Mayor Walsh delivers his final State of the City address at newly rebuilt Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library
BOSTON - Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh tonight delivered his final State of the City address as the 54th Mayor of Boston at the new Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library in Nubian Square, a $17.2 million total reconstruction that began in November 2017. Mayor Walsh, who was nominated by President-elect Joe Biden on January 8 to serve as the United States Secretary of Labor, reflected on the work of his Administration over the last seven years, the City's collective accomplishments, and the vital work that will continue to expand equity and opportunity in the City of Boston.
In his speech, Mayor Walsh recognized the health care workers, essential workers, first responders, community partners, residents, small businesses, elected officials, and everyone who contributed to Boston's COVID-19 response, and the ongoing work to respond to the virus, and provide support for Boston's most-impacted communities. Mayor Walsh's speech opened with a short-form documentary highlighting the resilience and strength of Boston's communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We must keep drawing on our strength -- and on each other. Recovery won't be easy. The virus will be with us for much of the year. The economic impacts will continue as well. There will be more hard decisions to make. Whatever happens, I know one thing: Boston will stay true to our values. We believe in keeping each other safe. We believe in caring for those who are vulnerable. We believe justice and opportunity are for everyone." - Mayor Walsh
Mayor Walsh began his State of the City speech by paying tribute to the 1,060 Bostonians lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and encouraged anyone feeling overwhelmed to reach out to the City through 311, which is able to connect residents to relief resources, mental health counseling, and recovery services. He also discussed the ways that Boston's public servants have risen to the occasion this year. Since the pandemic began, Boston EMTs have helped 4,000 COVID patients. Firefighters have brought recovery coaches to calls, helping those struggling with substance use. Police officers have taken 800 guns off the streets. Boston built a field hospital in five days in April.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has focused on the most vulnerable communities. Mayor Walsh created a COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force to close racial and ethnic health disparities, and the City provided over six million meals to children, families, veterans, and seniors. Boston Public Schools distributed 40,000 laptops to students, and Boston provided permanent rental vouchers to over 1,000 families with children at risk of homelessness. At the start of the pandemic, Mayor Walsh created the Boston Resiliency Fund. The Fund has raised $34.1 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. Of that, $30.3 million has already supported 366 nonprofits and more than 250,000 Boston families. 56 percent of Resiliency Fund grantees identify as being led by a person of color, and 58 percent of grantees identify as woman-led.
Through the work of the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston's community health centers, the City of Boston continues making COVID-19 testing available for Bostonians, including at free, mobile testing sites.
"We may be hurting, but the state of our city is resilient; the state of our city is united; the state of our city is hopeful; and the state of our city is deep-down Boston strong." - Mayor Walsh
Mayor Walsh also spoke about his commitment to the Boston Public Schools (BPS). Yesterday, BPS announced a plan to safely reopen all remaining schools for hybrid and in-person learning. Boston will continue to provide a laptop for every student and work to expand internet access citywide. Mayor Walsh has also pledged BPS will ensure there is a social worker and family advocate in every school, and expand on the food, clothing and housing supports BPS is committed to providing.
"I want to thank our Superintendent and teachers for working together. And I want to thank all our school leaders and staff; as well as students, families, and administrators, for doing an incredible job this year. This is a community committed to learning. And we are ready to do more than ever to close the opportunity gaps that COVID further exposed." - Mayor Walsh
During his speech, Mayor Walsh highlighted the importance of economic recovery in Boston as the City looks forward to helping businesses rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. For seven years, the Walsh Administration fostered one of the most dynamic and resilient economies in the world. In 2020, despite the pandemic, the City of Boston approved $8.5 billion of new investments, creating a potential for 35,000 new jobs. This year, the State Legislature approved Boston's plan for the first-ever Fire Cadet program, a new pathway into firefighting careers for Boston's diverse residents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has provided a total of $26 million in grants, fee waivers and other resources to 4,000 small businesses. The City will continue working with business owners to build back restaurants and bars, stores and salons, gyms and art studios that make Boston's neighborhoods special, along with the hotels, museums, and theaters that highlight Boston's diverse communities and cultures and bring visitors to the city. A national study reported in the New York Times named Boston the city best prepared to come back strong from COVID-19.
"I want to say a word to small business owners. You are the soul of our economy, and you sacrificed so much for the safety of our city. I will never forget it." - Mayor Walsh
Under Mayor Walsh's leadership, the City of Boston has focused on creating affordable housing for all residents. In the last seven years, the Walsh Administration has overseen the construction of 35,984 housing units, of which 20 percent is deemed affordable, including homes for seniors, veterans and families. Tomorrow, following a vote by the Zoning Commission, Boston is expected to become the first major city in the United States with fair housing requirements built into the City's zoning code, a powerful tool to protect residents from displacement. During the most recent legislative session, the Mayor successfully advocated at the Massachusetts State House for legislation that will build more housing, create additional opportunities for affordable housing, and stabilize vulnerable households.
The Walsh Administration has also expanded its work to end youth and family homelessness. Boston created the first-ever City-funded rental vouchers, so more families can live in the neighborhoods they love. Boston has housed over 2,300 formerly homeless individuals, and will continue to build permanent, supportive housing in the City.
During the pandemic, the City has also maintained supportive services for residents suffering from substance use disorder. Boston has maintained in-person recovery services and telehealth counseling since March. The city has also continued to advocate for a rebuilt bridge to and a regional recovery campus on Long Island in Boston Harbor. After court victories, Boston is closer than ever to making this recovery campus a reality.
Boston has also led the nation in addressing climate change, and has already issued its first-ever Green Bonds to support energy-efficient and environmentally friendly projects in Boston. Next month, the City will begin implementing Community Choice Electricity, which will provide affordable energy from climate-friendly sources. The City will also continue the major investments it has already made in resilient parks, protecting Boston from flooding while building open spaces for residents to enjoy.
"The climate crisis requires the same decisive action: based in facts, working as a community, protecting our city. That's why I made sure that Boston never strayed from the Paris agreement -- even when the White House did. As chair of the U.S. Climate Mayors, I've led a national coalition of cities ready to work with the Biden-Harris Administration and bring America back to the fight." - Mayor Walsh
Mayor Walsh also dedicated his speech to Boston and the nation's urgent work to recognize and dismantle systemic racism. In 2020, Mayor Walsh declared racism a public health crisis, and began work on a Health Equity plan to end disparities. Boston shifted millions of dollars from the Boston Police Department overtime budget into programs for youth, trauma recovery services, and mental health, and reorganized City government, appointing Boston's first-ever Chief of Equity. Mayor Walsh signed historic police reforms, led by the Boston Police Reform Task Force. The result is a new model for oversight and accountability.
"The pandemic made it clear: a community crisis demands a community-wide response. So I'm asking all of us to accept this responsibility as our own -- and commit to fighting racism. It's our deepest moral obligation. And it's our greatest opportunity for growth." - Mayor Walsh
During his final State of the City speech, Mayor Walsh spoke about the historic investments his administration has made in Boston's communities, including a $130 million citywide investment in libraries across neighborhoods. Under Mayor Walsh's leadership, the City has also invested more in Boston's parks than at any time since the Emerald Necklace was created in the 1800s. Major updates will move forward at the City's cherished parks, including the Boston Common and Franklin Park. The Walsh Administration has also invested in community spaces that will serve residents for decades to come, including a new senior center in East Boston; a fully renovated community center in South Boston; revitalized public housing in Charlestown; and a world-class Boston Arts Academy high school in the Fenway. Residents will also see a renovated EMS Academy, a new ambulance bay in West Roxbury for quicker response times, and Boston's first brand-new firehouse in 30 years, Engine 42 in Roxbury.
As Bostonians and visitors travel throughout the city, they will experience miles of resurfaced roads and rebuilt sidewalks, with new bus and bike lanes to make traveling around Boston safer. Work is also underway on a renovated City Hall Plaza, designed to best serve residents, a project that is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
"I am confident that the operations of City government -- including our COVID response -- will continue smoothly. And I want you to know: the work we have done together for the past seven years has prepared Boston to build back stronger than ever." - Mayor Walsh