Few People of Color in State Elected Offices

by Elaine Mejia on December 17, 2015 in December 2015 eNewsletter

people of colorJust ten African American women have ever held statewide executive offices, such as secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, or lieutenant governor. No black woman has ever been elected governor. Today, ten states have no black women in their state legislatures.

This lack of representation in state government means the voices of African-American women are often left out of the dialogue on policy. A new report from Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics and the Higher Heights Leadership Fund explains:

Throughout the country, Black women are leading efforts to promote positive social change, preserve and improve their communities, and prevent the perpetuation of violence and inequality. Black women’s influence extends to educational, business, and economic spheres, where they have expanded both their presence and power. Despite these efforts and advancements, new research finds that Black women’s voices are the most likely to be overlooked in governmental policy-making….

Increasing Black women’s representation is not only a matter of democratic fairness, but essential to engaging new constituencies, elevating policy dialogue, and promoting policy priorities, perspectives, and solutions that may be lost if Black women’s votes, voices, and leadership are absent from American politics.

Another report—this one from Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline—looked at state legislatures and found their memberships don’t reflect the nation’s growing diversity. Latinos are 17% of the population but only 5% of state legislatures; for African Americans it’s 13% versus 9%, and for Asian Americans its 5% versus 1%. The report finds that part of the problem is racial gerrymandering—packing minorities into a handful of voting districts to limit their representation. The money necessary to run a successful campaign is also a barrier.

Another factor that depresses minorities’ strength in state legislatures is economics: Few first- and second-generation immigrants can afford to get by on a part-time legislator’s salary — or have the kind of careers that will afford them the flexibility to serve in office, according to Sayu Bhojwani, founder and president of the New American Leaders Project. 

The same is true for native-born blacks and Latinos, said Chris Rabb, an African-American author and consultant who is running for Pennsylvania state representative. (Pennsylvania’s state Legislature is one of a handful in the country that is full time.) 

“If you’re a black person trying to run for office and you’re in a densely populated district where it may require you to buy radio ads or put together a solid campaign team, where do you get that money?” Rabb said. Most new candidates either fund their campaigns with their own money or with family help, he said. “That is far less likely to happen in African-American households.” 


The Public Sector’s Sluggish Job Market

by Elaine Mejia on December 17, 2015 in December 2015 eNewsletter

The number of private-sector jobs in the United States is growing faster than public-sector jobs across all levels of government – 2.1% compared to just 0.4% over the past twelve months. In fact, local government employment, the largest segment of … Continue reading

Honoring a Bureaucrat Who Saved Babies

by Public Works on September 28, 2015 in Public Beat

The nation pays attention when a product causes harm, but it rarely makes the news when government rules and regulations—and the bureaucrats charged with implementing them—prevent tragedies from happening. That’s why we want to pay homage to Dr. Frances Oldham … Continue reading

Millennials Unite Government and the People

by Public Works on September 28, 2015 in Public Beat

There are few things more frustrating than being asked your opinion and then having what you say completely ignored. Unfortunately, that’s been happening in many municipal governments. Managers and elected officials are trying to use technology to listen to their … Continue reading

Yelp Teaming Up with Federal Government

by Public Works on September 28, 2015 in Public Beat

Many business owners—and plenty of patrons—have mixed feelings about Yelp. The popular website and app lets people post rants and raves about restaurants and retailers. Now, Yelp is making it easier for the federal government to get information about reviews … Continue reading

Charging Kids for a Ride to School

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

We’ve heard the stories about schools cutting arts and music programs and charging new fees for sports because of tight budgets. But charging parents for school bus transportation? It seems unconscionable that states would put such an obstacle in the … Continue reading

The Importance of Our National Symbols

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, Americans have been engaged in a conversation about the histories and meanings of all sorts of symbols. As James Loewen of the University of Vermont points out in his must-read article about … Continue reading