Local minority organizations and community leaders sent a letter to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino Monday, criticizing him for what they say is his failure to stop discrimination in city institutions.
The letter comes a week after Menino made national news for saying he would try to stop Chick-Fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city because of the owner’s opposition to gay marriage. “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it,” Menino wrote in a letter to the company.
In the four-page open letter to the mayor, the minority groups first commend Menino for speaking out against discrimination, then accuse him of overseeing city agencies that “don’t even come close” to reflecting the city’s minority population and giving contracts to companies that do not hire enough women and people of color.
“We, the undersigned, would like to commend you for the strong statements that you made regarding Chick-Fil-A because you felt that its practices were discriminatory,” the letter stated. “Although we applaud the ideals you espouse, the facts don’t comply with the rhetoric.”
“If you feel so strongly that discrimination is wrong,” the letter continues, “you should look to all of the discriminatory practices that you have allowed to exist in the City during your reign.”
Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman, called the letter “misinformed at best.” She pointed to the recent construction of the Roxbury police district station, where more than half the construction workers hired were minorities or women.
She said the letter writers were being opportunistic.
“I think it’s convenient that it comes out on the heels of the Chick-Fil-A press that generated international attention,” Joyce said.
The letter also focused on disparities in the police department, asking the mayor why the top two positions, commissioner and superintendent-in-chief, are held by white men when other cities have named minorities to such positions.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said the criticism is especially unfair given that the mayor has recently approved $2.2 million for the implementation of a new promotions test for sergeants, lieutenants and captains, after long-running complaints that the current civil service exam administered by the state is discriminatory.
“Instead of receiving accolades for that move he’s continually being criticized by this advocacy group,” Davis said.
The letter was signed by two ministers, Don Mohammed of the Nation of Islam and the Rev. Bruce Wall, a Dorchester pastor, and five minority groups, including the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers and the Northeast Region officer of the NAACP.