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July 1, 2004
Coalition calls for changes
to Romney affirmative action plan
Civil rights activists converged on the State House
Tuesday in a last-minute appeal asking Governor Mitt Romney to
amend his proposed changes to the state’s affirmative action
During the press conference Tuesday, State Rep. Ellen Storey (D-Amherst)
thanked Romney for including provisions in his affirmative action
plan for Vietnam war veterans and the disabled, before launching
into her criticism.
“I would like to remind [Romney] that there
are at least two other groups how should be included,” she
said. “They are people of color and women. I’m sure
this must be an oversight.”
While the affirmative action laws currently on the books include
language mandating the hiring of women and people of color, the
new guidelines drafted by a Romney administration committee does
not, according to Storey and a coalition of activists, attorneys
and other elected officials that gathered at the State House for
a press conference Tuesday.
Romney spokeswoman Nicole St. Peter denied that the governor is
seeking to weaken the state’s affirmative action laws.
“The governor has had a strong commitment to affirmative
action,” she said, noting that one-third of new hires in
the executive branch have been people of color.
But speakers at the press conference said Romney’s handling
of the affirmative action revisions has given them little confidence
in his commitment to diversity.
Governor Romney’s changes to the state’s 43-year-old
affirmative action policy initially received little notice when
his administration announced them on Bunker Hill day last year.
The Banner was not notified of the announcement.
Activists criticized the administration for making the changes
without community input, eventually persuading the governor to
rescind his Executive Order 452, which they argued gutted the
state’s affirmative action policies.
The Romney administration then convened a committee to review
the proposed changes. While a draft of the committee’s recommendations
has been circulating since March, members of the Massachusetts
Alliance to Save Affirmative Action have criticized the Romney
administration for failing to seek public input on the draft.
The administration scheduled three public hearings, but apparently
did little to publicize them. Attendance at none of the hearings
amounted to more than 25 people.
“This has not been an open process,” said Julie Patiño,
an attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. “The
community had to inject itself into the process. Nobody would
know about this if it weren’t for us.”
In contrast, the Mass. Legislative Black Caucus’ hearing
on the draft last month brought more than 250 people to Roxbury
At the RCC hearing, activists criticized the order for the omission
of women and people of color from the plan and a lack of provisions
for enforcement, criticisms that were echoed Tuesday.
“It’s been over a year now,” noted Horace Small,
who heads the Massachusetts Alliance to Save Affirmative Action.
“Now what we have is a 47-page document in which a lot of
trees died for nothing.”
The Romney administration was scheduled to close the period for
public comment on the proposed affirmative action hearing by June
But committee member Leonard Alkins says the document is nowhere
“I’m in no rush to put out a document by a certain
date,” he said. “I think it behooves us to work to
have the strongest possible affirmative action document in the
Commonwealth. I think the majority of the people on the committee
recognize that haste makes waste.”
Caucus members presented the Diversity Advisory Council a copy
of a letter sent to the governor outlining specific recommended
changes to the draft document. Romney has not yet responded to
the letter, hand delivered on June 16.
St. Peter said Romney has set no firm time line for the new guidelines.
“We’re currently awaiting the recommendations from
the Diversity Advisory Council,” she told the Banner. “They’re
going through the information they received at the public forums.”
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