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'No One Is The First Until They Do It:' Why Michelle Wu Thinks She Should Be Boston's Next Mayor12:02
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A supporter snaps a selfie with mayoral candidate Michelle Wu during a campaign appearance in Nubian Square. (Jesse Coista/WBUR)
A supporter snaps a selfie with mayoral candidate Michelle Wu during a campaign appearance in Nubian Square. (Jesse Coista/WBUR)

After months of speculation, and a sneak preview from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh himself, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday that she is running for mayor.

The top vote-getter in the Boston City Council At Large elections twice, Wu would be the first woman and first person of color to hold the office — and, if successful, the first person to unseat an incumbent mayor in the city since 1949.

We caught up with her between stops on her first day of campaigning.

Interview Highlights

On why she believes she's the right person for the job

“This is about bringing leadership from every community to the forefront. In my time on the council, I've seen that when you work in coalition, when you follow the lead of community members, the ideas that are put forward can happen at the city level and can be implemented pretty immediately. Everything from ramping up our renewable energy sourcing to groundbreaking legislation when it comes to language, access and safety. There's a lot that the city can do, and it depends on having a partnership with community members who are living the realities.”

On how her life informs her politics, and her governing philosophy

“Everything that I do is shaped by the experiences that I've had with my family and that I've heard in families all across the city who share the same struggles and dreams. I am a daughter of immigrants, someone who never thought I would be running for office when I was a young girl. And I get my resilience from seeing the challenges that my parents faced as immigrants to this country who came here with nothing. And I'm a mom: I have two boys, who are three and five. And so whether it's trying to figure out the school system and how we're gonna get through this current crisis in Boston, public schools reopening, or having to figure out how I'm going to get around the city with a massive stroller with two kids in it, it's impossible to ignore the issues when you're living them.”

"It's impossible to ignore the issues when you're living them."

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu

On why she still thinks the T should be free, budget crisis notwithstanding

“The T needs to be free, and we need to figure out and rethink our systems of financing and service to get us there. We saw during the pandemic that many of our major institutions took steps to ensure safety and to recognize the incredible economic hardship that people were facing. And the T did that as well: They made busses free during the pandemic. It just shows that the right thing to do for our health and safety was the right thing to do for economic mobility as well.”

On the plans for school reopening, and what she might have done differently

“We first got a draft for a school reopening plan late in the summer. We knew that this was a likelihood that schools would need to be remote in some fashion or another this school year, as early as when we shut down schools in March. And so there should have been some guidance very early on from the public health department, from the school department and from outside those agencies as well. We would be in a very different place today if there had been a conversation starting months ago about what facilities might be available, how to better equip our very old school buildings to handle the ventilation and air flow issues, and to think creatively about how we might be offering groups of students a safe way to come back to school all at once. Instead, at this point, we're left with some difficult choices because the planning did not happen until far too late into this school year.”

On the Boston Police Reform Task Force’s recommendations

“The recommendations from the task force are specific. They're actionable. They're impactful. Yes, absolutely: The city should take action on all of them. However, not all of the steps are as simple as passing legislation or allocating funding. So we need to make sure that what is completely within the city's power happens immediately, but that there's also the continued advocacy for the pieces that require state legislation, for the pieces that require collective bargaining that is ongoing now, to line up with what has been recommended by the task force. So, there are many ways that the administration and the city could be implementing this. And in fact, many of these recommendations echo similar recommendations that have been made in the past. This is an urgent priority, and the resources and the political will need to be put to making them happen.”

"We're actually building a movement here to connect with the real history of Boston, our legacy as a city that has always stood up for what is right, fighting for those systemic big picture changes, even when the odds are slim."

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu

On why she believes she can unseat an incumbent mayor

“We love our history in Boston. And, you know, the reality as a city that is full of history is, we know no one is the first until they do it, and it happens. And what I like to emphasize is that we're actually building a movement here to connect with the real history of Boston, our legacy as a city that has always stood up for what is right, fighting for those systemic big picture changes, even when the odds are slim. And this is a fight that is going to be a conversation with every community in the city, with every neighborhood of Boston, about how we can take action now with the bold, urgent leadership that our families deserve.”

This article was originally published on September 15, 2020.

This segment aired on September 15, 2020.

Tiziana Dearing Twitter Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.

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Walter Wuthmann Twitter Associate Producer
Walter Wuthmann is an associate producer in WBUR's newsroom.

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