Pasadena Plans to Make Sure Armenians Count

Times Staff Writer

The city of Pasadena took the pioneering step six years ago of including Armenian-Americans in its affirmative action program but now finds that it cannot set hiring goals because it does not know how many Armenians live in the city or in the area's labor market.

The Pasadena Board of Directors voted this week to conduct a special census of Armenian residents and businesses in Pasadena and to collect economic and social data in the process.

May Be Inadequate

The information could be used to set hiring goals for entry-level positions, officials said, but the data may still be inadequate to support goals for higher jobs. City Atty. Victor Kaleta said his preliminary legal opinion is that the city needs population data from a larger labor pool, not just Pasadena, to set goals beyond entry-level positions.

Ramon Curiel, affirmative action administrator, said the U.S. census in 1990 will provide a count of affirmative-action "protected classes," such as as blacks and Latinos, but not Armenians. The only way the city can obtain a count of Armenians, he said, is through a special census conducted by a private firm or through contracts with the U.S. Census Bureau or the state Department of Finance. The federal and state governments will not undertake such a project until after the 1990 census, he said.

SC Communications, a public relations, marketing and advertising firm based in Glendale and headed by an Armenian-American, Serge L. Samoniantz, submitted a proposal to conduct a census of Armenians in Pasadena for $98,642. Samoniantz told the city board this week that he does not have personal experience in census work but has organized a team of expert consultants, headed by R. H. Dekmejian, chairman of the political science department at USC.

The board decided to solicit offers from other firms before awarding a contract.

Mayor William E. Thomson Jr. said Pasadena is the only city in the United States that treats Armenians as a protected class in its affirmative action program.

City Director Rick Cole said Armenians were included in the affirmative action program six years ago because Armenians, especially immigrants, had encountered obstacles to employment and other opportunities.

Hearings May Be Needed

Curiel said that in light of recent court decisions on affirmative action programs, it may be necessary for the city to conduct hearings to document cases of discrimination against Armenian-Americans as part of the goal-setting process. Thus far, he said, the lack of data has made it impossible for the city to set goals or timetables for hiring Armenian-Americans, and the city has done little more than to extend its job recruitment efforts to the Armenian community.

Director William Paparian said the city has been relying for a decade on a "guesstimate" that about 10% of its population, or 15,000 people, are of Armenian heritage. But, he noted, a large number of Armenians are seeking to leave Iran, Europe and the Soviet Union to come to the United States. Many of the immigrants are settling in Glendale and Hollywood, he said, but others are coming to Pasadena.

"There is ample justification with going ahead with a population census," he said.

Mayor Thompson suggested that the city "needs to do more than just count people" and should gather information to help plan social services and other programs.

All of the directors except John Crowley voted in favor of a motion by Cole to declare the city's intention to conduct a special census. Crowley, who abstained, said the city should wait for the 1990 census to see if it needs data on other groups before ordering a census of Armenians and should also refer the matter to its Human Relations Commission before acting.

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