Councilmembers to Present Diversity Study By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday October 07, 2005

Inspired by today’s (Friday) National Diversity Day, three Berkeley city councilmembers are doing a typical Berkeley thing next week: taking an introspective look. 

On Tuesday, councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Darryl Moore, and Max Anderson plan to release reports on how the City Council is faring on bringing African-American, Latino, and Asian citizens into Berkeley city government and projects. 

The reports will be issued in the City Council chambers at the Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 7 p.m. The regular council meeting has been canceled for Tuesday night. 

Moore will report on diversity in city hiring, while Worthington will report on city councilmember appointments to the city’s various boards and commissions. Anderson is looking into how Alameda County and other cities within the county are handling the expansion of minority contracting, and whether these government agencies have adopted practices which can be carried over to the City of Berkeley. 

The boards and commission studies grew out of a 2000 resolution by the Berkeley City Council to look into its own records of appointments. Studies were done in 2000 and again in 2002. But unlike those past studies of minority participation on the city’s boards and commissions, which only looked at the city as a whole, Tuesday’s report is expected to break down the ethnic composition of appointees by each Councilmember.  

“In 2000, all we did was urge ourselves to please take a look at minority representation,” Worthington said. “In 2002 we added a report on the overall number of ethnic groups that were underrepresented, and asked councilmembers to do better. Now we are moving a step farther to see how each councilmember is stacking up.” 

Worthington said that the presence of a diverse representation of Berkeley citizens is especially important on boards and commissions 

“That’s the entry-level position both to jobs in the City of Berkeley and to elective office,” he said. “Eight of the nine present councilmembers originally served on a city board or commission. It’s a place to get name recognition, and where citizens can begin to see prospective political candidates in leadership positions.” 

The councilmember said he is not satisfied with what he has seen as foot-dragging by some fellow councilmembers in appointing minorities. 

“Despite the fact that 40 percent of the city is made up of Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans, we have virtually no Asians and Latinos on our commissions, and African-Americans are underrepresented,” Worthington said. “Whenever I bring this issue up, I’m told by some of my colleagues that they can’t find minorities for these positions, or else the people they find aren’t interested. I find these to be poor excuses.” 

Some city commissions, he added, are composed entirely of whites. 

Worthington said that after a 2002 study showed a low total of minority representation, “some councilmembers appointed one black and one Latino and one Asian, and left it at that, as if we were back in the 1950s. That amounts to institutionalized tokenism.”