Mayor Walsh lays out bold vision, transformative investments in State of the City address
Mayor Martin J. Walsh tonight delivered his fifth annual State of the City address at Symphony Hall, sharing his vision for the future of Boston: a city that thrives together, united and strengthened by its values. In his speech, Mayor Walsh reflected on what Boston has achieved in the last six years: added over 120,000 new jobs to Boston’s economy, trained and placed over 10,000 Bostonians with low incomes in better paying jobs, and cut the crime rate by nearly 30 percent. Boston has been ranked first in the country for affordable housing, first for open space, and first for being the most energy efficient, climate-friendly city in the United States. All this comes at a time when because of its strong fiscal management, Boston has been able to dedicate record investments for its students, families, older adults, and all residents who need access to opportunities and resources.
In his address, Mayor Walsh announced new investments in Boston Public Schools, doubled down on Boston’s advocacy for a world-class transportation system, and launched historic investments to create thousands of homes affordable to households with low and middle incomes. With a focus on education, transportation and housing, Mayor Walsh reinforced his commitment to improving the lives of all who live in Boston.
“Tonight, we begin this decade by recommitting to the Boston we believe in,” said Mayor Walsh. “We will lead with our values. We will work together across all our differences to tackle our toughest challenges. We will be a city that’s world class because it works for the middle class, and we will leave no one behind. We believe in each other, and we believe in Boston.”
“We believe in a Boston where every single student can reach their full potential no matter what.” Mayor Walsh announced a funding plan that will add $100 million in new revenue over the next three years for direct classroom funding. The Boston Public Schools have never received this level of planned new investments, and the funds will be targeted to develop evidence-based strategies. The funds will begin to provide intense support for underperforming schools, working to uplift all children in Boston.
Last year, Mayor Walsh joined municipal leaders, parents, and advocates to secure education finance reform that will increase resources for the public education system statewide. The legislation, which had been in negotiations for years, was signed by Governor Charlie Baker at English High School in Boston on November 26, 2019, adding significant funding once fully implemented for students in Boston.
“We are moving forward to push for world-class transportation for our city.” In his speech, Mayor Walsh announced new efforts to reduce congestion and improve transportation in Boston, including launching a Transportation Action Committee in East Boston to address the unique circumstances in the neighborhood. Since launching Boston’s safety plan, Vision Zero, the City has cut fatalities on Boston roads by half, and to aid in these efforts, Mayor Walsh has tasked the Boston Police Department and Boston Transportation Department to implement a plan to strengthen traffic enforcement in Boston. Mayor Walsh again called for Boston to have a seat on the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, noting Boston is the largest payer into the MBTA--but doesn’t have a voice at the table. In addition to this advocacy, Mayor Walsh urged Boston’s partners at the Massachusetts Legislature to take up transportation financing, and enable Boston to use Regional Ballot Initiatives (RBI) to fund its transportation initiatives.
Last year, the Boston Transportation Department resurfaced over 30 miles of roads, repainted over 1,000 crosswalks, rebuilt sidewalks, installed safety signage all throughout Boston, cut the ribbon on North Square in the North End, and broke ground on new streets and sidewalks in Roxbury. The Boston Transportation Department has also worked to improve active transportation options, improving bike connections from Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and the South End to downtown. Their work includes rethinking how our connections operate, designing bridges in Charlestown, South Boston, Hyde Park and Long Island that work for everyone.
“We continue to address the biggest economic challenge our city faces: housing.” In his State of the City speech, Mayor Walsh pledged to dedicate $500 million over the next five years to create thousands of homes across Boston affordable to households with low and middle incomes. Boston will increase its operating and capital budgets to double its current funding in affordable housing to $100 million. Additional revenue will be generated by selling the Lafayette Garage, as well as working with the Massachusetts Legislature to approve a transfer fee of up to 2 percent on private real estate sales over $2 million in the City of Boston. These combined investments will increase the available funds for affordable housing to five times current funding levels over the next five years.
For the first time in Boston’s history, the Walsh Administration will issue city-funded rental vouchers to subsidize the rents of those with most need, including families experiencing homelessness not eligible for the State’s Emergency Assistance, formerly chronically homeless individuals, and extremely low-income elderly and disabled households.
Mayor Walsh also committed to creating and preserving thousands of affordable homes for Boston’s older adults, and committed to creating and preserving public housing units in Boston. The investments will enable funds to support the acquisition of key vacant or underutilized properties for low- and middle-income housing and to subsidize development costs in return for affordable units for low- and middle-income households. The City’s work will support thousands of working people buying their first homes with assistance from the Department of Neighborhood Development. Through this work, Boston will have one of the most progressive housing policies in the United States.
“We are working to make Boston’s workforce representative of its people.” In his State of the City speech, Mayor Walsh announced that over the last six years, the City of Boston’s new hires have been 55 percent women, and 51 percent people of color. For the first time, the Boston Police Department has two Latino officers on its Command Staff and the Boston Police Department Academy recruits include 30 percent women, and speak 12 different languages. The Boston Fire Department has its first African-American Chief of Operations, and its first female district chief, with its more recent class of fire recruits including 37 percent people of color.
“In 2020, we will host the NAACP Convention, a milestone for our city, marking a new era of progress Boston has achieved together.” In his State of the City speech, Mayor Walsh invited all residents to celebrate Boston’s black history, and be a part of the 2020 NAACP National Convention to be hosted in Boston. Boston will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a week of service, will remember black women’s leadership in 100 years of women’s suffrage, and will honor the black veterans who fought for our country, from the 54th Regiment to present day.
Read Mayor Walsh’s State of the City remarks, as prepared for delivery.