By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Earlier this month, I gave my State of the City address at Symphony Hall. It’s one of my favorite events because it’s a chance to speak directly to the people of Boston about the progress we’ve made, the challenges that remain, and where we’ll go from here. This, year, it was also a time to talk about how Boston’s leadership is needed now more than ever.
We live in a pivotal time for our country: too many people, in too many communities, are being left out. But here in Boston, we remain committed to moving our city forward, expanding our progress, and throwing open the doors of opportunity for all. In our first five years together, we’ve made great strides toward building a strong future for our city.
• We are committed to leaving no one behind. In Boston we’ve created more affordable homes than in any other five-year period on record. And in the next five years we’ll create 1,000 new homeowners by building more affordable homes and providing more financial help. We’ve gotten more than 1,600 chronically homeless people into safe, supportive housing. To build on this success, last year we launched the Boston’s Way Home Fund and set a goal of raising $10 million over 4 years for supportive housing. After just one year, we have already raised $5 million.
• We are committed to lifting people up, not locking people up. Over the last five years, our police officers have taken more than 4,100 guns off the street. Through partnerships with the community, we’ve put thousands of young people on pathways to opportunity. As a result, we’ve seen arrests come down by 25 percent while crime has gone down by 25 percent.
• We are making sure that social progress and middle class opportunity grow together. That’s why we’re creating a Mobile Economic Development Center designed to strategically engage with residents on economic development policy around job training, business development, placemaking, and community economic development.
• We are welcoming more voices and expanding our democracy. We’re reactivating the Human Rights Commission to provide a forum for Bostonians to address discrimination and secure the promise of equality. I’ve also appointed a Census Liaison to make sure that every resident of Boston is counted, because every resident of Boston counts. We will also lead the way on addressing inequities in our city: I’ll soon sign an executive order that will require all city employees to be trained on how to recognize and correct disparities in city services.
• We are a community for every generation. “Elderly” isn’t the right word to describe the thousands of vibrant, active, and hard-working older residents who call Boston home. That’s why we’re renaming Boston’s Elderly Commission. It will now be known as the Age Strong Commission. The new name better reflects our commitment to making Boston more inclusive and accessible for people as they age. The commission will serve our seniors’ needs and draw on their tremendous strength.
• We are not just surviving -- we are thriving. Boston is rebuilding roads and bridges, making our streets work for bikes and buses, opening parks, and investing more than $100 million in libraries all across our city. Smart fiscal management has unlocked these historic investments -- while keeping homeowner taxes the lowest in the state. We’re investing $28 million in Boston Common and $28 million in Franklin Park. In addition, we have more than doubled the building budget for schools -- with over $300 million already spent on brand new schools, major renovations, energy efficient roofs, boilers, windows, and modern furniture. Another $800 million is on the way through BuildBPS, our 10-year, $1 billion investment in Boston’s schools and students.
Today, Boston is stronger than ever because we are drawing on more of our people’s strength than ever. Our city’s success is our motivation to aim higher, work harder, and make sure every single person in our city gets a full, fair shot at the opportunities we are creating. At a time when gridlock and division is holding our country back, Boston is showing a better way forward.
Serving as your mayor is the honor of my life. I will continue to work hard each and every day to serve the city I love. Let’s never lose sight of how far we’ve come, how far-reaching our leadership has been, and how deep our obligation is now to stand together, and to keep leading.