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Mayor Walsh's 2018 remarks to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau

March 27, 2018

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

Mayor Martin J. Walsh delivered his remarks at the annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau on March 27.

Thank you, Tom [Samoluk], for that introduction. And thank you, Sam [Tyler], for your many years of service.

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I want to start by recognizing the students across America, and especially the young people in Boston, who are changing the national conversation on school safety and urban gun violence. At Saturday’s March for Our Lives, we saw that leadership and we felt that change, from Madison Park High School to Boston Common.

With us today are some of the young people who organized the march, as well as the survivors from Mothers for Justice and Equality who have been leading on this issue for a long time. Please give them a hand.

These leaders, and this movement, offer a powerful example of how local action can lead to national change. Today, more than ever, it’s up to ordinary Americans, local communities, and cities to solve the toughest issues facing our nation.

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Boston is a city that knows how to lead. Our police-community relations are a national model. Our response to climate change has won global recognition. Our pre-kindergarten program is closing the achievement gap.

This same culture of mission-driven innovation has moved us to the forefront of the global economy. You see it in our homegrown leaders in healthcare, education, and finance; in the arrival of global powerhouses like Amazon, Philips, and MassMutual; in innovators like Rapid7 in cybersecurity, Aptiv in autonomous vehicles, Wayfair and Draft Kings online, Reebok and Asics in shoes. And you see it in 40,000 small businesses across our city.

Not long ago, Boston was branded a “branch-office city.” Today, we’ve been the Number One city for startups two years in a row. We're growing at a rate of roughly $5 billion in development and 20,000 jobs each year. And we’re on everyone’s shortlist for a new headquarters. We are the city of the 21st century.

But growth by itself doesn't define our success. We have to move forward together. In fact, there's no bigger challenge facing our nation today than building an economy that works for everyone.

Conventional wisdom says the very innovation that's driving Boston’s success is what generates inequality. I don't accept that. I said at my inauguration in January: we're the city that's world class because it works for the middle class. And I meant it.

A new study by the Brookings Institute shows that, between 2014 and 2016, inequality narrowed in Boston by 17%. We fell from 1st place to 7th place in the national rankings. That’s one title we’re happy to give up.

The data shows one clear reason. Our inequality fell because Boston’s working people are rising. Average incomes at the lower end of the scale grew by nearly 19% since 2014. Working people are doing better. We are becoming a more equal city. And it’s making our success not only more meaningful, but also more sustainable.

I want to be clear about this, because it's something that impacts the national conversation: We have moved to the forefront of the innovation economy while at the same time reducing inequality. That’s a game-changer. So today I want to talk about how we are achieving this success, how we can take it further together as a city, and how we can lead the national conversation in a more positive direction.

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At City Hall, it starts with investing in communities. We’re building new schools in Roxbury, Chinatown, Fenway, and the South End. We’re building new firehouses in Dorchester and Roxbury, and a new police station in East Boston. And we’re renovating libraries in Jamaica Plain, Dudley Square, Roslindale, and Dorchester. We’ve maintained perfect AAA bond ratings for four years running, so we can keep investing in Boston’s neighborhoods and Boston’s people.

I’d like to introduce new leaders at City Hall who are advancing this work and much more. Emme Handy is our Chief Financial Officer. Justin Sterrit is our Budget Director. Marty Martinez is Chief of Health and Human Services. Together we’re making sure every dollar and every program move our city forward and strengthen our middle class.

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Job training is a great example. In the last four years we reformed our system of workforce development. We graduated nearly 3,000 residents from job-training programs that are proven to raise wages and launch careers.

But for a truly transformative impact, we need the entire employer community at the table. So this year we launched BostonHires, our plan to place 20,000 low-income residents in good jobs by 2022.

Other cities have marketing campaigns to “hire locally.” This is something more. We’re inviting employers to sponsor or hire graduates of our partner programs. It’s a collective effort to strengthen our workforce.

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Wages are one part of middle-class financial security. Housing is just as important. The fundamental cost driver is a regional housing shortage that developed over many decades. That’s why we made our Housing Plan a priority. So far we have permitted over 26,000 new homes. More than 17,000 of those homes are complete, and 9,000 are in construction. And an additional 26,000 proposed units are under review. In all, that’s 52,000 new homes—or 98% of our target for the year 2030. We got serious about housing our city!

But just as important: of the homes we've permitted, we set aside over 19% for low and moderate income families. We harnessed the heat of this market to keep Boston the national leader in affordable housing. Over one-third of our city’s rental units are subsidized. No major city we know of comes close to that figure.

And, we created more new workforce housing than this city has seen in many years. We made a decision to house the people who fuel our economy. That's something every employer needs, if you're going to keep growing.

We’re proud of this progress. And I’ve been proud to share our strategies as Housing Chair for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But we have more work to do.

So we’re working with our neighbors on a regional housing plan that will finally address the full scope of the housing shortage in Greater Boston.

As part of that plan, we'll announce new targets for Boston that reflect our growing population. To meet those new targets:

• We will upgrade our public housing, to protect every affordable unit and create mixed-income communities.

• Working with the City Council and the State Legislature, we are developing regulations on short-term rentals that allow flexibility for homeowners while protecting access to housing.

• We are working with colleges and universities to help dorm production keep pace with enrollment growth.

• We’ve turned 300 city-owned parcels into 1,000 new homes, and now we're inviting ideas to add mixed-income housing to 82 public facilities, from libraries to community centers.

Finally, and most importantly, we are rallying our city to end chronic homelessness for good. This is a much more reachable goal than most people realize. Under our new system, we’ve housed nearly 1,400 formerly homeless women and men. And we ended chronic veteran homelessness. We have a plan to go further. And we’ve set up a way that we can do this together as a city.

Let me explain. Back in January, for the first time in Boston’s modern history, there was no inaugural ball after the mayoral election. There was a reason for that. Inaugural balls are paid for by private donors. You have to raise money. I decided whatever funds we could raise should go to something more important than a party.

So we created the Boston’s Way Home Fund. The goal is to raise $10 million in private donations. Those funds will leverage a plan, developed with Pine Street Inn, to create 200 new units of permanent supportive housing. That means subsidized rental housing with services that build life skills and connect people to health care and jobs. I’ve visited with folks in their new apartments as they begin to rebuild their lives. There is no more meaningful experience I’ve had as mayor.

Bank of America started us off with a $250,000 donation. And today I can announce 3 more gifts: Mass. General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Partners Healthcare will contribute a combined $1 million. John Fish and Suffolk Construction are making a $1 million donation. And Liberty Mutual is also donating $1 million. I want to thank these generous institutions.

We are on our way. I ask every business in our city to do your part. Please visit bostonswayhomefund.org to learn how you can help.

Housing our growing city isn’t just about what government can do, or what the market can do. It’s a responsibility we all take on together.

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Opportunity tomorrow means education today. We are dedicated to making the children of Boston full partners in our city’s success.

The Boston Public Schools four-year graduation rate is up to 72.7%, an increase of nearly 15 points over 10 years. That’s solid progress, a credit to our educators and our students. But we have more work to do. So we’ve been strengthening pathways all the way from early education into college and career. We’re expanding free college savings accounts for five-year-olds and free community college for high school graduates. We’re making new investments in rigorous curriculum and 21st- century classrooms. And we’re doing innovative work in social and emotional learning, homelessness support, and nutrition.

Working with the Shah Family Foundation, we are expanding the fresh food pilot that is succeeding in East Boston. By this fall, 30 schools across the city will have new or renovated kitchens producing fresh, nutritious food. Replacing frozen chicken nuggets with fresh grilled chicken and vegetables is more than a menu upgrade. It’s an equalizer. It’s closing a health gap that prevents many children from learning to their full potential.

In addition: this September, roughly 1,000 more children will be enrolled in high-quality pre-kindergarten compared to five years ago. These classrooms are the gold standard in early education. They’re proven to close the achievement gap.

Unfortunately, we still fall short of universal access to high-quality seats. The good news is, we have a path to get there.

I want to thank Speaker [Robert] DeLeo and the Legislature for reporting favorably out of committee our bill to fund Universal Pre-K. We have built a model of high-quality early education that the state and the nation are following. It’s working and it’s ready to expand. We just need the resources to reach every child. I ask the full Legislature to advance this bill to the Governor’s desk and give every young Bostonian the start they need.

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I’ve made it clear: if we’re serious about expanding opportunity, we have to break down the racial inequity that built up over many generations in our country. Racial equity has been a central goal of my administration, in everything we do. It’s more than talk; we’re taking action.

The Hyams Foundation has been a key partner in this work. Executive Director Jocelyn Sargent is here, I want to thank her for her leadership. Today, Hyams released the results of a new survey on opportunity and race relations in Boston. It dives deep into the issues and gives equal weight to every community in our city.

The survey shows that Bostonians are passionate about achieving real equity and they are optimistic about our progress. I encourage everyone to explore the report, and help continue this vital conversation.

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Everywhere I travel, I talk to leaders of communities that are grappling with race and immigration, climate and infrastructure, opioids and healthcare. More than ever, it’s cities and it’s mayors who are taking the lead on the toughest issues.

So I want to invite you to be a part of our national leadership right here in Boston. In June, we will host the United States Conference of Mayors for the first time since 2004.

Hundreds of mayors from across the country will come to Boston. We’ll show them our city and together we'll tackle issues from jobs and housing to gun reform and the opioid crisis.

This is an opportunity for Boston to share our success, learn from other cities, and lead the national conversation. I invite everyone to help put Boston’s best foot forward. You can get involved through the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. President Pat Moscaritolo is here, if you want to start right now.

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We have a story to tell in Boston. We started the year with First Night and an Inauguration the next day. Last week we hosted March Madness, and next month will bring the Boston Marathon. On One Boston Day, we'll mark the 5th anniversary of the 2013 tragedy with acts of service and kindness. In June we’ll host the BIO Convention with 16,000 biotech leaders from around the world. In addition to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, we’ll put on an international climate summit for cities. We'll host a global startup boot camp, with top entrepreneurs from around the world.

And we’ll celebrate our annual traditions: Dozens of college commencements; Fourth of July fireworks and the Boston Pops; Shakespeare on the Common and the Symphony at Franklin Park; and diverse cultural celebrations all across our city. Hopefully we’ll also have a lot of playoff games at TD Garden. We may even have a parade or two, who knows? We are a city of champions, after all.

We’re also a city of compassion. So I want to say a word about our friend John Nucci of Suffolk University, who is here with us. He’s helped a lot of people over the years, and now he needs some help, as he waits for a kidney transplant. To learn more, visit mghlivingdonors.org. Let’s spread the word for John and raise awareness for this important cause.

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Boston is a world-class city with the heart of a caring community. That’s how we’re stoking innovation while driving down inequality. We’re strengthening and expanding our middle class. We’re showing the nation a way forward on the toughest issues. And we’re welcoming the world to learn and grow in our great city.

At a time when cities must lead, Boston is the leader of cities.

And I’m prouder than ever to be its mayor.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the City of Boston.