Eyeing diversity in de Blasio administration
Mayor Bill de Blasio's fledgling administration is about one-half nonwhite and one-half female, satisfying some but not all diversity watchers that he is delivering on his campaign promise of a government that "looks like New York."
De Blasio's City Hall so far trumps Michael Bloomberg's and Rudy Giuliani's opening lineups in diversity, and rivals that of David Dinkins, the city's first and only black mayor, according to a Newsday analysis.
His first 59 picks -- tallied from announcements he's made on deputy mayors, agency and department heads, senior support staff, and panel and board nominees -- include at least 18 blacks, eight Latinos and six Asians.
De Blasio's top-tier staff -- those 39 who directly affect policy or lead agencies or departments -- is slightly less diverse than his team as a whole.
"The jury's still out" on whether the mayor's picks can reflect all the variety of the populace because several posts remain unfilled, said Bruce Berg, a Fordham University political science professor.
A diverse face for government is always important, and even more so for Blasio, said Berg, who studies race in government. "On a legitimacy level, it's important for someone who has lived the political life of de Blasio," Berg said. "On a symbolic level, it's important in a city this diverse to have a cabinet that mirrors it -- maybe not identically." On a practical level, it allows a mayor to better "feel the pulse of the city."
Multiculturalism was central to de Blasio's campaign last year, when his biracial son Dante starred in a popular ad. De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, is a top policy adviser and his pick to lead the nonprofit Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.
De Blasio pledged again Friday as he announced more appointments to choose people who represent "the fullness of this city."
Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP's New York State chapter, expressed confidence that de Blasio would add still more African-Americans and women to his team as he fills jobs, saying he's "on the right track."
Public Advocate Letitia James, the first black woman in citywide office, said de Blasio shows "a strong investment in diversity" -- especially in commissioner picks.
Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, who in December sent an open letter accusing de Blasio of a "blind spot" on naming Latinos to policy-making posts and his transition and inauguration teams, recently said he is encouraged by the choice of schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who is fluent in Spanish and whose parents came from Spain, because Latinos are the largest demographic group among public school students.
Less pleased is John Liu, former city comptroller and the first Asian-American elected to citywide office. "The dearth of Asian-Americans and minorities in general appointed to high-level positions in the de Blasio administration is, to be kind, noticeable," Liu said.
Former Brooklyn City Council member Charles Barron, a self-described black nationalist, asserted in a December Facebook post that the mayor had sent a message that "blacks need not apply." He maintained Friday that de Blasio still hasn't put blacks in "positions of power" that influence policy or the budget.
The first 43 top picks Bloomberg made in 2002 were about one-third nonwhite and one-third female, according to a Newsday tally at the time. The early Giuliani government had a comparable breakdown.
Dinkins' top-tier appointees in 1990 were 49 percent nonwhite, Berg's research shows. De Blasio's senior-most staff is about 51 percent nonwhite, Newsday's analysis shows.
De Blasio's first deputy mayor, Tony Shorris, is white. The other deputies are Alicia Glen, also white; Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, born in Mexico; and Richard Buery, who is black and of Panamanian descent.
De Blasio's broader team doesn't precisely mirror the city's demographics.
The 59 picks are about 46 percent white, 30.5 percent black, 13.5 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian. They are about 51 percent female. New York City is about 33 percent non-Hispanic white, 25 percent black, 29 percent who identify as Latino and 13 percent Asian, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data. It is also 53 percent female.
Andrew White, director of the New School's Center for New York City Affairs, said building a government that exactly mirrors the population is a challenge, considering the pool of people interested in government service.
African-Americans, and Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and other Caribbean-Americans have higher levels of political involvement than Asian-Americans, Russians and Eastern Europeans, according to voter turnout data, White said.
"This city is one of the most diverse places on Earth," White said. "He's clearly paying attention to that. ... The mix is there."
De Blasio also has several openly gay staff members, including Kyle Kimball, a Bloomberg holdover who leads the Economic Development Corp., and director of intergovernmental affairs Emma Wolfe.
Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Nathan M. Schaefer said his group is "pleased" to see lesbian, gay and bisexual representation, but wants more "hiring of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals."