Minority 'goals' for city of LR | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 10, 2009

Minority 'goals' for city of LR

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 4:41 PM

City Director Erma Fingers Hendrix has drafted an ordinance to "establish as a goal" that minority representation on city boards and commissions match the makeup of the city population.

Here's one draft of the ordinance.

Imagine if city boards and commissions were 42 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic. Imagine, though the ordinance here doesn't mention this fact, if they were majority female, as the city is.

Is a goal a mandate? Ordinance doesn't say so, but what meanings do these words have, if it is adopted? Little Rock has done a generally poor job of finding black members -- and women are underrepresented, too -- for city boards. It draws appointments from applicants and city officials have blamed the makeup of the applicant pool for the results.

This idea is causing political heartburn at City Hall. The ordinance is still undergoing tweaking and is not yet on the Board agenda. When it gets there, it will be difficult for Board members individually to oppose the noble goal of more diversity. Then the rubber meets the road. Does the city aggressively recruit? Does this process lead to tokenism? Does the strong mayor, now the appointment czar, impose a de facto quota system? Does all this become Exhibit 1 in a potential lawsuit or a campaign for ward elections? It's already demonstrable fact that many parts of city government are NOT representative of the city as a whole and that power lies disproportionately in the hands of the same old white fathers that have always run things.

Just saying. I think it could eventually cause some interesting discussions.

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