The latest focus of City leadership is on our Minneapolis Fire Department because of its successful leadership by a Black man. Some in city government are determined to portray Fire Chief Alex Jackson as a negative example.
Yet in my estimation, he has been one of the finest leaders in the history of the Minneapolis Fire Department (MFD). I should know, as I served a decade as one of six citizens presiding over the fire department for the federal court when the MFD was as discriminatory as the police department.
Chief Alex Jackson’s stewardship goes beyond race. He has worked brilliantly despite the political and budget decisions of the city council that have caused staff reductions, budget cuts, and, most telling, the removal of responsibilities from the department.
Due to my long experience as a representative of the federal court, along with the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, in the case known as Carter v. Gallagher, I am extremely familiar with the demanding responsibilities of being chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department. Chief Jackson fulfills his responsibilities.
The problem is that race is again a factor. Even though it seems that Chief Jackson has the seven necessary votes on the council to be reappointed, I remain concerned about unwarranted statements about the department that are far from the truth.
Example: It was surprising to recently observe how many current city council members did not know that the department’s policy on sick leave was the City’s policy, not a policy created by the Minneapolis Fire Department. Thus the criticism has to be directed at the City, not the fire department.
Example: One of the most egregious offenders is the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Some would say you should not compare the 12 or so in the civil rights department against the better than 480 members of the fire department. Doesn’t matter. Proportionally, the civil rights department has one of the worst records of any department.
Example: The success of one of the greatest cover-ups is taking place around the issue of overtime in the Minneapolis Police Department under its current chief. In fact, very quietly over the past two years officers have been quietly transferred out of their units to cover up their shenanigans.
Example: Three internal auditors hired earlier this year discovered all kinds of abuses of overtime and sick leave in the Minneapolis Police Department.
Example: Left out of the Steve Brandt story in the Sunday, December 11 edition of the Star Tribune and left out of the previous Star Tribune editorial is that Chief Alex Jackson will come in under budget. This omission leaves the false impression that Chief Jackson is a failure and a disaster as a department head.
Example: Four years ago when the Star Tribune said that they were trying to examine the issue of overtime and sick leave in the Minneapolis Police Department, the department told them to go to hell and the Star Tribune withheld the data from its story.
Example: The majority of the city council was serving then as now, and they seem have no problem with restricting the state’s largest newspaper from examining overtime and sick leave in the Minneapolis Police Department.
Example: Imagine what would have happened to Chief Jackson if he had decided to be as obstinate in his responsibility to his stewardship as the chief of police has been in his. Most objective observers agree that the leadership of the two departments is different in complexion in more ways than one.
Example: The recently unveiled downtown $2 billion development package contained no information regarding any role, plan or participation by Blacks in this promised economic upsurge.
Add the examples above to the lists of examples by topic that I’ve posted on my website, the first of five being about (1) the Minneapolis Police Department, (2) the record of Minneapolis’ disparity and avoiding compliance with hiring Black people, (3) planning that meets the needs of White planners but not Black neighborhoods, (4) singling out the Vikings to leave town, and (5) the silence of the Star Tribune in covering the evidence outlined in these columns.
These examples clearly support my statement that some key leaders in Minneapolis City Hall just do not like or accept Black folks.
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm; hosts “Black Focus” on Blog Talk radio Sundays at 3 pm; and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 4 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.