Wu takes on Year 2
‘HAPPY TO BE SWAGLESS’ — Michelle Wu spent her first year as mayor reshaping Boston government. She's aiming to advance her progressive agenda in a bigger way in her second.
A year into her historic tenure as the first woman and first person of color elected Boston mayor, Wu has expanded the city’s fare-free bus pilot program, increased equity in its contracting and made strides in connecting those who are homeless and struggling with addiction at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard to shelter and services.
She’s also encountered plenty of challenges — some foreseen, some not. Wu averted a state takeover of the Boston Public Schools only to head into a monthlong shutdown of a key subway line while still trying to fill her Cabinet. The protests that began over her Covid-19 mandates have evolved. Tents and drugs keep returning to Mass and Cass.
Wu is starting her second year by setting expectations for the next governor when it comes to Mass and Cass and public transportation. She’s preparing a package of policy proposals — including on rent control — that will test the strength of her relationships on Beacon Hill. And she’s continuing to command national attention as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars.
“We’re already starting to see changes in who’s at the table, how we do business and the impacts that we have,” Wu told Playbook this week. “Now that our internal foundation is a little bit more set, we’ll be able to have more time and space to really strengthen community relationships and partnerships.”
Here are excerpts from Playbook’s City Hall interview with Wu, edited for length:
What has your relationship been like with Gov. Charlie Baker and what do you hope will be different with incoming governor Maura Healey? (Healey and Wu have not met since Election Day.)
Governor Baker has been responsive. He announced fairly early on in my tenure that he wasn't running for reelection, so it’s been a different dynamic just knowing that there will be changes at the state level as the months go by. So, I'm really excited to welcome the new administration and build for the long term.
What are your goals for the next legislative session on Beacon Hill? Fare-free transit? Rent control? More support for Mass and Cass?
Those are all components of [our legislative package]. … With Mass and Cass, for example, we have a model that really works, we just need the state’s help in creating and expanding this model in other cities and towns across the commonwealth. … The reliability of our public transit system is at the foundation of everything, every other issue that we’re working on, so having a voice on the [MBTA’s governing board] and seeing a focus for the state will be really important.
What comes next in your transit advocacy beyond the MBTA GM search?
I’m really excited that the governor-elect in her platform has already voiced support for fare-free buses and an immediate discounted fare for low-income residents. One major change that could happen very quickly … is for equity in the commuter rail pricing system. When we saw when the commuter rail was free or at the same price as the subway during the [Orange Line] shutdown, a whole lot more people chose to get on rather than driving in.
Do people talk to you on the T yet?
Not full-on chattering, but people will now introduce themselves more and have brief conversations.
What did you think of that NYT headline: “Does the Democratic Party Want Swagger? Or Does It Want Michelle Wu?”
I’m very happy to be swagless. … We are a city that knows how to have swagger without having to say that we have swagger.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. It’s Q&A Day here at Playbook. Scroll down for a special surprise.
TODAY — Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and administration officials attend a college affordability roundtable at Mass Bay Community College’s Framingham campus at 11:45 a.m. Baker speaks at MAHP’s annual conference at 8 a.m. at the Seaport Hotel in Boston and at the Massachusetts Senior Care Conference at 10 a.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester. Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll speaks at the MAHP conference at 12:45 p.m. Wu attends Vicinity Energy's gas boiler decommissioning event at 9:45 a.m. in Cambridge. Rep. Seth Moulton participates in 97Percent’s virtual gun safety conference at noon.
Tips? Scoops? Thoughts on who I should do a Q&A with next? Email me: [email protected].
— CRYPTO CALAMITY: Continuing the Bay State’s storied tradition of somehow being involved in everything, the FTX meltdown has ensnared everyone from a Lenox restaurateur to Tom Brady and David Ortiz. I’ve called in Massachusetts Playbook’s most crypto-savvy alum, The Block’s Stephanie Murray, to help explain it all:
What is FTX and what happened to it?
FTX is one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges. At FTX’s peak in January, the company was valued at $32 billion. The firm came crashing down after a run on its native utility token, which is called FTT. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last week. It was a huge shock to the very interconnected crypto industry.
What are all the Massachusetts ties here?
Oh boy, where to even begin. Brady and Ortiz got hit with a class-action lawsuit Wednesday for promoting FTX, along with lots of other celebrities who were part of the exchange’s aggressive marketing campaigns.
Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried went to MIT. He stepped down from FTX last week when the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Meanwhile, the co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets is a well-known restaurateur in the Berkshires. Ryan Salame has invested millions in Lenox restaurants and real estate, the Berkshire Eagle has noted. He’s also a big GOP political donor.
The CEO of now-bankrupt Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s crypto trading firm, also has Massachusetts ties: Caroline Ellison, the chief executive, graduated from Newton North High School.
So what happens next?
The next phase of the FTX meltdown will play out in court. Bankruptcy proceedings could take years. Then there’s the class-action suit and investigations by federal agencies. Congress is already eyeing hearings into FTX, too, although it’s not clear if Bankman-Fried or others from the company will show up to testify.
— “Voters signal support for Medicare for all,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “More than 16 years after Massachusetts started requiring every citizen to carry health insurance, advocates say they're building support to again transform the state's health care system. In last Tuesday's midterm elections, voters in 20 House districts signaled their support for proposals to create a single-payer health care system by approving non-binding referendums asking their elected representatives to support it.”
— “One year in, the jury is still out on Boston Mayor Wu’s ability to make sweeping changes,” by Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News: “This week marks Michelle Wu’s first year as mayor of Boston, but political observers agree that 12 months is too small a window to assess whether she has fulfilled her promise to voters to be the agent of sweeping change. While the mayor has laid the groundwork toward rent control and some other big-ticket reform items she ran on — like fare-free transit, overhaul of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and revamped police contracts to tamp down overtime — none of those changes have yet come to pass. The Wu administration has, however, had a clear impact on how City Hall views issues of diversity. Perhaps the most significant is the $17 million contract with City Fresh Foods to service the Boston Public Schools. It's the largest non-construction contract the city has awarded to a certified, Black-owned business.”
— More from Wintersmith: “Mayor Wu says staffing and contract talks consumed a lot of her first year.”
— “Attleboro mayor to submit resignation Nov. 23, proposes Jan. 31 for election to replace him,” by George W. Rhodes, The Sun Chronicle: “Mayor Paul Heroux announced Tuesday that he will submit his letter of resignation when the state certifies his election as Bristol County sheriff on Nov. 23. His announcement came in a letter to the city council. Meanwhile, he canceled the vacation he planned for next week and said he will work through to the end of the year. As a result, council President Jay DiLisio will not have to fill in as acting mayor until Heroux becomes sheriff in early January. DiLisio is vying to replace Heroux, as are fellow councilor Cathleen DeSimone and former councilor John Davis.”
— GOVERNOR 101: Gov.-elect Maura Healey is off to Charleston, South Carolina, for the National Governors Association’s Seminar for New Governors. Think of it as governor school. She’ll be there through Saturday, a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker’s back in Massachusetts after a few days at the Republican Governors Association meetings in Florida, where he chatted with my POLITICO colleague Alex Isenstadt hours before former President Donald Trump said he was making a second run at a second term.
Baker again called for his party to “move on” from Trump, saying “the extremism that has come to be associated with the former president isn’t going to win a lot of races.” And he praised Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp for his resistance to overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election in his state.
— “Healey admin must tackle Mass. workforce crisis, policy analyst says,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “The incoming Healey-Driscoll administration should better coordinate scalable workforce development programs that remain disjointed across state government agencies to combat a long-term crisis, a leading Beacon Hill policy analyst advised Wednesday. Existing infrastructure is not equipped to retrain 300,000 people as identified in a Future of Work Report released by the Baker administration last year, said Doug Howgate, the executive vice president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.”
— “MBTA says ridership won’t be back to normal in 5 years,” by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “The MBTA is not expecting ridership to return to pre-COVID levels within the next five years, even with the addition of new services like the Green Line extension and South Coast Rail. Under the T’s most optimistic ridership scenario, fare revenue will only reach 93 percent of pre-COVID levels by the end of fiscal 2028. Under the scenario the T believes is most likely, fare revenue will hit 78 percent of pre-COVID levels in fiscal 2028.”
— “MBTA projects $404M budget gap by 2026,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald: “The MBTA forecasts that one-time revenues will close projected budget gaps in fiscal year 2024 and ‘25, but says those funds won’t cover a shortfall expected to exceed $400 million in FY26. And that $404 million budget deficit could soar to $473 million in fiscal '28, based on the lower than pre-pandemic-level ridership scenario the MBTA is using for its projections, Chief Financial Officer Mary Ann O’Hara told the T’s Audit & Finance subcommittee on Wednesday.”
— “SJC reinstates Newton judge accused of helping undocumented immigrant evade ICE agent,” by Nick Stoico, Boston Globe: “The state’s high court ended the suspension of Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph on Wednesday, allowing her to return to the bench after the justice department dropped charges accusing her of helping an undocumented immigrant evade a federal agent who had come to the courthouse to detain him in 2018.”
— “Daughter of former Fitchburg mayor, onetime legislative staff chief pleads guilty to tax evasion,” by Craig S. Semon, Telegram & Gazette: “A daughter of a former Fitchburg mayor and former chief of staff of a state senator pleaded guilty to owing close to $250,000 in federal income taxes for gross income from her business. Christianne A. ‘Christy’ Mylott-Coleman, 54, pleaded guilty to five counts of filing a false tax return Wednesday in federal court. Mylott-Coleman never reported her gross income from her home health care business on her tax returns for 2016 through 2020, according to court documents.”
— “For Mass. Republicans, dismay with a dash of nostalgia as Trump runs again,” by Adam Reilly, GBH News: “Before Donald Trump announced his third presidential campaign Tuesday night, Jim Lyons, the chair of the Mass. GOP, wrote two Facebook posts that included photos from Mar-a-Lago and were cross-posted to the official page of the state party. ... That Lyons would strike a supportive note around Trump’s latest bid is no surprise: on his watch, the Mass. GOP enthusiastically embraced the Trump brand while repudiating the more moderate Republicanism of Charlie Baker, the state’s popular outgoing governor. But other Massachusetts Republicans have a very different take on Trump’s formal return to the electoral fray. ‘I think it’s predictable, but I think it’s a terrible idea,’ said Kevin O’Connor, who ran for the U.S. Senate against Ed Markey in 2020."
— "Same-sex marriage protections clear critical Senate hurdle," by Marianne LeVine, POLITICO: "The Senate on Wednesday narrowly advanced legislation to protect same-sex marriage, sending it on to near-certain passage. In a 62-37 vote, 12 Republicans voted with all Democrats to move forward on the bill, after negotiators reached a bipartisan deal to include protections for religious liberty. The vote on final passage could occur as soon as this week."
— "Republicans flip the House," by Ally Mutnick and Jessica Piper, POLITICO.
— WHAT THEY SAID: The Boston Globe's Samantha J. Gross dives further into the text messages between Florida officials and others involved in plotting to send 49 migrants to Martha's Vineyard in September. The DeSantis administration quickly took credit for the flights, which resulted in a criminal probe and a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of some of the migrants.
— More: "Migrants who arrived unexpectedly on Martha's Vineyard now settling in on Cape Cod," by Susan Vaughn, Cape Cod Times: "When the time came to find more stable housing for the migrants, the Housing Assistance Corp. of Cape Cod and local residents helped 15 to 20 people get into temporary homes across the Cape and the Vineyard. The migrants are pursuing permanent visas or asylum through the federal government."
— "Politicians spar over State Pier's future, as new interests converge on New Bedford's waterfront," by Ben Berke, The Public's Radio: "New Bedford’s state legislators are sounding alarms that control over the state-owned pier where ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket dock could be changing hands without their oversight."
— “Advocate, councilor fault lack of oversight in Worcester police probe,” by Brad Petrishen, Telegram & Gazette: “In the hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil rights probe into the Police Department on Tuesday, community leaders met with federal investigators and several city councilors traded concerns. In a meeting she called with community members Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael S. Rollins declined to state specifically what sparked the investigation but noted that the department’s due diligence includes scrutiny of media reports, court settlements and complaints.”
— More: "Worcester Police Dept. has paid out millions in lawsuits over the years," by Tom Matthews, MassLive.
— “Empty Dorms at Salem State to Be Used for Temporary Housing,” by Bianca Beltrán, NBC10 Boston: “Vacant dorms at Salem State University's South Campus will be used to house dozens of homeless families and migrants who recently arrived in Massachusetts. The school closed the Bates Complex earlier this year as part of its long-term plans to sell South Campus and concentrate programming in the campus core.”
— “Harvard, Yale law schools to withdraw from US News & World Report rankings,” by Shealagh Sullivan and Camilo Fonseca, Boston Globe.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Ann Murphy, partner at Seven Letter; Aidan Golub, Alexandra Goodwin, Sophia Wang, policy director for Boston City Council President Ed Flynn; and Laurie Norton Moffatt. Happy belated to Josh Gee, who celebrated Wednesday.
NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: TURKEY, TWITTER AND THE WU TRAIN — The Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter joins hosts Lisa Kashinsky and Steve Koczela to discuss the successes and trials of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's first year in office. Kashinsky and Koczela take stock of the state of the Republican Party in Massachusetts and nationally. Also, alliteration abounds! Subscribe and listen on iTunes and SoundCloud.
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