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NAACP: Mayor Walsh falls short of campaign promises to communities of color

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 10/19/2017, 4:21 p.m.
Mayor Martin Walsh has fallen short of campaign promises to increase educational outcomes, provide employment, housing and public safety in ...
(Right) Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP. (Left) Mayor Martin Walsh. Banner (Sullivan photo); Don Harney, Mayor's Office (Walsh photo)

Education: C grade

Overall Walsh received a C on education, with authors saying he had underfunded Boston Public Schools, provided too few new preK seats to lessen racial disparity in access to early education and had yet to do enough to decrease suspension rates. Furthermore, report authors noted that there has been a significant decline in the retention and recruitment of black teachers over the past decade, awarding Walsh a C for effort on retaining and recruiting diverse teachers and an F in results.

Report authors called for bolder action to address the opportunity and achievement gap, stating that BPS “must move from only theory and experimentation to implementation of practices that nurture the whole child and accelerate learning for students of color.”

Public Safety: D grade

Community Policing

While Walsh has lauded the Boston Police Department’s community policing work, the NAACP rated his efforts and results as C-worthy. Walsh failed to significantly strengthen the Civilian Ombudsman Oversight Panel, an entity whose members have requested that replace the body with a better-resourced and more powerful civilian review board. NAACP authors also dinged Walsh for doing little to increase funding to provide more summer and year-round youth jobs. Additionally, the high number of unsolved homicides and shootings suggest depleted trust between community members and the police.

On the positive, the NAACP said that Walsh had made improvements in community collaboration, including through creation of a Social Justice Task Force and reinstatement of the police cadet program.

Body Cameras

Noting that Walsh dragged his feet on implementing a pilot program and, now that the pilot has concluded, will not committee to implementing a full program, NAACP members graded him a D for effort and F for results.

Violence Prevention

Walsh was assigned a B for effort due to creation of the Office of Public Safety and launch of a Boston version of My Brother’s Keeper program, but a D for results. The report authors said the Office of Public Safety lacked a cohesive strategy and needed more abilities to increase its impact. The My Brother’s Keeper program is not sufficiently codified to guarantee it will outlast this administration, they said.

Staffing Diversity: C grade

Walsh received a C for the diversity in city staff, the Boston Public Schools department and police and fire departments, with impending retirements expected to reduce the representation of people of color.

City workers

The NAACP praised the diversity of Walsh’s cabinet and the report authors took note of Walsh’s instatement of an Office of Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer but questioned whether either of these two had measurable progress, clear goals or timelines for their efforts. Additionally, expected retirements will exacerbate problems in attaining sufficient diversity.

BPS staffing

While 86 percent of students are of color, only 46 percent of school leaders are and only 37 percent of teachers and guidance counselors are. Additionally, many people of color will reach retirement age in the near future.

Fire diversity

Walsh was given a C for effort but an F for results in bring diversity to the white-dominate fire ranks. Higher levels are overwhelmingly white, with whites making up 90 percent of fire chiefs, 92 percent of fire captains and 77 percent of lieutenants. Whites also comprise the majority of firefighters. Low numbers of people of color in the department cannot be attributed to reductions in staffing, as a 6 percent decline in firefighters was matched with a 28 percent decline in black firefighters.

Police diversity

The NAACP authors said Walsh made positive efforts in command staff diversity, increased community awareness and participation in the civil service exam to become police officers and did well by re-establishing a cadet program. However, impact is unclear, earning Walsh a B on efforts and C on results. Authors also noted that 31 percent of officers who will hit retirement age by 2026 are minorities.