The administration of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is experiencing growing pains. And one especially sore spot is the effort to create a municipal workforce that reflects the racial makeup of the city, where people of color comprise 53 percent of the population.
The administration recently rejected a routine public records request by Globe reporters seeking race or ethnicity information for the city’s roughly 19,000 workers. Walsh said he doubted the accuracy of the previous Menino administration’s data collection methods. But he wasn’t forthcoming on the racial breakdown of his own hires, either. It is clear, however, that whites predominated during the initial hiring and appointment stages for higher level, nonunion positions in the new administration. Of 43 cabinet members and department heads, for example, only 11 are people of color.
This week, the numbers started to turn in the administration’s favor. Suddenly City Hall was in a sharing mood. From January to May, the administration has filled 189 positions, according to chief of operations Joseph Rull. Of that number, 129 — or 68 percent — are people of color. Pretty impressive at first blush. But a deeper cut at the data suggests that many of the minorities could be filling jobs at the lower end of the union wage scale. Whites predominate in the nonunion “exempt” jobs, which often include executive or administration positions. Of 27 managers in exempt positions, for example, 10 are people of color, according to the administration
The Walsh administration denies sitting on the diversity data until it looked better. But one thing is certain. The new mayor needs to get in the habit of acceding to legitimate records requests from the press and public. Walsh was exempt from public records laws when he served as a representative in the Legislature. But he can’t pull that trick in City Hall. Transparency is every bit as important as diversity in a mayoral administration.
Walsh made explicit promises during the campaign that he would do everything in his power to diversify the city workforce. Presumably, he wasn’t just trolling for minority votes. Every successful urban politician knows the importance of this issue. Deploying an overwhelmingly white police force in cities with large minority populations, for example, has been a recipe for trouble since the 1960s. A healthy presence of minority police means stronger community relations and better field intelligence. Walsh and Boston Police Superintendent William Evans should be worried that there are only 11 minorities in the current police class of 56 recruits. They need to find ways to attract more minority officers, especially those who speak Spanish, Haitian Creole, and other languages commonly heard on the streets of Boston.
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week