Kim Janey, the city councilor who recently spearheaded Boston’s first ordinance to bring racial and economic equity to the burgeoning marijuana industry, said she has enough support from her colleagues to be the next council president.
Janey, whose district is mostly centered in Roxbury, one of Boston’s poorest communities, would be the first council president from the neighborhood since the mid-1980s. She called her district the “ground zero” for the issues confronting Boston: economic and racial inequity; an affordable housing crisis; an opioid epidemic; and a transportation mess that has clogged city streets.
The council typically votes in a new president at the start of its term in January.
In an interview, Janey, who will begin her second term next month, said she recognizes that voters gave councilors a mandate in the Nov. 5 election for the city to take bolder action and for its leaders to better represent the city, electing the most diverse council in Boston’s history, with a first-ever majority of women.
“We’re at a crossroads. That’s why I ran for office to begin with in 2017, and we’re still there,” she said. “I believe there’s a clear mandate from the residents of this city to see more women in leadership, more people of color in leadership, and we can look to the last election cycle to see that.”
The council, she said, is poised to drive the city’s agenda toward greater inclusion, pointing to the body’s recent passage of the marijuana equity ordinance — which establishes a Boston Cannabis Board to screen license applicants, including their diversity plans — as an example. The mayor signed the city law last month.
Janey also partnered with Councilor Michelle Wu to probe the process by which the city hands out municipal contracts for services such as trash pickup and food distribution, exposing an extremely low rate — 1 percent — of city contracts that went to women and minority vendors. The effort spurred the city to explore new ways to diversify its contracts.
Boston is seeing an economic boom, she said, but, “too many folks and communities of color are not able to share in that prosperity.”
She added, “There is an opportunity for us to really push the needle when it comes to equity and ensuring that everyone in our city has an opportunity to thrive.”
In a statement, Mayor Martin J. Walsh congratulated Janey on her support for the leadership role, calling it “a much deserved recognition for all of her hard work on behalf of the people of Boston.”
“She has been a steadfast leader on the council who brings a renewed sense of urgency and passion to the issues we’re facing as a city,” the mayor said. “I look forward to working with her and the entire council in the years ahead.”
Janey would succeed Council President Andrea Campbell, the first black woman to lead the council. Campbell, under City Council rules, cannot serve two consecutive terms.
Janey would be the third consecutive woman of color to lead the council. Wu, who holds similar progressive-minded views as Janey and shared a campaign headquarters in Roxbury with her, was the first woman of color to be elected president, in 2016.
As the first black woman president, Campbell said in a statement that it would be “powerful to be able to pass the gavel to Kim Janey.”
“I’m proud to support Kim because of her proven record of advocacy and unapologetic commitment to serving Bostonians — especially those who are traditionally left out of the political process,” she said.
A native of the city, Janey comes from a well-known family in Roxbury, and said she is well aware of the community’s plight: She raised a daughter when she was a teenager, and witnessed firsthand the struggles that families in the neighborhood face. The neighborhood, made up mostly of minorities, ranks among the lowest in life expectancy in the city; most of the children depend on schools that are struggling; and the district bears a chunk of the city’s violence.
She said she learned from a young age to be an advocate, specifically on education. Her parents were both educators, who fought for her to attend better schools. Before she was elected to the council, she worked as project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
Janey would be the first councilor from the neighborhood to lead the council since the late Bruce Bolling served in the 1980s, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy.
“When we think about these disparities I’m talking about, ground zero is here,” Janey said.
The presidency is largely seen as a symbolic position, the ceremonial leader of the 13-member council. But, if the mayor is unable to serve for any reason, or if the position becomes vacant, the council president steps into that role.
In July 1993, then-city council president Thomas M. Menino became acting mayor after then-mayor Raymond L. Flynn was appointed the US ambassador to the Vatican. Menino was elected that November to a full four-year term as mayor and went on to serve a historic five terms.
Over the last four years, both Campbell and Wu have overseen a council that has been, perhaps, the most aggressive in recent history in pushing reforms, often to the left of the mayor, on issues addressing climate change and economic and racial equity.
Now, Janey will be able to control the agenda, and she sees the council going even further.
“I am just thrilled that my colleagues have their faith in me to lead this body,” she said.