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Marty Walsh says administration will reflect diversity of Boston

Yawu Miller | 11/13/2013, 11:41 a.m.

On the campaign trail, state Rep. Marty Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly both pledged that their administrations would reflect the diversity of Boston.

Having won election to mayor, Walsh, now tasked with putting together the first new mayoral administration in 20 years, says he will honor his pledge to have at least 50 percent of the top positions in his administration filled by blacks, Latinos and Asians.

Friday, Walsh took a first step in that direction, announcing his six transition team co-chairs, three of whom are people of color — Felix G. Arroyo, John Barros and Charlotte Golar Richie.

Now the rubber hits the road. The appointments Walsh makes in the next two months will put his stamp on the mayor’s office for at least the next four years.

“He should go beyond tokenism and symbolism in to real positions with budgets and hiring authority,” said City Councilor Charles Yancey.

The Menino and Flynn administrations each had a few major departments headed by people of color — the School Department, the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Boston Housing Authority — and many minor departments like the Fair Housing Commission, the Civil Rights Commission and Health and Human Services, the number of department heads has never reflected the diversity of the city.

In the Menino administration, blacks, Latinos and Asians are concentrated at the lower end of the pay scale.

“In the highest salaried jobs —the top 10 percent — 85 percent are held by white males,” Yancey said. “It’s grossly disparate and unfair, in my opinion.”

Arroyo, Barros and Richie each pressured Walsh to assemble a diverse cabinet. In their roles as transition team chairpersons, each is in a position to hold Walsh accountable to his pledge.

Boston has never had a black, Latino or Asian police or fire commissioner. Other major city departments that have never been headed by people of color include the Department of Public Works, the Transportation Department, the Inspectional Services Division, the Public Health Commission and Basic City Services.

“Marty Walsh has a tremendous opportunity to have leadership in his administration that represents the diversity of the city of Boston,” Yancey said.

In addition to his pledge to diversify City Hall, Walsh has also pledged to increase the number of people of color in command positions in the Boston Police Department. None of the 11 captains in the department are people of color. While those positions are determined by scores on a Civil Service exam, the police commissioner has the power to appoint superintendents and deputy superintendents.

There are 22 positions in the police department’s command staff. Six are held by people of color.

Yancey says the paucity of blacks, Latinos and Asians in leadership roles in city government poses a challenge for Walsh, but the payoff would be a better-functioning city government.

“These departments have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in our city,” Yancey said. “Having people of color in those positions would improve the city’s ability to deliver services. We’re in a stronger position to listen if the leadership and employees of city agencies can relate to and empathize with the public.”