Q&A: Wu Talks Free Public Transportation, Police Reform, Gentrification, and More

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At-Large City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu fielded questions about making public transportation free, structural changes to the Boston Police Department, an elected school committee, and more.

Q: Many of your big proposals require State House and Governor approval like a Free T and rent stabilization. What is your specific plan to get these passed on Beacon Hill?

Wu: Boston needs bold leadership and a broad coalition to fight for what we need. I’m proud to have the support of many state and federal leaders and know that we will have to work together at all levels of government to deliver change. Senator Markey and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley have proposed federal legislation to fund fare-free transit, and the former Chair of the State Senate Transportation Committee filed legislation for fare-free bus across the Commonwealth. With unprecedented federal dollars coming in, we need to take steps to partner to make our city more equitable and connected.

Q: You have said you'd like to defund the police. What does that mean? And what would be noticeable changes to the Boston Police Department?

Wu: In fact, I’ve said we need to invest more in the combination of public safety and public health. It’s clear that our system of public safety is not keeping everyone safe. It’s time to get serious about structural changes to the BPD with a contract that gets to the root of the reforms we need: transparency, accountability, and reducing wasteful overtime spending to reinvest in neighborhood-level services.

Q: How are you voting on Question 1 and why?

Wu: I am voting yes on Question 1. Participatory budgeting can help us rewrite the rules around who has a say on how money is spent in our city and brings residents into the political process. Yes on 1 will ensure transparency and accountability in our city, leading to more equitable investments.

Q: How are you voting on Question 3 and why?

Wu: We need more democracy and transparency in our school committee. However, we also need accountability to transform Boston Public Schools into a system of community schools that address each child’s needs holistically. I support a majority of elected members that represent BPS families they serve and appointed members by the mayor to ensure diversity, expertise, and representatives from student, parent and educator populations.

Q: Have you received vaccinations for COVID-19? As mayor, how would you continue the fight against the spread of COVID and misinformation about it?

Wu: Yes, I am vaccinated for COVID-19. I support proof of vaccination for high-risk indoor spaces such as restaurants or the gym, ensuring the city of Boston is not just putting the burden on local businesses to be the front lines of making rules and enforcing them. We need to invest in public health infrastructure and outreach across our city, meeting people where they are at through community organizations, neighborhood events and more.

Q: Both the state and city have been fortunate during the last 18 months to have infusions of federal money. This may be a cushion for changes in commercial real estate and property taxes during the next two years. What happens after that?

Wu: I have committed to invest $200M towards our housing crisis. These funds should not just be used as a short-term cushion but an investment that will make long-term change. We can achieve that by stabilizing renters, investing in new affordable housing infrastructure

Q: What are your plans to make Boston more accessible to people with disabilities in wintertime when snowbanks block curb cuts and bus stops for days or weeks at a time?

Wu: The resources we have in Boston should go to making sure that we are a city for everyone. As City Council President, I made sure that our city council chamber was renovated to be accessible for all and we need that citywide. As Mayor, I will ensure that we are connecting city resources with residents especially with regards for public transportation.

Q: Should the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) be reformed, and if so, how would you change it?

Wu: The ZBA works for those who know how to secure special development approvals or have the financial resources to navigate the complicated process. That’s why I supported the common sense reforms to add urban planning and environmental experts to the board and requiring board members to recuse themselves from projects they have been involved with in the past five years. As Mayor, I would establish clear and consistent rules defined through community planning and codified in an updated zoning code to ensure that our development process is transparent, accountable and equitable.

Q: You have proposed abolishing the Boston Planning & Development Agency. Why do you want to abolish it, and what would happen to the properties it owns and manages?

Wu: We must create a true city planning department that creates a long term vision for community resiliency that empowers all voices, rather than a few.

Q: Is gentrification good, bad, or both?

Wu: The rising cost of housing, exacerbated by an unreliable transportation system, and the stresses that come with spending more and more to stay in the city is a top concern I hear from families as I’m knocking on doors. We must use every possible tool to grow housing and stem displacement. From using rent stabilization for emergency relief to expanding homeownership opportunities for first generation homeowners, we must act now to create new opportunities for Bostonians, and ensure that Boston is truly a city for everyone.