In a potential preview of a 2021 mayoral match-up, City Councilor Michelle Wu and Mayor Martin J. Walsh publicly sparred on Thursday, criticizing each other about the Boston Resiliency Fund, a Walsh effort to raise money from companies and individuals and distribute it to those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on WGBH-FM on Thursday, Wu expressed concern about the setup. While philanthropy is wonderful, she said, when such fund-raising is filtered through city government instead of going directly to nonprofits and foundations “we are distorting the political process.”
In an unusual move for Walsh, the mayor responded directly to Wu’s comments at a City Hall news conference. He said that people should not “Monday-morning-quarterback on a radio show when they have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Sounding annoyed, Walsh said that “if the city councilor took time out of her schedule just to give me a call or maybe go on a call to talk to us about the Resiliency Fund, she would understand what the Resiliency Fund has done.”
He ticked off the achievements: $33 million raised, with more than $23 million distributed to 300-plus organizations, more than half of which are led by a person of color.
Since the fund was launched in mid-March, Walsh said, the money raised has helped to put food on people’s tables, expanded coronavirus testing among vulnerable populations, and purchased Chromebooks for students in the city’s school district so that they could participate in online learning.
A three-member steering committee was established to provide direct oversight and funding recommendations for the fund.
“When I hear people talk about how it’s not effective,” Walsh said, “they should take a little bit of their time to learn about why the fund was set up and what the intention of the fund was and maybe help us get some money for the fund rather than Monday-morning-quarterback on a radio show when they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to resiliency funds.”He did not mention Wu by name.
Later, Wu said in a statement to the Globe that she works for the people of Boston, not the mayor, adding that she was “tired of band-aids and breadcrumbs when we need to make full-scale investments in building healthy, resilient communities.”
“I would hope that Mayor Walsh has the capacity to understand that this was not a personal attack on him, but a call for Boston to do better,” Wu said.
The fund’s donors have included Blue Cross Blue Shield, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and John Hancock, according to city officials.
Walsh has not said if he is running for a third term next year. Wu, first elected to the council in 2013, has not said if she is running for mayor, but is thought to be seriously considering a bid.
At the news conference, Walsh appeared to allude to her prospective political aspirations, saying that “Some people who are criticizing the Resiliency Fund might want to run for higher office.”
“They better find a better issue than that to run for higher office,” Walsh said.
During her appearance on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio,” Wu was asked how seriously she is considering running for mayor. She said she is focused on delivering results as a city councilor.
Walsh similarly deflected a question at a news conference earlier this week when asked if he had plans to run for reelection.
“I’ll be making an announcement at some point in the future, I’m sure,” he said.
At Thursday’s news conference, Walsh and Police Commissioner William G. Gross also addressed the recent uptick in violence in Boston, decrying a spate of shootings and vowing to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Walsh denounced the shooting Tuesday night in Roxbury of a store clerk in his early 20s whom the mayor described as an immigrant from Bangladesh now “fighting for his life” in the hospital.
“My heart breaks for him and his family,” Walsh said, adding that he’s “frustrated and angry” by the “cruel, senseless violence” that has plagued the city recently.
“We have seen too many homicides this summer,” Walsh said. “We have seen too many shootings this summer.”
The mayor reserved particular indignation for the assailant who shot the clerk.
“Someone committing a crime like this makes a choice,” Walsh said. “A choice to inflict pain and suffering on a fellow human being.”
The violence, he stressed, must stop.
“They need to be held accountable for those choices and those harms,” Walsh said. “The violence in our city needs to stop.”
He recalled visiting the scene with Gross of the recent fatal shooting of a 15-year-old and thanking community members “for who they are in our city.”
Walsh, addressing those who harm city residents, said, “We’re going to hold you responsible. We’re going to hold you accountable.”
His words were echoed by Gross, who noted the wounded clerk was working at a convenience store; such stores, he said, are a “staple to the community.”
Gross said violent offenders have become emboldened by the pandemic, with word on the street being “you can do what you want” while courts are closed and grand jury proceedings are on hold.
He said a “repeat, violent offender should be held accountable” and voiced frustration over the fact that violent suspects arrested with firearms are being released at arraignment with ankle bracelets.
“I hope the judicial process is listening,” he said.
A preliminary investigation into the clerk;s shooting indicates it was a robbery at the M&R convenience store on Shawmut Avenue that turned into a shooting, said Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston Police Department spokesman. He said the 23-year-old clerk was wounded at about 9:18 p.m.
The clerk remains in “very critical condition” and is “fighting for his life,‘’ Boyle said.
No arrests had been made in the case as of Thursday.
Mike Bello of the Globe staff contributed to this report.