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Community Leader: Boston's Leadership Should Reflect Diverse Population

BOSTON — Mayoral hopefuls across Boston are making phone calls and meeting with influential community leaders to gauge whether they could win in a now-open race after Mayor Thomas Menino announced he would retire at the end of his term in January.

The Rev. Ray Hammond is among the influential leaders whose phone has been ringing. He is pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, near the Roxbury line.

“One of [Menino's] greatest legacies is helping to pull together a city that I think was very fractured in the time that he came in — across a lot of lines, not just racial. I think across class, across neighborhoods, across downtown versus neighborhoods,” Hammond said. “And I think he put an extraordinary effort into bringing people together across a lot of those divides.”

One of those efforts, Hammond said, was to change the relationship between police and low income neighborhoods.

“I think he threw himself squarely behind the notion of police forces being partners with and not occupiers of communities,” he said. “That the police had to be involved in trying to divert kids before they got into serious trouble, and that only a partnership between the community and the police could give us the kind of safety that we needed.”

Hammond noted how Menino made progress in reducing crime and bringing economic development to neighborhoods such as Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, but he admitted there is still work to be done.

One of the key areas, Hammond said, is making the leadership structure in Boston more reflective of the population. Boston is now a majority-minority city — minorities comprise more than half of the city’s population.

While Hammond said he would like to see a person of color become the next mayor, he said there are significant hurdles for any candidate to overcome in what is likely to be a crowded field.

“There are candidates that I can think of who I think would be eminently credible and I think would do a phenomenal job,” he said. “Whether those people will run, whether they can mobilize the money and the support, that’s still to be seen.”

Hammond would not say who those candidates were, but he did say his phone has been ringing. As a denomination, the AME Church has a policy of not formally endorsing candidates, but Hammond and other leaders in the AME Church have been outspoken on key issues in politics.

“I want to get a sense of whether they understand what the challenges are. I want to know that they have some ideas about what might help,” Hammond said of the potential mayoral candidates. “But if they also display that they’re willing to sit down, talk to the people who are most affected, bring as many partners to the table as we can muster to try to really solve it, I’m interested.”

Hammond said that was Menino’s strength. He remembered meeting Menino decades ago when Menino was a city councilor. Menino was passing out food at a Roxbury shelter for battered women and children. It was not in Menino’s district.

“There was not a person in there who could give him a vote,” Hammond said, “but he cared about what was going on there.”

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  • gossipy

    This is the second time I’ve heard the question asked about the next mayor being black. I find this completely offensive; why should that matter? It’s no wonder that as a nation we are not making much progress in this direction. Media keeps prejudice and hatred alive. Shame on you.

  • BaldheadedFoo

    Gossipy, you are the type of person is who keeping prejudice and hatred alive by focusing on the “racial” aspect of the story only. Shame on you!

  • J__o__h__n

    What does this anti-gay bigot know about “bringing people together?”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7Q76XCU5URJ5CKZPBEZSJAKQMM Heres the fix

    gossipy is right. It’s racist for minorities to declare that only a minority can be their representative. It was disgusting when it happened in Chicago, too. What matters is the quality of the candidate, something that minorities in certain districts might want to take into account (hint – Chuck Turner/Diane Wilkerson).

  • Paul Lang

    Here is a demographic fact worth pondering by the electorate, by the City Council and by people aspiring to be Mayor: 21.4% of Bostonians live below the Poverty Level and the bad City conditions and services that go with it.

  • crescentfang

    A leader has to “reflect diverse population” by not setting us against each other or treating us as members of some group rather than as individuals. It is called “Unite to rule” as distinct from “divide and conquer”.

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