Local leaders seek Rodeo diversity

February 27, 2009 5:32:19 PM PST
Local minority organizations and a state senator say the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is not doing enough to make itself more diverse and more transparent. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The main complaint has to do with the rodeo's scholarships and performance lineups. Instead of just protesting the Rodeo, on Friday, the organizations and the senator were doing something about it. A state bill has been filed and it could have a wide-reaching impact.

A group of prominent elected and community leaders say they want the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to be more diverse, pointing out that its top management tier -- the executive committee -- has no minority members.

"No Latinos, no African-Americans, no women of any color," said Texas Senator Mario Gallegos. "It's 100 percent, nineteen members, are all white males."

Senator Gallegos on Friday made it official, filing a bill which would require non-profits to appoint a board of directors that reflect the diversity of its constituents, answer fully to all open records requests and make reasonable efforts to increase minority participation in contracts.

It's a bill the Rodeo calls dangerous.

"We're extremely concerned about this legislation," said Houston Livestock Show CEO Leroy Shafer. "And we think that every not for profit in the state of Texas should be very concerned about this legislation."

The Rodeo points out it could affect other large charities, like Discovery Green. But bill supporters say as long as other charities are in compliance, the bill would have no effect.

"If it has to be through laws and oversight, then that it must be," said Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. "But we will have a livestock show that is I representative to all of the state of Texas, and can be a shining example in this nation of change, productivity and respect."

The Rodeo says, however, that they are very reflective of the community, pointing out that every volunteer, minority or not, rises through the ranks by dedicating years of service to the rodeo.

"These things are going to take time because positions are earned at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They're not given out," said Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo VP Rudy Cano. "Nobody made me the title of vice president because they thought I'm a nice guy."

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