Comments on hiring issue ‘tactless’

The OBSERVER offered its readers a commentary titled “Best job candidates are qualified.”

This commentary (June 26) was written by Richard Makuch. The commentary posed statements I made in a false light, stating that I wanted a bilingual person to automatically be appointed to the position of city firefighter without an exam. He also proceeded to inform his readers of his desire for immigrants to learn English and touted that his immigrant ancestors “had to learn the hard way” without government assistance.

I wish to comment on the source of misinformation Mr. Makuch received. I would like to take this opportunity to make clear any misunderstandings of Mr. Makuch or readers in general.

The position of bilingual city firefighter is a position that will be filled with the most qualified individual; this is not about lowering standards of ethical practices. The job of a firefighter is too important and risky to lower standards. The position in question will have the same requirements of passing the exam, scoring in the top and will include the skill of being bilingual. A study funded by a Fire Prevention and Safety Research Grant indicates that a fire department should reflect the diversity of the community it serves. This ensures that effective fire safety and prevention is made available for the community as whole.

With my point clearly stated, I must address the reckless discriminatory comments made in this commentary: “those people.” These comments were directed to the ever-changing, diverse community that I am proud to serve. I take offense when you single out people of this community that perhaps don’t share same ethnicity as your “forefathers,” yet, they were still considered immigrants and members of their community.

I understand that they struggled with the language barrier and that they worked for everything they had, however, that is the trajectory shared by millions of immigrant families in this country. We all arrived here with a hope, a purpose and the conviction to work and contribute to this community. You see, what you don’t understand is that tactless statements — like “those people” — are insensitive to the whole community of Dunkirk and are unmerited.

My position is clear: safety and community — that in the event of an emergency, lives would be spared. That the tragedy that occurred in Portland, Oregon in 2012, where a man did not speak fluent English and firefighters were unable to determine the whereabouts of his wife and two children, does not happen here. The issue of the language barrier in an emergency is a serious concern. Inside of a burning structure is not a time for miscommunication.

Adelino Gonzalez Jr. is Third Ward Councilman in Dunkirk.