CARS HOMES JOBS

Schenectady affirmative-action advisory group needs members

Thursday, April 3, 2014
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— So far, only three people have submitted resumes to join the affirmative-action advisory board that the City Council is trying to restart.

The council needs at least seven members to get the board running again. The deadline is April 14.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield is passing the word to everyone she knows, in hopes of getting enough candidates in time.

“I’m telling them, two more weeks,” she said, adding that two people have expressed interest — but haven’t yet produced a resume.

Other council members have questioned whether the board is too ambitious — the decades-old law calls for very specific membership.

There must be two members representing women, one member representing Hispanics, two members representing minorities and one member representing the disabled.

Three other members must be “sensitive to the problems of intergroup relations and represent various segments of the city.”

The council discussed rewriting the code governing the board, but Porterfield said she was confident she could find members to fill the roles.

“The recruiting is going well,” she said Wednesday. “People are interested.”

She added that the specifics of the code aren’t a burden.

“I don’t find it’s so specific that those people don’t exist,” she said. “There’s women, disabled, veterans … ”

Now she’s waiting to see if they’ll step forward.

“Some people think, ‘Everyone knows who I am,’ but you still have to send over a resume,” she said.

The board has wide-ranging powers, including the authority to do an annual evaluation of the city’s efforts toward affirmative action. The code also gives it carte blanche to get involved in nearly any topic, saying that the board “shall concern itself with all aspects of equal opportunity in hiring, employment, promotion, complaints, purchasing and contracting.”

Porterfield hopes the board will be a powerhouse.

“In the last four years, we have not seen any increase in our hiring of minorities in the city,” she said.

According to last year’s affirmative-action report, there are actually fewer minorities working for the city now than there were in 2010.

“Obviously, there’s some things we need to do,” Porterfield said.

The city-county affirmative action director, Miriam Cajuste, is working with the council to develop the board.

She’s enthusiastic about the concept.

“It is a wonderful idea,” she said.

Cajuste works full-time to try to recruit minorities for city and county positions. But she said in last year’s report that minorities simply aren’t taking the required civil-service exams.

She holds information sessions, helps exam-takers study for their tests, runs advertising campaigns, helps minorities match their resumes to available jobs and even calls job-seekers personally to encourage them to take the exams relevant to their skills.

But it’s not working, she said. It’s not that minorities are doing poorly on the tests — they’re not taking them.

The board might help city officials figure out what else they can do, Porterfield said.

 
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