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Mayor Wu highlights building wealth, year’s accomplishments in State of the City address

Says Boston ‘chipping away’ at challenges

Avery Bleichfeld
Mayor Wu highlights building wealth, year’s accomplishments in State of the City address
Mayor Michelle Wu delivers her State of the City address Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the MGM Music Hall. PHOTO: ISABEL LEON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

In her second State of the City address, Mayor Michelle Wu touted her administration’s efforts to build wealth, especially in communities of color.

Municipal efforts since last year aim to expand access to affordable housing options, extend city contracts to more business owners of color and promote diversity in prominent local industries such as the life sciences.

“Every day, in Boston, we go to work chipping away at the challenges that stand in our way, and every day, our progress invites the world to join us in breaking new ground,” Wu said in her remarks.

In her second State of the City address, Mayor Michelle Wu touted her administration’s efforts to build wealth, especially in communities of color. PHOTO: JOHN WILCOX, MAYOR”S OFFICE

On a stage lit as blue as the Boston flag, Wu delivered her remarks at a crowded MGM Music Hall in Fenway. City officials and community leaders packed into folding chairs on the main floor. The police, fire and EMT cadets that Wu recognized in her address lined the mezzanine.

During her speech Tuesday, Wu also described how Boston has tackled some of the city’s toughest issues.

She highlighted municipal efforts to address the opioid crisis and homelessness. At the end of August, Wu proposed an ordinance to restrict the use of tents at the area known as Mass and Cass, while offering people who had been camping there transportation, shelter and a place to keep their belongings.

“Our teams built relationships at Mass and Cass, and added more beds and services citywide. With unprecedented coordination, we delivered unprecedented results,” Wu said.

She also touted progress in addressing gun violence. In her speech, Wu said the Boston Police Department took more than 800 guns off the street in 2023 and that the city drove down gun violence to the lowest levels on record.

According to data released by the city, there were 144 shootings in the past year, down from 180 the year prior and just shy of 200 in 2021.

She pledged continued support to communities and survivors of violence, with investments in trauma support and a community-driven safety plan.

Wu also promoted achievements and policy successes in the city, such as the recent contract negotiated with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. She called the contract “unlike any other.” It invests in officer education and opens up paid-detail opportunities to civilians.

“In ratifying this contract, our officers voted overwhelmingly to hold themselves to the highest standards of accountability, and set a national precedent for community policing,” she said in her remarks.

On a stage lit as blue as the Boston flag, Wu delivered her remarks at a crowded MGM Music Hall in Fenway. BANNER PHOTO

The contract also expands the Boston Police Department’s ability to fire officers convicted of crimes and includes a 21% raise for officers over a five-year period.

This year will see continued work on revamping the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Wu said. This month, the city launched its “Squares + Streets” rezoning effort — its first in decades. In July, BPDA staff will transition to shift the agency’s planning functions back to the city.

Wu also described continuing efforts to make Boston greener. She said two new community centers and two new libraries, currently in progress, will be fossil-fuel-free, following up on a promise in her 2023 State of the City address to end the use of fossil fuels in new city buildings.

The efforts will continue this year, she said, as the city launches its first geothermal network to provide clean heating and cooling to the Franklin Fields community in Dorchester. The city will also add 50 new electric school buses to its fleet, using a $20 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wu’s speech was also a moment to celebrate the more quotidian pieces of city function. During her address, she rattled off a list of statistics representing the little things that keep a city running: more than 7,000 potholes repaired, extended hours at 21 branches of the Boston Public Library, eight new parks and playgrounds and more than 300 speed humps built. She also highlighted completed renovations at municipal pools and the addition of electric bikes to the city’s Bluebikes network.

Equity initiatives featured heavily in Wu’s address.

She said the city worked to close the racial wealth gap with increased city contracts awarded to Black- and brown-owned businesses. During her speech, she said the city more than doubled contracts to businesses owned by people of color and Boston-based companies. She also pledged $9 million to build the capacity of local business to compete for bigger contracts.

She also highlighted efforts to support housing, as the city and state struggle with a housing crisis. Housing supply is lagging and prices are climbing according to the Boston Foundation’s 2023 Greater Boston Housing Report Card.

In the face of those challenges, Wu highlighted municipal efforts around increasing affordable and public housing. In 2023, she said, the city permitted the highest ratio of affordable housing in a decade, with 7,400 units approved. An office-to-residential conversion program has already attracted proposals to turn eight downtown buildings into housing, she said.

Mayor Michelle Wu greets her husband and children at the State of the City address. PHOTO: JOHN WILCOX/MAYOR’s OFFICE

In the coming year, she said, the city will work to eliminate barriers to the development of accessory dwelling units — smaller independent residential spaces within a home — and to identify locations for 3,000 new public housing units to be built in the next decade that will pull in more than $100 million in maintenance funding from the federal government.

In 2023, the city also worked toward investing in diversity in the life science industry, Wu said, with a $10 million workforce initiative. The industry, a powerhouse in the region, is continuing to grow, according to reports by groups like MassBioEd, but a 2023 diversity report from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council found equitable representation in both the industry’s workforce and leadership lacking.

The city’s life science investment includes workforce development programs like Bioversity, which officially launched its first class Monday, and the MassBioEd Life Sciences Career Hub.

Throughout her address, Wu’s message was one of strength, spirit and hope.

“The world needs the proof that Boston provides: that we can create a community where every family finds joy and belonging,” she said, “that we can kindle a brighter future if we refuse to give up.”

City of Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu, State of the City