By Alida Young
FRAMINGHAM – The citizens of Framingham deserve integrity, transparency, and accountability in their government. That means all municipal jobs should be based solely on merit and professional qualification, not political connections or “behind closed-doors” maneuvering.
The controversial and much-debated “Diversity position” has been given a green light by the City Council–but not without ongoing scrutiny and continued evaluation in terms of details and particulars. To begin with, it is critical that the job description for the position is accurately defined and stipulated–and, in the end, widely publicized–to deliver the best and most capable candidate.
The following should be included among the essential qualifications for the Diversity position:
- An appropriate level of education and a strong track record of previous, directly related professional experience.
- Fluency in Spanish–if not also Portuguese–is non-negotiable, with required language proficiency vetted by an interview with a native Spanish speaker. (Demographic data for the City of Framingham indicate that Hispanics/Latinos constitute about 18%-20% of the population, African-Americans about 7%-8%, and other ethnicities a smaller percentage.)
- Professional experience working with the special needs and disabled population, with up-to-date knowledge and understanding of legal protocols.
- Relevant experience working with the LGBTQ community.
The matter of compensation for the Diversity position is also critical, with the salary proposed by Mayor Spicer–$110,000–unacceptable because out of line with and not supported by official data. As of 2019, the public record indicates the typical salary of a Diversity Officer varies up to $71,000 nationwide and up to $79,000 statewide. The City of Somerville pays its Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion $76,500 and the Town of Arlington is currently advertising a Diversity Coordinator position in the salary range of $61,500 to $79,900.
Some Framingham residents have argued that the Human Resources Department is the proper arena for oversight and implementation when it comes to ensuring diversity, with a dedicated HR professional in the field assigned to the role. Framingham already has an Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Diversity, and Community Engagement within its public school system. The job description for this existing position raises the question of whether there is potential overlap, if not redundancy, in hiring another Diversity Officer and, also, whether a salary level of $155,000 for the school department job is warranted if there is a second position.
The trend of steady increases in municipal salaries nationwide, consistently warned about by experts, is unsustainable in the long term. Cities and towns must confront the reality that there is a limit to what taxpayers will and can pay. The City of Framingham’s budget reportedly reveals that the number of City employees with a take-home salary of $100,000 or more grew from 219 to 256 in 2018, which elicits both questions and concern from taxpayers who do not enjoy such handsome salaries themselves. Mayor Spicer’s own high salary, paid for under protest on the part of many discerning and financially struggling Framingham residents, has possibly made her lose track of what things should realistically cost.
And what exactly would the job profile of the proposed Diversity Officer be? When Mayor Spicer was asked by a City Councilor at a recent Council Meeting to offer some specific guidelines–what the job would involve and encompass in her view– she was conspicuously unspecific in her response.
When it comes to the proposed Diversity position, it is clear there are still many loose ends and questions to be asked. Basic professionalism, as well as fiduciary soundness and common sense, dictate there should be careful and thorough due diligence. Other cities and towns should be studied and consulted on the matter of the position’s purpose, placement, job description, and appropriate salary. Haste makes for waste that we cannot afford. Framingham taxpayers deserve to know what they are paying for and why. With costs rising on every side, their tolerance has a limit.