By Matthew Sage
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu delivered her first State of the City Address on Jan. 25 at MGM Music Hall. It is the first State of the City Address held in person in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve all felt the collective toll of these years and the continued impact on our hearts and minds, on local businesses and household budgets,” Wu said, referring to the pandemic. “Boston has always been resilient. But when resilience goes from a strength that we call on to a constant state of being, it’s time to stop hardening ourselves against the world and start changing the world we live in.”
Wu took office in Nov. 2021, being the first woman and person of color elected to her position. In her speech, she noted that two-thirds of her cabinet are also people of color.
Listing off her administration’s accomplishments over the past year, Wu noted improvements to public transportation and success in combating eviction and expanding access to free pre-K education. She also said that the Boston Police Department removed almost 900 guns from the city’s streets and that the violent crime rate is at the city’s lowest level in 15 years.
“We are looking to end community violence with new strategies to address trauma and provide essential supports — from our Youth Safety Task Force to an alternative crisis response program with EMS and behavioral health services,” Wu said. “This April, we will launch a Fire Cadet Program thanks to the leadership of our new fire commissioner, Paul Burke. We also graduated our first class of students from Boston’s PowerCorps program, training young people from our neighborhoods for great, green jobs in the green economy. … We’ve invested in long-standing Legacy Businesses and are helping new entrepreneurs fill vacant retail spaces to revitalize our neighborhood commercial districts. … In so many other cities, none of this would have been possible, but Boston has never let anyone else define our possibilities.”
Wu then focused on the city’s future goals for city planning and growth.
“It’s thanks to the people of Boston that I can stand here tonight and say: The state of our city is strong,” Wu said. “We have the resources, the resolve and the responsibility to make it even stronger. As we look to the year ahead, our administration is focused on building a green and growing city for everyone. Doing so will require that we reckon with — and rebuild — the systems that got us here.”
Wu faulted the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s “focus on building buildings rather than community” for “deepened disparities in our city. … Not planning for community stability meant that even as our population grew, many were squeezed out.”
“Over this next year, we’ll shift planning efforts from the BPDA to a new City Planning and Design Department to expand planning and urban design as a coordinated effort that guides our growth,” she said. “Our vision is for Boston to sustainably reach our peak population of 800,000 residents with the housing and schools, parks and public transit to support that growth. … We’ll simplify and accelerate timelines so that good projects get shovels in the ground faster.”
Wu also promised to create more affordable housing.
“Of course, we can’t grow sustainably unless our residents are secure in their homes,” she said. “Our housing crisis displaces children and families, drives down enrollment in our schools, hurts local businesses, increases homelessness and strains our public health and safety systems. So, our housing plan must be just as comprehensive.”
Wu committed to ending the city’s use of fossil fuels in all of their public housing developments by 2030.
“Together, we can build a Boston that’s more green than concrete, where housing is a given, not a godsend and mobility is the minimum, not a miracle. Where the things we build inspire, but don’t define us, and where each generation shines brighter than the last.”
She also described sweeping changes to the development of schools within the Boston Public Schools system. She said that a school design study will take a full year off development for every new school and announced a new Year 13 program at Fenway High School in partnership with UMass Boston.
Finally, Wu said that when asked by a group of school students to describe her job as mayor, she responded, “It feels like the most important work in the world. But more than anything, it feels like a gift to be able to get up every day and go to work for the city I love with people who love it, too.”
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