Dozens Of Colorado Black Leaders Met With Gov. Polis To ‘Remind’ Him About Importance Of Diversity In Hiring

<p>Alex Scoville/CPR News</p>
<p>Gov. Jared Polis in his office at the Colorado Capitol on Thursday, June 17, 2019.</p>
Photo: Governor Jared Polis 061719 CM Interview 1
Gov. Jared Polis in his office at the Colorado Capitol on Thursday, June 17, 2019.

Leaders in Colorado's black community want Gov. Jared Polis to pay attention to diversity in his administration when it comes to black staffers.

The Colorado Black Roundtable brought roughly 50 leaders to meet with Polis Thursday. The Roundtable's John Bailey says the group wants to hold Polis accountable, engage with him, provide feedback, and also remind him of commitments he made on the campaign trail.

“Rather than saying, 'Governor, you forgot us, you're racist, or you're this, or you're that,' what we're saying is, 'Governor, do you remember the conversation? Well, if you don't, okay, then we want to remind you, and if you do, and let's set the meeting up and let's figure out, you know, what's going on,'” Bailey said.

In a letter on April 29 asking to meet with the governor, Bailey said it had been a year since he had raised concerns with Polis and hadn’t heard anything. Bailey and others are asking for a commitment to more black hires when appropriate, and for studies on issues facing black families and examining what Colorado has done for black- and minority-owned businesses.

“These studies are critical for identifying research areas, securing the necessary data, benchmarks, resources, and for developing legislation and public policy to shape opportunities for solutions," Bailey wrote. "Further, you will need people with a cultural connection to the Black community to assist with these two areas."

Polis has 20 cabinet members. Most are women and 30 percent are people of color. Angie Paccione, a former state lawmaker who now heads the Colorado Department of Higher Education, is biracial, and is the only person in the cabinet with black heritage.

“The governor is committed to having a Colorado for all,” said a statement provided by Polis’ office. “The governor felt the meeting was very productive and he and the administration look forward to continuing to work with and engaging the African American community.”

The Colorado Black Roundtable says a meeting of this magnitude, with so many stakeholders with a sitting governor, has not happened for at least 12 years. Democratic state Sen. Rhonda Fields was in attendance, as was U.S. Senate candidate Stephany Rose Spalding.

“There's an expectation that if you go to represent everybody in the state, that you will also appoint and hire folks that reflect the cultural population of everybody in the state. So that was the message,” Bailey said.