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As a member of the Buffalo Fire Department, I would like to respond to the June 8 News article, "Race relations." Firefighter Frank Gist, president of MOCHA (Members of Color Helping All), feels a sense of "powerlessness" because of what he feels is a lack of representation within the leadership of the Fire Department.

He said minorities hold only seven of 175 leadership positions. This statement is not correct. There are many minorities in leadership positions including the deputy commissioner, fire administrator, fire prevention, arson investigation, EMS officer, dispatchers and 13 line officers.

Gist said he feels the problems of racial tension are based on minorities "viewed as being not qualified for our jobs, and people think we want special privileges." If Gist doesn't want special privileges, then why does MOCHA have a federal lawsuit pending seeking exactly that for promotional exams?

Many minorities have already earned positions of leadership. These men and women were promoted and appointed to these positions based on their own merits. Why does Gist want to ignore these accomplishments? These firefighters have proven they are capable of achieving their goals of leadership and promotion.

Gist stated many employees believe their children have a birthright to be appointed to the department. As the son of a retired firefighter, this personally offends me. I studied and did my best on the civil service exam. The exam doesn't favor anyone, even one with a firefighter background. What is Gist trying to imply with this statement? There are many minority firefighters who are related to other firefighters.

There are as many differences in the Fire Department as there are in everyday life. There seem to be a few who want to speak for many. If Gist wants to speak out, he should do it factually.



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