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Essaibi George aims to broaden appeal with diversity plan

Annissa Essabi George publicized her diversity program Tuesday in Roxbury.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Four weeks before the Nov. 2 election, mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George is trying to appeal to Black voters, a critical bloc who more solidly backed her challenger in the primary.

On Tuesday, Essaibi George unveiled an “Equity, Inclusion and Justice Agenda,” which includes many proposals she’s already introduced as parts of her other platforms.

“I want to be very clear that this work does not stop here,” Essaibi George said at the Dudley Town Common in Roxbury. “Every single day we will continue to be intentional in rooting out inequity and dismantling racism in the city from education and housing to climate and health care, and even how we fill potholes and fix our sidewalks.”

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Essaibi George, a city councilor from Dorchester, is competing against Councilor Michelle Wu, of Roslindale, to become the first woman elected mayor of Boston. Both are courting voters of color, in particular, after three Black candidates were eliminated from contention in the September preliminary election.

In that five-way contest, where most challengers called for diverting funds from police, Essaibi George became defined by her embrace of the Police Department, which she proposed to expand by hiring up to 300 more officers. But all along, she has suggested that reform and support are not mutually exclusive and proposed to diversify the department and make it more transparent — plans she’s now highlighting as part of the equity agenda.

“Everyone in Boston, in every neighborhood, should feel safe,” her agenda states. “Black lives matter, and I’m not afraid of the hard work ahead.”

In the preliminary election, Black voters did not flock to Essaibi George, who gained more of her support from neighborhoods of more conservative and white voters. Wu, who won the preliminary election with 33 percent of the vote to Essaibi George’s 22 percent, finished first or second in 17 of the city’s 22 wards, and never finished below third, the Globe has reported.

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Since then, Wu has picked up considerable additional support from prominent Black leaders — including Acting Mayor Kim Janey, whom she beat in the preliminary, and Representative Ayanna Pressley, with whom she served on the council.

In her own remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Wu pointed to her campaign’s “growing momentum,” and described equity as central to all of her campaign platforms.

“This moment in Boston is about centering racial justice and making sure that we are meeting the moment, especially for Black and brown communities in Boston,” Wu said in response to Essaibi George’s proposal.

In her first 100 days as mayor, Essaibi George pledges to launch a transparent and community-led process to hire the next police commissioner. She also pledges to fully implement the recommendations of the Police Reform Task Force, many of which stalled under former mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Essaibi George is calling for police body camera footage to be publicly released within 24 hours of an incident to establish public trust and transparency. And she’s calling for mandatory yearly training for all police officers on racial bias, deescalation, and best practices for responding to mental health crises.

She proposes boosting diversity within the Police Department by partnering with city schools, local universities, and law enforcement groups to recruit candidates. And she calls for giving police candidates from diverse backgrounds — along with all residents — more points on the civil service exam.

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Essaibi George plans to install a senior-level full-time equity employee in each division of city government and to require all city employees, board members, and commission members to attend mandatory annual training on antiracism and inclusion.

She also pledges to ensure that the Boston Public Health Commission and health care centers are providing health care “that is gender and identity affirming,” and increase access to English language programs.

“I will never shy away from tough conversations, and the very hard work that is needed to build a better city for all who call Boston home,” Essaibi George said.

Campaign spokeswoman Nicole Caravella said Essaibi George wanted the diversity agenda to stand alone.

“We wanted it to be an intentional plan specifically focused on equity,” said Caravella. “Which I think Annissa would say is important — being deliberate and intentional. It’s critical that we provide the communities with a comprehensive list of action items that Annissa will take on as mayor.”

Essaibi George is making a direct appeal to Black communities by promising to target $100 million in investment from the federal American Rescue Plan to correct inequities. Later investments would follow for other marginalized communities, she said. She also called for combating gun violence in communities of color by convening community working groups to develop neighborhood action plans. Each working group, comprised of religious, youth, and other community organizations, would have a $250,000 fund for the first year of programming.

To ensure racial equality in contracting, Essaibi George proposes to rely more heavily on a contractor’s diversity and inclusion practices in awarding bids. She would award at least 20 percent of all city contracts to minority businesses over the course of a year — with the ultimate goal of increasing the share of city contracts going to Black and Latino businesses over 10 percent.

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But Wu, along with then-councilor Pressley, cosponsored the city ordinance that called for equity in city contracting through outreach to minority- and women-owned companies. She has also called for increasing the share of city contracts going to women and people of color over 10 percent.

Wu highlighted several proposals within the city’s power to implement quickly — including reforming city contracts to ensure equity; boosting home ownership and helping to close the racial wealth gap; and taking clear steps within the next administration’s first 100 days to use city funding to invest and build wealth in Black and brown communities.

“These are all steps in the direction that we have laid out, months and years ago, in partnership with community members,” Wu said.

Regarding the police department, Wu as a councilor proposed alternative responses to mental health emergencies — predating Janey’s recent implementation of a pilot program, which Essaibi George called for expanding.

Wu has called for “deep structural and cultural reforms” to the Police Department and sees the police union contracts as the key to reform.

“The underlying issue here is we often see a shielding of accountability from the police union contract,” she said.

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“I am the only candidate in this race who has laid out a clear plan for how to handle negotiations and to be very transparent about what we will be pushing for, and how we will implement those changes on the public health side and on the accountability side throughout that contract,” Wu said.

Meghan E. Irons and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.