The Houston Fire Department Mess Just Keeps Stumbling On

rally july 22.jpg
Photo by Paul Knight

A small rally was staged today on the steps of city hall as a "show of solidarity" for Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes, the two women firefighters who were victims of racist (to say the least) graffiti on their lockers.

A group of women church leaders offered prayers and general support, including a rendition of Psalms 23 in Hebrew, to let the women know that they are not alone in their "goal of change," said city councilwoman Wanda Adams.

"Any racism in any city department is systemic. We need to strengthen our executive order," Adams told Hair Balls. "Some city employees feel that even when they report discrimination or harassment, it falls on deaf ears."

The rally came on the heels of the city council's decision to delay hiring lawyers who would be charged with finding out how good the fire department is at things like diversity and conflict resolution. Trouble is, the law firms that were going to be hired had ties to the city's attorney, Arturo Michel. Joseph Ahmed, the attorney representing the women firefighters, wasn't too happy about this latest development.  

"This thing is getting worse and worse," Ahmad, who spoke at today's rally, told Hair Balls. "It's fairly obvious that someone at the top [of the city's administration] is trying to cover this up. We need someone to come in and look at this from the outside, the serious outside, who isn't concerned with getting business from the city and doesn't have to worry about what the findings may lead to."

He continued, "[Draycott and Keyes] expected this to be over by now. Instead, the city turned the tables on them, almost like guerrilla warfare."

Adams offered that the hiring was delayed simply because "the process wasn't transparent enough." If that's the case, the council has its hands full as the city prepares to dish out close to $1 million in consulting contracts. There's the new BARC hire, the questionable Metro contract, and now this. We don't know if all this mess should include the Houston Airport System, because that place doesn't even touch transparency.

Ahmed said that if the city hired an independent firm to look at the fire department, along with a serious upgrade in training and possibly implementing an affirmative action policy to hire more women, then he wouldn't file a lawsuit.

"Why should we have to file a lawsuit to change a city? I think it's incredibly wasteful and inefficient," he said. "But apparently, that's what it takes."

The city council will talk more about hiring law firms to examine the fire department at an agenda meeting on Monday, according to Adams.



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