Renie Wright wanted to know what mayoral candidate and City Councilor Michelle Wu was going to do about the homeless people who use drugs in and around the Nubian Square bus station.
“I’m just tired of it,” said Wright, who comes through the station every day.
Wu paused to chat briefly with Wright and told the Dorchester resident who works at Trader Joe’s that the city needs bold and urgent leadership.
“I’m going to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard,” said Wu.
After Wu walked away, Wright said she supports the councilor, adding she knows Wu has tried to help the community. She also added a hard-boiled caveat.
“I’m only satisfied when I see it happen,” said Wright.
On her first day on the campaign trail, Wu faced questions from voters and the media, and began to make her case for leading the city more than 13 months before Bostonians choose their next mayor.
Speaking to reporters, Wu returned to themes of inclusion, emphasizing the importance of lifting up Boston’s marginalized voices.
“Boston should be a city for everyone,” she said, echoing themes in the video she used to launch her campaign early Tuesday morning. “We have the resources, we have the activism, we have the ideas.”
She ticked off the challenges the city faces: a historic pandemic, a reckoning on systemic racism, a climate change crisis.
“In this moment it is not only possible to re-imagine what Boston could be doing, but absolutely necessary,” she said. “We cannot keep going with Band-Aids and temporary relief. We need to plan for a long-term recovery.”
Wu said Boston missed out an opportunity to plan for a recovery that would address issues “that did not just become a crisis during this pandemic but were already at crisis level before COVID-19.”
She talked about changing the structure of the planning, developing, and zoning processes in Boston. She wants to create a “true city planning department.” She said that there needs to be a citywide plan to manage and address homelessness and substance use.
Days before Boston Public Schools return, Wu, a 35-year-old mother of two young sons, said parents are missing key details about the upcoming school year.
The city’s response to the public health emergency, she said, needs to be “in line with a larger vision that connects with the underlying crises that our communities are facing.”
“We are still a city that makes decisions behind closed doors,” she said.
A potential race between Wu, who topped the pool of at-large City Council candidates in the last two elections, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a popular, two-term incumbent, would see Wu attempt something not done in more than 70 years. No sitting Boston mayor has been unseated since 1949, when John B. Hynes, the city clerk and acting mayor, defeated incumbent James Michael Curley, who was ousted only after he had served federal prison time while in office.
At the Nubian T Station Tuesday, Wu acknowledged that history.
“Nothing happens until someone does it first," she said. "And we are in an unprecedented moment.”
Walsh has yet to say whether he will seek another term. Earlier Tuesday at a news press conference outside City Hall, Walsh commended Wu for running for mayor, but deflected specific questions about her criticism of his administration.
“I’m not going to get into a political debate today,” he said.
He also demurred when it came to whether he would seek reelection, saying he is focused on dealing with the pandemic, reopening the city’s schools, and helping elect Joe Biden to the White House.
“Right now I’m focused on the job in front of me,” he said.
But Wu, a Roslindale resident, is looking toward next year.
Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic consultant, said Wu needs time to raise money and her profile, “so people start to look at her as a possible mayor.”
“It’s very different from City Council,” she said about Wu’s announcement timing. “She does need the full year, I see no more to it than that.”
Former city councilor Michael McCormack thought the timing of Wu’s campaign launch “shows some political acuity, for lack of a better term.”
“She wants to get out there and have folks who might be thinking about running to back off,” he said.
Lawrence S. DiCara, a former City Council president who also has run for mayor, had similar sentiments, saying that Wu may be trying to line up support before other mayoral challengers enter the fold.
DiCara thought the announcement was early for the mayoral election cycle, but said she may be trying to force others who were contemplating a run at the seat to make a decision.
“The move probably tries to smoke out . . . the rest of the field,” he said.