Acting Mayor Kim Janey gave a farewell address at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury on Wednesday to city officials and community members in an event that included a performance by local artists and video highlighting her mayoralty’s accomplishments. Janey, the acting mayor of Boston since Martin J. Walsh became US transportation secretary in March, will be succeeded by Mayor-elect Michelle Wu, who will be sworn in as the city’s leader on Nov. 16.
The following are Janey’s remarks Wednesday, as prepared.
Thank you, Karen Holmes Ward, for blessing us with your presence as Emcee today. Thank you for that beautiful performance of the national anthem, Dana Whiteside and thank you Nia Ashleigh for that breathtaking tribute. I also want to thank Danny Rivera, who is near and dear to my heart and who we will hear from later. And to my pastor, Reverend Willie Bodrick, I thank you for your inspiring invocation. May God bless each of you.
When I moved into the Mayor’s Office in March, I hung two framed prints on the concrete wall opposite my desk in City Hall. The first framed print is the cover of the April 2013 issue of Boston Magazine. This cover depicts a heart-shaped collection of running shoes worn by marathoners on April 15, 2013, a day our city and the world will never forget.
Inside the heart-shaped space formed by the sneakers are the affirming words, “We will finish this race.” Each pair of sneakers represents a unique individual whose journey, along with thousands of others, makes the Boston Marathon one of our city’s most celebrated events.
The second framed print features Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Vice President. She is striding forward, and next to her silhouette is a pint-sized Ruby Bridges. And just like me, Kamala and Ruby were also on the front lines of our nation’s battle to desegregate our schools. They, too, had to overcome adversity and pave the way for others to follow. The inscription beneath the two iconic figures in this print reads, “The First But Not the Last.”
Both of these prints inspire me. They represent what have been two overarching priorities during my tenure as mayor of the City:
First — to comfort our City through a time of multiple crises and ensure stability.
Second — to lead Boston to become the more equitable, just, and resilient city that we all deserve.
When I was sworn in, following former Mayor Walsh’s confirmation as US Labor Secretary, we were in the midst of a global pandemic and a national reckoning on racial injustice. It was a time of uncertainty in our country, but Boston stayed strong.
We came together to distribute vaccines in our hardest-hit neighborhoods, meeting people where they are. We met them at church, parks, YMCAs, senior centers, and even in their homes. We launched the HOPE campaign in multiple languages and set up pop-up community clinics. We distributed vaccine information through community groups and worked with our hospitals and health centers to make sure vaccines were readily available for all residents. We established mask mandates indoors and in our schools and a vaccine verification process for City employees. Because of our tireless efforts, Boston is one of the most vaccinated big cities in America.
We expanded protections for homeowners and renters with a foreclosure prevention fund and rental relief. We created capacity-building opportunities for small businesses that found themselves struggling through the pandemic and we gave cash assistance to frontline workers who were denied federal benefits.
To protect the most vulnerable of our residents, particularly people within the immigrant community, we supported asylum-seekers and invested in work-readiness opportunities for Dreamers. We connected immigrants of African descent to healthcare fellowships in local hospitals. We opened our arms to our Haitian neighbors following the assassination of Haiti’s president, a devastating earthquake, and the violence along the southern border of the United States.
We established a JOY Agenda as a strategy to heal from trauma. We did this by utilizing the arts and activating our public spaces with community walks and dance parties.
Joy came through the observance of Juneteenth as a holiday and the declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Boston. It was also found in the revival of a shabby barn at the Shirley-Eustis House, just a few blocks away from here. The barn is the last remaining free-standing slave quarters in the northeastern United States, and because of the work we’ve done together, it is now a historic Boston landmark.
We brought joy to our community spaces by establishing free membership at Boston Centers for Youth and Families. We connected our young people with joy by providing every BPS student with a library card and cancelling all late fees.
While ensuring stability in a time of crisis was a top priority, I also led Boston towards the more equitable and just city we all deserve.
In Boston, our challenges have become so known to so many that statistics have become sound bites: “8 dollars of wealth”; “30-year difference in life expectancy”; “40 inches of sea-level rise”.
To help build generational wealth, we expanded Boston Home Center’s first-time Homebuyer Program and quadrupled the amount of down payment assistance to eligible homebuyers, taking it from 10 thousand dollars to 40 thousand dollars.
To build trust with the public and community stakeholders, we redefined public safety and delivered thoughtful solutions, from increasing accountability and transparency to how we respond to mental health crises. Crime is down and at its lowest in five years. While we celebrate this downward trend, we also understand that any homicide is one too many. We must continue to address trauma, which is often the root cause of violence.
This week alone, we saw three officers shot, multiple officers injured, and one officer stabbed in the neck. My heart goes out to the injured officers, their families, and the families of the deceased, who need our support. We must continue working to address violence in our city and creating a safer future for all of our residents.
Reimagining the future, we launched a new green jobs pipeline that will develop a younger generation of workers. This innovative approach narrows the gaps and paves the way for a stable, green future for all of Boston. We expanded opportunities for young people to become lifeguards in our city through the Swim Safely Partnership. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black children are 8 times more likely to drown than white children. This partnership ensures that we protect all of our children by providing free swimming lessons so they can safely enjoy our amazing pools and beaches.
When evaluating inequities, we recognized that Black people spend 64 more hours per year on bus commutes compared to white passengers. We created a free-bus pilot for the 28 bus route to help low-income communities of color access affordable and reliable public transit.
We expanded our Supplier Diversity Program to include LGBTQ+ owned businesses in contracting opportunities with the City.
We also approached the dual opioid- and homelessness-crises with a public health lens. In our first week, we connected close to 70 people to housing, shelter, and residential treatment. And no arrests were made as part of this work. I am proud of our outreach teams for continuing the work of serving all of our residents and connecting people with services.
Addressing the challenges of our city takes courage and commitment because these issues can only be solved when we all work together to create systemic change. From managing a public health crisis to confronting institutional racism, we achieved historic milestones together.
All of the work that we have been able to do is because of my amazing team. My deepest appreciation and gratitude to my Cabinet Chiefs, Department Heads, and each of the 18,000 city workers. Working with you over the last 8 months has been an honor and I am proud to have served with you. To the incredible teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, frontline workers, custodial staff, and all of those providing services that keep our city running -- thank you for being the backbone of our city.
From Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill, a Mayor works in partnership. I want to extend my gratitude to Representative Ayanna Pressley, Representative Stephen Lynch, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Ed Markey. Many thanks to Governor Charlie Baker and members of the Boston Delegation for their partnership.
I also want to thank the legislative arm of the City. Working with the City Council, we successfully passed the Building Emissions and Reduction Disclosure Ordinance, or BERDO 2.0; legislation that will reduce our city’s carbon emissions. We also established the Black Men and Boys Commission and signed the Surveillance Oversight and Information Sharing Ordinance.
I want to thank the Boston City Council, I am proud to have served with you. I want to take a moment to recognize the newest members of the City Council who will be sworn in in the New Year. Congratulations Councilors-elect: Erin Murphy and Ruthzee Louijeune, the first Haitian-American elected to the City Council.
I also want to congratulate Councilors-elect Brian Worrel for District 4 and Kendra Hicks for District 6. Finally, I want to recognize Councilor-elect Tania Anderson, who will represent my beloved District 7. Tania is the first Muslim elected to serve on Boston’s City Council and the first person of Cape Verdean descent to serve.
This year’s election was historic. The slate of Mayoral candidates was the most diverse in Boston’s history. The candidates were from neighborhoods all across Boston with roots from all over the world. I am proud to have worked with and run alongside candidates who share my deep love for Boston. Many thanks to Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, Councilor Andrea Campbell, State Representative Jon Santiago, and John Barros. Boston is better because of your contributions.
While I am proud to be Boston’s first woman Mayor and first Mayor of color, I am also very proud to know that I will not be the last. I want to congratulate Mayor-elect Michelle Wu for leading an impressive campaign and becoming the first woman of color elected to the Office of the Mayor. She has pledged to bring City Hall to the neighborhoods. I know she will lift up those who have been left out of power. She will build upon my equity and justice work and she won’t be afraid to tackle long-standing problems. I am proud to pass the baton to you.
The Mayor’s Office provides a unique vantage point of Boston; you can see your city for all of its richness and beauty. From the Citgo sign in Fenway to the Simco’s sign in Mattapan; from Jamaica Pond to the Frog Pond; from Copley Square to Nubian Square; there are so many things that make Boston the vibrant city that she is. We are home to museums, green spaces and beaches, and world-renowned hospitals and universities, and, of course, our iconic championship-winning sports teams.
But what I love most about Boston is her people: from the small business owners to the seniors; from our veterans to our teachers; from our restaurant workers to our public servants; to ordinary people who do extraordinary things every single day that often go unrecognized. Our city is better because of you.
Last but certainly not least, I have to thank my family. My mother, my daughter, my grandchildren, and so many others who have supported me, prayed for me, and inspired me along the way. I am forever grateful.
As I reflect back on the two prints that I hung in my office; and as we lace up our sneakers to finish the race—for me, it will be my Converse—we must continue to run toward justice, equity, and love. Just like Vice President Kamala Harris, Ruby Bridges, and so many in between, let’s continue to break barriers and create opportunities for those who will come after us.
It has been my greatest honor serving my city as its 55th Mayor. Thank you, Boston. You will forever be in my heart.