What will Boston’s new Wuniverse bring?
In her victory speech after cruising to a landslide win in the Boston mayor’s race, Michelle Wu spoke of the urgency of “bold” change to “meet the moment” the city is facing, a theme she sounded throughout her campaign. But she also talked about the importance of basic city services, saying her administration can pay attention to both.
Wu seems poised to chart a very different course than the last several Boston mayors, with plowing the streets after snow storms likely to be accompanied by a zest for big policy ideas perhaps not seen since Kevin White’s days in City Hall. That promise was a big part of her election success, said Yawu Miller, senior editor of the Bay State Banner.
“I think people really responded to her ideas,” Miller said. For much of the last century, Miller said, Boston elections often turned on ethnicity and which neighborhood a candidate was from, with those tribal loyalties often the coin of the electoral realm. “Ethnicity mattered way more than ideas,” he said. “And I think that equation has kind of flipped on its head.”
Miller was joined on this week’s Codcast by Gin Dumcius, managing editor of the Dorchester reporter, to size up Wu’s runaway victory and how she’s likely to govern going forward.
“It’s a different city than it was even 10 years ago or even eight years ago when Marty Walsh ran,” said Miller. “The electorate is more racially heterogeneous, so race doesn’t matter as much. She came with bold ideas and I think that the electorate is way more in tune with voting for things like mitigating climate change, because we have a younger electorate, making the MBTA free.”
Dumcius said Wu moved smoothly during campaign appearances between smaller-bore city service issues and her big-picture vision. At one event at a Mattapan church, he recalled, she was told she had limited time to answer a particular question. “Okay, I’m going to do some nitty-gritty and some big,” Wu said. “I think that kind of summed up where she was trying to steer the campaign,” said Dumcius.
At a Charlestown house party, he said, Wu offered up a very “granular” answer to a question about bottlenecks in the city’s permitting process. “The building inspectors are overworked and understaffed,” he said she told the gathering. “So they are responding to the people who are bugging them the most about permits. And she said, ‘you know, if we hire a dozen or so administrative assistants for these building inspectors, that could quadruple their productivity.’”
Meanwhile, Dumcius said, while Wu’s talk about sweeping policy changes like fare-free MBTA service has been derided as “pie-in-the-sky” thinking, Joe Aiello, who chaired the T’s oversight board for six years, endorsed her campaign. Dumcius said he asked Aiello how a guy charged with worrying about the agency’s shaky finances could get behind a candidate promoting that idea. “He said, ‘you know, she’s already changed the conversation on fare-free MBTA with just pushing it,’” said Dumcius. What’s more, said Dumcius, Wu is a very strategic thinker. The gist of Aiello’s view, he said, was “if a fare-free MBTA is a trip to Jupiter, Michelle Wu knows how to build a space program to get there.”
That could, however, be a very long journey. There are bound to be moments when some of her big ideas collide with the messy reality of how things get done and the pace at which change happens, if at all. “I think activists are at some point going to be disappointed,” said Dumcius, calling that “part and parcel” of what happens when a candidate shifts from campaigning to governing.
“She’s promised a lot,” said Miller, “and she has a lot to deliver on.”
ER diversion: Some hospitals are dealing with very long wait times in emergency rooms for mental health services by referring patients to support services they can receive at home. Data from 2020 indicate nearly a third of the 28,000 behavioral health-related visits to ERs led to patients waiting more than 12 hours for a bed.
— Youth Villages is one alternative. The nonprofit launched a program in March where it evaluates children waiting in ERs and works with them and their families to provide treatment at home. The program has helped 43 children in southeast and central Massachusetts and is now expanding into western Massachusetts. Read more.
T bonuses: MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak gave $1,000 pandemic bonuses to 400 nonunion employees. Read more.
Getting too big: Douglas S. Brown, the chief administrative officer at UMass Memorial Health in Worcester, asks when is enough enough for Mass General Brigaham, which is seeking to expand into Westborough, Woburn, and Westwood. He says the expansion threatens the state’s fragile health care ecosystem. Read more.
Getting to yes: Gordon van Welie, who oversees the New England power grid, says the region needs to reach consensus on which transmission infrastructure projects to build and how to pay for them. Read more.
Thanks, Maine voters: Energy consultant Mike Hachey explains why Maine voters did Massachusetts a favor in blocking a power line carrying hydro-electricity from Quebec. Read more.
Sounding the alarm: Health care strategist Ellen Lutch Bender says health care workers are abandoning their jobs in droves. Read more.
Support for DPH: Dr. Alan Woodward, a former member of the state’s Public Health Council, disputes Paul Hattis’s criticism of the Department of Public Health, saying the agency is focused on cost and benefits, not just costs. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Lawmakers are loading up the ARPA spending bill with pet projects through lots of local earmarks. (Salem News)
Municipalities are refinancing their bonds to save money while interest rates are low. (Patriot Ledger)
Business leaders see lots of overlap in their agenda and that of incoming Boston mayor Michelle Wu. (Boston Globe)
Right-wing protesters railing against mask and vaccine mandates clashed with counter-demonstrators on Boston Common on Sunday. (Boston Globe)
St. Vincent Hospital declares an impasse with its long-striking nurses. What’s next? (Telegram & Gazette)
The passage of the $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill gives President Biden some momentum. (NPR) Rep. Ayanna Pressley was one of just six Democrats to vote against the bill, which passed with 13 Republicans crossing over to support it. (Boston Globe) Rep. Lori Trahan’s office said Massachusetts would see more than $12.5 billion in infrastructure spending under the legislation. (Boston Globe)
The world climate summit in Glasgow is exposing a huge generational divide, with young activists who took the streets there on Saturday saying the leaders in charge of the meetings aren’t approaching the crisis with the urgency it demands. (Boston Globe)
Political dirty tricks come to Newton, some worse than others. City Councilor Emily Norton is caught on camera distributing an anonymous flier carrying Trumpian quotes by city council candidate Jim Cote, who is a Republican but not a Trump Republican.(Boston Globe)
Gov. Baker signs off on plans to redraw the state’s legislative districts. (Associated Press)
Haverhill Rep. Andy Vargas scraps his run for state Senate, opting instead to run for reelection to the House. (State House News Service)
A new Boston advocacy group is being launched to push for comprehensive changes to the childcare system. (Boston Globe)
The New York Times spotlights Boston in a look at the tension between the unionized construction trades and efforts to boost minority employment and contracting in the construction sector.
Tech workers in the Greater Boston area are increasingly writing their own ticket in a hot market desperate for talent. (Boston Globe)
Five years after Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana, there are 176 retailers who have made more than $2 billion worth of sales, but concerns remain around equity and stigma. (MassLive) The Boston Globe has a similar look-back at the industry, which also flags concerns about local control.
Walt Bell was fired as the UMass Amherst football coach after the team’s loss to FCS Rhode Island on Saturday. In three years as head coach, Bell had a record of 2 wins and 23 losses. Bell is owed $937,500 on the rest of his contract, which paid him $625,000 a year. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
A Revolutionary War battle plan drawn up by a Westfield Army engineer in 1780 is restored by Historic Deerfield. (MassLive)
Big Bird gets his COVID-19 vaccine, angering conservatives. (MassLive)
The US is lifting restrictions on travel from a long list of countries. (NPR)
Rich Barlow, a writer for BU Today, urges Boston mayor-elect Michelle Wu to give up her bid for a fare-free MBTA. (WBUR)
The state and private energy companies are exploring whether large-scale batteries can be used to store electricity and make the power grid more resilient and reliable. (Eagle-Tribune)
A former New Bedford District Court officer sues the Trial Court, alleging a decade of racist and sexist harassment, culminating in a plan to have her attacked in her home. (MassLive)
An inmate at the Berkshire County Jail is found dead of an apparent suicide. (Berkshire Eagle)MEDIA
Netflix is facing more active libel suits than any major news organization. (Hollywood Reporter)