State of the City 2020
You can read the text and watch the video of the speech below:
Thank you everyone. We started tonight with Yohan [Almonte], Lamarana [Bah], Smiler [Haynes], and Angel [Castillo] because the State of the City is not about me, it’s about all of us — the people of our city.
I believe in Boston because this city made my immigrant family’s dream come true. My vision, my passion, what I work for every day, is for Boston to be that city of dreams for every child, every worker, every senior and every single person who calls our city home.
Tonight, let’s talk about how we do that.
But first, I want to thank my mother Mary, my brother Johnny, Lorrie, and my family—for being with me every step of the way.
To the veterans and Gold Star families: thank you for your service and sacrifice.
Governor [Charlie] Baker and Constitutional Officers, Ambassador and Mrs. [Raymond] Flynn, Speaker [Robert] DeLeo and members of the Legislature, District Attorney [Rachael] Rollins, Sheriff [Steven] Tompkins, and my fellow mayors: thank you for being here.
To the members of the Boston City Council: thank you and let’s keep working together every day to make Boston stronger.
I want to thank our city employees—who reflect the people of Boston and get results for the people of Boston.
And I want to congratulate, with us again, back-to-back state champions: the boys basketball team at Tech Boston Academy!
Our city’s success is rooted in our values—in what we believe. For six years, we’ve worked to make Boston America’s city of opportunity—because I believe a good job is more than a paycheck, it’s the promise of a better life.
In that period, we added over 120,000 new jobs to Boston’s economy. Through our Boston Hires program, we trained and placed over 10,000 low-income Bostonians in better paying jobs. In our Salary Negotiation Workshops, 10,200 women received free training to negotiate higher pay. And last month, we were named one of the best places in the United States to start a business.
I believe safety comes from lifting people up, not locking people up. Over six years, we’ve cut the crime rate by nearly 30%, arrests are down 33%, and our police officers have taken nearly 5,000 guns off the streets. Boston is one of America’s safest cities.
Tonight we pledge to continue this work in partnership with our residents, clergy, youth organizations, street workers, and trauma teams. And I will keep working with my fellow U.S. mayors for national legislation to reduce gun violence.
We believe in government you can trust. For six years in a row, strong fiscal management has earned us perfect bond ratings. Working with our unions, we’ve reduced health care costs. Our pensions are on track to be fully funded in the next five years—decades ahead of schedule. And, last month, Boston was named one of the best prepared cities to handle a national recession.
What this means is, unlike other cities, we’re not making big interest payments on debt, or mortgaging our children’s future. Instead, we’re investing in parks and libraries; police, fire, and EMS; homeless and recovery services; and bold solutions like the ones I’ll share tonight on education, transportation, and housing. By taking care of your money, we can advance our values and improve our quality of life.
Together, we’ve made Boston the safest, healthiest, most dynamic, productive, and inclusive city it’s ever been. This progress is felt in every neighborhood and it’s recognized all across America. We are number one in the country for subsidized, affordable housing. We are number one for access to open space. We are ranked the number one most energy efficient, climate-friendly city in the United States of America. The state of our city has never been stronger.
It’s an exciting time for Boston, but there’s a lot of work still to be done. We enter this new decade in a crisis of national leadership. I could talk about what’s happening in Washington—the division, the extremism, and nothing getting done. But I’m not here to talk about how Washington is holding us back. I’m here to talk about how Boston is moving us forward.
Tonight, we begin this decade by recommitting to the Boston we believe in. 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.
Our vision starts with the young people in our schools. We believe in a Boston where every single student reaches their potential—no matter what.
For too long, the Boston Public Schools have been a tale of two districts. We are graduating an incredible number of talented, diverse, ambitious young people—all across the city. But too much potential is still being lost for the students who face the toughest challenges. We must do what it takes to be one great district for every single student in every single school in every single neighborhood.
That’s why we’re investing in universal pre-kindergarten; longer school days; English language learning; Special Education; free community college; nurses in every school; mental health counselors; and housing supports. We’re taking down barriers to learning and closing achievement gaps wherever we find them.
Today, more students than ever are in high-quality schools and graduating on time. I want to thank our teachers and school leaders for your work. Recently, the state determined that our district is making “substantial progress” toward closing achievement gaps.
But as long as those gaps remain, we are not satisfied. That’s why we joined with cities, towns, advocates and legislators, to push for a new education finance system that benefits communities across the Commonwealth. I’d like to thank the Legislature for passing this landmark law, and the Governor for signing it here in Boston at English High School. It stops the decline in our state aid and adds significant new funding over seven years.
But our students can’t wait seven years. The time to act is now.
In her first months on the job, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius visited every school and met with residents all across Boston. She’s working with the Boston School Committee on a plan to give every child access to high quality schools. That means: rigorous curriculum; arts, STEM, and health programming; cutting-edge technology; and the social, emotional, and physical supports every single student needs.
Tonight, I announce a funding plan bold enough to make that vision a reality.
Over the next three years, we will provide $100 million in new revenue for direct classroom funding. This level of planned new investment, over and above cost increases, has never been done before. It will reach every school and it will be carefully targeted, so every dollar makes a difference. We’ll begin with intense support for underperforming schools, so we can become one great district.
I want to make a personal appeal to the parents and guardians of children in Boston. Visit the Boston Public schools in your neighborhood. You will find caring, diverse, high-achieving communities. We want your family to be a part of the BPS community—because we believe in all our schools.
We are moving forward in Boston. But a world-class city needs world-class transportation.
Every day, I talk to people about their commutes. What I hear, and see, are traffic jams, delayed trains, not enough buses. It’s not just a headache—it’s a threat to the future of our economy.
Last year, we resurfaced over 30 miles of roads, repainted over 1,000 crosswalks, rebuilt sidewalks, and installed safety signage all across the city.
We cut the ribbon on North Square in the North End and broke ground on new streets and sidewalks in Roxbury.
We’re improving bike connections from Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and the South End to downtown.
We’re working together to reduce congestion. This year, we’ll build on community planning in East Boston, by launching a Transportation Action Committee to address traffic challenges in that neighborhood.
And, we’re making the streets safer in every neighborhood. Since launching our safety plan, we’ve cut fatalities on our roads by half. But one death or injury is too many. And it only takes a few bad drivers to put lives at risk or cause gridlock on our streets.
What I hear in every neighborhood is the need for more enforcement. And I agree. The speeding, the texting behind the wheel, blocking lanes and intersections—enough is enough.
This year, I am directing the Boston Police and Transportation Departments to work together and implement a plan to strengthen traffic enforcement in our city. We’re going to make our streets work better for everyone.
For many of our issues, public transit is the solution. So we’re working with the MBTA.
We convinced the MBTA to protect seniors from fare increases, and provide late-night bus service for third-shift workers.
We're paying to make the MBTA free for all students in grades 7-12.
And, we demanded more service on the Fairmount Line for Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Dorchester.
I’m going to keep advocating and I am calling, once again, for the City of Boston to have a seat on the MBTA board. Our city and residents are the largest payer into the MBTA. This is Boston. We’ve never been big fans of “taxation without representation.” You deserve a voice.
We need more reliable subway service, we need better bus service in our neighborhoods, and we need Commuter Rail that is frequent and affordable for neighborhoods like West Roxbury and towns all across our region.
Much of the planning is done. What’s needed is money to make it a reality. So I urge my partners on Beacon Hill, as you take up transportation financing: be bold. Do more than repair the system of the past. Invest in the future of our Commonwealth. Mayors, business leaders, advocates—and commuters—will support you.
And if you can’t move forward then let us lead.
Other states have enabled cities as different as Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Phoenix to use Regional Ballot Initiatives and take a quantum leap forward in transportation. The people voted for projects and revenue to fund them. Now they’re being built.
In Massachusetts, cities and towns don’t have this authority to put projects on the ballot. It’s time to change that law. It’s time to give people a voice. For our economy, our environment, and our quality of life, it’s time for 21st-century transportation.
Housing is the biggest economic challenge our residents face.
Since I took office, our city has built two thirds of all new homes in the Greater Boston area. And last year, a quarter of our new homes were subsidized, affordable homes.
The data shows our strategy is working. Rents and home prices are stabilizing. But they’re still too high for too many people. There’s much more work to be done.
So tonight, I am announcing an unprecedented investment: $500 million over five years, to create thousands of homes, all across our city—affordable to a range of incomes, from the most vulnerable to the middle class.
We’ll start with $100 million of city resources. That alone doubles our current investment.
We will generate the additional revenue by working with the City Council to sell the Lafayette Garage downtown and working with the State Legislature to approve the transfer tax we passed last month. It’s a fee, up to 2%, and only on sales above $2 million in Boston.
I urge the Legislature to let us take this step, so we can ease housing pressures in neighborhoods like Brighton, Chinatown, and East Boston.
These investments are transformative. I invite housing advocates and residents to help us bring them to life.
We will renovate and build thousands of affordable homes for our seniors.
We will preserve public housing in our city—from Whittier Street in Roxbury to Mildred Hailey in Jamaica Plain.
And, for the first time in Boston’s history, we will issue city-funded rental vouchers, so more low-income families can be stable and secure.
We will also help thousands more working people buy their first home. If you’d like to be a homeowner, but you’re struggling with the prices and the process, contact the Boston Home Center. If you want to invest in Boston, we want to invest in you.
Altogether, this is one of the most progressive housing policies in America, because we believe in a Boston where housing is more than a commodity, it’s our community.
Our city’s historic success was built by all of us and it’s meant for all of us.
So in this year’s federal census, we’ll make sure everyone gets counted—because in Boston, every single person counts.
We’ll continue our progress bringing equity to economic development.
And, we’ll keep pushing to make Boston’s workforce the most diverse it’s ever been.
Over the past six years, our new hires have been 55% women and 51% people of color.
For the first time, the Police Department has two Latino officers on the Command Staff.
The new recruits in the Police Academy are 30% women and speak 12 different languages.
The Fire Department has its first African American chief of operations and its first female district chief.
The most recent class of fire recruits was 37% people of color, including Boston’s first Asian American woman firefighter.
And, the first class of our City Academy training program placed diverse, local graduates as EMT recruits.
We are changing Boston’s image and reality. This July we will host the national NAACP convention. It’s a milestone for our city, marking a new era of progress we have achieved together. We are going to host the best NAACP convention ever held. I invite all Bostonians to join me in celebrating Boston’s black history and black achievement all year long.
We'll begin this weekend, by joining Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley as she hosts the Congressional Black Caucus in a historic visit to Boston.
We’ll hold a week of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We’ll mark black women’s leadership in 100years of women’s suffrage.
And, we'll honor the black veterans who fought for our country, from the Revolution to the 54th regiment to the present day.
This is a pivotal year in American history. It’s never been more important to stand up and say who we are, what we believe, and what we fight for.
Let me tell you a story about what I believe in.
When we built a new shelter in 2015, we included the services people need to rebuild their life. Kenneth Evans was one of our first guests. We helped find him a place to live. And he did so well in his job training, we hired him as a custodian at the Boston Public Health Commission.
But Kenneth wanted more. Last year, he went back to the shelter and got a job as a counselor, so he could help people get the opportunities that helped him.
He’s here tonight. Kenny, thank you for showing us how to “pay it forward.”
As this decade begins, and our Boston century moves forward, we will keep working together, fighting together, and growing together—so that all the people of Boston can thrive together, a city united and strengthened by our values.
We are a city that rejects racism and bigotry in all its forms.
We are a city that stands for social, economic, and environmental justice.
We are a city that welcomes and supports immigrants.
We are a city that leads the fight for gender equality, LGBTQ equality, disability rights, veterans’ rights, and a strong middle class.
That’s who we are in Boston.
We believe in our young people.
We believe in working people.
We believe in our elders.
We believe in our veterans and first responders.
We believe in immigrants.
We believe in second chances.
We believe in each other.
We believe in Boston.
God Bless you. God Bless the City of Boston. God bless the United States of America.
- Mayor Walsh lays out bold vision, transformative investments in State of the City address
- City to make single largest investment in direct funding to support Boston Public Schools students
- Unprecedented investment to be made in affordable housing in Boston
- Mayor highlights residents’ stories as he shares vision for Boston
- First City-funded voucher program created for rental housing
- East Boston Transportation Action Committee created