News Column

Little progress made on diversity at Santa Rosa City Hall

June 18, 2014

By Kevin McCallum, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

June 18--Despite years of talk about improving diversity at Santa Rosa City Hall, little progress has been made in changing the ethnic, gender or geographic diversity on city boards and commissions, according to the annual report on the issue.

Every year, Santa Rosa surveys the people appointed to serve on the city's eight board and commissions, from the powerful Board of Public Utilities, which sets water and sewer rates, to the low-profile Cultural Heritage Board, which reviews alterations to historic buildings.

And year after year, with a few exceptions, the people appointed to the boards are predominantly white. More than half are men, and most are from the politically influential northeast section of the city.

There are several caveats to the data collected. One is that it is self-reported, and not every appointee volunteers all the demographic information. For example, only 40 of the 61 people serving on the boards and commissions in 2013 reported gender and ethnicity information, or 66 percent.

A slightly higher number, 75 percent, provided residential addresses that allowed their home locations to be grouped into one of five sectors of the city: northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest and the downtown core.

Another caveat is that some appointees self-reported multiple ethnicities, which skews some of the data. But even so, the trends are reasonably steady.

About 80 percent of appointees are white, a figure that has been fairly consistent for five years, ranging between 83 percent and 79 percent over that time. Twelve percent were Hispanic in 2013, 5 percent black, 5 percent Asian/Islander, and 5 percent checked "Other/Multi-racial." That adds up to 107 percent, demonstrating the fuzziness of data that blends race and ethnicity.

Women, who make up 52 percent of adults in the city, made up just 43 percent of appointees. That's slightly more than 2012, when it was 38 percent, but lower than 2009, when 52 percent of appointees were women.

In terms of geographic diversity, the city's northeast part of town was still the most heavily represented, with 46 percent of appointees residing there. That's the highest percentage of the five-year period reviewed in the report, which stood at 42 percent in 2009 and dipped to 37 percent in 2011.

The southwest portion part of town remains the least represented, with just 4 percent of appointees living there. About 28 percent live in the southeast, 13 percent in the northwest, and 9 percent in the core.

The largest changes over time were the increase in the percentages from the southeast, where Mayor Scott Bartley and Councilwoman Robin Swinth live, and a decrease in the percentage from the core.

The report was accepted by the council Tuesday evening with little comment.

Staff Writer Kevin McCallum can be reached at 521-5207 or at Twitter@citybeater.


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Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)

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