NEW YORK - Andrew Cuomo has promised to have a diverse transition team, and a press release said the committees "are comprised of a diverse group of government, private sector and policy leaders with a wide range of local, state and federal experience in their respective fields."
But now Cuomo has picked former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – who was infamous for his lack of diversity in his administration and for failing to meet with black leadership – to co-chair his public safety committee on the governor-elect's transition team, causing some to question just how much Cuomo really values diversity. The committee's job will be to recruit and recommend people for positions in public safety, law enforcement and counterterrorism work.
"Frankly, I was really surprised based upon the history of former Mayor Giuliani's policy and politics. I had thought that the transition team would be about working together," said State Assembly Member Inez Dinkens (D-District 9). "I know there has to be diversity, but even with diversity there should be like-mindedness. Whatever decisions that are made need to be in the best interest of the Democratic Party and the whole community."
While Giuliani is touted by some as a hero for his work in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he had a terrible relationship with the black community during his terms in office, and was viewed as racist by a large portion of the black community. Even Giuliani supporters are tepid in their endorsement of the former mayor when it comes to the issue of race.
"I never thought Rudy Giuliani was a racist," said Fran Reiter, a former deputy mayor for Giuliani, to the New York Times in 2007. "But he was obsessed with the notion there were certain groups he couldn't win over. And he wasn't even going to try."
Even out of office he didn't pretend to care about building a relationship with the black community – he was the only person to run for president in 2008 with an all-white staff.
"I never liked or voted for him when he was mayor, but I'm not really sure what the transition team does," said Harlem resident Monica Williams. "But public safety and law enforcement always clashes with the black community, so it wouldn't surprise me that someone who doesn't care would work on that."
While this choice is worrying, many hope that the other people on the team will be able counter Giuliani.
"Giuliani is a divisive figure, and any time his name comes up, there are many people turned off by it," said Carl McCall, former comptroller of New York State. "The good thing is there are other people, good people, on that team so he should be restrained a bit."
Dinkins agreed, saying, "I'm glad that Keith Wright is on the committee to bring change and balance."
Wright and Giuliani clashed in the past, and he thinks they will likely differ again in their new capacities. "I was surprised that he was named co-chair. Giuliani and I have battled on policy all throughout his eight years of being mayor, and I think we will have differing ideas in the committee," said Wright. "Giuliani will add a perspective and hopefully we can balance that. I'm sure he will be kicking, but we will be kicking too."