Councilor Michelle Wu touts accomplishments in bid for reelection
Two years ago, Michelle Wu soared in her first campaign, a rising City Council candidate heralded by Senator Elizabeth Warren as “a young woman who is the future.”
Last week, a guy in a pin-striped suit named Vinny buttonholed Wu in a Hyde Park luncheonette, asking the city councilor about utility construction on River Street. The romance of an inaugural run for office fades quickly. A reelection campaign is less about pie-in-the-sky promises and more about what got done in office.
That was what impressed Vinny about Wu.
“She gets stuff done,” said Vinny, a vice president at a small investment firm whose full name is Vincent Santosuosso Jr. “She’s exceptionally bright.”
The stuff Wu said she has gotten done includes a law providing some city workers six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The measure caught the attention of President Obama, who said in a Labor Day speech in Boston the city should be “proud of what you’re doing for working families.”
Another concrete accomplishment was a guarantee that transgender municipal employees and their dependents have access to gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and mental health services.
“The laws we’ve passed in that last term have put Boston in the spotlight for what’s progressive and fair,” Wu said between bites of a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. “It’s a time in our country where the federal government is struggling to be effective and cities are stepping up to fill that void.”
Wu is seeking reelection Tuesday, one of five candidates vying for four at-large City Council seats. In 2013, she received nearly 60,000 votes, placing a close second behind incumbent Councilor Ayanna Pressley.
The electoral landscape is strikingly different than 2013, when the first open mayoral race in a generation drew more than 142,000 voters to the polls. This year, turnout is expected to fall short of 50,000.
As Wu campaigns for a second term, her life is much different than two years ago. She is now 30 and gave birth to her first child in December. The Harvard-educated attorney and her husband moved from a South End apartment to a two-family home in Roslindale.
Politically, Wu said she learned her toughest lesson before she even took the oath of office. She pledged in December 2013 to vote for Bill Linehan for City Council president, sparking uproar among some liberals.
Last week, Wu said she did not regret voting for Linehan. What Wu regretted was that the announcement happened after her campaign ended but before she had an office and staff at City Hall. The reaction caught her unprepared.
“People reached out, and they felt like they weren’t heard because I didn’t get a chance to respond,” Wu said. “What I learned was the importance of symbolism in politics.”
In office, Wu said she demonstrated that city government is a place to get things done. She pushed to require the city to make government data available online. Mayor Martin J. Walsh agreed, issuing an executive order to make it happen.
Wu’s other work included a proposal allowing restaurant diners to BYOB — “bring your own bottle” of wine or beer. It hasn’t happened yet, but the councilor said she has been making progress with meetings with the Walsh administration, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and others.
She said she pushed to streamline the licensing and permit process for small businesses with hearings that produced a report with 25 recommendations for the administration. Working with the mayor, Wu help spearhead “Acoustic on Main,” which encouraged businesses and artists to offer musical performances by waiving license applications and fees.
“I’m really proud,” Wu said, “that my work has made city government more transparent and more accessible for families of all backgrounds.”
Since 2014, Wu has raised $159,000 in campaign donations, according to state records through Oct. 15. Most donations came from donors downtown, in the South End, Chinatown, and South Boston. Contributors included attorneys, business owners, and retirees.
The Globe reported that through July 1, Wu had attended roughly one-third of council hearings, ranking seventh among her 13 colleagues. In a Globe analysis of schedules, Wu estimated that in a typical week she worked 65 hours, but added there is no typical week for a councilor. Wu voted against a pay raise.
During her first term, Wu went on a six-day trip to Taiwan paid for by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
At Richy’s Luncheonette in Hyde Park, Wu seemed popular among the regulars, including Dennis DiMarzio, the city’s retired chief operating officer. “She’s the kind of councilor we should have more of,” he said.
Angel-Marie Vazquez sought the councilor out at Richy’s because she liked Wu’s work as chairwoman of the council’s Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Committee .
“What I’ve read and I’ve seen, she’s seems very motivated and forward thinking,” Vazquez, 23, said. “I’m excited to see what she continues to do for the community.”
Andrew Ryan can be reached at email@example.com .