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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

More on city hall...

I posted this comment over at Democracy in Albany in response to people who were complaining that "we shouldn't be so concerned about race," and were starting to use my statistical fisking of the TU against the claims of people upset with the mayor:
I think that all of these comments that argue we shouldn't put so much emphasis on race are misplaced. I think you are misconstuing the situation here. Here's why:

After thinking about this for a day, i'm confident that the most important revelation here is NOT that there might be racism/sexism in Jenning's city hall. The most important revelation is that the majority of city hall jobs are going to people who don't live in the city. This necessarily cuts out of the city job loop the very people who are being ruled over by the city government. It may or may not result in racial disparites. It may or may not be the result of racism. But it doesn't matter. Either way, it's fundamentally no good.

Even if the racial numbers in the city job hirings were completely square, it would bother me that those working at the top of the city job chain are not living in the city. It just seems wrong. We wouldn't let the governor live in Massachusettes or the state hire workers from Pennsylvania. Why should it be any different in the city of Albany?

Perhaps other people don't see this as the bigger deal. But it can never be a good situation when those affected by government decisions are not well represented in the public workforce, and when those in the public workforce are affecting people with whom they do not share a community.
Comments welcome.

UPDATE: I'm discouraged that this has turned into an affirmative action debate. To those espousing that view - Why does this debate have anything to do with affirmative action?

I can assure you that I am an opponent of affirmative action, but i can also assure you that i think what is going on in the mayor's office is a bit shady.

If the underlying presumption being made by the naysayers is true - that the hirings at city hall are all on the up and up - then I tend to agree with you if you see this as a ploy to get the mayor to promote/hire people on a race basis in an affirmative action manner. But that's just the point. I don't think the hirings are all on the up and up. (Note that i think the TU did an awful job and overstated the case, though).

You say why should we care about skin color? Because it might be the case that people are losing out on jobs in a merit system BECAUSE of their skin color!

If they are not, that would be a different story. But if they are, then 2 things are clear:

1) we're not getting the best workforce for our tax dollars, since better candidates are being passed over for race reasons (same problem affirmative action is described as having).

2) we're singling out a particular sub-population of the community and adversly affecting them - doesn't matter if it's blacks, whites, poor people, left-handed people, or whatever. It's wrong.

To put it in the language of those talking affirmative action right now - if affirmative action is wrong and worth ending, then racial discrimination HAS to be wrong and worth vigorously investigating.

If it's (discrimiation) is not there, and your point is that it's not really there (we're being hoodwinked by some TU/liberal coalition), fine. But otherwise, i don't think you have much of an argument.
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At 7:11 AM , Blogger Charles said:


Moving this over to your blog. Should be a little quieter.

This story is nothing but more race politics and affirmative action demands. Pure and simple.

Ive been up all night so lets see if I can still connect the dots here.

Many of these upper level management positions are filled by people that have come up through the ranks. These people usually had to take civil service exams
to get hired and then more tests to go up the ladder.

As Albany tries to hire, at least with the police and fire, Albany residents and preferably people that grew up here the problem with the school district kicks in.

Historically the district sucked and white kids in Albany go to Catholc schools and the black kids are stuck in the public.

As most of the whites in Albany are of Catholic background they can have their education subsidized by the church if needed. Blacks tend not to be Catholic and historically there are no private schools for them to go to.

So, white kid goes to Bishop McGinn, takes civil service exam score higher than a black kid that went to APS. Same deal with promotions. White employee, with better education, scores higher on promotion tests. Top spot comes open and white employee gets job. Surprise!

Now in 2005, DIA and others are implying that this is proof of discrimination and it has to change. How do you change this other than affrirmative action?

The answer is you can't without recruiting qualified minority candidates from out of the area.

Politically the mayor cannot do this. We both know that it would be political suicide for the mayor to ignore the requests of the party machinery when filling job opening.

The only way this will change is if an *official* Republican candidate gets elected to Jerrys
office and can fire, in mass, the political appointees.

It has to be someone without ANY ties or debts to the Democratics. Otherwise its the same people pulling the strings.    

At 7:47 AM , Blogger Matt said:

Interesting points. And well said. I agree that the issue here is far more nuanced than you will ever get out of the TU. Clearly, educaction patterns and school district boundary lines and racial neighborhoods create and socioeconomic differences create all kinds of nasty race disparities that have nothing to do with racism per se.

Your thinking about the patronage vs. civil service stuff is interesting, although i tend to disagree because i think the sins of the patronage system are worse than the correction they can bring to the civil service system.


At 2:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

Please Charles, you don't have to be Catholic to go to Catholic schools. Last I knew my brother was working two jobs to pay $6000 a year to send his two kids to St. Pius X. No subsidies just old fashioned hard work and priorities in order.    

At 1:42 AM , Blogger Charles said:


You are correct.    

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