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

Jule Pattison-Gordon
NAACP: Mayor Walsh falls short of campaign promises to communities of color
(Right) Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP. (Left) Mayor Martin Walsh.

Mayor Martin Walsh has fallen short of campaign promises to increase educational outcomes, provide employment, housing and public safety in communities of color according to a report released by the NAACP Boston Branch today.

Drawing on city data, the NAACP, working in conjunction with a coalition of civil rights and community-based organizations, rated Walsh no higher than a C in any of the main areas, a grade that indicates only some incremental improvement.

“While some of the outcomes are disappointing, we hold firm to the belief that we all want what is best for people in this city. To that end, we believe it is important to look at both the efforts and results of the city’s work,” Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, said in a statement. The report grades both Walsh’s efforts and their results. “To help move us forward, the report should serve to highlight many of the issues of importance within communities of color, as well as a guidepost for our collective work in identifying and implementing results driven solutions. “

Walsh’s office disputed the NAACP’s low assessments of his track record, telling the Banner in a statement, “We need to take the time to closely review this report, however we respectfully disagree with the grades given. While there is always room for improvement, we are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the past four years, from creating opportunities for minority and women owned businesses, to building affordable housing for all income levels to adding over 700 pre-kindergarten seats to expand early learning opportunities.”

Economic Development: D grade

Employment

While the NAACP report authors noted Walsh’s efforts regarding job skills development, they also said it was unclear if this had produced more employment for people of color, and cited the significantly higher unemployment rate among people of color compared to whites. Walsh was given a C for effort and D for results. A C indicates existing efforts were continued, and a D indicates that there was no change in condition.

Affordable Housing

While granting Walsh a B — indicating modest increase — in efforts, the report authors gave him a D for results, noting that since 2011 only about 2.3 percent of units constructed by the city were affordable, based on its own definitions of affordability. Affordable housing supply is not meeting needs and clearer strategies are needed for fully addressing the problem. However, increases in the inclusionary development policy were useful and the amount of city-controlled resources directed for affordable housing was beyond the city’s goal.

Minority-owned business enterprises

Only a thin slice of city spending goes to MBEs, and spending on them in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 declined over the prior two years. It is unclear if recent efforts will help, stated report authors, giving Walsh a B on effort and F on results, the latter grade indicating substantial decline.

Corporate Accountability

In regards to Walsh’s work to encourage companies to engage in hiring and procuring supplies from diverse companies, the NAACP gave a F for efforts.

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.