In a political victory lap of sorts, Acting Mayor Kim Janey recapped the first 100 days of her tenure as city executive on Friday, highlighting the city’s re-opening efforts from COVID-19.
Speaking to dozens packed into a historic meeting house at the Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill, Janey said, “Our public health recovery is the foundation of our city’s economic recovery.”
The virus, she said, exacerbated health disparities that already existed in the city.
Janey also emphasized that the unemployment rate has dropped when compared to last year, and that 3,000 renters have used the city’s rental relief fund amid the public health emergency, among a slew of other pandemic measures aimed at helping businesses and workers rebound from pandemic challenges.
“We have made great strides in expanding equitable vaccine access, supporting businesses in reopening, and getting our children back to school safely,” she said.
The city, she said, was also taking steps to increase the role of mental health workers and reduce the role of Boston police in some situations involving mental health crises.
Then-council president Janey became acting mayor in March, when Martin J. Walsh left City Hall to become US labor secretary. She is the city’s first Black and first female mayor, and has since jumped in the mayoral campaign fray, which includes five other major candidates. That pitched contest was not featured in her remarks, although her political opponents did take note of her speech.
Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell was among those critical of Janey, saying the city’s opioid and homelessness crises continue to deteriorate and that the police department is riddled with ongoing scandals, among other criticisms.
“This is not the time for a celebration, it’s time for governing,” she said in a statement.
Also left unsaid at Friday’s event were Janey’s mayoral hiccups during the last three-plus months, including tensions with the Boston City Council, which, following complaints of a lack of communication from Janey’s office, recently gave itself the power to remove Janey as acting mayor.
There were also recent questions about whether Janey’s operating and schools budgets would pass or if the city would be thrown into fiscal uncertainty. It took an extraordinary and unusual $31 million supplemental appropriation for her operating budget to garner enough council support to pass this week. That budget, and the schools budget, were ultimately passed by a 10-2 vote.
There have also been clashes between Janey’s administration and city workers who have chafed at the city’s reopening plan, which some thought was inflexible for those in need of child care. A labor union that represents Boston municipal employees has filed a complaint with a state agency claiming the city did not seek its input in its return-to-work plan and failed to bargain in good faith regarding its COVID-19 reopening.
During a brief press availability after her prepared remarks, Janey was asked about what she considered to be her missteps as acting mayor and was circumspect in her response.
“I want to make sure that we were moving with the urgency that this moment requires and that we are also balancing the need to engage with the number of many voices that need to be part of the process, and sometimes, those two things can be at odds, though I don’t think that has to be the case,” said Janey.
As Boston reopens, she said the city is working with its workers and labor unions “to make sure we have the flexibility that is needed over the summer months.”
“Should any employee need to take extended time, we’ve offered that,” Janey said.
In her remarks, Janey did not mention the firing of former Boston police commissioner Dennis White, a situation that dominated her mayoralty for weeks.
White was accused in 1999 of striking and threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer, as well as of hitting a 19-year-old woman in a separate incident in 1993. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and is continuing his legal battle against the city. In court filings this week, White alleged gender and race discrimination in federal litigation against the city and Janey.
There was some news made at Friday’s event, with Janey announcing that the city is forming a Children’s and Youth Cabinet, which will work to coordinate services that the city provides and bolster partnerships with nonprofits, faith organizations, schools, and employers.
The campaign of Janey’s mayoral rival, City Councilor Michelle Wu, on Friday pointed out that Wu had proposed creating a children’s cabinet earlier this year. In a statement, Wu said she was “always energized to see our policy positions and proposals adopted widely.”
“Announcements alone don’t deliver impact — we need a transformative vision and leadership to drive urgent action,” she said.
Additionally, Janey announced that the city’s Board of Health has appointed Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, an infectious disease doctor at Mass. General Brigham, as the next executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. She will start her new job Sept. 1.
Friday’s event was attended by some well-known local political luminaries and local leaders, including Councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Kenzie Bok, state Representatives Russell Holmes and Nika Elugardo, former councilors and mayoral candidates Tito Jackson and Maura Hennigan, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, and Boston police interim commissioner Gregory Long, among others. The mood was celebratory, with multiple standing ovations, and Janey’s remarks were book-ended by performances that included songs and a song-and-poetry performance.