Mayor Walsh Needs a Diverse Cabinet ... and a Public-Spirited One
The Bay State Banner's Yawu Miller put out a fine piece this week which demonstrated that Mayor Martin Walsh has only appointed two people of color to serve on his new 17-seat cabinet so far. As this juncture, there are still several cabinet appointments to go; so this publication joins the Banner in insisting that the mayor do better on that front while he has the chance.
However, important as it is for local government to reflect Boston's status as a "majority-minority" city at all levels, racial diversity isn't enough - as the recent debacle with newly-minted Councilor Michelle Wu showed when she voted for old guard Southie pol Bill Linnehan for city council president over her erstwhile progressive allies on the council.
Another key litmus test for any public official in this period must be whether they're more likely to represent working families or corporate interests in the course of their duties.
So while Chief of Health and Human Services Felix Arroyo, Jr. has solid progressive credentials as a Boston native from a prominent Latino family who was a long-time union staffer and progressive community activist before he served as an at-large Boston city councilor, it's worth mentioning that the other person of color on Walsh's cabinet - Chief of Staff Daniel Arrigg Koh - is another story entirely.
Hailing from Andover, Koh was educated at Phillips Andover, Harvard College, and Harvard Business School. Until taking the new position in the Walsh cabinet, he was general manager of The Huffington Post's streaming network HuffPost Live and previously chief of staff for Arianna Huffington. Which is problematic to creative workers and anyone with a labor background. Because at least a third of Huffington's operation is based on the unpaid labor of thousands of writers and other creators - who benefitted not one whit from the estimated $21 million she personally banked from sale of her online publication to AOL in 2011. Being a high-level aide to Huffington - even after the sale - means tacitly accepting her attitude towards creative workers. An attitude which is making it harder and harder for a growing number of Boston area writers, photographers, videographers, graphic artists, and designers to make a living in their chosen fields in an economy where they are expected to give their work away for free.
Prior to that gig, he did strategy and business development for the New England Patriots, nonprofit relations for defense and intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., talent search for executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart, and labor relations for Major League Baseball.
Just in case it wasn't clear that this 29 year old wunderkind is breaking neoliberal capitalist rather than social democrat, Koh is directly connected to the World Economic Forum - who named him a "Global Shaper" - and is a member of its Global Agenda Council on Informed Societies.
Such a resume doesn't exactly inspire confidence in anyone that cares about Boston's residents more than its CEOs.
The take-away for Mayor Walsh being: yes, the next batch of cabinet-level appointments had better be people of color, but they had also better be officials who put people in front of profits.
Or Boston will suffer through more development boondoggles, further corporatization of its public schools and colleges, worse service on its decaying public transportation system, more attacks on unionized public workers (like Boston's school bus drivers), more job training in the absence of public job creation, more skyrocketing rents and gentrification, rising food and water insecurity, insufficient climate change adaptation, and worse over the years to come.
Because Walsh's first round of picks have been a mixed bag by that metric to date. Especially his Chief Legal Counsel former state representative Eugene O'Flaherty.
Fingers crossed on the next round.