Cambridge City Council candidates last night argued over the success of the city's attempts to increase the number of female municipal employees.
Incumbent councilors Saundra Graham and David Wylie told the 100 people who attended last night's forum on women's issues that Cambridge has made large strides in opening city jobs to women.
Some challengers in the November 6 council election, however, said Cambridge has barely begun implementation of its affirmative action program.
Graham told the crowd the city has hired 199 women since January 1, adding that nearly half were in "professional positions." Wylie read the names of 15 "key" female city employees and argued that while "we have a long way to go, we have made a start."
Council challenger Charles J. Caragianes responded that it "is important we make sure hiring practices are not done solely for statistical purposes. Women need to get real leadership positions." Caragianes added that the city should hire more female department heads.
Challenger David Clinton said, "Part of the problem is that city manager James Sullivan brought his whole team in with him when he came to Cambridge. What that meant is that we started off with a lot of key positions already filled," he added. Clinton lost his council seat in the last municipal election.
Other challengers defended the city manager. "Since Sullivan came on the job, we have three women department helds and there will be more," William Jones, a veteran city politician said, adding "before him, there were no women at all."
Council candidates all agreed that the city needs more police protection to combat crime against women on city streets, and most said they favored continuing the city's boycott on spending public funds to attend conventions in states that haven't ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
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