Monday, September 20, 2010

Fighting Fire With Fire

Give the Bloombergistas credit where credit is due-and their decision to tell Judge Garaufis to take his firefighter diversity ultimatum and shove it was spot on. The NY Times has the details: "The City of New York said Friday that it would not hire a new class of firefighters using proposals laid out by a federal judge, who had ruled that the test used to screen Fire Department applicants discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanics. In a letter to the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Michael A. Cardoza, the city’s corporation counsel, said all of the judge’s five hiring methods involved race-based quotas that were “both illegal and unwise public policy.”

What's going on here? Why is it that the FDNY's written test is viewed as discriminatory-can it be because the results don't conform to a politically correct standard? Now we were involved in this slippery slope diversity stuff two decades ago when the Dinkins administration tried to rig both the written and the physical test used to get into the fire department. At a city council hearing at the time, some academic actually testified about the unfair fact that some folks tested worse than others. When we got the opportunity to rebut, we wondered aloud whether the professor was looking to create a new class of disadvantaged-the, "examinationally challenged."
But the real question here-especially since the FDNY is universally seen as the class of the field when it comes to fire and rescue-is why we would want to water down standards and hence threaten public safety? And since it is usually Black and Hispanic citizens who are more likely to need firefighter help, wouldn't we be threatening the safety of those groups by not insuring that the firefighting class  was the cream of the crop?

The NY Post captures the essence of the problem: "Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis doubtless thought he was being clever in allowing City Hall to choose among five options for hiring new firefighters — each of which incorporates race-based quotas. But Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo has informed the judge that the city will take a pass on his scheme, rather than acquiesce to what it rightly considers “illegal and unwise public policy.” Good for him. Garaufis, of course, has been on a years-long campaign to remake the FDNY in his preferred racial image. Nothing the city does to increase diversity among its firefighters will ever be good enough — until it embraces quotas."

And the NY Daily News agrees (but not the Times? Just kidding): "Mayor Bloomberg has taken a principled stand in refusing to adopt race-based hiring as a way to increase minority representation in the Fire Department."

But for the grievance mongers, the only thing that matters are the test results-and getting more minority firefighters by whatever method, even if it means a quote system. As the WSJ reports: "Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was representing the Vulcan Society of black firefighters, said he was surprised by the city's decision because it had argued it wanted the new class. But he said the society was sticking by its position that the FDNY needs to diversify. "The Vulcan Society's interest here is that the fire department has to be more diverse," he said. "If they aren't going to hire a diverse group right now, then they shouldn't hire anyone."
The public interest be damned! But the city is right to stick to its guns-even if it means forgoing the new class, no matter what hardship that will inevitably cause those who took the test and scored highest. The NY Daily News makes this point: "Every one of the five proposals from which the court is allowing the city to select involves some form of race-based quota," Michael Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, wrote in a letter to the judge. "The city respectfully believes that using race-based quotas to select firefighters is both illegal and unwise public policy." Cardozo acknowledged the city may not be permitted to hire a new class, even though the FDNY has warned it will soon be short-handed."

So there you have it. One group of aggrieved applicants is actiually holding up the city-and the tax payers: aided and abetted by a woolly headed federal judge. In our view, public safety trumps political correctness-and everyone has the same opportunity to study the test material. If some don't do as well as others-and the same disparity is found on the city and state educational tests at all levels-no federal judge should be allowed to make decision that compromises the well being of all New Yorkers.