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Rahm Emanuel’s cabinet comes up short in diversity

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced his finance team Standard Club Wednesday April 20 2011. (from left) Deputy Mayor Mark AngelsComptroller Amer

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced his finance team at the Standard Club Wednesday April 20, 2011. (from left) Deputy Mayor Mark Angelson, Comptroller Amer Ahmad, Emanuel, Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott, Budget Director Alexandra Holt and Chief Technology Officer John Tolva. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 10, 2012 6:19AM

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel convenes meetings of his cabinet, the racial breakdown of those top aides hardly reflects the diversity of the city they serve.

In a city in which no single racial group makes up more than a third of the population, almost two of every three City Hall department heads is white. Of 30 Emanuel appointees to the highest-ranking city government positions, only five are black, and three Hispanic, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis shows.

“It’s abysmal,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) says of blacks’ under-representation in the upper ranks at City Hall. “We have talked about it with the mayor, but apparently it has fallen on deaf ears.”

In contrast, Gov. Pat Quinn has tapped African Americans and whites to serve in top state posts at a rate that roughly mirrors the size of their communities in Illinois, though Hispanics are relatively scarce in Quinn’s cabinet despite their growing population.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has 15 whites and 13 blacks in the 34 top posts in her administration. As in the Quinn and Emanuel administrations, though, few Latinos occupy top positions under Preckwinkle. She has four Asian cabinet members and two Hispanics, even though Hispanics are four times as numerous as Asians in the county’s population.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” says Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum. “It’s really unfortunate that none of our government leaders have proper representation in their cabinets.”

Puente notes that the Hispanic commmunity grew in Illinois in the past decade, while the white and black populations declined.

“As our population grows, we see the gaps in opportunities become more and more exacerbated,” she says.

Although an exact comparison is impossible because Emanuel has merged some departments, predecessor Richard M. Daley’s cabinet was similarly skewed toward whites. At the time Daley retired, his 36 department heads included 24 whites, 7 blacks, 4 Hispanics and 1 Arab. Twelve from Daley’s last cabinet continue to work for the new mayor in the same roles.

Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, says the mayor “recognizes the importance of a diverse work force that mirrors the diversity of Chicago” and that he chose aides with a range of backgrounds who are committed to serving the city.

But City Hall departments led by white mayoral appointees are responsible for nearly 80 percent of the administration’s operating budget spending of more than $3 billion this year, the Sun-Times analysis revealed.

Though the city’s financial problems have limited the first-term mayor’s ability to hire in many departments, Emanuel’s own office — staffed entirely by his political appointees — is about 57 percent white. Only the Fire Department, the inspector general’s office and the city’s Law Department have a higher percentage of white workers, according to city records.

And the seven mayor’s office employees with the top salaries all are white.

Hoyle notes that Emanuel has tapped African Americans to lead three “sister agencies” of city government — the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the City Colleges. The three “are large agencies that are all run by highly qualified African-American mayoral appointees,” she says.

Whites head the city’s two other major sister agencies — the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Transit Authority.

The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), says African-American aldermen have lobbied Emanuel to appoint more blacks to top-level posts since soon after he was inaugurated 14 months ago.

“We brought it up to him within the first month of his administration,” Brookins says. “That was when we started noticing a trend.”

When Emanuel countered that his schools and CHA chief executives are black, Brookins says, that argument didn’t satisfy African-American aldermen because schools chief executive Jean-Claude Brizard and CHA boss Charles Woodyard were recruited from out of town.

“They have no ties to the Chicago black community, which poses a lot of problems for us,” Brookins says. “They are both good guys, but you feel you have to explain the history to them when you sit down with them. It’s important to promote people who have come through the ranks. There is sufficient talent that we should not be having to go outside the city to hire.”

Brookins says that he and other black aldermen did not vote against confirming Emanuel’s choices because they believed the mayor’s election victory meant he should be allowed to pick his cabinet.

Brookins and Hairston note that Emanuel got a large number of black votes in his election, but he had little backing among African-American elected officials.

One of the few Latino leaders to endorse Emanuel in the 2011 election was his campaign co-chairman Juan Rangel. As the leader of the United Neigbhorhoods Organization, a Hispanic community group and charter school operator, Rangel aims to increase Latino representation in local and state government. Emanuel recently attended the graduation ceremony for UNO’s Metropolitan Leadership Institute, which has produced young professionals who became top-level aides under Daley.

Rangel didn’t blame Emanuel, though, for not similarly tapping UNO as he has formed his first cabinet.

“I think the mayor is committed to ensuring there is representation in government,” Rangel says. “The other half is finding people who are willing to step up. We went through a phase when a lot of good people were burned.”

Rangel says some Hispanic aides to Daley — including Homero Tristan and Miguel d’Escoto — were made scapegoats in City Hall scandals.

Other Latino activists aren’t as forgiving of Emanuel, nor of Quinn and Preckwinkle.

“I can’t believe we can’t find 10 or 15 or 20 people who have the skills to fill these roles,” says Puente. “The mayor has gone to North Carolina and New York to find African Americans, so there is just no excuse.”

A spokeswoman for Quinn says the governor picked several Hispanics for jobs that are high-ranking but below the cabinet level. Quinn also selected Gery Chico to lead the Illinois State Board of Education and appointed Miguel del Valle as chairman of a committee to improve education.

“When filling vacancies, Gov. Quinn looks for the best and brightest leaders that reflect the population of Illinois,” spokeswoman Annie Thompson says.

Asked about the racial breakdown in Preckwinkle’s cabinet, including the dearth of Latinos, spokeswoman Liane Jackson says, “We’re proud that this administration is one of the most inclusive. We strive for diversity at every level of county government.”

County government’s roughly 22,000 employees include 8,842 blacks, 8,535 whites, 2,265 Hispanics, 1,883 Asians or Pacific Islanders, 62 of unknown race and 50 American Indians or Alaska natives, records show.

Of City Hall’s nearly 33,000 employees, more than 46 percent were white as of April 9, according to data provided by city officials. About 32.7 percent were black, 16.8 percent Hispanic and 2.7 percent Asian.

The Fire Department remained the most heavily white department even after the city was forced by the courts to hire some black applicants.

The largest city department — the 13,703-member police force — was about 49 percent white.

A spokesman for city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, whose office was about 60 percent white, says he has made efforts to increase diversity. Of 16 hires and promotions this year, 8 involved whites, five were black, two were Hispanic and one was Asian or Pacific Islander.

“We’re not where we need to be yet,” says Jonathan Davey, Ferguson’s spokesman. “But we’re getting better.”

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