The diversity of city councilmembers and mayoral appointments to the 34 Berkeley commissions is “abysmal,” according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, but he expects it to dramatically increase in the near future in part as the result of a recently-released report.
Worthington’s report, issued last Tuesday in the old City Hall in conjunction with National Diversity Day, showed that while councilmembers’ and mayoral appointments of African-Americans is close to their percentage in the population, appointment of Latinos, Asian American/Pacific Islanders, and college students is lagging far behind their numbers in the city.
Worthington called the lack of minority and student commissioners an “error of omission rather than commission. None of the councilmembers are going out and saying, ‘I’m going to keep black people off these commissions.’ But we live in a segregated society, even in a city as varied as Berkeley, and we tend to appoint the people who we see around us. So white people tend to appoint white people without really thinking about it. We all need to be prodded.”
According to the report, which was compiled by student volunteers, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are the least-represented ethnic minority on city commissions in proportion to their population, with 17.6 percent of the city population, but only 5.2 percent of the appointments.
Latinos (9.5 percent of the population) made up 4.2 percent of the appointments, African-Americans (12.3 percent of the population) made up 10.3 percent of the appointments, and college students (20 to 25 percent of the population) made up 8.1 percent of the appointments.
A category called “whites and other” made up 60.6 percent of Berkeley’s population and 70.3 percent of the commission appointments.
Berkeley’s city councilmembers and mayor appoint two people apiece to the Health Commission and one person apiece to all the other city commissions. The newly-created Downtown Commission was not reflected in Worthington’s report.
The study shows that the initiator of the study, Worthington, had both the highest percentage of minority appointments (69 percent) and college student appointments (50 percent) of any member of council.
Following Worthington, the two newly-elected African-American councilmembers have the highest percentage of minority appointments, with Max Anderson at 56 percent and Darryl Moore at 28 percent. Following were Dona Spring (13 percent), Linda Maio (9 percent), Gordon Wozniak (4 percent), and Betty Olds (3 percent).
Moore also had the second-highest college student appointment percentage at 11 percent, followed by Spring and Olds (6 percent) and Wozniak (4 percent). Maio and Anderson did not have a college student appointment.
According to the report, Mayor Tom Bates appointed 23 percent minorities to commissions and 17 percent college students, while Councilmember Laurie Capitelli did not have a minority or a college student appointment.
Wozniak said that Bates’ appointment of only one African-American was “pretty sad, and pretty surprising. For years, the NAACP used to give [former mayor] Shirley Dean a hard time because she only had one African-American appointment. After that, to her credit, she appointed a number of African-Americans, at least as many as four. But now I see that Bates has the same number of African-American appointments as Dean had.”
Worthington also said he thought that Wozniak’s dearth of student appointments was “one hundred times more negligent than Capitelli’s” because of the larger percentage of college students in Wozniak’s District 8 than in Capitelli’s District 5.
Wozniak was not available for comment, but in a statement to the Daily Cal, he was quoted as saying that “it’s not quite as simple as saying they should represent (more students). Many of the college students in my district are freshmen, and I haven’t detected a lot of interest in city politics.”
Worthington said that because of the attention now being generated, “I expect 10 people of color and 10 students will be appointed in the next couple of months.”?