By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Even though a recount will be needed to determine the fourth-place at-large member of the newly elected Boston City Council, the body is assured of being the most diverse in Boston history, with non-white and female majorities.

Former City Councillor Ayanna Pressley’s upset congressional win last year was a sign of the times.

“To have a city that reflects our new demographics is hugely important,” said Alejandra St. Guillen, who finished just 10 votes behind Julia Mejia for the seat once held by Pressley. She said the new diversity means a better understanding by the council of what the city’s multi-ethnic, multi-racial residents are experiencing – in the schools, for instance.

“The achievement gap is so stark between the communities. You have people sitting on the council who have been in those schools, who have been students of color in the Boston public school system,” she noted. “I think that changes the dynamic.”

But while St. Guillen and Mejia sweat out the recount, veteran at-large Councillor Michael Flaherty of South Boston was comfortably re-elected yesterday. “I did very well in the Cape Verdean community, the Haitian community, the Latino community, the Somalian community, the Vietnamese community,” he said.

Once upon a time, there might have been a yawning ideological gulf between the likes of Flaherty and the newer councilors, but not anymore.

“We boast of the best colleges and universities in the world, but our kids, kids who go to the Boston public schools, don’t get to go there,” complained Flaherty in an echo of St. Guillen’s remark.

And Flaherty rejects the idea that more diversity means less of a role for him.

“This council will clearly reflect the changing face of Boston, but at the end of the day … if you’re not gonna be responsive, you’re not gonna be in this business long enough, no matter who you are.”

We won’t know until we see the 2020 census figures, but some observers think all the gentrification in Boston may result in the return of a majority-white electorate.

But as Pressley and this year’s council candidates demonstrate, women and people of color have learned how to win political power here.

Now, we’ll see if they’ve learned Flaherty’s lessons in how to hold onto it.

Jon Keller


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