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As Evanston once again considers the prospect of city budget cuts, some residents have raised concerns about the impact cuts might have on city jobs for minorities.

City data indicates that overall 22 percent of Evanston city workers are black, slightly more than the 18 percent of the city’s population identified as black in the 2010 U.S. Census.

But the percentage of black workers by department varies dramatically — from a high of 42 percent in Parks, Recreation and Community Services to a low of 3 percent at the Evanston Public Library.

Particular concerns have been raised about a review underway by the city manager aimed at a possible consolidation of the city’s Public Works and Utilities departments.

Public Works has the third highest percentage of black employees, at 32 percent, while Utilities has the second lowest percentage of black employees, at 5 percent.

If the two departments were combined without any layoffs, 23 percent of the combined unit’s employees would be black — because Public Works now has more than twice as many total employees as Utilities. But some city workers and community activists have voiced fears that layoffs as part of a consolidation might disproportionately affect black workers.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has indicated he plans to present results of the study of possible consolidation of the two departments to the City Council at a meeting next month.

Unlike the severe city budget cuts following the housing market collapse last decade that resulted in sharply reduced local tax revenue, the prospect of budget cuts now is driven by the failure of state lawmakers and the governor to agree on a state budget — and the possibility that state aid to municipalities may be cut in any eventual state budget agreement.

More detail on the employment of minority workers — including Asians and Hispanics — by Evanston city departmentsis available on the city’s website.


Update 12:40 p.m. 7/30/15: Although the chart posted on the city website didn’t specify it, a city spokesperson says it covers only full-time employees, and some departments have different percentages of minority employees when part-timers are included.


Update 5:51 p.m. 7/30/15: The city has now posted data showing minority employment percentage for part-time employees. The highest percentages of black part-time employees are 71 percent in both Public Works and Administrative Services, 35 percent in Parks and Recreation, 50 percent in Health and Human Services and 21 percent at the Library.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. Transparency is great now let’s get moving
    Bill. I’m so glad that you picked up on this newly released data. Wally (and the council) made a great choice in releasing these numbers and I know look forward to them addressing the low percentage of diversity in the city managers office. Only 3 out of 10 employees in the office are minorities and none of those are in positions of mgmt. The Utilities dept and EPL also need to be addressed, how can this be ok? (Especially with EPL’s only minority librarian recently being suspended). Evanston we should be ashamed

    1. Not a black-and-white issue

      Are the residents that have raised concerns only looking at the numbers of black workers or are they concerned about ALL minorities too (Hispanic, Asian, Woman)?

      There will always be room for improvement, but I think lumping this into a black and white issue is shortsighted on the residents part. Plenty of non-black minotiries live here too. And the numbers as a whole look decent. 

      Slippery slope here and while I think the numbers could be better, I'm puzzled by anyone saying the numbers are shameful.

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