Too little too late — or better late than never?
The reaction among Salt Lake's Hispanic community was guarded Friday to the announcement earlier this week that the Salt Lake Organizing Committee is seeking more minority involvement in the 2002 Winter Games.
"Hopefully it's going to be something besides lip service," said John Renteria, executive director of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, responding to SLOC's new "proactive diversity outreach effort," announced Thursday by SLOC President Mitt Romney.
That effort will include "an extensive multicommunications plan" to recruit volunteers from minority communities, plus an attempt to recruit more bids from minority-owned businesses.
"I like to think that Mitt is on the right track and will follow through," said Renteria.
SLOC's diversity outreach effort is a response to recent criticism that the committee had not bought advertising on a local Spanish-language television station. That criticism was "a necessary wake-up call" that SLOC needed to be more inclusive of minority communities, said Romney.
But some members of Utah's Hispanic community say the need to include minorities in the 2002 Games shouldn't have needed a wake-up call.
"We appreciate that they're talking about this," said Richard Montao, director of the Utah Coalition of La Raza. "But why are they talking about it now as opposed to a year or two ago?"
Figures released by SLOC at Thursday's press conference confirmed that Utah's Winter Games planning is mostly being conducted by white males. The SLOC Board of Trustees includes 48 whites, 40 of whom are men. More than 93 percent of employees at SLOC headquarters are white; 53 percent are men.
"We were taken for granted," said Richard Velez, a member of SLOC's Human Resources subcommittee and former head of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Nobody gave us much thought." As a SLOC committee member, Velez is optimistic, though, that Olympics organizers will be more inclusive.
"We'll be looking over their shoulders," says Velez, referring to himself and subcommittee member Lillian Taylor.
There are no senior management positions available, Romney told reporters Thursday. But there could be promotions or turnover, plus the addition of nearly 300 full-time jobs and as many as 2,000 part-time jobs during the Games. The average salary for new full-time hires will be about $45,000, he said.
None of which impresses Mike Martinez, a Salt Lake lawyer involved in civil rights issues. "All contracts that mean money have been given out years ago," said Martinez. "All senior employment positions have been filled for years with white males. Now a few minor clerical positions or positions without any policy-making roles will be filled by minorities. You can bet it will be with female minorities who will type up what the white males say.
"Everyone wants to tiptoe around it," he said. But, including minorities "is not a priority, has never been a priority and never will be." Utah's minorities, he said, have no political clout. "So it has to be because of their (SLOC's) own good will" that diversity will be a reality.
According to Romney, SLOC is looking for a way to establish a "new network" that works outside the traditional "old boy network" for hiring and procurement.
"We will, of course, make sure that we always purchase goods and services from the superior provider, meaning the provider that has the best service at the best price and the best quality," he explained. "However, all other things being equal, we will prefer businesses that are U.S. companies, that are Utah companies and that are minority-owned companies. And in some cases, things are equal."
Many of SLOC's suppliers, however, are sponsors — who are spending money to be affiliated with the Olympics. Most of SLOC's television commercials, for example, have aired, for free, on KSL-TV, an official supplier.
As part of the diversity outreach plan, SLOC has agreed to buy about $5,000 in advertising on Telemundo. "This is for good publicity only," argued Martinez. And "remember that the Telemundo general manager is a white male."