News & Politics

Barrett: New York’s Irish Get Another Archbishop, Latinos Blanked Again

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So the Irish still get theirs. The new archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, surely soon to become a cardinal, mixes the blarney of John J. O’Connor with the buck smarts of Edward Egan, his last two Irish predecessors. In the century and a half history of the archdiocese, only Irishmen have ruled. And nothing changes even now — in a city where the faithful are more Latino everyday, conservatively estimated at a third of the Catholics in the archdiocese, perhaps twice the number of the remaining Irish.

Of course, a cardinal shouldn’t be picked by headcount of the congregation, but the selection is just one more timely reminder of the Rodney Dangerfield life of Latinos in this city and state. No one gives them a smidgen of respect. There are nine statewide positions of power — two senators, governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, assembly speaker, senate majority leader and chief judge — and no Latino has ever held one of them. There are four positions of citywide power — mayor, comptroller, public advocate and council speaker — and Latinos have come up zero there too. No other ethnic group of any electoral size in New York, much less one that is the city’s largest, has a scorecard like that.

David Paterson, the first governor to hail from a senate district with
a large Latino population, had two big choices to make in recent weeks
— a new chief judge and a new U.S. Senator. While he never seriously
considered any Latino for the senate spot, he co-hosted a press
conference with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to complain about the
narrow list of choices he was given by a nominating panel that excluded
Latinos and women from their list of seven approved candidates.

Everyone understood that the subtext of the press conference was a
twofer — Court of Appeals Judge and Hispanic woman Carmen Ciparick —
rejected by the panel. Paterson asked Cuomo to look into the question
of whether he was bound by law to select a chief judge from the rigged
list that was given him, which favored Jonathan Lippman, an insider’s
insider with friends on the nominating panel who were obviously willing
to use their clout to both promote and exclude.

Paterson never released the legal opinion he got from Cuomo, but
according to several sources, the attorney general did advise Paterson
that he could simply not make an appointment by the statutory January
15 deadline, which would have left the acting chief judge, Ciparick, in
place indefinitely. Since John O’Mara, the chair of the nominating
commission and an appointee of former governor George Pataki, was
stepping down in March, Paterson could simply have asked a new panel,
somewhere up the road, to give him a new list.

Even Paterson’s staff won’t dispute — if reporters ask them — that
Cuomo gave the governor that option. It would have only taken a couple
members of the 12-member panel — with four appointed by ex chief judge
Judith Kaye and one by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, both of whom
were openly championing Lippman — to secretly submarine Ciparick by
simply ranking her dead last on their still undisclosed dance card.

The justification out of the archdiocese, quoted in the Times
story, is that there aren’t enough Hispanics in “the pipeline,” but
Ciparick was so pipeline-ready, with 15 years on the Court of Appeals
compared to Lippman’s zero, that even readiness appears not to count
when it comes to the fate of Latinos in New York. Lippman’s main
benefactor, Silver, who has been speaker longer than any Democrat in
modern history, has never included a Latino in any of the eight
leadership positions in the assembly conference, and continued that
proud tradition on the eve of Lippman’s confirmation. With the new
Democratic majority in the state senate, it’s still unclear if Latinos
will have real power.

Even in the Bronx, the base of Latino clout in city politics, Carl
Heastie, an African American, has become the Democratic leader,
deposing longtime Latino boss Jose Rivera and leaving the city party
without a Latino county leader for the first time in decades. Don’t be
fooled by Brooklyn boss Vito Lopez, who pretends he’s Latino but is
mostly Italian (Spain also appears somewhere in his bloodline). When
Fernando Ferrer became the first Latino nominated for mayor or any
other citywide office in 2005, the Democratic party establishment did
nothing for him and he lost badly to Mike Bloomberg, whose campaign
specialized in appeals to Latin communities other than Ferrer’s Puerto
Rican base. Incredibly, no Latino is even seeking citywide office in
2009.

While non-Hispanic city and state leaders have to take responsibility
for some of this record of exclusionary politics (Paterson, in
particular, showed Latinos no respect in the selection of Lippman and
anti-immigrant Senator Kirsten Gillibrand), the community’s own
leadership is increasingly examining itself. El Diario, the
Spanish language daily, denounced Paterson for his Gillibrand selection
on its front-page, though it was muted on the Ciparick exclusion. Three
Latino state senators walked out when Lippman was confirmed. The Bronx
leadership is reclaiming the borough presidency now that Adolpho
Carrion, the current beep, has announced he’s taking a White House job.
But unlike blacks, Latinos have never presented a united voice in a
push for state and city recognition (it’s argued that Latino is a
misnomer because the city’s Hispanics come from so many countries, but
blacks come from dozens of different Caribbean and other places).

And in the church that has for so long been their home, the only way
they can apparently make their voices heard is by leaving for
evangelical alternatives in growing numbers.    
 
Research credit: Jesus Ron