Michelle Wu was elected to the Boston City Council in November 2013 at the age of 28. She is the first Asian-American woman to serve on the Council and the first woman of color to be elected Council President. She was the first candidate to announce a campaign for Mayor of Boston, back in September 2020.
Councilor Wu got her start in City Hall working for Mayor Thomas M. Menino as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy, where she helped streamline the city’s restaurant permitting process and launch Boston’s food truck program. She later served as statewide Constituency Director in the U.S. Senate campaign of her former law professor, Elizabeth Warren. She has served on the boards of the Kwong Kow Chinese School, RoxVote Coalition, Puerto Rican Veterans Monument Square Association, Julie’s Family Learning Program, Rosie’s Place, and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. When she lived in the South End, Wu served as Chair of the Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee.
Councilor Wu has authored more than half of all the legislation that has passed during her time on the City Council, including impactful ordinances that have put Boston on the map nationally–from guaranteeing paid parental leave, prohibiting discrimination in healthcare access for trans* workers, providing language access for all city services, protecting Boston’s renters by closing corporate loopholes for short-term rentals, requiring equity in city contracting, and ramping up renewable energy for all residents and small businesses in the city. She has been a national leader advocating for transit justice and outlining Boston’s pathway to fare-free public transportation as the foundation for racial and economic justice. In partnership with local and national activists, she has proposed the first municipal-level Green New Deal in the country.
In 2016, Councilor Wu was honored as one of Ten Outstanding Young Leaders by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and among Marie Claire magazine’s New Guard: The 50 Most Influential Women in America. In 2017 she received the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s highest honor, The Eleanor Roosevelt Award.
Michelle Wu graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She is fluent in Mandarin and Spanish, and she lives in Roslindale with her husband Conor and their two young sons, Blaise and Cass.
Three Major Science and Technology Related Efforts in Boston:
- Provided legal service to low-income patients at Boston Medical Center through the Medical Legal Partnership
- Drafted a Green New Deal for the city of Boston, which includes plans for sustainable energy initiatives such as increased affordable and sustainable housing
- Proposed initiatives to ensure that employees are provided with paid leave in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine and have adequate recovery
Boston Candidate Science Survey Response
Below are the survey responses from the candidate. To ensure the candidate’s voice comes through to the voters, the content of the answers are unedited.
Technology + Society
As the City uses more advanced technology to monitor city services and communicate with residents, how will you ensure citizens’ privacy rights as increasing numbers of monitoring devices are installed around the city? What will you do to make sure that the data collected will be used for the benefit of all Bostonians?
We need guardrails in place to proactively protect our residents’ right to privacy, rather than reacting to the use of novel technologies after the fact. I’m proud to have led the coalition that banned the use of racially discriminatory facial surveillance technology in Boston, and I’m continuing to work with advocates to pass a surveillance oversight ordinance that codifies requirements around transparency and public accountability, including that each proposed use of surveillance technology is reviewed and approved by the City Council. I’ve also worked to advance open data policies to break down barriers between Boston residents and City Hall and encourage civic innovation, with clear guidelines to ensure that public data does not infringe on privacy.
What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How will you ensure climate resiliency projects are distributed equitably among communities, especially in low-income neighborhoods? What are your policy priorities to protect areas of the city that are vulnerable to sea level rise (i.e. South Boston, Back Bay, Downtown, East Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Seaport)?
What are your policy priorities to protect areas that are vulnerable to increased temperatures during the summer months due to the urban heat island effect? Given that trees and an urban canopy have been shown to mitigate excess heat, how would you support the implementation of the Urban Forest Plan for Boston?
I’m proud to have authored the first ever comprehensive city-level Green New Deal in the U.S., developed in close partnership with scientists, advocates, and community organizations who have been leading the movement for climate justice here in Boston. The foundation of our Boston GND is that climate justice is racial and economic justice. BIPOC communities, working-class families, and immigrant communities are more likely to live near environmental hazards and face exposure to pollution, urban heat island effect, flooding, and other climate change impacts. From accelerating decarbonization, to implementing net zero building requirements and sustainable transportation access, we must act urgently to mitigate these threats and build resiliency, through following the lead of our most impacted communities. Green infrastructure improvements must be intertwined with community stabilization and closing the racial wealth gap so people benefit from green investments in their neighborhoods without fear of displacement and green jobs for the future. All of these issues are deeply interlinked, and the solutions we seek should be, as well.
Boston residents must find a sustainable way to live near rapidly rising waters, and policy discussions often focus on guarding against the harms of sea level rise through major projects such as coastline buffers and natural barriers, or through managed retreat. While planning for these efforts is necessary and timely, stopping there falls short of the potential for transformative change— coastal cities can manage ocean and coastal resources to reduce emissions and draw down carbon from the atmosphere while creating good jobs, sustainable food systems, and restoring clean water and access to our waterfronts. The Center for the Blue Economy recently released an Ocean Climate Action Plan, or Blue New Deal, that cities can support and complement. We need a local Blue New Deal to focus on the ocean’s tremendous potential to draw carbon down from the atmosphere with regenerative ocean farming, to generate renewable energy through offshore wind turbines, to nurture living shorelines that support marine biodiversity, to create jobs that support those efforts, and to promote community health and recreation.
The extreme heat waves we’ve experienced this summer have only underscored the urgency of climate action. We know that the urban heat island effect disproportionately affects our neighborhoods with a history of redlining and disinvestment, endangering the health and wellbeing of our Black and Latinx residents, and particularly our seniors, young people, and others vulnerable to heat stress. Our tree canopy plays an enormous role here. We need a comprehensive urban forest strategy to coordinate the complex factors affecting tree retention, growth, management and health. The City can use existing tree canopy and urban heat island maps to establish priority planting zones that can focus Parks and Recreation Department planting efforts on the areas of highest need while continuing to maintain and care for existing trees citywide. Any private development or reconstruction occurring within the priority planting zones would need to contribute either to the growth and maintenance of the area’s tree canopy and heat island reduction through tree planting, rooftop planting, permeable pavement or other suitable adaptations. I’ve also been pushing for the creation of an Urban Conservation Corps, to train Boston youth in the next generation of green jobs, including arborists and other green infrastructure specialists, connecting climate justice with economic opportunity for our young people.
What should the role of science and scientists be in government, policy, and decision-making? How does science fit into your agenda for Boston?
Misinformation has been cited as one of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy against the COVID-19 virus. How do you propose the City improve messaging in order to promote science-based actions and combat misinformation, not just for COVID-19, but also broadly?
During the Trump administration, we saw unprecedented attempts at the federal level to suppress scientific research, manipulate data, and distort the role of scientists serving the public. As the level of government closest to the people, City Hall has the unique potential to reverse that trend by bridging the gaps between science and community, building the platform to co-create policies that make Boston safer, healthier, more sustainable, and more just. Boston is home to some of the preeminent scientists and science institutions in the world, but it’s the responsibility of City government to leverage these immense resources to integrate sound science into evidence-based policymaking.
To combat misinformation, build trust in government, and encourage civic engagement, we need to lead with transparency, sharing data publicly and communicating openly and honestly. In February, I proposed an ordinance to extend paid sick time for City employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine and, if necessary, recover from any possible side effects. At the time, I noted that particularly given the long history of medical disenfranchisement of Black, Latinx and other residents of color, Boston’s public officials have a responsibility to speak honestly about the potential side effects, and make all possible accommodations to mitigate the burdens that these side effects may place on fulfilling personal and family obligations. I’ll continue to lead with honesty and transparency as Mayor, not only to support Boston’s recovery from COVID-19, but in all areas of governing moving forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in healthcare access for different neighborhoods in Boston. As of June 29, 2021, we know that only 38% of residents in Mattapan were fully vaccinated compared to over 70% of South End residents. How can ideas about distributing vaccines, challenging misinformation related to healthcare, and tackling language barriers be applied more broadly to form a more equitable healthcare system? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics or health crises in a more effective way?
The next mayor will be responsible for ushering the city through the ongoing crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reshaped every aspect of our lives. Leadership during this crisis means maintaining a robust system of vaccinations, testing, contract tracing, and public health outreach built on science and grounded in public trust and transparency. Back in January, I filed an ordinance to ensure at least one vaccination site in every neighborhood, open at times that are convenient for working families – knowing that without proactive planning from City Hall, the vaccine roll-out would only deepen existing inequities in our City. These inequities are borne out in the current vaccination disparities across neighborhoods. To protect our residents, we need to meet people where they’re at, leveraging every touchpoint that the City has with our residents to share information with our residents and lower every barrier to vaccination. In anticipation of younger children becoming eligible for the vaccine, we must work proactively with families, school nurses, and community partners to ensure that every Boston Public Schools student can access the vaccine, with culturally-competent clinicians and trusted scientific messengers to answer families’ questions and protect the health of BPS communities. And we need to be partnering with small businesses across our City to set out clear, consistent regulations on vaccination for high-risk indoor spaces like gyms, salons, and restaurants to ensure protection for all our communities.
Moving forward, we must recognize that racism is an ongoing public health crisis in Boston, and that the same inequities that we’ve seen throughout the pandemic continue to impact our residents – from tragic disparities in Black maternal health, to the epidemic of gun violence that disproportionately harms Black and brown communities, to unacceptable levels of food insecurity in communities of color, particularly for families with children. To close these gaps and build a Boston where every resident can thrive, we need public health policy grounded in racial justice, with linguistically and culturally competent care, access to gender affirming services, and health policy that centers people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should the City’s role be in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?
With federal dollars flowing into BPS, we need plans in place right now to build a recovery strategy that is grounded in what students, parents, educators, and community members have repeatedly called for. Students need equitable access to quality mental health and trauma supports, including the Internet connectivity and digital tools to guarantee predictable remote access. Schools need adequate staffing of trained counselors, nurses, and community liaisons who speak the languages of their school communities. We need greater emphasis on social-emotional learning, and we need to recognize the long-term mental health impacts of this pandemic, with student voices to shape the services available and forms of outreach. And we need to make enriching, year-round opportunities available to all of our young people – including academic tutoring and other intensive programming over the summers, but also sports, music, hands-on project-based learning, STEM, visual art, and everything else that makes students excited to learn. And finally, we need to partner with community organizations, community colleges, and workforce development programs to target resources for students who were scheduled to graduate in 2020 or 2021 to ensure that these young people don’t slip through the cracks.
I’ve put forward a comprehensive community vision for Boston’s students and families that outlines our plan to make our school system fairer and easier to navigate for families and unlock our city’s full promise and potential, rather than underscoring its racial and socioeconomic divisions. Our plan includes proposals to:
- Bring a Green New Deal to Boston schools, so that every school community member can teach and learn in a healthy, safe environment.
- Invest in the recruitment, retention, and ongoing support of educators of color.
- Expand mentorship programs for newer educators as well as preparation for the Massachusetts’ teacher certification exam.
- Build a human capital pipeline to support and foster leadership development within schools and as a pathway to Central Office leadership, including by strengthening paid internal fellowship programs and allowing teachers to take roles in Central Office and then have the option to return to the classroom.
- Support the human needs of educators, with adequate support staff to minimize burnout, quality coaching, and mental health services.
- Provide adequate administrative space for teachers and school staff to work privately and collaborate with their colleagues.
- Listen to the voices of teachers in creating rigorous, age-appropriate, anti-racist curricula.
- Offer professional development specifically designed to fulfill the needs of ESL teachers and special educators.
- Create a Teacher Advisory Board to provide teachers authentic voice in policy decisions that impact them.
- Commit to the co-teaching model of inclusion to ensure teachers can properly meet the variety of needs of students in inclusion classrooms.
- Lead with the vision that by providing students and families access to supports for the whole child, teachers’ jobs become more sustainable and fulfilling. When the physical and emotional needs of children are met, then academic learning can be the primary focus of classrooms.
Boston’s technology, innovation, and scientific research ecosystem has long made it a hub that attracts a diverse group of people and talent from around the world. How can the city maintain and foster its international status as a technological hub and attract immigrant scientists to strengthen the diversity, culture, and economic activity of Boston?
Representation matters. Immigrant communities must see themselves reflected in the business, culture, and neighborhoods that make up Boston. Our city is young, diverse, and innovative—we must urgently lean into this strength to change our local dynamic and national reputation, so Boston becomes a welcoming, integrated, and thriving environment for immigrants and their families. We must foster an ecosystem that elevates BIPOC professionals with networks and opportunities to thrive.
To remain a global leader in talent and opportunity, Boston must lead the way in transforming livability and affordability for everyone making a home here: bringing down the cost of living for our workforce and boosting civic infrastructure for quality of life. The pandemic triggered changes to the commercial and residential real estate markets that will last long after COVID-19, and it has deepened and exposed racial disparities and the systemic fragility of so many necessary supports, such as the care economy. Many employers are downsizing in-person office space as employees prefer to maintain some remote work, so we need a new value proposition to maintain and build on Boston’s role as a global hub for technology, innovation, and scientific research. I’ve released plans to close the gap for early education and childcare to support working families and transform our public schools. Let’s align downtown vacancies for onsite childcare, supercharge our arts and culture sector, and use every tool at our disposal to grow our supply of affordable housing and stabilize our communities. We can recognize the centrality of our restaurants and food businesses to bringing back foot traffic across our downtown and neighborhood business districts. And we must plan for the housing, transportation, and climate future that not only attracts immigrant scientists, but enables them to build a long-term home for themselves and their families.
What is your plan to strengthen the Boston scientific research and technology enterprise to benefit our economy? How can you ensure that the economic benefits of investing in science and technology reach all Bostonians?
In this time of economic uncertainty emerging from the pandemic, Boston’s recovery depends on coordinated leadership across all sectors to ground our recovery in a vision to deliver long-term growth, equity and resilience. With disruption in our commercial real estate market and the continued growth in demand for laboratory space, this is a critical moment for proactive partnership across the public, private and non-profit sectors to rebuild and reinvest in science, technology, and the innovation economy. In a global competition for talent and capital, we must align efforts to make housing and childcare affordable, address traffic and invest in public transportation, transform our public schools, and take bold action for climate resiliency.
We must also ensure that all of Boston’s young people can envision a future for themselves in our science and technology ecosystem. Boston Public Schools has seen the persistence of troubling disparities across BPS facilities that perpetuate racial inequities. Schools disproportionately serving students of color, for example, are less likely to have science labs and other critical facilities for learning. As Mayor, I’ll budget for a foundation of resources and staffing at every school, including fully-equipped science labs and technological equipment. Every BPS facility should also include outdoor space, including a school garden to give every student the opportunity to connect with nature, grow food and other plants, and experience real-world applications of their science curriculum. I’ve also released a plan to build a connected city through digital equity by breaking down silos across city departments to create digital resource and learning hubs through our schools, libraries, and community centers for all BPS students and their families to access broadband, technology, and digital skills training, so that they’re prepared for the jobs of the future.
As Mayor, I will lead with a proactive vision to close disparities in our city while fueling our growth, with a focus on creating the civic infrastructure for all sectors to shape and be aligned on policy-making and community-building. I’ll ensure regular convenings and transparent metrics to deliver on our shared goals, with dedicated resources to follow up on action steps. From building world-class vocational education pathways, to closing the gap for childcare and early education, to tackling housing and transportation access, we will work collaboratively with the business community to deliver urgent progress.
Food + Agriculture
What policies do you propose for the City to maximize land use in the city for green spaces and community access to gardens or farms? How can your administration bring more transparency to this process and connect community groups to the resources they need to support sustainable urban farming?
Urban farming is a racial and economic justice issue, and as Mayor, I will dedicate City resources to break down the barriers to creating new farms and community gardens and support existing agriculture projects. I’ve laid out a food justice agenda that outlines my commitment to growing opportunities for urban farming. On the City Council, I have been pushing to expand our use of green and social bonds, which have been used in other cities to finance urban agriculture projects. City Hall must acknowledge the ‘use value’ of land, expanding the spaces available for farming by transforming non-buildable vacant lots into new community gardens, using tax incentives or vacant lot registry fees to encourage private landowners to transfer lots to aspiring farmers. The BPDA must carefully assess the vacant parcels under its control to identify those suitable for agriculture and proactively seek out interested buyers looking for farming opportunities. We should also be lowering the barriers to entry for new and aspiring farmers by providing soil testing and remediation services – potentially through a newly created Urban Conservation Corps, which can also teach regenerative agricultural practices to build environmental stewardship among Boston’s youth. The City can subsidize the installation of new water connections, the procurement of technical assistance for sites that will require more extensive engineering, and other infrastructure necessary for commercial production. And finally, we should expand financial support for existing programs that connect Boston residents with agriculture, such as the Urban Farming Institute’s Build 100 Grow Beds campaign, which provides residents with the tools they need to grow their own food in their backyards, porches, or window sills.