Sigh, It’s 2015 and I have to explain why equality is important.

Come on people, its 2015… When you hear that our boards are significantly disproportionately older affluent white males, it is a problem we need to address. Not make excuses for… I raised this issue a number of times, and clearly no action was taken to address this. This time I raised my voice a little louder. Right now, young people, minorities, and women are all underrepresented on our boards & commissions. I am going to keep getting louder because for God sakes it is 2015…

Edit: And yes I am frustrated, I have raised this issue many times and not seen it taken seriously. So I apologize for the frustration seeping through.

My request for the Mayor by the end of February is to come back to the council with:

  • Data on the current make up of boards & commissions including percentages of women, minorities, and young people.
  • A place to make our system of boards and commissions reflective of our community.

It is my belief that the Mayor will do the right thing by the end of February, because I believe the Mayor does care about these issues.

At this point most of you get it, if you don’t keep reading…

Thus far 2 council members expressed publicly that this is not an issue. They are Councilmember Ed Hruska, and Councilmember Mark Hickey. The Mayor has been aware of the issue for some time, seems to understand the issue, but has not taken enough action to correct it.

So here are some of the “excuses” I have been getting and my responses.

The Mayor just appoints the best applicants – This is just condescending and wrong. First of all when you boards are 2/3 male and you insinuate that you are bringing in the best, that is just plain wrong, and insulting. Further I can point to 2 older affluent white males that have been appointed to boards multiple times, and don’t even bother to show up. The Mayor has been made aware of both and no action has been taken.

We don’t get enough applicants that are younger, female, and/or minority – This is true and for 7 years I have been working to address this systematic failure. When you system only engages a subset of the population we need to work harder to bring in more people. At this point I can say with a great deal of confidence that a significant number of the current representatives from the groups in question we encouraged by me personally to apply. The bottom line is that we have groups like LGR, the Commission, NAACP, LWV, AAUW, schools, churches and state affinity groups that the mayor could engage for more qualified candidates, but does not.

There are not enough qualified female, minority, and/or young applicants – You might think this, and you would be 100% wrong. In this last round where more than 2/3 of all appointees were male, there were at least 3 highly qualified young women who applied and were denied a seat. My personal opinion is that these applicants were more qualified than people who were appointed, understanding that those people were also qualified.

This is not a problem because we have diverse thought on these boards – The inability of the city to take meaningful action on Rochester issues like public transportation, bike / ped safety, land use, affordable housing, and broadband are a direct reflection of the fact that those issues just aren’t important to the majority of our staff, advisors, and council members. These are huge community issues and prevent us from meeting our potential. Think about our Soldier’s Field planning; we had a broad community input process that overwhelmingly recommended reducing the presence of golf in that park and add new opportunities. We then ignored all that input at the behest of a small group of golfers.

It’s just not important – Yes it is…

Forbes: Top 10 Reasons Diversity Is Good For The Boardroom

National Council of Nonprofits: Diversity on Nonprofit Boards

McKinsey & Company: Why diversity matters

2 comments

  1. Does the make-up of our City Council represent the diversity of Rochester? 6 of 7 members are white males, which according to you is bad. Are you willing to step down, and throw your support behind a diversity candidate to better represent Rochester? Or are you just willing to point out the problems of others and remain where you are? In short, are you a hypocrit or are you willing to put your money and time where your mouth is?

    1. This is also a concern. Remember that traditionally young people have been under represented just like women and minorities. Unlike our boards and commissions voters decide on the makeup of the council. Because the council is a full time job that doesn’t pay much it is limited to people that have an independent source of wealth. Serving on Boards & Commissions it one of the top ways people get introduced to government and by creating opportunity in those seats we will hopefully get more of those folks running for council. For 7 years I have supported putting women, minorities, and young people in positions of power and will continue to do so. Of a greater concern to me would be the couple of council members that wish to pretend we don’t have a problem on our boards and commissions.

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