Former White House chief of staff and Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has not yet been sworn into office, but he’s already raising the ire of some of the city’s Black aldermen, who are unhappy with his picks for police superintendent, fire commissioner and 911 center chief. Each of the members of his public safety team and the incumbent fire commissioner, who Emanuel will retain, are white men. The Black lawmakers, who are among those who must approve the appointments, aren’t happy.
“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,” Alderman Pat Dowell said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Emanuel did appoint former Rochester public schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, who is Black, to head the city’s public school system, but that hasn’t muted the aldermen’s criticisms, because although Brizard grew up in New York City, he was born in Haiti.
“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,” Alderman Howard Brookins.
In response, Emanuel said that diversity of experience is more important than skin color. “I want people of diverse experience and I want people who can deliver results. … The first test [for a police chief] for me is a diversity of experience to deal with reducing crime,” Emanuel said when he announced his picks.