June 28, 2009

Fire Dept. Diversity Promotions, Chicago-Style

In VDARE.com on Sunday evening, I'll have a column pointing out the multiple ironies in Slate's 5000 word article last week deploring the excessively objective and lamentably non-random 2003 New Haven fire department test (since discarded, with the approval of Sonia Sotomayor) on which Frank Ricci earned a promotion.

In the meantime, here's a great John Kass column from the Chicago Tribune on February 14, 2009 (or as the day is known in Chicago history, St. Valentine's Day) that's highly relevant to the Ricci case. The background is that in the 1990s, Chicago spent a fortune on devising the perfect unbiased police and fire promotion civil service tests. When the test creation process was complete, everybody in Chicago agreed that, finally, a non-discriminatory test had been perfected. Of course, it turned out that whites ended up earning 95% of the scores high enough for promotion, so a political firestorm ensued. For a while, Mayor Richard M. Daley stoutly defended a test on which no expense had been spared, but eventually he caved in and announced that some of the top scorers would get promotions but other worthies would get promotions too, based on "merit" in order to bring "diversity" to leadership positions. This "merit" system was extended to firefighters.

A much more sophisticated system than the simple-minded one under which Frank Ricci earned a promotion, no? So much more thoughtful and nuanced! Who cares about Civil Service laws against political hackery and nepotism when the concept of diversity is at stake?
In what squeaky-clean city would a fire department lieutenant known as “Matches,” convicted of multiple arsons—including one sparked at an elementary school—feel that he’s still entitled to his taxpayer-funded pension of $50,000 per year?

Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know the city.

It’s Chicago, which must be the epicenter of political reform now that Mayor Richard Daley’s guys are running the White House and the U.S. Census, and are about to wet the beaks of federal road and bridge contractors.

It’s also the same city where you’ll need 28 quarters in your pocket just to park for two hours at a metered space, thanks to Daley’s new parking deal. But perhaps the only Chicagoan with pockets thick enough for that many quarters is none other than the famous John “Quarters” Boyle himself.

Years ago, Quarters was convicted of stealing millions of dollars in quarters from the state toll roads. After his punishment, he received a cushy city job. Daley told me politics had nothing to do with it, but all the while Quarters was getting out the vote with The Coalition for Better Government, a pro-Daley patronage army of payroll hacks, tough guys and felons.

Sadly, Quarters is now back in federal prison, this time for taking more than $200,000 in bribes in the mayor’s Hired Truck scandal. But Quarters is keeping his mouth shut. And as he sits tight, his brother wants a pension.

Oops! I’m such a chumbolone that I forgot an important detail: The convicted bribe-taker John “Quarters” Boyle and the fire lieutenant/arsonist Jeffrey “Matches” Boyle are brothers. That’s the Chicago Way.

In 2006, Matches Boyle was sentenced to six years behind bars after pleading guilty to setting multiple fires on the Northwest Side and in neighboring Park Ridge. Matches pleaded guilty to eight fires, but admitted to setting more than 20 others.

What’s fascinating—since Chicago is the epicenter of reform—is that while he was busy as an arsonist, he was also busy applying for a promotion to fire lieutenant.

There were 200 more-qualified firefighters ahead of him on the list, but Matches magically jumped ahead of all of them and received what Daley’s City Hall calls a “merit” promotion in 2002. If that’s not reform, what is?

Here's a picture of Matches Boyle, beneficiary of one of Mayor Daley's "merit" promotions that were instituted in the name of Diversity. As you may have noticed, however, Mr. Boyle is a Person of Pink. (In fact, 30% of Chicago's "merit" promotions went to whites.) But Matches does come from a fine Democratic Machine family, and, in the final analysis, isn't that what really counts?
Matches served only one year and nine months of his six-year stint. And now, despite losing his job and burning the words “convicted arsonist” onto his résumé, he’s demanding another miracle: He wants the Firemen’s Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago—the group that handles the pensions—to fork over his $50K per year. His rationale?

According to his lawsuit against the fund filed in Cook County court last month, Matches insists his convictions had nothing to do with his job as a fire lieutenant. Why? He didn’t set the fires while on duty. He started them on his free time. ...

Matches’ crime spree came to an end after the 2005 Super Bowl, when Matches, drunk and upset over losing $3,000 on a football bet, decided to make himself feel better by setting fire to Brandy’s Restaurant on Harlem Avenue. Local police recognized him from a security tape, and notified detectives from the Chicago Police Bomb and Arson Unit.

The detectives picked up Matches, and according to the police report, they asked him if he liked movies. Matches said he sure did like movies, so the detective asked if he’d “be interested in viewing a video of an arson in progress.”

They rolled tape showing a man pushing a Dumpster, with contents blazing, up against the restaurant. The firebug bore a unique resemblance to Matches, which caused Matches to bow his head and issue the immortal words: “OK, you’ve got me. That’s me.”

According to the reports, Matches told police that he had a drinking problem, was upset over bad football bets and his father’s death, and that journalists were writing mean things about his brother, Quarters. (I’m just thankful he didn’t burn down the Tribune Tower on deadline.)

According to transcripts of a benefit board meeting last year, Matches was asked what he learned as a Chicago firefighter about how different materials ignite, and at what temperatures.

The hotter it got, the more it would burn,” Matches said simply.

Consider how much more socially uplifting is the story of Matches' merit promotion compared to those of nerdy "fire buffs" like Frank Ricci who spent all those hours poring over fire fighting manuals so that they could "earn" promotions based on disparately impacting Civil Service tests of objective knowledge.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Funny Bunny said...

Ah, why waste time on comedy when there is reality?

Clearly the merit promotions were used to promote firemen who had trouble with biased pen and paper tests that unfairly promote bookworms without the requisite hands-on skill it takes to be a good fireman. Nothing can prove this better than the line "convicted arson" on the resume! We can look forward to alternative certification routes so that convicted knife killers can become surgeons without passing through med school - would fix the diversity problem in a jiffy!

Note also the Fahrenheit 451 link - maybe these are the kind of people your want on the force in case there are hate facts that need to be eradicated from somebody's library?

bjdouble said...

Why are fireman promations so much more contested than police promotions? Is it because they sit around and do nothing, and then retire on a big pension? There wouldn't be such demand for fireman positions if firemen had to be policemen first. In the foreign service, you have to work for two years stamping visas before you can do more interesting work. Apply the same rule to fireman positions and I guarantee that fewer whites will apply. Problem solved.

Nicole said...

White firefighters, policemen, teachers, etc. are all going to end up working in the whitest areas they can find to a) escape affirmative action (as much as its possible), and b) escape ghetto behavior.

Then what will happen? More blacks will die in fires, shootings, face corrupt police, etc., and then we'll have to hear about how unfair it is that blacks are more likely to die/be underserved in those areas, and why are the best firefighters, police, teachers unwilling to work there and it must be RACISM on the part of said firefighters, police, teachers...they were given all these advantages in life just because they're white, and now they're not willing to GIVE BACK. I predict will start seeing those stories within the next five to ten years...

Anonymous said...

That was quite funny, in a sad, baroque sense. Now here's what worries me, and no doubt some readers can shed light on that. Is there affirmative action for air traffic controllers ?

Anonymous said...

Do you think liberals will ever admit you are right? They will never even open their eyes and admit the reality before them; they can't possibly accept your conclusions. In a way it's fortunate you are marginalized, if you were a more prominent journalist I'm pretty sure your stress levels would be sky high. Unless of course you have the fortitude of a rock which would make you tougher than 99% of all other public figures. Maybe you should start challenging people to death cage matches.

Anonymous said...

Miles here,

Im so jaded that its hard to really make me mad, but this information *really* made me mad.

"Matches" Boyle set ALL those fires, including one of an elemeterary school and one of a resturaunt in which he was caught on tape(!!!!??????), and he STILL wants his pension after getting out in less that two years of prison????????

WHY isn't this on the evening news instead of Mark Sanford having an simple affair?

The media is infuriating by how they lie to us through omission. This is a big story, highlighting dirty Chicago politics at its worst, and not a peep nationally. I suppose even America's Most Wanted is afraid of impuining Daley's good will. Chicagoans should do themselves a favor, and vote OUT anyone with Daley as a last name. This is so wrong, that man shouldn't see a dime of his pension so he can bet it on football games.

stari_momak said...

Chumbalone, what a great word. Got to work hard to get than into the mainstream use.

headache said...

Well, as building standards improve, generally, we may reach the point where there are no more fires. Yet we need a fire-brigade just in case. So maybe setting a few buildings alight to keep the boys fit is an innovative way to provide exercise.

Anonymous said...

these stories are unbelievable, pathetic and depressing. what a sad world.

josh said...

The much revered local journalist John Calloway just died a few days ago. He is being lauded as the epitome of journalism. He is the guy who popularized the saying,"If your mother says she loves you,check it out!" (Which recalls BB Kings great lyric,"No one loves me buy my mother,and she could be jiving me too!" ) Anyway,I saw him do an interview with some sleazy black political figure regarding the firemens tests.It was the ususal crap about tests being biased,and how merit promotions are a great idea. Calloway was a s soft and sweet as he could be. Then the black guy stated something that made me almost choke on my Diet Coke: he said that test discrepancies are due to the fault of the test writers and in truth there is NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SCORES OF WHITE AND BLACK TEST TAKERS.Calloway perked up and said,"No difference?" The pol assured him there was none. Calloway happily accepted that blatant lie w/o the slightest hint of challenge,even tho he had to have known that it WAS a blatant lie. Yep,great journalist! except when he's not.

Victoria said...

A white neighbor of mine used to laugh at my denunciations of affirmative action. I, the black, and he, the white, held opposite views on the subject, with him praising it to the skies. And why? Because, as an Italian working in New York's Sanitation department, he and others like him had been thwarted by the dominant Irish, who at one time ruled over all the city's services. According to my neighbor, the Irish had ruthlessly kept men like him on the lowest rungs, or out of the department altogether. So, he celebrated the fact that he got to move up, due only to affirmative action policies that forced the hand of city administrators. Whenever we would pass on the street, he would sing, "I love affirmative action." And we'd have a good laugh.

I certainly knew the history of the Irish in New York's agencies and departments, but I had to take his word for it that things were as bad as he described.

m said...

Were Matches and Quarters in any way related to Jacko's son Blanket?

SFG said...

This is sort of a tangent, but you might find it interesting to write on.

Affirmative action and Duke v Griggs are bad in particular for nerds. Since you can't use the objective tests we do so well on, personality becomes more and more important.

How do you feel this affects America? Always seems to me the cultural norm of extroversion is harder on us than, say, Japan or England might be.

Anonymous said...

SFG wrote:

"Always seems to me the cultural norm of extroversion is harder on us than, say, Japan or England might be."

Amen. I'm also good at tests and awful at job interviews and at networking. The federal law (I forget what it's called) that bans employers from giving IQ tests to applicants has a disparate impact on nerds.

Anonymous said...

In other diversity-related news, the National Academy of Sciences has released a report on gender bias in science faculty hiring. Apparently, they didn't find any.


m said...

Lester Holt summarized the Ricci case as a "group of white firemen suing the city over disctimination"....that was it, no more details added.

That said, most firefighters just sit around and comb each other's moustaches all day.

Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of the movie Backdraft.

beowulf said...

Well, as building standards improve, generally, we may reach the point where there are no more fires. Yet we need a fire-brigade just in case. So maybe setting a few buildings alight to keep the boys fit is an innovative way to provide exercise.

Haha, that's funny. Its a challenge for professional firefighters. Its such a popular job that there are thousands of people willing to do it for free (volunteer firefighters) and yet modern building codes mean fewer and fewer fire calls.

So firefighters keep busy in other ways. The first thing is to lobby the city to get rid of the volunteers. The next thing is to rebrand the Fire Department as a "Fire and Rescue Department", crosstraining its members as EMTs as well as "water rescue", "rope rescue" and whatever training FEMA is pitching these days. To be fair, FEMA's CERT course is a very good program.

As for the future... I believe that within 10 years Fire Departments will be offering health care. The state of Alaska gives its Community Health Aides (with less training than Paramedics) more medical authority than some states give Physician Assistants. The Alaska CHAs seem to do OK following their "cookbook" of medical protocols.

I think we'll see Fire Departments keep themselves fully employed by using an Alaska-style system to provide health care. They're sitting around the firehouse all day anyway, might as well keep them busy helping people. :o)