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Black aldermen unhappy with Emanuel’s police and fire picks

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

A number of black aldermen on Monday accused Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel of shortchanging African-American voters who put him in office after the mayor-elect chose white men as police superintendent, fire commissioner and 911 center chief.

Newark Police Chief Garry McCarthy will replace Police Supt. Jody Weis.

Former Marine training director Gary Schenkel, who ran the Chicago Police academy under Terry Hillard, will return to Chicago as director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

And Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff, a third-generation firefighter whose father died in the line of duty, will be retained.

For some black aldermen who must approve the appointments, it was another slap in the face. The only African-American member of Emanuel’s public safety team is former Chicago Police officer Felicia Davis, who will serve as deputy chief-of-staff for public safety.

“Nobody is black at the top. At least Mayor Daley did have some African-Americans around him. It appears now that Mayor Emanuel has no blacks around him,” said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee.

Reminded that newly-appointed Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard is black, Austin said, “That’s not us. Even though that’s a sister agency of ours, that’s not in this City Hall.”

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) noted that Emanuel’s landslide victory was sealed by carrying every one of the city’s black wards.

“There is a dearth of African-American professionals evident in his current team,” Dowell said.

“It’s problematic that he hasn’t appointed African-Americans in prominent positions that deal with delivering city services. He’s appointed African-Americans to be on boards and commissions and on his personal staff. But, in terms of managing a large city department that provides services to the taxpayers, I don’t see anybody of color.”

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) added, “I’ve heard in the community, even with respect to Mr. Brizard, that he’s not from here. He’s not [really] African-American. He was born in Haiti. We just hope that we would be able to get some local folks. … Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of things to come — that it’s all outside people. But, we’ll see.”

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee, did not share her colleagues’ concerns about race. She noted that former Police Supt. “Jody Weis wasn’t black,” either.

“The mayor has the right to’pick his new leadership team — people he feels are competent enough to do the job,” she said.

“I’m not the person running the city. The person who’s running the city and gonna get kicked ... for good and bad ... has to make that hard decision on who he feels he can best work with and best lead the city in the direction that he wants to go,” she said.

During a news conference at the 911 center called to unveil his public safety team, Emanuel said he’s more concerned about “diversity of experience and background” than about achieving racial balance.

“I want people of diverse experience and I want people who can deliver results. … The first test for me is a diversity of experience to deal with reducing crime,” the mayor-elect said.

Emanuel noted that McCarthy earned his chops in New York and Newark. Davis comes from the Chicago Police Department and it’s education system. Hoff is a third-generation firefighter. Schenkel’s background includes the Marine Corps, the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“My standard is finding the diversity, the element of teamwork with the purpose of serving all the people of Chicago, and I believe all the people of Chicago will see this team as a team that is working on the first and foremost goal they have: To bring people a sense of safety and security wherever they live so the kids can go to school, people can be out on their porch and businesses can operate. That’s the standard the public is looking for. That’s the standard I looked for,” he said.

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