LOCKPORT — Falls minister, the Rev. Jessie Scott, stood in front of the members of the Niagara County Legislature Tuesday night and told them that children in the county needed to see “more people who look like me” in public jobs.
Then he asked a pointed question of the legislators.
“Will you help us change our hiring practices (in Niagara County)?”
After several seconds of silence, Scott cast a gaze around the legislature chamber and said, “Well, you’re awfully quiet.”
The leader of the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH) and a member of the Falls Ministerial Council, Scott spoke out in support of a resolution, sponsored by Falls Legislator Owen Steed (D-Niagara Falls) and the body’s other four Democratic members, calling for the creation of an Ad Hoc committee on minority hiring in Niagara County government.
Scott noted there are just 50 minority employees in the county’s 1,470 person workforce.
“That’s something we need to work on,” Scott said.
While census figures show Niagara County has a population that is 12.6 percent minority, county employment is just 3.4 percent minority.
“That number should be alarming to everyone in this room,” Falls pastor, the Rev. Craig Pridgen said. “My concern is we are OK with these numbers. We need to get to the root of this problem.”
The resolution noted that other than the current Democratic Party election commissioner, not a single county department head is a minority. The district attorney’s office has no minority prosecutors and there has never been a county defender who was a minority.
“We want a committee that not only advances jobs, but looks to figure out why (minorities) aren’t taking (civil service tests) and applying for jobs,” Steed said. “Hopefully, with this resolution we’ll be able to look at ways to get people to apply.”
Steed proposed a committee made up of three appointees each from the legislature’s majority and minority caucuses, as well as representatives from Civil Service, the county Human Resources Director, the county Director of Employment and Training and two members from each party in the legislature.
In urging passage of the resolution, Scott said, “We need your help. And if you can’t (help), I will run and take your seat. This will not be the last time you hear from me.”
The legislature approved the ad hoc committee unanimously.