Published December 25, 2005
While the responses to the Betras /camera entries have been so dramatic and overwhelming (Bertram's Blog has been on line for only about a month) that it may be premature to change topics, there is an issue that should generate comments from Vindy.Com readers.
This week, Youngstown Mayor-elect Jay Williams is expected to announce his appointments to key cabinet positions, and not surprisingly the rumor mill has been working overtime with regard to the position of police chief. Williams has played the whole appointment exercise close to the vest, refusing to identify applicants for the positions and even keeping secret the members of his screening committee. He will only say that the committee represents a cross-section of the community.
The name most often mentioned as the successor to police Chief Bob Bush is Capt. Jimmy Hughes, a veteran cop who earned his reputation as a juvenile officer. Hughes, who like Bush is black, has been the beneficiary of federal lawsuits that were filed many years ago that challenged the hiring and promotion practices of the department and the legality of the civil service examinations.
Thus the question: Is it necessary for Youngstown to have a black chief, given that it is a city of less than 80,000 with almost a 50 percent black population and with one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the nation as a result of black-on-black killings?
Indeed, considering the reality of the city and the obvious breakdown of law and order in some predominantly black neighborhoods, is an "outsider" the answer to the crime epidemic? This is not to suggest that there aren't qualified police officers in the department, but given that crime has been the No. 1 problem for many years, woiuld the city benefit from having a chief who offers a different perspective to solving this problem?
Even though Williams remains tight-lipped about his appointments, a debate focused on the underlying issue of race is not only necessary and timely, but could be of assistance to the mayor-elect.
(Note: Given the interest in Atty. David Betras' battle with the city of Girard over its traffic camera, readers are encouraged to continue commenting about this lawyer's quest for legal sainthood. Bertram de Souza)