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Daley's Hiring in Black and White

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To the editors:

I may be the only person in Chicago who would regard a comment by Don Rose on the Daley Administration as warranting a response ["The Abominable Snow Job," December 22]. Most readers, I'm sure, know where he's coming from, accept the entertainment value for what it's worth, and leave it at that. But I continue to believe that even the deep- est fixations--e.g. "anti-Daleyism" (against all Daleys, probably even Joel)--can ultimately be overcome by facts. Therefore, and because I think the issue may be important to many readers of your paper, I want to respond to Rose's comment in your year-end review that the media have failed to pay enough attention to what he calls Daley's record of replacing Blacks with whites in major city jobs.

At the top level of city government, Daley has now appointed 18 minority group members (Black, Hispanic and Asian) to head city departments--50% of the Cabinet. Minorities head an even greater share of the most important departments--7 of the 9 largest (a higher percentage than under either Sawyer or Washington), plus other key positions such as Budget Director, Commissioner of Personnel and Commissioner of Economic Development (who also chairs the Development Subcabinet). In terms of overall city hiring since Daley took office, substantially over 50% of the new hires have been minorities. All of these figures compare favorably to either the Sawyer or Washington administrations.

To make any negative case against Daley's hiring record, one must look solely to the category of Shakman- exempt employees--the 800 or so positions which are exempt from court- ordered constraints on political hiring and firing. A substantial portion (I would estimate close to half) of the Shakman-exempt employees, although legally subject to political hiring and firing, are sworn personnel in the Police and Fire Departments, technically-trained people in departments like Public Works, Water and Sewers, employees in the Library Department with specialized degrees in library science, and other professional personnel. Although legally a new mayor could fire all of these people at will, no one in his right mind would do so. Washington did not, Sawyer did not, and Daley did not.

If you look at the remaining Shakman-exempt employees, the genuine "political appointees," you find that under Washington and Sawyer these political appointees were overwhelmingly Black. The Mayor's Office, for example, was about 75% Black at the end of the Sawyer administration, and there were many other employees on other department payrolls, also predominantly Black, who were doing political work for the Mayor's Office. For example, there were a dozen Shakman-exempt employees on the payroll of the Public Works Department who the Commissioner (a hold-over from Washington and Sawyer) told me did absolutely no work in that department; these employees were all Black. (Of course, there were also white employees of this kind; for example, a white employee of the Streets and Sanitation Department devoted virtually all of his time to putting out a political newsletter.) There is nothing particularly surprising about the fact that both the Washington and Sawyer administrations drew the bulk of their political appointees from the Black community. Nonetheless, the predominance of Blacks in these political positions was a fact with which the Daley administration had to deal.

Most of these political appointees were fired (or resigned in anticipation) immediately or soon after Daley took office. Inevitably, since most of these employees were Black, a disproportionate number of Blacks were fired or resigned. For example, the dozen political employees on the payroll of the Public Works Department were terminated--to my knowledge the only Shakman-exempt employees terminated in that department. The alternative would have been to keep on the city payroll several hundred political appointees without professional qualifications whose primary political allegiance was to a defeated predecessor.

As a result of these terminations and resignations, the percentage of Blacks in the Shakman-exempt category declined. The problem was accentuated when the initial round of hires by the new Administration, many of whom were people who had worked closely with the Mayor during the campaign, were predominantly (though not exclusively) white. It is another fact--unfortunate but true--that Daley had relatively little Black support in his campaign. Normal hiring patterns are therefore likely to produce fewer Blacks and fewer Blacks are interested in jobs in the administration--a problem exacerbated by the attitude adopted by some Black political leaders. Press Secretary Avis LaVelle has noted that she is criticized for working in the Daley administration by some Blacks who at the same time criticize the administration for not hiring enough Blacks.

Notwithstanding all of these problems, and because the administration has worked to overcome them, the overall percentage of Blacks in Shakman-exempt positions is now about 32%. Moreover, that percentage has been going up at the rate of 1-2% a month over the last several months and the Mayor has made clear he expects that increase to continue. (Hispanics did not present the same problems--neither the disproportionate representation in political jobs when Daley took over, nor the same difficulties in hiring--and the percentage of Hispanics in Shakman-exempt positions is now higher than when Daley took office.) Continued improvement will disappoint Don Rose but will reinforce the public support for the Mayor (including strong support in the Black community) which Rose finds so frustrating and for which he will no doubt continue to find the media to blame.

John R. Schmidt

Former Chief of Staff to Mayor Daley

Don Rose replies:

I am glad John Schmidt finds entertainment value in my writing. I find his writing equally amusing, particularly when you wade through his verbiage and lawyerisms to get to the bottom line: black employment in the mayor's office peaked at 75 percent under Sawyer and now stands around 32 percent in patronage positions (the old-fashioned term for "Shakman exempt"). This is what I noted in my column and said the media ought to have examined more carefully than they did. Perhaps they accepted John Schmidt's lawyerly excuse as gospel. I don't.

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