According to the media, a group of local ministers and other community leaders held a press conference at noon today to voice their support for Chief Sherman George.
Like the ministers, I also support Chief George and have supported Chief George through some pretty bumpy times since I was elected. However, I feel very strongly that an effective, safe, and well-run fire service is essential - not only to the City and to the families of City firefighters, but also to the dozens of surrounding communities that rely on the St. Louis Fire Department for mutual aid.
I don't believe - frankly, no one believes - that the Fire Department can continue to operate safely and efficiently without one-third of its fire captains and battalion chiefs.
Many of the people I meet want to know why we didn't just order the chief to make the promotions. The answer - as the press conference showed - is that some of the Fire Department's operations have gotten all tangled up in racial politics.
That's why I put forward a way for the chief to give every side of the dispute something to like and dislike. It would allow us to put the issue of promotions behind us and concentrate on ways that African American, white, and other firefighters can work together for the good of the Fire Department and the good of the City.
The old way of doing things in St. Louis is to line up along racial lines for a big fight. That makes for great theater for the media. A better way is to work together to find a way to close the racial divide for the good of the Fire Department and the City.
I think most people want the latter.