By Madina Toure
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) is calling out Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not appointing an Asian-American to his newly formed Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
On March 18, Cuomo announced he was creating the council to bring about more hiring of minority candidates for positions in the state government workforce.
The council will be tasked with evaluating relevant data and best practices in the public and private sectors, determining obstacles and opportunities and working with state agencies to develop a Five-Year Strategic Plan for Statewide Diversity and Inclusion.
Secretary of State Nominee Rossana Rosado will serve as chairwoman of the council. The other members are state Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, chairman of the Somos el Futuro Conference; state Assemblyman Nick Perry, chairman of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; Chief Diversity Officer Roger Rodriguez; Commissioner of Civil Service Lola Brabham; and Deputy Secretary for Labor Elizabeth de Leon Barghava.
“By excluding Asian Americans in his efforts to be inclusive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sending a strong message to Asian Americans across the state that when it comes to diversity, Asians are still not part of the conversation,” Kim said. “In fact, he might as well call this initiative the ‘New York Asian Exclusion Act.’”
This is not the first time Kim has been at odds with the governor on issues affecting Asian Americans.
In July, Cuomo signed into law a bill, introduced by Kim, that would close unlicensed nail salons and give trainee status to unlicensed workers after a May 2015 Times report about abuse in the nail salon industry.
Kim has accused Cuomo of extending his state of emergency three times to unilaterally take punitive measures against nail salon workers and owners.
The assemblyman said he is not surprised by the governor’s “disdain for Asian Americans,” because he has not appointed a single Asian American to his cabinet or to a commissioner-level position in New York.
“Consequently, his unilaterally imposed state regulations have led to rampant scapegoating and demonization of Asian-American small business owners this year, which has led to hundreds of displaced minority workers,” he continued. “Rather than just showing up at Asian-American events to cut ribbons, I encourage this governor to put forth initiatives that truly embrace diversity in this state.”
Cuomo said the state’s diversity “has always been its greatest strength.”
“Our MWBE (minority and women-owned businesses) program has become a national model, and we are going to do the same with our hiring practices so that the state’s workforce reflects the strength of our communities,” he said in a statement.
In 2015, minorities represented 25.7 percent of the state government workforce, up from 24.2 percent in 2010 and 23.3 percent in 2005, according to Cuomo.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour