Whitewashing City Hall

White men still dominate Sacramento city government, audit finds

Sacramento’s city government employs a disproportionate number of white people and pays men much more than women, according to a report released by City Auditor Jorge Osegura.

Although whites make up 35 percent of the population, they comprise 53 percent of the city’s workforce, including 70 percent of the city attorney’s office, 72 percent of sworn firefighters and 75 percent of sworn police officers.

“What we care most about now is what can we do going forward to start reflecting the diversity of the city,” Mayor Kevin Johnson said during a July 19 subcommittee meeting. “These numbers are dismal. This is not good.”

Additionally, whites comprise 63 percent of management positions. And among these, 119 men and 113 white people made more than $120,000 per year compared to only 38 women and 44 people of color.

And rather than get better over time, some agencies have gone backward.

The rate of African-American employment decreased for both police and fire departments over the past decade. Last year, 38 black police officers represented less than 5 percent of the force, down from 2001, when 67 black officers represented 8.7 percent of the force. There were only 23 black firefighters last year, equal to 4.5 percent of the department. But in 2001, the department was nearly 9 percent black with 41 African-American firefighters.

Last week, Johnson reiterated the commitment of fire Chief Walt White and police Chief Samuel Somers to improve diversity. During the last two years of police academy classes, 43 percent of cadets were people of color.

In public comments, George Raya, chair of the Latino Center of Arts and Culture, cited a report his organization did two years ago that found people of color received less than 3 percent of the $2 million given by the Convention and Cultural Services Department, whose management structure is 80 percent white.

To address these inequities, Johnson recommended looking into the best practices of cities that improved their diversity. Vice Mayor Richard Jennings proposed forming an ad-hoc committee and Councilman Jay Schenirer stressed the importance of long-term systemic change. The council will formalize its recommendations August 4.

But the city council will have to overcome its own pale record.

At the subcommittee meeting, Caity Maple, vice president of the group Fem Dems of Sacramento, a local club that promotes social equality between the sexes, rattled off single-digit percentages of female mayors (5 percent), city attorneys (4 percent) and city managers (0 percent) in Sacramento’s history.

When we lack representation, we lack perspective,” she told council members. “That lack of perspective—”

A buzzer interrupted. Her two minutes were up.