- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

D.C. fire-cadet program ‘bars’ whites

The D.C. fire-cadet program (“Risky firefighting business,” Editorial, Saturday) trains young city residents and gives successful participants a start to a career as a firefighter. The program is supposed to be open to all interested city youth, but the D.C. Fire Department, in choosing a federal grant as its sole funding source, has created a program which has led to the de facto barring of whites.

A young, lifelong Washingtonian, not an offender, runaway or otherwise at-risk youth, applied for the upcoming D.C. fire cadet program but was denied entrance because he lives, as Fire Chief Adrian Thompson told me, in the wrong area of the city, which is predominantly white.

Never in the history of the D.C. fire cadet program has there been a white cadet. Originally, this lack of racial diversity was accomplished by not recruiting in the District’s white areas. It is now achieved by accepting federal money which requires applicants live in specific areas or who live at poverty level and are at-risk youth; not a coincidence that they, too, happen to live in nonwhite areas.

As judiciary committee chairman, at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson explained to Chief Thompson the intent of the [judiciary] committee in creating the cadet program was never to be exclusive and “there is no basis in the law for providing a cadet program and then excluding all youth, automatically, solely because of their family income or place of residence in the District.”

Mr. Mendelson asked to add city funds to the program, thereby allowing participation by all D.C. youth, providing racial diversity and more closely representing the city’s demographics. The chief’s refusal to use any local dollars and his insistence on using only the restrictive federal funding displays his intention to continue exclusivity and effectively prevent a white person from ever becoming a fire cadet. Mr. Mendelson should put cadet program funding into the next D.C. Fire Department budget.

Matthew Cella of The Washington Times has recently written of the “troubled” cadet program and some of its less than honorable former cadets (“Cadet program to restart,” Metropolitan, March 2), as well as a multitude of other program problems. Chief Thompson should insist that applicants are city residents for a minimum amount of time before they can participate in his program, i.e. one or two years. Some cadets have spent their entire lives outside of the District and then with a “correct address,” have managed to get accepted as D.C. residents. This program for the “underprivileged”has accepted some applicants with college educations and some who were already employed by the D.C. government. Because all D.C. firefighters must be U.S. citizens, those noncitizens accepted and trained as firefighters are then given other positions in the department which do not require firefighter training.

Clean up the program, drop the exclusivity by admitting youth from all eight wards and only admit those with the high level of integrity and capability which D.C. citizens have a right to expect from their firefighters. The fire department is no place for remedial, second-chance training of at-risk youth. The cadet program has promoted some excellent candidates into the ranks of the firefighters but those young people would be successful whether or not they came through the exclusive hiring program.

Although the D.C. Council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams know about these troubles, only Mr. Mendelson has publicly stepped forward to remedy a program rife with problems. With perseverance, he will succeed. If even one or two council members seeking “higher” office support the. Mendelson plan, the D.C. Fire Department could have a well-diversified and great cadet program.

AMY MCVEY

Washington

Support the Frist bill

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, has introduced immigration legislation that bypasses the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican (“House members warn Senate against alien ‘amnesty,’ ” Nation, Friday). Mr. Frist’s reasoning, according to The Washington Times, is that “Our country needs security at our borders in order to slow the flow of illegal immigration and make America safer from foreign criminals and terrorists.”

House Republicans agree, and have told Senate leadership, particularly Mr. Specter, not to put forward “thinly disguised attempts to provide amnesty.” Mr. Specter declared Mr. Frist’s move a “colossal mistake,” but Mr. Specter’s alternative can’t be characterized as anything other than the kind of amnesty that will result in even more illegal immigration in the future.

While Mr. Specter deserves credit for shepherding the Supreme Court nominations of John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. through the Democrats’ minefield, he has been generally cavalier regarding steps needed to curb illegal immigration and strengthening border security. Mr. Frist has correctly read both the sense of House Republicans and the national mood on immigration by putting forward sensible proposals that address border security as the first priority before a guest worker plan should be considered.

Senators of both parties would do well to support the Frist bill, which is both reasonable and prudent.

ROBERT BERRY

Montgomery Village

Free trade and the ports deal

I disagree with Henrik Rasmussen that the attempted takeover by Dubai Ports World of major U.S. port operations had little to do with security because the port operators are intimately involved with daily port security even though the Coast Guard had overall security responsibility (“Real issue is free trade,” Commentary, Sunday).

But I do agree with him that free trade is the real (hidden) issue regarding this controversy. However, it is not primarily pundits and politicians who are pitted against the Bush administration for their free-trade initiatives like the Central American Free Trade Agreement but rather a grass-roots effort of the American people. In fact, I believe that resentment against our unfettered free-trade policies was the real meaning of the public outrage regarding the Dubai ports deal.

Unfortunately, except for a few true patriots in the media, most commentators from both the left and the right espouse so-called free trade. Even influential pundit Rush Limbaugh is a main proponent of globalist free-trade policies as evidenced by his spin on the ports controversy.

He is still trying to convince his listeners that most Americans reacted in a knee-jerk manner and if they were only enlightened they would be for the ports deal. Amazingly, part of his convoluted defense of the ports deal is that communist China already operates ports in Long Beach, Calif.

On the contrary, Americans are not stupid; they clearly understand that much of free trade, including the ports deal, jeopardizes our national and economic security. Apparently, the ports controversy has struck a raw nerve of old-fashioned patriotism among Americans who see their beloved country gradually slipping away — for sale by greedy corporate elites and self-serving politicians under the guise of a global economy.

These patriots fear a hollow America stripped of its national identity and middle class. They are especially worried about our loss of sovereignty which has a direct bearing on our nation’s security. Each part of America that is purchased or outsourced to foreign powers, especially to totalitarian governments, surrenders a piece of our sovereignty and hence our national and economic security. World War II was won because of America’s great industrial strength — now our industries and jobs are being outsourced to dictators and Third World countries.

The outrage of the American people over the ports deal can be summed up this way: “It’s our sovereignty, stupid.” Are any commentators and politicians listening?

ANTHONY PATRICK

Chalfont, Pa

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