Analysis: Lightfoot’s Key Positions Have Not Keeped Up With Latinos’ Growth in Chicago | Latino voice | Chicago News
According to an analysis by WTTW News, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choices for key city positions during his first two years in office have not kept pace with the growing number of Latin Americans in Chicago.
The first black and gay woman to serve as Chicago mayor, Lightfoot has repeatedly called fairness and inclusion the “star of the north” twins in her administration. disparities.
But advocates for Chicago’s Latin Americans told WTTW News that Lightfoot’s appointments to lead city departments and to sit on city committees that have decision-making power did not reflect that commitment – and left their communities to fight for it. be heard during the worst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe the mayor is committed to fairness,” said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago rights group. “But these good intentions don’t translate into actions.”
Lightfoot’s nominations also haven’t kept pace with the growth of Asians in Chicago, according to WTTW News analysis.
Of the 90 nominations Lightfoot sent to Chicago City Council for confirmation, 60% of those selected were women, according to WTTW News analysis. Lightfoot is the second woman to be mayor of Chicago.
Chicagoans are 31.4% White, 29.9% Latino, 28.7% Black and 6.9% Asian, according to the 2020 US Census.
But around 37% of Lightfoot’s dates between May 2019 and July 2021 were white. According to WTTW News analysis, 29% were black, while 25% were Latino and 5.5% were Asian.
This analysis does not include appointments made by Lightfoot to various advisory boards designed to make recommendations to its administration that require confirmation from city council. However, these boards and commissions have no policy-making power and play an essentially ceremonial role.
Cesar Rodriguez, press secretary to the mayor, said in a statement that Lightfoot “is proud to have built a diverse and fair management team.”
“The mayor has worked to dispel the decades of nepotism and influence that have dictated who sits at the tables that govern our city – and there is still work to be done,” said Rodriguez. “In addition to the opportunities for appointments to boards and commissions that come before council, the mayor also sees her office, advisory boards and committees as essential means for raising diverse voices and as a pipeline for building networks. stronger civics that create transformative leadership. “
The city’s roughly 31,000 employees are also less diverse than the city’s overall population, according to data compiled by the city’s Office of Racial Equity and Justice, established by Lightfoot in 2019. This workforce The work is made up of 43.6% white, 29% black, 22.9% Latino and 3.2% Asian, according to city data.
Chicago’s black population fell about 10% between 2010 and 2020.
WTTW News analysis does not include department heads appointed by former mayor Rahm Emanuel and retained in those positions by Lightfoot. This includes CFO Jennie Huang Bennett, an Asian American woman, and former Trade and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Rosa Escareño.
Escareño, the city’s most prominent Latino city official, stepped down at the end of July after 30 years with the city. She helped Lightfoot guide the city through the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, working closely with businesses that have been forced to shut down and reduce their ability to stop the spread of the virus.
Lightfoot has yet to name a replacement for Escareño.
The city council confirmed Lightfoot’s appointment of Celia Meza, the city’s first Latin American legal adviser, in June. She replaced Mark Flessner, a white man, after Lightfoot fired him following a botched police raid.
Along with Huang Bennett, the three most senior city financial officials in the Lightfoot administration are Asian American women.
The analysis did not include Lightfoot’s decision to bring in Jose Torres, who is Latino, to act as head of Chicago’s public schools after the departure of black woman Janice Jackson.
This appointment did not require confirmation from the city council. All of the appointed board members overseeing Chicago’s public schools are people of color who did not have to be confirmed by city council.
Additionally, Chicago City Colleges are headed by Juan Salgado, who is Latino, and the Public Building Commission is headed by Carina Sanchez, who is Latino. Both were nominated by Emanuel.
Lightfoot has four deputy mayors, including Manuel Perez, who oversees intergovernmental affairs and is Latino, and Samir Mayekar, who deals with economic development and is Asian American. These positions do not require confirmation from City Council.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), chairman of the city council’s Latino Caucus, said he was particularly concerned that only two of Chicago’s departments are run by Latinos. Commissioners have broad authority to hire municipal employees and direct municipal resources.
“All of this talk about diversity and equity is not working for my community,” Villegas said. “We are not at the table.
Villegas said he regularly pressured the mayor to appoint more Latino leaders to key city positions while he was head of Lightfoot City Council and before stepping down from that post in February.
“There is a real lack of relationships within the Latino community,” Villegas said.
Chicago’s Latino politicians prepare to ensure that Chicago’s Latinos – who saw their share of Chicago’s population increase by 5% from 2010 to 2020 – have political power that reflects their status as the largest racial group city, Villegas said.
“We need our fair share of representation,” Villegas said.
The Illinois Latino Agenda 2.0, coordinated by the Latino Policy Forum, is “in dialogue” with the Lightfoot administration about the need for more Latino leaders at town hall, Puente said.
The coalition of nonprofit and advocacy groups want Lightfoot to commit to interviewing at least one Latino candidate for every high-level position, Puente said.
“The government should reflect the people it serves,” Puente said, adding that otherwise, prejudice – unconscious and conscious – can creep into decisions and divert resources where they are most needed.
This is exactly what happened at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when testing was more readily available in white and wealthy neighborhoods, and when the pace of vaccinations in white neighborhoods far exceeded the supply of life-saving vaccines in black and Latino communities, says Puente.
“Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country,” Puente said. “Too often, resource allocations follow these patterns.”
Puente said it was “incredibly frustrating” to talk about the lack of Latin American representation in the Chicago government in 2021, when calculating the impact of systemic racism sparked by George Floyd’s murder by the police.
Grace Pai, executive director of the Chicago chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said the representation “tends to go a long way” in ensuring that Chicagoans who might have difficulty accessing city services due to language barriers or other issues.
But that won’t ensure officials take action that benefits Chicagoans, Pai said.
“Performance alone will not solve this problem,” Pai said.
Former Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) – the first, and so far the only, Asian-American member of Chicago city council – said he considers the 31% increase in the Asian-American community Chicago as “an opportunity” to establish a true coalition between Asians, Blacks and Latinos in Chicago.
“It’s not an either or,” Pawar said. “We shouldn’t be fighting for crumbs.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]
Note: This story was originally posted on August 20, 2021. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” conversation.