Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey Says Systemic Racism, Inequality Are Top Priorities

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Boston City Council President Kim Janey, who will soon become Boston's acting mayor, poses for a portrait at City Hall in Boston on Feb. 17, 2021. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston City Council President Kim Janey, who will soon become Boston's acting mayor, poses for a portrait at City Hall in Boston on Feb. 17, 2021. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston has a new acting mayor: Outgoing Boston City Council President Kim Janey has taken the reins from Marty Walsh, who now heads to Washington as President Biden's labor secretary.

Janey is the 55th mayor of Boston, but she is the first woman and the first Black person to lead from City Hall.

Janey, who grew up and lives in Roxbury, is a long time education and child care advocate who spent two terms on City Council before her ascension to the mayoralty. In an interview with WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes, she discussed her policy priorities and the possibility of joining the increasingly crowded race for a four-year term, which will be decided this November.

Interview Highlights

On the significance of becoming Boston's first Black & female mayor

I ... think about my own granddaughter, who is 6 years old. That she's growing up in a time where the mayor will look like her and that will be normal for her. And her two older brothers were born at a time when there wasn't even a Black woman on the Boston City Council. And now here she is. She sees me as mayor, and this is not just important for Black children. This is important for all children to see what leadership can look like. It's just incredible to think how far our city has come.

On systemic racism and inequality in Boston and what to do about it

It's very, very important that as we recover, reopen and renew — and that is the framework that I am using for the work that is ahead — that we do so with intentionality around closing the many gaps that we see. We know about the wealth gap between white households and Black households in Boston being nearly a quarter of a million dollars. We see with COVID the disproportionate impact when it comes to the LatinX population and the Black population in Boston; we look at the opportunity and achievement gaps in our schools. You know, there is a life expectancy gap of 30 years from Grove Hall to Symphony Hall. There is a lot of work to do and this work is structural. We have to deal with structural racism. We have to look at the policies that got us here and create new policies to help get us out.

We certainly have to deal with city contracting. We have to, again, close opportunity and achievement gaps in our schools. We know there's work to do on our police force. But I would start with COVID in how we deliver the vaccine and making sure that we're meeting people where they are. That we're building relationships, that we are using those trusted relationships that exist already, to help distribute the vaccine because that is incredibly important not just to our recovery, but how we reopen in the pandemic.

On the brevity of Janey's acting term as mayor (just over 7 months)

There is a lot of work to do, certainly as we've discussed here. But I am very encouraged by the number of people who care deeply about our city and who will be there to help move this agenda forward. It is very clear to me ... that we cannot go back to normal; that is not an option for us. We must make Boston stronger, much more equitable and much more just.

On speculation about Janey entering the 2021 mayoral race

It's something that I am certainly thinking about. I have been laser-like focused on the transition, working with the Walsh administration. We are facing unprecedented challenges in our city, certainly challenges that won't be resolved in just eight months. And so I will certainly think about that. But for now, I just want to do the work that is before me.

This segment aired on March 23, 2021.


Headshot of Bob Oakes

Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.


Headshot of Wilder Fleming

Wilder Fleming Producer
Wilder Fleming produces radio and podcasts for WBUR.



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