Boston's Morning Newsletter
5 takeaways from Mayor Wu's year-end 'Radio Boston' interview
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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu knows that talking about housing policy makes some people's "eyes glaze over." But that didn't stop her from getting into the weeds during her monthly appearance yesterday on Radio Boston. And she also made several bits of news. Here's a recap:
It's coming: Wu said the city plans to send a rent control proposal to the State House "as their next legislative session opens up in 2023." According to the mayor, the city's rent control advisory committee — which was formed in March to make legislative recommendations — is currently wrapping up the "final pieces" of their work. Due to the statewide ban on rent control, any proposal will need not only the approval of the City Council, but also state lawmakers and the governor. However, unlike Gov. Charlie Baker, Gov.-elect Maura Healey has said she would let cities and towns implement their own rent control policies, even if she isn't a fan of it as a statewide solution.
- The big question is whether any such proposal can make it to Healey's desk. Fellow Democrats in the State House have blocked recent rent control proposals, amid concerns the policy could depress much-needed housing production in the Boston area. House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka declined to take a position on the subject earlier this fall. Wu's plans could put them under the spotlight come the new year.
- In the meantime, Wu is pushing forward with a whole raft of zoning and fee changes aimed at getting big developers to do more to support affordable housing. That proposal just needs approval from a few municipal bodies, including the City Council, which could veto it with just five votes. Wu is optimistic she'll have their support. "I know that there's always a desire to do more, but we really believe that this is the appropriate balance," she said.
Other takeaways from the hourlong segment:
A line in the sand: In the city's ongoing police union contract negotiations, Wu said "our firm position is that we will not sign a contract that does not include reform" on things like extended medical leave (she said there are over 150 officers who have been on paid leave for over a year), as well as overtime policies and accountability.
Sign, sealed, delivered: Wu said she signed the home rule petition to allow Boston residents as young as 16 to vote in municipal elections. Now it heads to the State House — where it faces just as uncertain a future as any future rent control measures. (Don't hold your breath.)
Not so fast: Despite calls from the likes of The Boston Globe editorial board, Wu said she's "not ready to give up" on Boston's residency requirement for city workers. "When we talk about wanting other companies to hire locally, make sure that wealth gets right into our communities ... we have to stand behind that as well," she said.
- Wu did say she was open to some tweaks, given the fact it's not easy to find affordable housing in Boston. She also noted that there's a "clear inequity where some of the lowest paid city jobs" are still subject to strict residency requirements, while higher-paid jobs have more flexibility. One potential change —already implemented by the police department — is giving new hires six months to find housing in Boston.
Save the date: Wu revealed that her first state of the city address as mayor will be Jan. 25 at the new MGM Music Hall at Fenway.
Meanwhile on Beacon Hill: Healey's cabinet is slowly taking shape. The governor-elect announced Monday that she'll appoint EPA official Melissa Hoffer to become the state's first cabinet-level "climate chief." Hoffer will have the unique responsibility of overseeing climate policy across every state agency and ensuring climate change is "considered in all relevant decision-making," according to Healey's transition team.
- One person who won't be in the new administration: Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. Sudders — who led the state's COVID response and was dubbed Baker's "center of gravity” through the pandemic — announced yesterday that she will retire on the day Healey takes office.
P.S.— Since 2002, WBUR has hosted a reading of "A Christmas Carol" in tribute to the beginning of Charles Dickens' first American reading tour of the holiday classic in Boston over 150 years ago. And the tradition continues tonight at the Omni Parker House — with a cast of WBUR hosts, cookies and hot cocoa. Get tickets here.