At Symphony Hall on Tuesday night, Mayor Martin J. Walsh gave an impassioned speech centered on tackling the inequities in Boston. In his annual State of the City address, the mayor talked about leading with values and working together across differences to tackle tough challenges, including transportation, housing, and education.
Before Walsh took the stage, the evening featured musical performances from the uplifting Charles Street AME Adult Choir, a talented young quartet from Project STEP, and Jermaine Tulloch, owner of A Family Affair restaurant in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner and former Boston public school teacher. These creative tributes set an optimistic and inclusive tone for an evening that celebrated our city and looked expectantly toward its future.
The mayor was introduced by Boston residents Yohan Almonte, Lamarana Bah, Smiler Haynes, and Angel Castillo, emphasizing that the State of the City is about its people, not any individual leader. After thanking his family, members of the Boston City Council, city employees, and more, Walsh highlighted many of the successes of the past six years, including:
- Adding over 120,000 new jobs to Boston’s economy
- Placing over 10,000 low-income Bostonians in better paying jobs through BostonHires
- Providing free training to 10,200 women to negotiate higher pay
- Cutting the crime rate by nearly 30% and arrests by 33%
- Taking nearly 5,000 guns off the streets
While acknowledging that it's an exciting time for Boston, Walsh admitted there's a lot of work still to be done. "Tonight, we begin this decade by recommitting to the Boston we believe in. We will lead with our values. We will work together across all our differences to tackle our toughest challenges. We will be a city that’s world class because it works for the middle class. And we will leave no one behind," he said.
Education - One of the mayor's biggest announcement of the night was the commitment to providing $100 million in "new revenue for direct classroom funding," a level of investment that "has never been done before." The funding will begin by supporting new curriculum development, including arts and STEM programming, at underperforming schools.
Transportation - Walsh advocated once again for the City of Boston to have a seat on the MBTA board to fix the near constant issues that commuters face in and around the city. He also challenged Massachusetts policy makers to "be bold" in considering transportation financing or else get out of the way of progress and empower the city to put projects on the ballot.
Housing - To ease housing pressures in neighborhoods like Brighton, Chinatown, and East Boston, Walsh urged the State Legislature to approve a transfer tax of up to 2% on all real estate sales above $2 million in Boston. He announced an investment of $500 million over five years to create thousands of homes for those with a range of incomes, pending state approval of the transfer tax.
Walsh closed the evening by calling on Boston to embrace its diversity, celebrating who we are, what we believe, and what we fight for.
You can find the full transcript of the speech along with a video on Boston.gov.
What did you think? What other topics would you like the city to address this year? Let us know on Twitter @hubweek.