It’s 2022. Boston has a newly elected mayor with a strong mandate from the public and Massachusetts has an outgoing governor who won’t be burdened by political campaigning. How can these two political leaders meet the moment and the need for urgent change in the city and the Commonwealth?
The Globe editorial board, looking at the pressing needs of the region and the priorities that can best serve the political interest, thought we’d propose what we think ought to be on Mayor Michelle Wu and Governor Charlie Baker’s respective lists of New Year’s resolutions, in a twist on our tradition of starting the new year with a look ahead. Feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas for what they should focus on in 2022. We’ll keep a close eye on their progress over the coming 12 months.
Proposed 2022 resolutions for Mayor Michelle Wu:
Offer clarity on the path forward for Boston Public Schools. Make a decision relatively quickly about whether to keep Brenda Cassellius as school superintendent. Give the city an update on contract negotiations with the teachers union. Residents deserve to know what the city’s goals and expectations are for educators of the city’s public school students.
Follow through on getting essential reforms in the next police contract. Fulfill campaign promises to move some police discipline — such as for corrupt misconduct or undue violence — out of binding arbitration so that officers who abuse their positions can be duly punished and a new standard can be set for police conduct and treatment of civilians. Don’t take no for an answer on all those overtime mandates that have been around for years. And find some way in the next contract to make police share private detail work with civilians.
Think outside the box in selecting a new police commissioner. A reformer, and even better, someone outside the department could bring needed culture change and accountability to the Boston Police.
Chart Boston’s pandemic recovery. Come up with a plan that balances public safety and the reality that Boston is the economic engine for the state. If it’s not thriving, the neediest people of Massachusetts will feel the most pain. The mayor should reach out to businesses and nonprofits to get their view on what it will take to restore normalcy to the economy, including increased patronage of small businesses that have struggled in the pandemic, the return to work and retention of talent, and the nurturing of new startups.
Invest in the arts. Boston should support local street artists, muralists, and sculptors. Fill every available park, blank wall, and public space with art, including both permanent and rotating pieces that will make the city more vibrant and attractive to outsiders.
Keep and attract more Black Bostonians. Engage community members, businesses, educational institutions, and other stakeholders and create a comprehensive plan for attracting and retaining Black residents in the city, in light of recent census data that suggested Boston is losing its Black population.
Lean heavily into early college programs as one of the best and most viable ways to improve Boston Public Schools. Start early college programs at every Boston Public Schools high school. Early college — that is, having high-school students take courses that both fulfill high-school requirements and earn college credits — has proved itself in cities from Dallas to Brockton as effective at increasing the share of students who earn associate degrees. It’s free of union obstacles that have thwarted other education improvement initiatives. An added bonus: The state currently pays the cost of early college courses.
Help BPS students navigate the system and chart their future. Follow through on a campaign pledge to provide “navigators” for every BPS student — counselors who would check in with students and their families on a regular basis to see how they’re doing and connect them to any services they might need.
Provide services to the people who have been long encamped at the intersection of Mass. Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Finish the work to dismantle the encampment and provide low-threshold housing and services for the dispersed people struggling with addiction in the city. The temporary cabins at the Shattuck are a good start and should be replicated elsewhere in the city. The effort could prove a model for other cities in the region struggling with the opioid crisis.
Improve municipal services and access for immigrants. Grow the immigration defense fund (started as a public-private partnership by former mayor Marty Walsh and funded largely through foundation money) and codify it in the municipal budget, in order to make the fund more meaningful and lasting. Commit to creating a municipal ID card as the city promised to study back in 2017.
Proposed 2022 resolutions for Governor Charlie Baker:
Keep the pressure on Boston to improve its public schools. Don’t turn down the heat on BPS, which may not need a state takeover but still needs the state’s watchful eye to ensure that student learning and school outcomes improve.
Invest in robust, affordable, climate-resilient public transit and improved regional transportation. Make creative use of the federal infrastructure money to improve the MBTA and lure riders back. Do what it takes now to make the T more resilient to climate disasters and extreme weather events. Proceed with plans for the I-90 Allston project despite lingering opposition, which will bring the viaduct down to ground level and free up 100 acres of land for new housing and economic development.
Ensure Massachusetts can still lead on climate change. The state should find a viable path to hitting its climate goals after the collapse of hydro and the multi-state deal on transportation emissions and to build on the Legislature’s historic climate legislation passed in 2021.
Bring the state into compliance with the 2016 public records law. The law has loopholes with respect to compliance by the three branches of state government. Baker can set an example with the executive branch, ensuring greater transparency with the public on the people’s business and better accountability when the state falls down on its duties.
Show some mercy. Commute the life sentences of Thomas Koonce and William Allen, both of whom won approval for commutations from Baker’s own Advisory Board of Pardons. Send a message to the board — which has held only two commutation hearings in the last seven years — that the pipeline for clemency petitions will actually be open this year and that what the Massachusetts Bar Association labeled an “underutilized tool” to address “systemic failures” is back in business.
Bring oversight to the state prison system. A scathing Justice Department report on the treatment of mentally ill prisoners, a federal civil suit charging use of excessive force by correction officers, and ongoing complaints by advocates and legislators about the use of “restrictive housing” or solitary confinement all point to the need to reform and for better oversight of the state prison system. Baker should name an inspector general for the Department of Correction.
Make police reform a reality. The nine-member Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission is still staffing up but is staring down the barrel of a July 1 deadline to recertify more than 10,000 current police officers. Meanwhile a promised cadet program aimed at diversifying the State Police, the state’s least diverse police force, is still labeled “Coming Soon” on its website. That and a fully functioning police review board can’t come soon enough.
Take aggressive measures on the State Police. A culture of corruption, wrongdoing, and unprofessional behavior is deeply ingrained in the agency. Due to a legislative change, Baker can, for the first time, appoint an outside reformer to lead the force. Now that he is free of political considerations, that’s exactly what he should do: Appoint a tough, ethical, no-nonsense outsider — someone skilled at changing dysfunctional organizational cultures — to clean house.
Right the wrongs at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. A special legislative committee came up with a package of reforms for the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, where problems in governance and chain of command contributed to the deaths of at least 76 veterans from COVID-19. Baker should make the reform package a priority for his last year in office.
So, here’s to a new year where we see great leadership on behalf of our region. If the mayor and governor focus on achieving these goals, we believe 2022 can be a bright year rife with real progress.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.