Observers encouraged by Baker administration transition team diversity, yet Latinos not represented
Observers in Boston’s black community were encouraged last week when Governor-elect Charlie Baker rolled out his transition team. Four of the 16 co-chairs appointed to the committee were African American, though one resigned Friday.
While no Latinos were appointed to the body, blacks interviewed by the Banner said Baker has gotten off to a good start.
“He’s committed to building a cabinet and hiring employees who are reflective of the Commonwealth,” said state Rep. Russell Holmes. “It’s exactly what he committed to when he was running.”
Robert Lewis Jr., who heads a program that builds students’ academic skills and teaches baseball and Crystal Kornegay, president and CEO of Urban Edge community development corporation are heading the transition team’s Community subcommittee. Deb Enos, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Health Plan, is one of the co-chairs of the Healthcare subcommittee.
Richard Taylor, who served as the state’s transportation secretary under the administration of former Gov. William Weld, was appointed co-chair of the transition team’s State of the State committee, but resigned last Friday, citing unresolved financial problems.
Baker’s diverse appointments to his transition team co-chairmanships, which include many Democrats, underscores a reality of GOP politics in Massachusetts: With relatively few Republicans in the state, Baker will have to rely on Democrats to fill many key positions in state government.
Under past Republican administrations, the lack of a GOP field has given blacks access to positions normally doled out to Democratic Party insiders. Gov. Weld, for instance, appointed Ralph Martin to fill a vacancy in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. Weld also appointed Frank Cousins as Essex County Sheriff. Andrea Cabral was appointed Suffolk County Sheriff by Gov. Jane Swift. None of those positions had ever been held by an African American in Massachusetts.
During the eight years of the Patrick administration, people of color have held three of the eight cabinet positions: current Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral, former Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby and former secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez.
People of color also secured leadership positions as commissioners, including MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, Division of Capital Asset Management Commissioner Carole Cornelison and Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Sandra McCroom, among others.
“There are some very significant roles held by people of color who get the job done,” Holmes said “I would hope that Baker will make similar appointments. I’m encouraged by what I’ve
seen so far.”
Missing so far among Baker’s picks, however, are Latinos, who represent nearly ten percent of the state’s population. No Latinos were appointed to the 16 co-chairmanships of the transition team, although Baker has yet to fill out the committees headed by the co-chairs.
“I don’t know how you can put together a transition team without Latinos, considering the Latino population in Massachusetts,” said Alexandra Oliver Davila, a member of the Latino Network. “There are decisions being made on a daily basis. If Latinos are not included in the decision-making, how can you be sure you’re being helpful to their communities?’