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Louisiana transit official: I'd love to have fewer black bus drivers

Louisiana transit official: I'd love to have fewer black bus drivers
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The chief of Baton Rouge, La.'s public transportation system is apologizing for saying he would "love" to have fewer African-American bus drivers because it would help the transit agency attract white riders.

"I apologize. It was never my intention to offend anyone, and I am sorry that my comments on a recent podcast have distracted our community from our continued push to move our transit system forward,” Baton Rouge Capital Area Transit Agency CEO Bob Mirabito said in a statement released by the agency.

“My comment, heard in its entirety, was not racially motivated, and I apologize that is the impression it has given people,” he continued. 

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The original comments from Mirabito were made in a podcast interview with a local journalist last week, according to Louisiana media reports.

Mirabito said in the interview that having more drivers who were not African-American would "match the demographics of Baton Rouge."

"I don't see the color of somebody's skin, OK," Mirabito said in the interview, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"CATS is, I think, actually 95 percent African-American," he continued. "And unfortunately, our demographics don't match Baton Rouge. I would love to have a workforce that matched the demographics of Baton Rouge, because I think there are some people out there who may not ride a CATS bus because they don't like the color of the operator's skin."

CATS Board Chairwoman Donna Collins-Lewis condemned Mirabito's remarks in a statement on her own.

“I, too, apologize to the employees of CATS as well as the community for the statement that was made," she said. "CATS is committed to its path of forward progress."

Collins-Lewis implied that Mirabito could face consequences for his comments that include losing his job.

"The Chief Executive Officer’s job is to continue to make improvements that have been promised to the community," she said. "The CEO reports to the Board of Directors, which is comprised of people from all areas of our community. The Board has always, and will continue to, monitor the CEO’s performance in his position.”

Baton Rouge's CATS system is outside of the top 50 bus ridership rankings that are compiled by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

The agency operates 30 bus routes in the Baton Rouge area and also provides paratransit services for disabled riders, according to its website.