013 Chief-Leader article written by Sarah Dorsey (http://www.ufanyc.org/cms/contents/view/164020 Ms. Srisakul is quoted as telling THE CHIEF-LEADER, “that the negative publicity was hard on Ms. Tapia.” Again, twice, FF Srisakul is quoted giving out medical information, as well as her own medical opinion on another employee, over whom she’s expressed outrage that such information has been released.

All of this appears like yet another illicit and unnecessary double standard.


Joseph M Kearney

A Revolutionary Act







FDNY Firefighter Liz Osgood has proven George Orwell right again. I often utilize his quotes when writing about the issues Merit Matters focuses on, and this quote is particularly appropriate to the situation she finds herself in:

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”

When asked to comment about a female Probationary Firefighter who was allowed to graduate (and graduate she did; she was not simply allowed to “attend the graduation”, as some have suggested – in fact, she was even assigned to a company) although she did not pass all the requirements, FF Osgood offered this completely accurate statement:

FDNY brass, under pressure from a court order to hire more minorities, “want their numbers-that’s all it is”.

This truthful statement has been deemed “disruptive”, and she was not promoted to Lieutenant because of it. This comment could only be considered disruptive by people (I apologize in advance for this) who can’t handle the truth. Other comments made over the years by other FDNY Firefighters and Officers that were truly disruptive, however, like – “The Fire Department killed Jamel Sears”!, or “Mayor Bloomberg is a new version of George Wallace, who said, Segregation Now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever” or, racism in the FDNY is “embedded; it is accepted”, or racist attitudes “are pervasive throughout the FDNY” – have not resulted in the sort of backlash Osgood received although they are false and I can provide many more examples. Why the seemingly different treatment? I was told last August by the FDNY Administration that officials of both the Vulcan Society and the United Women Firefighters group who had made disruptive comments were brought in and spoken to about them. I would now like to know, in light of recent events, when these meetings took place, who was brought in, who spoke to them, etc. In short, I would like to see proof of this claim.

Now to specifics of the story and editorial that appeared in The Chief newspaper dated March 14, 2014.

I have yet to ask FF Osgood if she appreciates that the editor is kind enough to point out that, in his opinion, she is unaware of the double standard she indulged in by, um, well – demanding that everyone be held to a single standard. Hey, wait a minute – he is completely off base! Liz Osgood in no way engaged in any kind of double standard and needs no benevolent enlightenment from him or anyone else. She is in absolute alignment with the FDNY EEO Unit Policy Statement (even if the FDNY EEO Unit is not) which states that employment decisions should be made without regard to color, gender, race, religion etc. She completely buys into that whole “one standard and equal treatment for all” idea, which is a big reason why she is not just a Merit Matters member, but holds an official position as one of only nine Division Representatives.

I do know that she has no “heightened sensitivity” because the original female firefighters benefited from preferential treatment courtesy of Brenda Berkman; she is a firefighter first and foremost, not a female firefighter, who earned her position and then gained the respect and strong support of the firefighters who know her best – the Officers and Firefighters in her company. A quote from one: “...Liz has proven throughout her career that she’s great at a fire, she’s gonna be able to do whatever is required, and she’s exemplary”.

The editor then questions the need for urgency in speaking up about the long, drawn out, months long preferential treatment provided to Wendy Tapia. This, frankly, surprises me. He is well-versed in the issues surrounding the FDNY and the toxic, corrosive atmosphere that has been created by quota hiring and other instances of preferential treatment. Imagine this scenario (which is moot because of her resignation and return to EMS): Tapia ultimately never passes the run, but argues that she graduated from the Academy and was assigned to a company (both of these points are true, but I hope I will not be disciplined for discussing them) so, therefore, does not have to pass the run. On what legal grounds could the Administration fire her? What about the current Academy class, or future ones? I’m sure a sharp lawyer could convince a judge seeking to make amends for, say, opposing busing in Queens in the 1970s that since Tapia did not have to pass everything to graduate and be assigned to a company then his client shouldn’t have to. Can we begin to see the need for urgency now? Or that incidents like this cement the already widespread perception that preferential treatment is official FDNY policy? The UWF claims it does not want preferential treatment, but then petitions the Fire Commissioner for just that in the form of, not just a second chance, but a sixth.

As for the polling of instructors “before the probie failed to complete the 12-minute run”, which of the six failures was this before? That would seem to be pertinent. In addition, I have heard the exact opposite about this probie’s abilities, which only serves to point up the fact that opinions are subjective. A stopwatch, on the other hand, is completely objective, and it decided six times that she did not complete the run in time.

The point made by an anonymous fire official about following the chain of command ignores the context and the atmosphere in which the FDNY is operating for the last few years. I have attempted to work within the FDNY utilizing the chain of command countless times over this time (and will happily provide documentation of each and every time for anyone who asks) only to be either ignored, threatened or retaliated against (again, all documented). In another example, every single person in the chain reportedly agreed that a certain probie should not continue to be employed by the FDNY but they were all overruled by one person. I can only imagine that someone aware of the seeming uselessness of bucking what some describe as the irresistible tide of diversity at all costs decided that shining the bright light of the media on the problem was the only recourse.

One more thing - on what basis does yet another anonymous fire official dispute Liz Osgood’s suitability for promotion? Witnessing the actions of some who have been promoted, benefiting from the color and gender blind civil service system and then forgetting that fact, could it be that she won’t turn her back on her Brothers and Sisters? That she stands on principle? That she refuses to engage in the divisive game ruled by the narrative that she has to support Wendy Tapia because they happen to be the same gender and ignore any other factors? Is this why this fire official questions her suitability for promotion? If that is the basis, then it is the conditions to be promoted that are lacking, not Liz Osgood.

She should be promoted, and soon. And it is those others who forgot how and why they were able to advance in this department who should be checking their own suitability.

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell