A new report that finds low representation of Latinos in city government shows that the issue must be fixed, say local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz.
The report, titled “The Silent Crisis,” was commissioned by the Greater Boston Latino Network, a group of Latino community organizations in Boston, Chelsea and Somerville, including Mission Hill’s Sociedad Latina.
Its report found that Latinos comprise 17.5 percent of Boston’s population, 62.1 percent of Chelsea and 10.6 percent of Somerville. But in executive positions in those city governments, Latino officials constitute 7.5 percent, 14.3 percent and 0 percent, respectively.
The study also found that Latinos represented in low percentages on boards and commissions in city government: 7.1 percent in Boston, 10.9 percent in Chelsea and 1.7 percent in Somerville.
The study was announced in conjunction with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announcing the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Team that will help increase diversity in City government. The team will be led by the City’s first chief diversity officer, Shaun Blugh.
Sánchez said that low Latino representation in city government is “something I’ve spent a lot of time on. It’s been an issue and continues to be an issue.”
He said that he is in his 12th year as a representative and the number of Latinos in government has “gone down.” He previously served as an advisor on Latino issues to former Mayor Thomas Menino.
Sánchez said the GBLN report findings are important in relation to other studies, including a recent one that found African-American and Latino males struggling in the Boston Public Schools with a high rate of suspensions, being isolated in special education classes and having low performance.
“These are the issues I care about,” he said.
Sánchez said that it isn’t only about running for elected office, but also being appointed to boards and commission at the city and state level.
“Latinos are not only a significant part of the population, but bring an economic and civic vitality to the city and state,” he said.
Chang-Díaz agreed with Sánchez about the low number of Latinos in government, saying she can count the number of Latinos in the state Legislature “on my hand.” She said that the low representation is “not just a Latino problem. This a problem that affects everyone.”
Chang-Díaz said that it is a problem for the public realm as well as private sector, saying that there is a “stronger product” with diversity.
Asked how to fix the problem, Chang-Díaz said some people believe it will be corrected by time, but she said that is “too slow.” She said it starts with a “real intentionality” by people inside government at the recruiting and hiring/appointing level.
The full report can be read at sociedadlatina.org/storage/thesilentcrisis.pdf.