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Hispanic Caucus gives Rahm failing grades on hiring, warns new mayor: Do better

Chart displayed at a City Hall news conference

A chart displayed at a City Hall news conference Wednesday to highlight what critics say is Mayor Rahm Emanuel's poor record on hiring and promoting Hispanics. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

The chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday gave retiring Mayor Rahm Emanuel an “F” on hiring Hispanic policymakers and a “D” on hiring Hispanics overall and served notice that the new mayor must do better.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said Hispanics have bypassed blacks as Chicago’s second-largest racial or ethnic group. But, City Hall hiring has not caught up to that growth. Far from it.

No matter who wins the April 2 mayoral runoff, Chicago is guaranteed to have its first African-American woman as mayor. Hispanics are saying to both Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, “Don’t forget us.”

“This is a message to the two mayoral candidates that we need to be a part of this workforce—especially since we make up a third of the city of Chicago,” Villegas said.

“The mayor [Emanuel] has been deaf on this issue. … This administration has not been representative. And we want to make sure that the two mayoral candidates understand that we’re serious about this.”

Ald. Gilbert Villegas

Ald. Gilbert Villegas. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

How serious?

“When it comes to budgets, we need to be reflective — or else we’re not gonna vote on it,” Villegas said.

“What we’re demanding is parity. There needs to be a plan in place to make sure that the cabinets and the workforce is reflective of the city of Chicago — and right now it’s not.”

Villegas stood before two charts that, he claims, tell the tale about Emanuel’s poor performance when it comes to hiring and promoting Hispanics.

One had a “D” grade alongside a pie chart that showed that Hispanics currently hold roughly 19 percent of the 46,000 plus jobs at City Hall and at other agencies of local government controlled by the mayor.

The mayor would have received a failing grade for rank-and-file Hispanic hiring, if not for the “huge influx of police recruits” tied to the two-year police hiring surge and the fact that Hispanic aldermen have been “pushing” police recruits, Villegas said.

The second chart gave the mayor an “F” for filling only two percent of policy-making jobs with Hispanics.

“They’re non-relevant in Streets and Sanitation, Department of Water, CTA, etc. They’re not there. Why is that? Because the Human Resources Commissioner is not making an effort to be inclusive, Villegas said.

“We’re short 14 percent [in rank-and-file hiring]. Our goal is 33 percent, which is a third of Chicago. We want to be reflective of that.”

Two years ago, Hispanics leapfrogged African-Americans to become Chicago’s second-largest racial or ethnic group. At the time, Chicago was home to 803,476 Hispanics — 32.6 percent of the city’s population.

A chart displayed at a City Hall news conference

A chart displayed at a City Hall news conference Wednesday to highlight what critics say is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s poor record on hiring and promoting Hispanics. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Hispanic aldermen promptly flexed their newfound muscle by accusing Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi of shortchanging Chicago’s fastest-growing group.

On the hot seat at City Council budget hearings, Choi acknowledged that, of the 1,194 policy-making jobs exempt from the federal ban on political hiring and firing, only 18 percent were filled by Hispanics.

Of $11 million in contracts awarded by the Department of Human Resources over the previous year, Latino participation was zero, incensed aldermen were told.

Villegas argued then that the message being sent to Chicago’s second-largest racial or ethnic group was: “You need not apply because you’re not getting hired.”

Choi countered she has “tried different strategies” to recruit more Latinos, but “applicant pools have never broken 20 percent.” In her own department, it’s been as low as eight percent.

“I can’t hire someone who doesn’t apply for the job. So, we have to look at recruitment,” she said.

“One place I have seen recruitment efforts more effective is with the police exam, where we did hire a vendor to get on the ground, reach out to communities and interact with them. We did see significant progress for Latino communities.”

She said she planned to hire a vendor to try that same approach “on a larger scale.”

As for the absence of Latino contractors and the shortage of black contractors, Choi said much of the work was related to test development and administration and drug and alcohol screening and minorities are tough to find in that field.