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Race for at-large seats could bring diversity

Boston City Councilors-At-Large Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon are both running on platforms that emphasize the future of Boston rather than its past, which may also result in a more diverse City Council due to their vacated seats, some have said.

Political observers said Yoon and Flaherty’s mayoral bids will mean an opportunity for minorities and women to join the ranks of city government because they will leave two at-large seats up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election.’

‘There will be a little more diversity of candidates in this election,’ Jean-Claude Sanon, a Haitian-American community activist who said he plans to run for one of the seats, said.

Sanon said Boston’s minorities need to be better represented.

‘The melting pot is taking place, but we need people who understand the needs of it and consolidate it,’ Sanon said. ‘We need a leader who brings people together for good values and for a better Boston.’

About 12 people have announced their candidacy for one of the vacated seats, according to a Feb. 16 Boston Globe article. MassVOTE Executive Director Avi Green said the early interest will lead to an interesting race. MassVOTE is a voter advocacy group based in Boston.

‘I am absolutely delighted that we are seeing a really competitive race for City Council this year At-Large,’ Green said.

However, Green said he hoped more candidates would join the race.

‘It would be great to see college students run, university professors run and simply more candidates of all types,’ Green said.

More minorities should run for office if the government is not receptive to their needs, he said.

‘If you have a specific idea that your neighborhood or city could be doing better and you think that you’re the person, you should run for the appropriate job,’ Green said. ‘It’s not okay to just complain.’

Caprice Taylor-Mendez, the executive director of Emerge Massachusetts, a group that aims to train and encourage Democratic women to enter public office, said the election of President Barack Obama serves as an example for minorities and women who have been excluded from Boston’s political arena.

‘One of the challenges is there are so few role models that have taken that plunge and the fact that someone had the courage to take the plunge at a national level is inspirational for many who have heard that this path is not for us,’ Taylor-Mendez said.

Women are underrepresented on City Council, Taylor-Mendez said. Councilor Maureen Feeney (Dorchester) is the only woman currently serving.

‘We are 51 percent of the population, and when it comes to representation, we are far from that with just one woman,’ she said.

Taylor-Mendez said quality of life issues such as childcare, education, elderly care and health care are addressed more often when women are in leadership roles.

‘These issues are brought to the table when women are present in legislative bodies,’ she said.

Boston University students said they were ready to see more diversity in city government.

‘I think the Obama administration will influence the Boston city council campaign,’ College of Arts and Sciences freshman Kevin Wall said. ‘Obama really reached out to the urban sectors of the population, and people will probably learn from his administration and bring it home.’

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  1. The Honorable Michael P. Ross<br/> Boston City Council<br/> Massachusetts<br/> <br/> Dear Councilor Ross, By email please send the last stenographic<br/> machine record you obtained for a public meeting of our Boston City<br/> Council. Councilors obtain stenographic machine records of some<br/> Council public meetings.