City Council President Kim Janey, likely days away from becoming Boston’s acting mayor, gave an early look at her possible agenda as city executive during a speech to a watchdog group in which she emphasized that she and her soon-to-be-predecessor, Martin J. Walsh, are “committed to a seamless transfer of power that maintains excellence in city operations and services.”
Janey, who is poised to become the city’s first Black and first female mayor, emphasized the importance of an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 public health crisis, during her 20-minute speech, delivered Thursday to the virtual annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. She said she is fully engaged in the city’s pandemic response.
“We have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year,” she said. “The fight has taken a painful toll on all our residents and our institutions. We need renewal and healing as individuals, in our neighborhoods as well as in our business community.”
During her address, which was later uploaded to the city’s YouTube channel, Janey, a 55-year-old former educational advocate, emphasized her roots in Roxbury and the South End, as well as her experiences being bused to Charlestown as part of the desegregation of Boston’s schools in the 1970s and becoming a mother as a teenager.
“I am living proof that Boston is a city of possibilities,” she said.
Walsh is set to become the nation’s next labor secretary in coming days. Once he steps down from his City Hall post, Janey becomes acting mayor. She has yet to say whether she will run for a full-term in this fall’s municipal election.
In her Thursday speech, Janey covered a lot of ground. The rhetoric was sweeping as she laid out plans for her mayoralty, which, depending on how this year’s race to find a permanent replacement for Walsh shakes out, could last less than a year. The current field in that race is crowded. Five Boston officials have already declared their candidacies, and at least three more, including Janey, are said to be seriously considering a run.
On Thursday, Janey detailed aspects of the mayoral transition and highlighted various facets of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that the virus has disproportionately affected communities of color in the city, saying that while 20 percent of city residents are Latino, that demographic made up more than 30 percent of Boston’s COVID-19 cases. Black Bostonians, she said, have a higher death rate due to the virus than any other population in the city.
“Patterns of disproportionate impact cannot persist,” she said. “As we roll out vaccines, we are actively developing programs to deliver them more equitably.”
She said that for residents who cannot go to vaccination sites, officials “will meet people where they are with mobile vaccination clinics.”
According to her remarks, Janey has met frequently with the city’s budget team “to start the process of crafting a responsible and forward-looking budget.” How Janey will put her stamp on the city’s operating budget remains one of the burning questions of her upcoming mayoralty.
Janey said, as mayor, she will “lead the implementation of measures to prevent displacement and expand housing opportunities for families of every income in all of our neighborhoods.” The city will continue to improve the permitting process for businesses amid the pandemic, and will “also provide technical assistance to Main Street businesses struggling to bridge the digital divide with their customers.”
Reopening the city, she said, “means following the science and public health protocols that keep our schools safe.” She also spoke of developing programs to “boost city contracts with minority business enterprises and new targets to hold ourselves accountable.”
“Together, let’s continue to make progress on the most urgent issues facing our city: confronting systemic racism and the health and wealth gaps it creates; tackling climate change and increasing climate resiliency; and living our values in government operations,” she said.