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Emanuel touts his administration’s diversity — in experience, race and results

Mayor Rahm Emanuel answers questions during news conference where he announced an initiative prevent gang activity around vacant buildings Monday

Mayor Rahm Emanuel answers questions during a news conference where he announced an initiative to prevent gang activity in and around vacant buildings on Monday, July 9, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

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Updated: August 11, 2012 6:18AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he’s as concerned about “diversity of experience” as he is about achieving racial balance.

The mayor was responding to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis that showed nearly two of every three members of his City Hall cabinet are white.

Of 30 Emanuel appointees to the highest-ranking jobs in city government, only five are black and three are Hispanic.

The mayor’s office, exclusively comprised of political appointees, is roughly 57 percent white. Only the Chicago Fire Department, the inspector general’s office and the Law Department have higher percentages of white workers.

“I look at diversity of experience, diversity of race and diversity of ethnicity as well as diversity of results,” Emanuel said.

The mayor called the Sun-Times story “one way of looking at it.” But, he argued that the newspaper neglected to mention several salient points that paint a dramatically different picture.

“Sixty percent of my appointments to boards and commissions are minority,” Emanuel said, noting that, reporters can “slice and dice” racial data in different ways.

Soon after taking office last year, Emanuel announced that he was saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by slashing compensation for city board and commission appointees by 50 percent.

“You can also look at my staff. Of the fourteen most senior people, ten of ‘em are women. That also is diversity. Third, of the three largest sister agencies, they’re all run by African-Americans. And the Fire Department … has a Hispanic [commissioner] and the second [highest-ranking] person is African-American.”

He added, “That is one take, that story. But, it’s not the whole story. And I just gave you three data points that were not in that story that are all relevant to the facts in that story.”

The Sun-Times article did report that Emanuel tapped African Americans to lead three of the “sister agencies” — the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the City Colleges.

Of Emanuel’s 30 department heads, 17 are men and 13 are women. But the only woman in charge of a large City Hall department is Rosemarie Andolino, his Aviation commissioner. Departments led by women represent less than 15 percent of the city’s budget, the Sun-Times found.

Instead of measuring him on the racial make-up of his City Hall cabinet, the mayor urged reporters to judge him on the impact of policies — like eradicating food deserts — that impact African-American voters who helped put him in office.

“Nobody in my office is responsible for the food desert [policy] except for me. … I have driven a policy to make sure that poor people, predominantly African-American, [have food choices], and I’m not African-American. I think we can establish that fact,” Emanuel said.

“It’s a policy driven to making sure, not only [that] we’re dealing with the food desert, but we’re dealing with the economic desert that exists in certain communities.”

The mayor’s explanation did not sit well with African-American aldermen, who started raising concerns about the mayor’s all-white public safety team two weeks before Emanuel’s May 16, 2011 inauguration.

“We’ve had meetings with the mayor and we’ve expressed our displeasure with” the shortage of blacks in policy-making jobs, said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

“I’m hoping we’ll see some changes down the road. We’re gonna continue to work with the mayor on having more representation by people of color.”

When African-American aldermen complained last year about the selection of white men to serve as police superintendent, fire commissioner and 911 center chief, Emanuel used some of the same language to defend himself that he used on Monday.

“I want people of diverse experience and I want people who can deliver results. . . . The first test for me is a diversity of experience to deal with reducing crime,” the mayor-elect said then.

Emanuel noted that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy earned his chops in New York and Newark while then-Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff, who has since retired, was a third-generation firefighter. Gary Schenkel, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, has a background that includes the Marine Corps, the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Homeland Security Department, the mayor said then.

“My standard is finding the diversity, the element of teamwork with the purpose of serving all the people of Chicago, and I believe all the people of Chicago will see this team as a team that is working on the first and foremost goal they have: To bring people a sense of safety and security wherever they live so the kids can go to school, people can be out on their porch and businesses can operate. That’s the standard the public is looking for. That’s the standard I looked for,” Emanuel said then.

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