When Mayor Rahm Emanuel convenes meetings of his cabinet, the racial breakdown of those top aides hardly reflects the diversity of the city they serve.
In a city in which no single racial group makes up more than a third of the population, almost two of every three City Hall department heads is white. Of 30 Emanuel appointees to the highest-ranking city government positions, only five are black, and three Hispanic, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis shows.
“It’s abysmal,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) says of blacks’ under-representation in the upper ranks at City Hall. “We have talked about it with the mayor, but apparently it has fallen on deaf ears.”
In contrast, Gov. Pat Quinn has tapped African Americans and whites to serve in top state posts at a rate that roughly mirrors the size of their communities in Illinois, though Hispanics are relatively scarce in Quinn’s cabinet despite their growing population.
Although an exact comparison is impossible because Emanuel has merged some departments, predecessor Richard M. Daley’s cabinet was similarly skewed toward whites. At the time Daley retired, his 36 department heads included 24 whites, 7 blacks, 4 Hispanics and 1 Arab. Twelve from Daley’s last cabinet continue to work for the new mayor in the same roles.
Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, says the mayor “recognizes the importance of a diverse work force that mirrors the diversity of Chicago” and that he chose aides with a range of backgrounds who are committed to serving the city.
Though the city’s financial problems have limited the first-term mayor’s ability to hire in many departments, Emanuel’s own office—staffed entirely by his political appointees—is about 57 percent white. Only the Fire Department, the inspector general’s office and the city’s Law Department have a higher percentage of white workers, according to city records.
And the seven mayor’s office employees with the top salaries all are white.
Hoyle notes that Emanuel has tapped African Americans to lead three “sister agencies” of city government—the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the City Colleges. The three “are large agencies that are all run by highly qualified African-American mayoral appointees,” she says.
Whites head the city’s two other major sister agencies—the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Transit Authority.
The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), says African-American aldermen have lobbied Emanuel to appoint more blacks to top-level posts since soon after he was inaugurated 14 months ago.
“We brought it up to him within the first month of his administration,” Brookins says. “That was when we started noticing a trend.”
County government’s roughly 22,000 employees include 8,842 blacks, 8,535 whites, 2,265 Hispanics, 1,883 Asians or Pacific Islanders, 62 of unknown race and 50 American Indians or Alaska natives, records show.
Of City Hall’s nearly 33,000 employees, more than 46 percent were white as of April 9, according to data provided by city officials. About 32.7 percent were black, 16.8 percent Hispanic and 2.7 percent Asian.
The Fire Department remained the most heavily white department even after the city was forced by the courts to hire some black applicants.
The largest city department—the 13,703-member police force—was about 49 percent white.