Latino leadership still lacking in City Hall, study says
Meghan E. Irons and Milton Valencia of the Boston Globe Staff
JUNE 15, 2017
Three years after researchers warned Mayor Martin J. Walsh about the lack of Latino representation at City Hall, Latinos remain underrepresented in positions of power in his administration, a report released Thursday said.
Only six of City Hall’s 57 Cabinet chiefs, department heads, and other executives are Latinos, and just 24 of the city’s 467 seats on boards and commissions are held by Latinos, according to the report.
The “Silent Crisis II” report was both an assessment and rebuke of Walsh’s diversity efforts, praising the mayor for slight gains — but saying they were not enough. Walsh has promised to have a city government that is reflective of the city’s increasing diversity.
The report was commissioned by the Greater Boston Latino Network, a collection of community-based organizations promoting Latinos in decision-making positions in government. It also examined the Latino leadership gap in Chelsea.
“There has been some progress in both cities, not as much as we want,’’ said James Jennings, one of the study’s researchers and a professor emeritus at Tufts University. “There’s a continuing gap between the growing Latino community and appointment to leadership positions in both cities.”
The report comes as Walsh presses for second term and stakes out communities of color as a key constituency. Walsh had been fending off criticism on the lack of people of color in large city departments. His main competitor, Councilor Tito Jackson, is an African-American who has made increasing the city’s workforce diversity a campaign issue.
Since Walsh took office 12 percent of the mayor’s hires are Latino or of Hispanic origin, and 11 percent of the workforce is of Hispanic descent, city officials said.
Walsh, flanked by the researchers at a press conference Thursday, acknowledged some progress in Latino leadership at City Hall but said it “falls short.” He said that Boston needs more “Latino leadership in our city and in governments across the board.”
“What I’d ask people here today, as we move forward, is let’s not turn on each other, let’s work with each other to make sure we can continue to . . . advance the needs of the people in our city and in our Commonwealth,’’ he said.
The new report follows a 2014 analysis that also revealed few Latinos in Boston, Somerville, and Chelsea governments.
The Latino organization has maintained that active representation is necessary to promote policies and strategies for the betterment of underrepresented racial and ethnic communities.
The report said that despite the fact that the Latino population in Boston continues to surge, few Latinos have “decision-making” authority in Boston’s government.
Walsh said that since 1980, the city’s population has grown 21 percent to about 680,000 people. Much of that growth comes from Latinos, who represent nearly 19 percent of Boston’s population, he said.
“If we don’t adapt our power structure to reflect that change, the city will not be ready for the future, and that’s something that’s really important for all of us,’’ he said.
According to the report, Latinos serving in Boston executive positions increased by just 3 percent over the past three years, and their membership on the city’s boards and commissions declined from 7 percent to 5 percent, further widening a Latino leadership gap, the report said.
The report said that there were 29 new appointments to executive positions from 2015 to 2017, but only four were Latino.
“Since 2014, the number of Latino Cabinet chiefs grew from one to two, and the number of Latino department heads grew to four,’’ the report said.
Only two Hispanics are serving on the school committee. Both were appointed by Walsh. Forty percent of the system’s 57,000 students are Hispanic, data show.
Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, of the Latino group, said the report highlights the importance of grooming another generation of leaders.
The group wants “to narrow our focus on education, economic development, housing, those things we see as really important to giving Latinos greater opportunities,’’ she said.
The study’s researchers were Jennings; Miren Uriarte, sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Walsh school committee appointee; and researcher Jen Douglas.
The researchers also interviewed Chelsea’s City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. They found that while Latinos represent nearly two-thirds of Chelsea’s population, only 24 percent of the government’s executive positions and just 13 percent of seats on boards and commissions were held by Latinos.
Ambrosino said the report’s summary of Chelsea is fair, and his administration is working to increase Latino leadership.