Your Guide to the Boston Mayoral Primary: YW Boston’s Candidate Questionnaire
Getting involved in local politics and policy is one of the most meaningful ways to drive change in your community. Given the historically diverse field of candidates in this year’s Boston Mayoral Primary, YW Boston felt it important to ask those candidates about how they envision their own leadership and how they will change the City of Boston for the better.
YW Boston’s Advocacy Committee formulated five questions to ask the candidates about their position on a variety of issues from education to police reform and diversity in their hiring practices. These questions were grounded in YW Boston’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women. We were joined by Amplify Latinx, the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative, the Black Mass Coalition, the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the Boston Ujima Project, and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods and posed our questions to all candidates in the race.
Here are Boston’s mayoral race contenders, with an asterisk (*) next to the names of those who responded:
- John Barros*, Boston Chief of Economic Development
- Andrea Campbell*, Boston City Councilor, District 4
- Robert Cappucci, retired Boston police officer
- Annissa Essaibi George*, Boston City Councilor, At-Large
- Kim Janey*, Boston City Council President and Acting Mayor of Boston
- Richard A Spagnuolo
- Michelle Wu*, Boston City Councilor, At-Large
We asked them the following questions. (Click the question to go directly to their responses.)
- What are the first 3 steps you would take to address the disparate impacts COVID-19 has had on women, people of color, and especially women of color in the City of Boston?
- The past 15 months has been especially hard on students in Boston. How do you plan to improve and increase access to mental and social emotional supports for Black and brown girls in Boston? What is your plan to prioritize their voices in the City’s recovery?
- Provide an example of when you have organized a diverse and inclusive group of people in your work. How do you plan to build an intersectional leadership team if elected?
- Who would you include on the hiring team for the City of Boston Police Commissioner? How would you involve the community?
- How have the events of last summer’s racial reckoning impacted your policy decisions? What work is still left to be done?
Read their responses, below.
(As a 501(c)3 organization, YW Boston is non-partisan, and does not endorse candidates. This guide is a public service and is not intended to be an endorsement of any candidate or political party. All candidates were given equal opportunity to respond and those who did not respond have been left blank. These responses are unedited.)
What are the first 3 steps you would take to address the disparate impacts COVID-19 has had on women, people of color, and especially women of color in the City of Boston?
- I will join Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group of city leaders who are exploring or piloting GMI. Using American Rescue Plan Funds, and with help from philanthropic partners, I will work with community members to identify a group of low-wage workers — child care workers, single mother-headed households, Boston Public School families experiencing homelessness, youth aging out of foster care – and create a pilot designed to highlight long-term, sustainable benefits. These groups are often disproportionately people of color. I will work with stakeholders to design a program that can be scaled, with help from the federal government, to provide economic security for all low-income Bostonians who need it.
- I will work to escalate vaccination efforts, especially addressing vaccine hesitancy that can exist among certain demographic groups. As booster shots become available, it will be especially important to make sure we are doing everything we can to meet people where they are and get their first, second, or third shot into their arm.
- In regards to students, teachers, and administrators returning to school, I will do the following:
- Expand rapid testing for schools and offer school-based vaccination for educators, students and families.
- Develop a formal digital learning plan for Boston so there are a clear set of strategies to maintain high quality learning in and beyond schools and so that we lay the foundation for continuous, on-demand learning in Boston into the future.
- In August, I proposed a $4 billion investment into our school buildings, part of which will be used to continue auditing school building health systems (HVAC, water, etc.) an create an accelerated schedule of school building improvements.
Annissa Essaibi George: The pandemic has revealed a lot about our society—both where we’re failing and what we’re capable of. My first priority as Mayor will be to address the vaccination gaps in communities of color by meeting people where they are, literally and figuratively. If we don’t fix this disparity, and increase access to vaccines and testing equitably and efficiently, then the pandemic will continue to disproportionately harm people of color. My second priority will be to work with minority and women-owned businesses to ensure that they are receiving the support they need from the city. I have visited small businesses in every neighborhood, and I know that those owned by women of color in particular are struggling to keep their doors open. As Mayor, I will focus these efforts on strengthening the childcare industry, which is both made up of primarily women and color and plays a critical role to ensure women are able to return to work We know that the distribution of PPP loans was not equitable, and the city needs to be intentional about inclusion in any future recovery efforts. Finally, I will revitalize the Mass & Cass 2.0 Task Force and create women-specific programming for those dealing with substance use disorder and homelessness. This is a population that is uniquely vulnerable to violence and human trafficking, and the pandemic has greatly increased the number of women living unsheltered. I will create specific housing, recovery, and counseling resources designed to address the unique needs and experiences of women.
1.) Promote vaccine access and information to communities of color throughout the city of Boston, explaining the vaccination and its proven safety and effectiveness at minimizing the impacts of COVID-19. This can be done through further expansion of vaccine equity grants which I have already awarded during my time as Mayor.
2.) Provide economic support to these communities. This includes housing payment relief federal relief funds, economic support through small business grants, and social services support through an expanded Boston city government designed to help people recover from the impact of the pandemic.
3.) Provide for investment into communities of color for long-term wealth building, including increased homebuyer assistance, and increased the amount of city contracts which are awarded to women and minority owned businesses.
Michelle Wu: During the pandemic, we have seen how unsafe and unjust working conditions are disproportionately borne by women, and overwhelmingly women of color and undocumented women. During the pandemic, 1 in 8 workers reported that their employers have taken action to retaliate against workers who raised health and safety concerns, and the rate is even higher for Black workers. Throughout my eight years on the Council, I’ve fought for strong worker protections, and as Mayor, I’ll create a Cabinet-level Chief of Worker Empowerment to ensure that all of Boston’s workers – including those working in the care economy, who are disproportionately women of color and immigrant women, as well as gig workers and others in the informal economy – are seen, valued, and respected. By partnering with community organizations, the City can ensure that all workers know what reporting mechanisms are available to them, and that workers will not be penalized for blowing the whistle about unsafe conditions.
Children and working families in Boston have seen some of the worst impacts of the pandemic – loss of jobs and housing, disruptions to learning, and the trauma of the illness and death of loved ones. Now more than ever before we must elevate the well-being of Boston’s children as a true community mission. As mayor I will marshal As a working parent, I have long recognized that early education and care is critical infrastructure. Like many parents, I’ve experienced the challenges that closure of schools and child care centers created early in the pandemic. Our system of early education and care has been shortchanging our children’s futures, the stability of the families who depend on this care, and the security and wellbeing of early education teachers, who are overwhelmingly women of color. Several months ago, I released a bold plan to close the early education and child care gap and deliver high-quality universal pre-K for every infant and toddler in Boston. With federal and state resources on the table, Boston has what it needs to close these gaps and recognize early education as a public good. And as Mayor, I will marshall the full force of city government to protect the wellbeing of children through a coordinated approach that extends beyond the Boston Public Schools. By creating a Children’s Cabinet to align all City services that impact children, and a Family Corps to connect Boston families to every available resource, we will create a civic ecosystem that allows all children to thrive—inside and outside of school. Boston is a city of immense resources, but we need to make it easier for parents and guardians to access the services their children need, rather than putting up more barriers.
As Mayor, I will overhaul Boston’s public health infrastructure and prioritize mental health and trauma supports. As the world continues to grapple with the physical health and economic effects of COVID-19, mental health is becoming another pressing health crisis just beneath the surface of the pandemic, with additional barriers to care for residents of color. Boston can be the healthiest city in the country for all of our residents by investing in our community health providers and partnerships, tackling chronic and underlying health issues in the population, and expanding access to outreach and preventative care that is linguistically accessible and culturally competent for all communities.
The past 15 months has been especially hard on students in Boston. How do you plan to improve and increase access to mental and social emotional supports for Black and brown girls in Boston? What is your plan to prioritize their voices in the City’s recovery?
John Barros: First, we still have work to do to destigmatize therapy. I would work on a city-wide program that works to destigmatize seeking out mental health services and promotes the benefits of mental and social emotional supports. We would make sure to translate any materials associated with this program so they are accessible to everyone across the city in their first language.
We need to make sure that there is a counselor in all of our Boston Public Schools. Students who are dealing with various trauma — whether it is violence at home, experiencing homelessness, or being bullied — need extra support both inside and outside of the classroom. Social determinants impact the success of our students, and we must do everything to ensure a more equitable experience.
Lastly, we need to make larger workforce investments in diversifying the candidate pool for future mental health clinicians and related care workers, retaining diverse workers in the fields, and subsidizing training and capacity building across clinical and informal settings to improve cultural competence in practice, especially in the children’s mental health sector. Potential investments could include creating a dedicated mental health professional training track in the City College System that I have proposed; making the development and delivery of training and technical assistance on culturally competent clinical practices for community-based professionals a PILOT option for the city’s nonprofit hospitals; and creating a series of city-based grants that schools, community health centers, and similar institutions can use to strengthen their capability to provide culturally competent mental health supports to children, youth, and families.
Andrea Campbell: We need to proactively and immediately address student mental health concerns with investments in counselors to support students and educators, including investments in school counselors, nurses, social workers, mental health clinicians and family engagement specialists. As mayor, I will remove police from schools to ensure we have the funding necessary to fully serve our students and address root causes of violence and overcriminalization of our Black and brown students. I will work with school leaders to rewrite the school discipline codes, implementing a restorative framework. I will use the power of the Mayor’s Office to convene educators, administrators, and organizations serving our youth to create a more coordinated approach for identifying and better serving youth who might need additional support. I have always prioritized including at the decision-making table the voices of those most impacted by policy, and I will continue to do so as mayor by ensuring that we are hiring young people to work on issues impacting them and creating forums for students to weigh in. For me, this includes having a student representative on the school committee with a stipend and voting power that mirrors the other members.
Annissa Essaibi George: I have been a fierce advocate for mental health because my years in the classroom at East Boston High School gave me a firsthand look at the hardship that too many students are dealing with. With all of the uncertainty, loss, and isolation that the pandemic caused, most of our students will be returning to the classroom in the fall with intense trauma and isolation, and it is our responsibility as a city to make sure these students have the supports they need to thrive in and out of the classroom. For students of color, the pandemic has exacerbated inequities in our schools. On the City Council, I led the charge to bring at least one full-time nurse and social worker to all BPS buildings. Starting this year, we will finally have a social worker in all of our schools. But I know that for many buildings, one simply isn’t enough. As Mayor, I will create district-wide staffing requirements to ensure that all of our schools are fully equipped to meet the social and emotional needs of students. I will also ensure that all BPS teachers and staff are trained in trauma-informed care, empowering them to create a safe and welcoming environment for students dealing with trauma.
Kim Janey: The impact of COVID-19 on our children cannot be overstated. For over a year, they have been robbed by this pandemic of the in-person classroom experience they deserve. However, the city of Boston has taken action to provide support to our students. My budget included funding for a social worker and family liaison in every school and funding for programs to provide support and activities for students regardless of enrollment declines. In addition, I have invested into the Joy Agenda to provide emotional relief to people of all backgrounds in the city of Boston, including making programming for children free. However, we also need to listen to our students and incorporate their voices into our decision making processes. I support an expanded student presence on the Boston School Committee, including voting rights and a paid stipend.
Michelle Wu: My education plan includes a strong commitment to providing multilingual, culturally competent mental health care to all BPS students and families. Decades of advocacy have moved us closer towards ensuring that every BPS facility has at least one full-time social worker––but we need more urgent investments to ensure that all students have the consistent, full-time support of social workers, psychologists, trauma specialists, and other clinicians, tailored to the unique needs of each school community. We must do more to support the transition to adulthood, particularly given the disruption of the last year and a half. Research shows that emerging adults see the highest rates of behavioral disorders, with significant racial and ethnic disparities in access to mental health cares services. BPS’ mental health practitioner and support staff have enormous potential to normalize the practice of seeking out help, preparing older adolescents for a lifetime of self-directed health-promoting practices. I will ensure that BPS hires more trauma-informed specialists to support children involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, children who experience family or community violence, children experiencing homelessness, and children who experience the trauma of poverty, food insecurity, or other financial hardship. BPS should also create a centralized directory of all school-based mental health practitioners and support staff so that students and families can identify which schools have clinicians that speak their primary language. BPS should make it easier for students to access specialized support in other schools, if care in their own language is not available in their own school.
It is imperative that we take a whole child approach to mental health, safety, and autonomy. Providing access to mental health practitioners and trauma specialists is essential, but a comprehensive, compassionate commitment to children and adolescents’ health and wellbeing requires a holistic, person-centered approach that considers each person’s gender identity, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, family background, psychological development, culture, language, and physical and behavioral needs. Mental health initiatives must recognize that students’ health and well-being are intimately influenced by their experience of racism and white supremacy. We must ensure that all BPS students feel secure in learning environments that actively dismantle racial oppression, with policies that provide shelter from discrimination and police brutality. And as Mayor, I will work to immediately reform district-wide approaches to student discipline. There is substantial evidence that Black girls are being pushed out of educational opportunities through excessive disciplinary practices. Students of color, students with disabilities, and low-income students experience a disproportionate share of disciplinary removals overall, and students of color receive harsher punishments than white students for minor, nonviolent incidents. To eliminate these inequities, we need to invest in social workers, counselors, and other supportive staff, strengthen civil rights data collection with respect to exclusionary discipline, and expand training in restorative justice principles for all school community members.
Throughout my nearly a decade in City Hall and during this mayoral campaign, I have always worked to amplify and prioritize the perspectives of Boston’s young people, and particularly youth of color and others whose voices have historically been neglected. One of the very first campaign events I held last September was a youth roundtable to listen to young people’s experiences throughout the pandemic and hear their priorities for an equitable recovery. I’ll continue to center their voices as Mayor.
Provide an example of when you have organized a diverse and inclusive group of people in your work. How do you plan to build an intersectional leadership team if elected?
John Barros: Since I was a teenager, I have been involved with an organization called the Dudley Street Neighborhood
Initiative (DSNI). When I was in my mid-20s, I became the Executive Director of DSNI. During my time as Executive Director, I worked to build a diverse coalition of community members. Bringing a diverse group of voices to the table to solve the problems we were facing in Roxbury taught me a lot about leadership. Individuals who are experiencing issues often are the best folks situated to know what a viable solution is.
During my time as Executive Director of DSNI, we established the largest urban community land trust in the country. DSNI acquired over half of the 1,300 vacant lots in our neighborhood and converted 36 acres into 225 homes, gardens, parks, playgrounds, schools, a community center, and a greenhouse. I led a highly collaborative grant application process with 36 community partners and ultimately won a $5 million Promise Neighborhood planning grant from the US Department of Education, and later a $6 million implementation grant. These grants were pivotal in the effort to turn around three schools (Orchard Gardens K-8, Dearborn Middle School, and Burke High School) and establish a new in-district charter, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School. None of this could have been possible without
the collaboration or a diverse and inclusive group of community members in Roxbury.
As mayor, I would ensure that we have community voices as a central component of everything we do. My cabinet and my staff will be representative of the city. From top down, we will ensure that City Hall and Boston are places that prioritize a diverse set of voices. Boston’s future is about living into our aspirations for justice, and as mayor, I will work toward making Boston an identity-affirming and anti-racist city by:
- Developing and institutionalizing equity and anti-racist goals and standards across all policy areas so that our systems stop generating disparity
- Providing greater legal protections for LGBTQIA+ communities and communities of color against discriminatory bias and harassment
- Advancing a public education and art agenda that celebrates Boston’s cultural diversity and spotlights the contributions of people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ persons to Boston’s and America’s histories.
Andrea Campbell: Whether as an attorney in state government, the private sector, or as Council President, I have worked with and managed people of every background. As Council President, I led the entire City Council, including its budget, central staff, and the various council offices, which required me to manage the City’s month-long budget process, bring together colleagues to get things done effectively, all while creating greater transparency and accountability. I made it a priority to lead the Council through an in-depth racial equity and anti-racism training to provide Councilors, staff, and interns the opportunity to gain an understanding of the historical context of racism in Boston and the tools to use a racial equity lens in policymaking and constituent service work.
As mayor, I will work to ensure our City Hall reflects the city it serves, including my commitment to ensure all historically marginalized groups have designated liaisons within the Mayor’s office. I am committed to investing in the recruitment and retention of diverse talent through partnerships with local community colleges, universities, and high schools to provide information on employment opportunities in government and focusing on high-level positions to make sure our promotional practices are inclusive. I also have outlined my plan to ensure our city procurement is more equitable and inclusive by increasing city contracts going to women and minority-owned businesses to reach 7%, 14% and 20% of contracts over the next three years, and actively deploy anti-racism training and tools for all city departments, Commissions, and Boards. I will also develop a Strategic Plan on Racial Equity in Boston, specifically reviewing the role of City Hall in both breaking and perpetuating the cycles of racial inequity within Boston. This strategy will serve as a guidepost on how to lead with intentionality and integrity and will inform my administration’s policies, programs, and allocation of resources and services.
Annissa Essaibi George: I have prioritized having a City Council office and campaign team that are reflective of Boston as a whole, and I will do the same for my cabinet as Mayor. But just as important as surrounding myself with a diverse staff is making sure that I am engaging with people across our diverse city and creating a platform for them to inform and develop policy. As an At-Large Councilor and Chair of the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery, I convened a working group of family shelter providers, individuals with lived experience and city officials for the first time to develop a Special Commission to End Family Homelessness. I make sure to have a presence in every community and take that responsibility seriously. Whether it’s bringing together shelter providers, community stakeholders and advocacy groups to inform my ordinance to end family homelessness or starting the first Needle Take Back Day in collaboration with local healthcare providers, I am a convener and collaborator at heart. I don’t have all the answers and I’m not an expert in all things — that’s why I make sure to have a diverse array of voices and experiences at the table. And I will continue to do that work as Mayor.
In everything the City of Boston does, we have a responsibility to be intentional when combatting and dismantling racism. We need to do the work that demonstrates that Black Lives Matter. Along with naming and calling out racism and discrimination in city business, policies and initiatives, we must deliberately ensure that BIPOC, women, low-income, and LGBTQIA+ communities, as well as the voices of those aging and with disabilities, are heard and elevated. To best tackle these racism and inequities, I must surround myself with those who have lived experiences and have them alongside me to inform and guide the work. I will make my Cabinet and Administration reflective of all the communities in Boston, and ensure the diversity of this great City is reflected in the leadership of my administration.
Kim Janey: Coming from a community which was neglected for a long time by previous administrations, I know that we need to incorporate voices of all of the communities of Boston into our decision making process. We have already made strides to incorporate a more diverse leadership team, including Mariama White-Hammond as the Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space, and announcing new positions for community boards.
We also need to take active measures toward untangling the roots of structural racism in Boston. I have been a long-time critic of the exam schools admissions policy, and I look forward to working with the Boston School Committee to design a process that is fair and gives students from across all of Boston an equal opportunity to succeed. We also need to work to reimagine policing in Boston, through accountability and oversight, and I commit to working with the communities of Boston to hire a new police commissioner who shares the goal of reimagining the police. We also need to hold people accountable for the comments they make, stopping racism in its most vocal and noticeable form. Though these are only steps, they can make large process toward making Boston a more anti-racist city.
Michelle Wu: My campaign team is majority women, majority people of color, and is the only mayoral campaign to be led by a woman of color. Members of our team are children of immigrants, graduates of public schools, former union members, and first-generation college students. Every team I have built throughout my years in City Hall and multiple campaign cycles has reflected the diversity of our city, because that diversity is Boston’s greatest asset. As Mayor, I look forward to building a cabinet that is reflective of our communities and poised to work in partnership with community members to achieve racial, economic, and climate justice in Boston.
On the City Council, I’ve worked in coalition to deliver results to transform what’s possible when we think big. In numerous legislative pushes, I’ve organized with community partners with multilingual outreach and universal accessibility to deliver change, from passing legislation for climate justice such as Community Choice Energy, to changing the conversation on transportation, standing up to protect renters, and partnering for action and accountability to align city contracting with closing the racial wealth gap by passing legislation for supplier diversity and reporting on city contracts.
As a Councilor, I have also worked to use any platform I have had to push for greater representation and movement-building in communities of color. I worked with the Massachusetts Democratic Party to bring back the Chinatown banquet to raise funds for outreach to young people, with a focus on young people of color, and worked with partner organizations to host an inclusive event. Last year, I worked with a coalition to ensure transparency and representation with a local ward committee, working to recruit a slate of nominees to reflect the demographics of the community by racial and ethnic background, generation, gender, and language. We brought thousands of new voters into the democratic process and leadership.
Who would you include on the hiring team for the City of Boston Police Commissioner? How would you involve the community?
John Barros: I believe there must be a well-defined process to hire a new Police Commissioner. The process must be
straightforward and transparent so the public, applicants, and the rank-and-file members of the Boston Police Department are confident that the search is fair and comprehensive.
As Mayor, I will work with the community to develop an extremely comprehensive, transparent, and thoughtful approach to selecting a new Police Commissioner. That way, the people of Boston can be assured that anyone who takes that oath of office moving forward has been thoroughly vetted with the community’s priorities taken into account. We need community and neighborhood leaders to be represented on the hiring team.
There are also criteria that I would want to see integrated into the job description for the next Police Commissioner that reflect what we have been hearing from communities is critical to the ways in which we need to reform our approaches to policing and public safety. I will make it a clear expectation that the next Police Commissioner is coming to Boston to co-lead the implementation of the recommendations proposed by the Boston Police Reform Commission. We want the next commissioner to agree up front to the inter-agency collaboration and investments in personnel training that will be required to minimize use of force, improve de-escalation approaches, and facilitate – with appropriate professionals -care-based interventions. Finally, we want to make sure that the next leader of the Boston Police Department is clear about the standards for organizational transparency that they will need to uphold.
Andrea Campbell: I have always demonstrated my commitment to reforming our approach to public safety for more transparency and accountability from my work establishing the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, my advocacy on the use of body cameras, and my proposal to create an Inspector General for our City. For our next Commissioner, we need someone who understands the best strategies to keep our neighborhoods safe and understands why reform is necessary to re-establish public trust. As Mayor, I have committed to conducting a nationwide search for the best possible talent, a search of this kind hasn’t been done now for more than a decade, and to create an open, transparent process for hiring that includes meaningful community input that centers marginalized communities that have been historically overpoliced. I have led several community selection processes including to find members for the community preservation committee and now OPAT, which have included engaging a wide range of experts and stakeholders and a transparent public application process to ensure community participation. I would draw from those processes in developing an open process for hiring the next Police Commissioner.
Annissa Essaibi George: As Mayor, I will be looking for an individual who can strengthen trust between the police department and our communities and make real changes to ensure that our officers are being held to the highest standards. In order to find such a candidate, I will work with people across the city to hear more about what they want and expect from the next police commissioner. I will also collaborate with community leaders and other stakeholders to hear about their vision and expectations for the next police commissioner, ensuring that a diverse group of residents and their knowledge and experiences are heard. It is important to me that the hiring team, just like our police department, reflects all of Boston, and I will recruit those who understand and represent our city.
Kim Janey: We need to make sure that the community’s voice is being heard when we hire a new police commissioner. For far too long, the trust between the police and communities has been burned, and we are long overdue for a police commissioner who will work to reimagine policing in Boston. This necessitates the input of the community. For a hiring team, I would want community leaders, particularly those from communities which have had difficult experiences with police in the past onboard, and I would also want to ensure that all members of the community to feel that they have the right and opportunity to make their voices heard in an open and democratic process.
Michelle Wu: The role of police commissioner is one of the most impactful positions in the city, and we need a leader who can build trust with our communities to deliver deep structural and cultural reforms. As Mayor, I will lead a comprehensive vetting process and national search to engage our communities in choosing a permanent police commissioner to shift to a public health-led approach, demilitarize our police, strengthen the newly formed Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, and rein in ballooning overtime costs. These changes must be embedded in the new police contracts, which the city is currently negotiating. The next Commissioner must lead a complete overhaul of the culture and lack of transparency at BPD so that it becomes the norm for officers to intervene when fellow officers use excessive force or engage in other misconduct. And we need a senior leadership team that is reflective of our community and with the courage to crack down on fraud and abuse. I’ve had the privilege of working with a broad coalition of activists and advocates in banning racially discriminatory facial surveillance technology, fighting for community oversight over surveillance, and creating an alternative crisis response program to shift from criminalization to a public health response. As Mayor, I look forward to continuing this work with activists and community members at the table as we search for and select a new Commissioner.
How have the events of last summer’s racial reckoning impacted your policy decisions? What work is still left to be done?
John Barros: The system is not just and it is clear that we still do not equally value and respect everyone’s humanity,
especially that of People of Color. Individuals from marginalized communities grow up knowing that the system isn’t just. After the brutal murder of George Floyd last year, some folks who didn’t grow up with that understanding were awakened to that harsh reality.
I am a Black man who has been treated unfairly at times by police officers and other people in power. I am also the father to four young, Black children. Like other Black parents, I fear that their names could be added to that long list of Black and Brown people who have died at the hands of police officers.
If nothing else, it is clear to me that there never was–and certainly will never be–any justification for “race neutral” policy. The policy I advance has to be “equity explicit,” specifically naming the people and groups for whom we want to do reparative work or target a set of benefits and clearly outlining how we intend to renegotiate various forms of racial privilege in the city to remove barriers to prosperity, security, and health for the communities that have historically been excluded and taken advantage of.
This is difficult, but urgent and necessary work that not only has to be driven, not just by our desire to right wrongs, but by hope – hope that pursuing justice will help Boston live up to all that it intends to be., If I wasn’t hopeful, I wouldn’t have the energy to run for mayor and work for a better city. This work is something we have to do together. We can and we must be better. There is still plenty of work to be done to combat racial disparities that exist in our economy, our housing, our schools, and in public safety. As mayor, I would work to:
- Advocate to expand the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30% to 50%, to return more money directly to low-and moderate- income families. For more on my plan to close the racial wealth gap, click here.
- Cultivate a citywide housing fund to use for matching housing down payments, lowering down payments, reducing closing costs, and reducing interest payment on mortgage products, in order to reduce debt and increase equity in homeownership. This is necessary because communities of color are most vulnerable to the dramatic shifts we’ve seen in the housing market over the last two decades. For more on my plan to provide affordable housing, click here.
- Invest $4 billion in new buildings and campuses throughout every neighborhood to ensure that every Boston student has access to world-class quality schools and state-of-the-art campus spaces in their neighborhood from birth to when they begin a career. For more on my plan to guarantee high quality schools in every Boston neighborhood, click here.
- Immediately, within the first 100 days as mayor, present a plan, budget proposal, and implementation timeline for creation of a new Safe and Healthy Communities Agency that will be made up of professionals, highly trained on safety measures, to respond to calls relating to mental health issues, public health issues, and behavioral health issues in schools and the community. Not every 911 call needs police presence, and the SHC Agency will ensure that the best-trained individuals are present to support people in crisis. For more on my plan to establish the SHC Agency, click here.
Andrea Campbell: I did not need to witness the painful, public murder of George Floyd to realize that we need systems reform, because my vision for an equitable Boston has always been driven by my life story growing up in public housing in Roxbury and the South End in a family torn apart by incarceration and loss. I was driven to run for office and serve my city by the loss of my twin brother, Andre, who died as a pre-trial detainee in custody of the Department of Corrections at the age of 29. I see the way systems in this city served me well, but failed Andre, and that is the work I have done on the Council to close gaps and why I’m running for Mayor—to confront and end generational cycles of poverty, trauma and inequity in order to make Boston a city that works for everyone. This racial reckoning has created an opportunity to confront these hard truths and do the work of creating a more equitable and just Boston and create a culture throughout City Hall that is grounded in racial equity and actively uses anti-racism techniques in every facet of governing. As City Council President, I made it a priority to lead the Council through an in-depth racial equity and anti-racism training to provide Councilors, staff, and interns the opportunity to gain an understanding of the historical context of racism in Boston and the tools to use a racial equity lens in policymaking and constituent service work. As Mayor, I will continue this work and ensure that all city departments and programming reflect the conscious effort to break down systemic barriers to access to our basic services and ensure every resident has opportunities for success in our city. I will create the city’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront our city’s history of segregation and inequity and place the voice of the community at the forefront of our solutions to address that painful past. I have a plan to transform our approach to public safety & criminal justice to address the root causes of violence in our communities & ensure every resident of Boston is kept safe. This includes leading an intersectional approach to end mass incarceration by creating equitable access to quality education, housing, jobs, mental health services and addiction treatment, expanding reentry programs and opportunities for young people, and pushing state leaders to make diversion programs mandatory for first-time non-violent offenders. I am the only candidate with a plan to reallocate at least 10% of the Boston Police budget to invest in public health, economic justice, and youth development strategies.
Annissa Essaibi George: I have always prioritized diversity and inclusion in my staff, my outreach, and my actions, but the past year has allowed us to recommit to the important work that still needs to be done in all of our systems and at all levels of government. Being intentional is critical when ensuring equity and inclusion, and I have made sure that when we evaluate policies and decisions that we view them with an equity lens and consult those with lived experiences. Besides hosting a number of virtual Listen and Learn events over the past year, I have also continued to show up wherever and whenever I can—whether that’s jumping on a Zoom call, doing small business walkthroughs in different neighborhoods, and attending protests and peace marches. I know that I can’t do the work of governing alone, and I have always taken great pride in my relationships with people from every community and perspective, however, there is still so much work to be done. There are massive inequities in housing, education, public health, and more in Boston. We can’t fix issues like homelessness or education inequity without addressing the role that systemic racism plays within them. I will continue to center people’s lived experiences to ensure that my policies reflect the wants and needs of all Bostonians and that we get to the real root of inequity instead of putting in place a quick fix.
Kim Janey: In the months that I have been Mayor, I have already taken strong steps to increase transparency, accountability and reforms in the Boston Police Department, and I’m just getting started. I reversed 25 years of secrecy and I am tearing down the “blue wall of silence” while standing up for victims of child sexual assault and domestic violence. I ordered Boston’s legal team to no longer defend the police exam lawsuit. I am reviewing discipline and termination of officers of color. I have proposed a budget that cuts overtime and I’ve made strategic investments to create a more diverse, transparent, and accountable department, including $1 million dollars in racial equity training. While others talk about reforming the BPD – I am doing it.
I also invested $1 million dollars in the creation of the Office of Police Accountability (OPAT) and Transparency and I hired a seasoned attorney and trusted community leader as the executive director of OPAT. I’ve released files that have been held onto for far too long — when the police department thought it was better to protect one of their own, instead of children who were sexually abused. I have budgeted for an increase in the new cadet class to ensure our streets are safe and that our police force is more diverse — reflecting the communities our officers serve, and proposed cutting overtime spending by a third. I am also investing in a pilot to reimagine policing, beginning with our response to mental health calls. I’ve put accountability and transparency in the police department front and center. I will continue to lead on accountability and transparency, and this is just the beginning.
Michelle Wu: The history of Boston and of the United States clearly shows that every major advancement in civil rights and racial justice has been won with young people leading the way. I continue to be incredibly inspired by the leadership that Boston’s young people, and particularly Black youth and youth of color, have demonstrated, well before the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last summer. Over the last year and a half, young people have been leading the fight against a health care system that has failed to protect Black lives from COVID-19, a labor system that endangers workers’ health and safety, and a policing system that continues to result in tragic, state-sanctioned killings of Black men and women. My advocacy during my time serving on the City Council has always been shaped by young people, and I will continue to be guided by their leadership as Mayor.
As an Asian American woman in politics, I feel a particular responsibility to build solidarity among our communities. I was so proud to stand in partnership with so many AAPI leaders across Massachusetts last summer to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and to issue a call to action to our communities to speak up and take action to fight racism and white supremacy. As we work to policies grounded in working families’ struggles, I commit to doing my part to demonstrate my solidarity with organizers calling for racial justice, equity, and empowerment and persistently affirming that we all have a role in this fight. Those ties of solidarity are what will fuel all the work that remains to be done. As Mayor, I’m committed to securing real, substantive, and lasting police reform that’s embedded in the police union contracts –– delivering full transparency and true accountability for misconduct, reducing wasteful overtime spending to reinvest those funds in neighborhood-level services, and removing the functions of traffic enforcement and social services from the department’s purview. And we need to combat community violence at its roots by creating opportunity, investing in community safety by dismantling the myriad systems of violence that inflict trauma upon Black residents and communities of color, including housing instability, food insecurity, and transit injustice; and empowering community groups who have long been doing the work of keeping our residents safe. We must also invest in our youth by ensuring access to paid summer jobs and opportunities throughout the school year and elevating youth voices throughout all levels of government.
Most of all, we don’t have time to wait for comfortable, convenient change. I’ve put forward specific and detailed policy plans that reflect the urgency and intersectionality of my leadership, and we’ve run a campaign that is grounded in grassroots organizing to have the infrastructure and momentum to deliver change in office.
We thank each of the candidates who took the time to answer our questions.
This blog post is subject to change if we receive other candidates’ responses. If you are a candidate for Mayor of Boston and have not responded, we invite you to get in touch at email@example.com.
Municipal Primary Election
September 14, 2021
November 2, 2021
While the deadline to register to vote in the primary was on Wednesday, August 25th, you can still register to vote in the municipal election on Tuesday, November 2nd until Wednesday, October 13th. Information on registering to vote can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
With the exception of Labor Day, early voting in the preliminary election will happen from Saturday, September 4th to Friday, September 10th. At early voting sites you may vote in person or drop off a mail in ballot (note: on Election Day you will not be allowed to drop off mail in ballots at polling sites). A list of early voting sites is available on the City of Boston Website. For additional information and resources, GBH recently put together a guide to voting in September’s election.
Thank you to our partners on this guide.
About YW Boston
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and F.Y.R.E. Initiative, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.
YW Boston Advocacy Committee
The Advocacy Committee supports YW Boston’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women by engaging elected officials, organizations and the public through legislative advocacy, coalition building, education, and action. The committee develops and implements the organization’s two-year advocacy agenda in order to rectify structural barriers to equity and opportunity for women, girls, and people of color.