Black lawmakers, stunned by Scott, want minorities to get to work for governorby Dara Kam | February 16th, 2011
After four years of close relations with his predecessor Charlie Crist, most black lawmakers believe they’ll have a much cooler relationship with Gov. Rick Scott.
“I’m not optimistic at all,” said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, whose district includes a portion of Palm Beach County.
But don’t look for any sit-ins, yet.
After two months on the job, Gov. Rick Scott has yet to appoint a black or Hispanic to a high-level post.
And at a luncheon for black lawmakers at the mansion yesterday, he further alienated some of the members by suggesting he grew up like them – in public housing and with a parent who had a sixth-grade education.
He also told them he wants their help hiring minorities although he also said he insisted he believe in giving preferences to applicants based on race or ethnicity.
Today, black lawmakers set up an e-mail address to help Scott round out his hires.
Blacks and Hispanics interested in getting to work for Scott should send their applications to email@example.com, caucus leader Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, said at a press conference today. Minority business owners seeking contracts with the state should also send their information, Siplin advised.
The lawmakers want Scott to reconsider his decision to whack money for historically black private colleges – except the financially ailing Edward Waters College near Jacksonville – from his budget.
Siplin said they’ll meet again with Scott and forward the qualified applicants to his office.
Siplin said Scott was simply sharing his background with the black caucus by mentioning the public housing and parents’ lack of education.
“Quite frankly, all black folks are not poor,” Siplin said at a press conference Wednesday.
Smith, whose mother has a master’s degree, said he was shocked at Scott’s comments at yesterday’s lunch and considered walking out.
“He just assumed because he was sitting with a bunch of black people that we had all grown up in public housing,” Smith said.
Scott is “tremendously disconnected” from the realities of being black or Hispanic in Florida, Smith said.
“He doesn’t see the need for diversity or inclusion,” Smith said. “Any diversity that happens (in his administration) is going to happen by happenstance.”
Gov. Jeb Bush started off by alienating blacks when he did away with minority preferences in university admission and state contracting.
Bush’s actions prompted two black lawmakers – then-Sen. Kendrick Meek and Sen. Tony Hill, then a House member – to stage a sit-in in his office.