Mayor Janey delivers speech marking her first 100 days as Mayor
The Mayor shared progress on her City agenda of reopening, recovery and renewal, as well as released the Kim Janey Mayoral Transition Committee Report. Prepared by policy and thought leaders across the city, the Janey transition report outlines recommendations in the areas of education; housing planning and development; public health; safety, health and justice; and small business and economic development.
Thank you Officer Kim Tavares for that lovely performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” You have an incredible voice. Thank you for your service to our city.
I also want to acknowledge the remarkable spoken word performance by two magnificent artists, Ashley Rose and Danielle the Buddafly. You both are so amazing. Let’s give them another round of applause!
I want to give a shout out to the City’s digital media team for putting that 100 Days video together. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such an incredible team. Thank you.
I thank all of the elected officials here today: Sheriff Steve Tompkins, State Representative Nika Elugardo, State Representative Liz Miranda. I also want to thank Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok, Chair of the Ways & Means Committee, and Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and Councilor Ed Flynn, each of whom were invaluable partners in passing a budget that I know we are all proud of. This budget will be Boston’s biggest investment in its schools, in its infrastructure and the services our constituents rely on every day.
I also want to recognize and thank the Honorable Sumbul Siddiqui, Mayor of Cambridge who is here with us; and the Honorable Yvonne Spicer, Mayor of Framingham. Mayor Siddiqui and Mayor Spicer served as honorary co-chairs of my mayoral transition committee. As the only other women of color serving as mayors in our Commonwealth, I am so grateful for your partnership.
The meeting house
I especially want to thank the Museum of African American History for protecting and preserving this historic Meeting House where we are today. I thank Leon Wilson, President and CEO, and his incredible team for hosting us. I also want to acknowledge my Chief Resilience Officer Lori Nelson for maintaining this partnership between the City of Boston and the museum.
Take a look around. The Meeting House is beautiful. It exemplifies the remarkable craftsmanship and civic engagement of the early African American residents of Beacon Hill.
They were educators and shopkeepers, teachers and preachers. Some were born free and some had achieved freedom. They came together with shared values and a shared vision for Boston.
They built this Meeting House in 1806. William Lloyd Garrison, a journalist, founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society here. And, it hosted many great speakers, among them, the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
This Meeting House also has a direct connection to my church home. And I want to acknowledge we are joined today by my pastor, Reverend Willie Bodrick. The Twelfth Baptist Church was founded when members of this church community split to create a church with a more proactive stance against slavery. Like Boston’s early Black community, Twelfth Baptist left Beacon Hill for Roxbury, carrying that spiritual legacy of freedom and resilience with it. Years later, Martin Luther King Jr. would serve as its assistant minister, further punctuating its legacy forward to the rest of the world.
100 Days Reflection
It has been just over a 100 days since I took office. (The actual 100th day came during the height of this week’s heat wave. I thought, however, it wouldn’t be the best time for a speech indoors.)
I must say that each and every day it has been a privilege to serve you and to lead this City. It is the honor of my lifetime.
As a child growing up in this City, my oasis on a hot summer day was the Frog Pond in the Boston Common. Last month, together with Chief White Hammond, Commissioner Woods, and our Parks Department, I got a chance to reopen that Frog Pond for all to use. (I was even able to get my feet wet for a bit.) It had been closed for over a year due to COVID, and its reopening marked a milestone in our collective efforts to combat this pandemic.
As a teenager in this City, it was my youth summer jobs through ABCD that gave me a degree of autonomy and valuable career skills. Two days ago, the Boston City Council passed a budget that expands those summer job opportunities for more youth in Boston and creates 1,000 additional year-round youth jobs.
As an adult in this City, I benefited from a first time home buyers program, which helped me purchase the house that I still live in today. And, together with Chief Dillon and the Department of Neighborhood Development, we announced last month a significant increase in the support we give to first-time homebuyers citywide. This will make the dream of owning a home -- and access to this wealth building asset -- a reality for far more of our residents. We are offering up to $40,000 thousand dollars in downpayment assistance. This more than triples the amount we previously provided, which was up to $10,000 thousand dollars.
As Mayor, I have an even deeper appreciation of our City, her people, and, above all, the work that goes into making Boston stronger every day.
As I reflect on the first 100 days, I am reminded that, like this meeting house, Boston is built by the hard work and skilled hands of many.
At our best, we are organizing, we are advocating, and we are taking on the challenges that lead to a more just, more prosperous, more joyous community.
All of you in this room, and many, many more across our City are doing that work each and every day. And, I thank you for it.
Transition Committee / Report
With us here today, we have city residents, City staff, and members of my transition committee.
160 members of the public served on that transition committee. Each brought their love of Boston and their perspectives on its future. Together, they drafted a set of recommendations for how we recover from this pandemic and lay the groundwork for a stronger city going forward. Those recommendations are being posted on the City’s website today. They cover areas ranging from public health to public education, from economic development to housing, from transportation & climate justice to safety & healing.
My transition committee was co-chaired by Linda Dorcena Forry, Betty Francisco, Steve Grossman, Quincy Miller, and Kate Walsh. And the work was facilitated by the Rappaport Institute at Harvard University and by my Transition Director, Gustavo Quiroga. I am eternally grateful for your purpose-driven passion for creating a better Boston for all.
Importantly, many of the transition recommendations have already been implemented. We have made great strides in expanding equitable vaccine access, supporting businesses in reopening, and getting our children back to school safely. We have stood up for climate and racial justice in proposed projects and we have worked to change how our community responds to mental health crises.
Education — Children’s & Youth Cabinet
Another of those recommendations we are moving forward on today: To increase equity and reduce disparities for children and youth of Boston and provide for more coordinated services for families, I’m proud to announce that we will be forming a Children’s and Youth Cabinet.
I have spent most of my career advocating for equity and excellence in youth opportunities in this City. I know the wealth of opportunities we provide. But the total is less than the sum of its parts. We can do more, if we work better together to serve our youth.
That is the purpose of the Children’s & Youth Cabinet. It will be a convening of City cabinet chiefs and department heads who serve youth in the City of Boston aged 0-24. It will work to coordinate the services that the City provides and optimize our partnerships with nonprofit organizations, faith-based partners, the Boston Public Schools, higher education institutions, and employers.
Two of my cabinet members leading this effort will be Dr. Brenda Cassellius, our School Superintendent, and Dr. Mary Churchill, my Chief of Policy & Planning. Dr. Cassellius served in a similar role in Minnesota, as Commissioner of Education for the State, and Chief Churchill has deep relationships with academic institutions across the city.
In many respects, Boston is the best city in the world. But too many of our children and families are not getting their needs met. To get there, we need to wrap the services of the whole city around each of our youth. And, this new Children’s & Youth Cabinet will help us to do that.
We’ll also do that by improving our school buildings. Last month I broke ground on the building of a new Josiah Quincy Upper School. I want to recognize the coordination between the Boston Public Schools and Chief Dion Irish in this work to create great places for our children to learn in our city.
COVID → Health Disparities
This type of cross-administration and cross-city coordination is not new. In fact, it is the hallmark of how we have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. And, the results prove the model.
As of today, new cases of COVID are at record low levels. 65 percent of our residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. And, for some of our hardest hit by this pandemic -- our seniors -- over 75% are fully vaccinated.
I want to thank Chief Martinez, who has been spearheading much of this coordination across the City over the last 16 months. His effort and the effort of his entire team has saved lives and made our City more resilient.
I want to celebrate and thank one of those team members today. Following a career of public health leadership and a focus on recovery services, Rita Nieves stepped in as the City’s interim executive director of the Public Health Commission in December 2019. This was just a few months before the first documented case of COVID in our city. She offered to serve in this role in advance of an expected retirement. She has done an exceptional job leading her team through this crisis and, for the benefit of the City, putting off retirement. Today, with the progress we have made, retirement will come at the end of the Summer. On behalf of the entire city, Rita, I want to thank you for your service.
As we continue our recovery from COVID, I know how important the work of our Boston Public Health Commission will continue to be. Because of that I am proud to announce that the Board of Health last night appointed Dr. Bisola Ojikutu as the next Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. Dr. Ojikutu is an infectious disease doctor at Mass General Brigham. She has dedicated her career to addressing health disparities and the systems that cause them. I am so excited that Dr. Ojikutu will begin her leadership of the Health Commission starting Sept 1st. Please join me in welcoming her.
COVID-19 exacerbated the health disparities that already existed in our city. Just as we have done to combat COVID, we will be putting forward a health equity plan that organizes resources and policies. Race, ethnicity, gender, or income should never dictate your health outcomes.
Economic Reopening → Wealth Gap
Our public health recovery is the foundation for our City’s economic recovery. And, our economy is recovering. The unemployment rate has dropped from 16% a year ago to roughly 6% today. And, economic activity continues to pick up.
Part of the reason for the strong recovery are the programs that Chief Dillon and Chief Morikawa and their teams put in place to provide stability for renters, homeowners, and small businesses.
For example, nearly 3,000 renters have used the City’s Rental Relief Fund to date. This includes residents like Tyson, a single dad from Jamaica Plain who was facing eviction. He used the rental relief fund money to move to a new unit in Dorchester. The fund covered his first, last, and security deposit. With our help, Tyson is happy to be in a new apartment with his son.
Sara, a healthcare professional from Mission Hill, had her hours cut during the height of the pandemic and was using her savings to pay her rent. She applied for rental relief funds to pay future rent. We helped her out, and now she can use her earnings to support her family.
This program will become even more critical once the eviction moratorium expires at the end of this month. We encourage every tenant who may be in need to reach out. And, our economic support programs go far beyond rental relief:
For small businesses who may be facing similar challenges, we’ve distributed $16 million dollars to over 4,000 small businesses, and we’ve added an additional $16 million dollars to commercial rent relief and small business support.
For workers looking for new career opportunities, we’ve allocated $1 million dollars in job training in those industries that were hardest hit and $1 million dollars in job training for artists. And last night, we hosted our first Community Advisory Board meeting with community partners in labor, environmental justice, and education to shape $4 million dollars of investment in green jobs.
And, for businesses interested in contracting with the City, we’ve staffed up our supplier diversity team and issued 56 capacity-building grants to businesses, under the leadership of our new Chief of Equity & Inclusion, Celina Barrios-Millner.
All of these efforts stabilize our economy and accelerate our recovery. In addition, they will help us address the wealth and wage disparities that exist in our city.
Prior to the pandemic, the gaps in employment, wages, and, in particular, wealth were stark, across race and ethnicity. Those gaps are markers of years, decades, and centuries of inequitable policies. Policies we are committed to changing, together.
Now, change in our city can be tough. We are City of engaged residents, with deeply held and well articulated perspectives. I am a firm believer, however, that we go farther as a City when we give space to this dialog. When we value engagement. When we respect alternative views.
That is why, I am so pleased that through this budget we just passed, we will be creating the City’s Office of Participatory Budgeting. This will allow even more people to directly impact how their tax dollars are invested.
To build a strong community you must provide an opportunity to involve everybody. And, you must also provide safety for all. I want to give credit to the Police Department and to Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long. This year, Part 1 crime is down 18%, firearm arrests are up 25%. The Department is putting in place reforms to build greater trust with the public. And, through the work of Chief Aisha Miller, we have launched the City’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, under the leadership of Stephanie Everett.
We are also taking steps to increase the role of mental health workers and reduce the role of BPD, where appropriate, in responding to mental health crises. Last night, we held our first community meeting on the future of mental health crisis response in Boston. And, next month, we will be releasing the pilot plan.
Safety, justice and healing in our community can also be encouraged by what I call the Joy Agenda. This is a citywide invitation to reimagine our city in a way that centers and celebrates joy. It encourages opportunities for collective healing and for investing in imagination and creativity.
Whether that is a block party, a barbeque with neighbors, a stroll in Franklin Park with family, or taking in this weekends’ fireworks on the Boston Common with friends, the Joy Agenda is about helping people reconnect and strengthen community ties.
As a Black woman who is also the granddaughter of a baptist preacher, I know it is joy that helped my ancestors persevere. It gave them hope to carry on. Let’s continue the faith tradition of God’s great joy - sweet, beautiful, soul-saving joy!
And as we tap into our inner joy, let us be inspired by the early African American residents of Beacon Hill who came together, on this southern slope, with shared values to set priorities for the emerging community we now call the City of Boston. Because as we have seen from this space we are gathered in, and as I have witnessed in the last 100 days as your Mayor, our City and her people can achieve anything when we work together.
Now, without further ado, please rise as we welcome the talented Danny Rivera who will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”