NY City Democrats slam Bloomberg on diversity record

NEW YORK Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:01pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A panel of Democratic contenders for New York City mayor on Tuesday said the city's current executive Michael Bloomberg had not done enough to lift minorities and women and criticized his administration for lacking diversity.

"We certainly don't see an administration that, in its composition, looks like New York City," said Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate and a likely candidate for mayor. "I think we see the results of that."

The panel was part of a conference on the city's success in encouraging Minority and Women Business Enterprises, or MWEB. Many of the six panelists -- all of them declared or expected candidates for mayor in 2013 -- gave the Bloomberg administration unsatisfactory or failing marks.

Bloomberg, who was elected in 2001 as a Republican and later dropped his party affiliation, has pushed for a data-driven approach to governing and has said that he seeks to attract the most qualified candidates to city government.

An analysis by the New York Times in 2010 found that 70 percent of senior jobs in the Bloomberg administration are filled by whites, and the great majority are male.

In response to Tuesday's criticism, a Bloomberg spokeswoman said the city is investing millions to help firms run by women and minorities to win bids.

In 2005, the city passed a law expanding contracting opportunities for businesses owned by them. Since then, the number of MWBE firms certified to do business with the City has expanded from 700 to more than 3,400 today, according to the city.

"Our successful record helping MWBE firms and increasing diversity is based on results, not rhetoric: since 2005 minority-and women-owned businesses have gotten more than $2.7 billion of City work, including more than $500 million in fiscal year 2011," said Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood.

The Democrats argued the city should be creating that amount of work for women and minority businesses every year, not over a seven-year period.

City Council President Christine Quinn, who leads polls of likely mayoral contenders and has been a close ally of Bloomberg on many issues, called for the creation of a chief diversity officer. De Blasio also endorsed the idea, but said he would go further, making the person who holds that post a deputy mayor.

City Comptroller John Liu said there was "shockingly low participation" of women and minorities in New York City contracts, a consequence of what he described as systematic bias. But he said concrete changes need to be put in place.

"Whenever there's a problem, there's like this gut, knee-jerk reaction to appoint someone," said Liu. "We don't need a chief diversity officer to make diversity a priority. We need a chief executive officer to make diversity a priority."

Part of the problem is a lack of attention to diversity at City Hall, said the Democrats, who also included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, former city comptroller Bill Thompson and Tom Allon, a publisher.

Bloomberg's communications staff did not respond when asked to comment on the charges of a lack of diversity in his administration.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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