Walsh plans new ‘Equity & Inclusion’ cabinet, ‘Racial Equity Fund’

Mayor Martin Walsh today rolled out three initiatives that he says are aimed at addressing systemic racism in Boston, including an Equity and Inclusion Cabinet in his administration and a new Racial Equity Fund. The mayor said he plans to file a “fair housing” amendment to the city’s zoning code before the end of the year.

The announcements came a day after the Boston City Council cast a tight vote (8-5) to pass Walsh’s FY21 budget, with dissenters on the council saying that the Mayor’s operational budget would only enact “incremental change” and allow “business as usual during an unprecedented time.”

“I want to thank the city councillors that voted for the budget yesterday allowing those investments to move forward and advance the work of racial justice in our city,” said Walsh. “Systemic change doesn't come from one policy or budget investment. Our goals must be to build a process for change into the way government and our society works.”

“We are moving 20 percent of the BPD overtime budget to [benefit] physical and mental health programming, the safety and well-being of our young people and the long-term success of our neighborhoods.”

Walsh said his executive order to create an Equity and Inclusion Cabinet would be a “first in Boston's history” and plans to appoint a cabinet chief soon. An important part of the group’s work, he said, will be to “leverage private and nonprofit resources through cross-sector partnerships.”

“It will bring together existing departments including our office of resilience and racial equity, diversity, language and communication access, women's advancement, immigrant advancement and human rights. And it will apply an equity lens to every single department and service and put an intentional focus on serving communities of color and marginalized groups.”

The Mayor also announced the creation of a new financial resource called the “Boston Racial Equity Fund.”
“This fund will invest in nonprofits that empower black and brown residents, in economic development, public health, youth employment, education, arts and other areas,” said Walsh.

The initial goal is to raise $10 million in funding, with a long-term goal of $50 million. Walsh said he’d announce a steering committee to guide the Racial Equity Fund next week.

“This work cannot be led by a Mayor, it cannot be led by city councillors, this needs to be led by the community and this change needs to come through all of us,” he said.

Walsh also committed to filing a new zoning amendment this year aimed at ensuring access to fair housing in every neighborhood.

“This amendment will require developers in our city to do more and to fight displacement and promote inclusion,” said Walsh.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is working with the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and the Office of Fair Housing to create a project assessment tool that Walsh said will be used to identify and address the risk of displacement, and enhance access for historically excluded communities.

Walsh thanked District 1 Councillor Lydia Edwards, who voted yes on the budget yesterday, for her leadership on the new amendment.

“We had a meeting a couple weeks ago and Lydia made the importance of this amendment real, about saving people’s abilities to live in their communities.”

He extended thanks also to District 8 Councillor Kenzie Bok who voted in support of the budget for “drafting this language.”

“We look forward to additional conversations with the Council as a whole and the community. We believe Boston will be the first city in the country with fair housing requirements written into our zoning code,” said Walsh.