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Gov. Wilson Poised to Cut Many State Affirmative Action Councils

By Virginia Ellis
Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO, Calif.

Stepping up his assault on affirmative action, California Gov. Pete Wilson is poised to abolish many women- and minority-dominated state advisory councils at the same time he has sent bureaucrats scurrying to survey the dollar costs of promoting diversity in government hiring and contracting.

The governor's staff confirmed Thursday that Wilson plans in the next few weeks to make a major announcement relating to affirmative action. Sources said Wilson will announce a plan to eliminate all aspects of state government affirmative action not mandated by federal and state law and will disclose the results of his costs survey.

While the governor's office refused to say exactly what programs will be abandoned, several high level department officials said they have been told to prepare to disband all the advisory boards and councils which monitor compliance with minority and women hiring and contracting policies.

Established informally in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the advisory groups are appointed by individual state departments and include representatives from nearly 100 minority- and women-owned business associations.

"The goal we want to achieve is a color-blind society," said Sean Walsh, Wilson's press secretary. "We're at a point in our society where we're giving special privileges and turning one group against another."

He said the governor had ordered the survey of the costs to state government of affirmative action so the public can "have as many facts as possible when the governor calls for the removal of some of these programs."

The governor's latest move on affirmative action immediately prompted some Democrats and minority business people who serve on many of the councils to accuse him of using the highly volatile issue to promote his presidential ambitions.

Wilson has organized an exploratory committee to raise money and support for a possible 1996 run for the Republican presidential nomination.