Fire commissioner named chief emergency officer

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chicago Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter just got promoted. Mayor Daley named Trotter Chicago's chief emergency officer Thursday morning. The new position was created to deal with emergency preparedness.

Mayor Richard Daley appointed fire commissioner Cortez Trotter as the city's first-ever chief emergency officer on Thursday. Trotter will oversee police, fire, and health services during a major disaster.

The mayor is appointing deputy fire chief Raymond Orozco, the son of a former fire commissioner, to run the city's fire department in place of Cortez Trotter, who gets mixed reviews for his handling of racial tensions and firefighter safety over the past two years. Trotter is now taking on a much bigger assignment overseeing virtually everything related to planning for and handling big, small and medium-sized disasters and emergencies, which have become a major preoccupation for Mayor Daley.

"This is something you have, airports, fire, police, schools, children, that's one thing we really believe we need, much better coordination," said Mayor Richard Daley.

Mayor Daley says the federal government's failure to stop the 9-11 attacks, protect the victims of Hurricane Katrina and get enough bird flu vaccine demonstrates the importance of putting one person or agency in charge of planning, coordination and communication. The mayor is creating a new job of disaster czar for Cortez Trotter, a trained paramedic, former director of the 9-1-1 center and fire commissioner for the past two years.

Daley says firefighting problems at 69 W. Washington, crowd control at a giant police march a couple years ago and security at Midway Airport, where a drunk wandered out on the field, make it obvious that no single department, or even the 9-1-1 center, can do it all, including management of snowstorms, heatwaves and floods.

"What I basically need is someone in charge of all the departments in regards for emergencies, and not just one," Daley said.

"These departments are going to function as they normally function, but the planning of the large-scale events that we have the potential to occur, that's where I will be beneficial," said Cortez Trotter, new chief emergency officer.

"I hope he does a better job at that job than at fire commissioner," said John Chwarzynski, Chicago Firefighters Union.

The president of the firefighter's union is glad to see trotter go.

"I think a lot of the rank and file was unhappy with him for a lot of promises that were made that weren't delivered," said Chwarzynski.

"He found a way to take care of all of that and he wanted it to continue to grow," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward. The new fire commissioner is Raymond Orozco, a 26-year veteran of the department and the son of a former fire commissioner with the same name.

"My father served the fire department and the city for 38 years. And if it wasn't for my parents, I wouldn't be standing here today. They've instilled in me a work ethic and family values. The fire department is the passion of my life next to my family," said Raymond Orozco, new fire commissioner.

Orozco is not the top deputy at the fire department, but the mayor says he is the top man for the job and family connections have nothing to do with it.

As for Cortez Trotter, he was headed for a job in the private sector, but Daley talked him into staying on as disaster czar at a salary to be determined, but he will also be collecting his fire department pension of more than $100,000 a year.

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