by Amisha Kumar
Boston University News Service
Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, encircled by reporters and cameras, presented a unified front and working partnership between the city and state. They skipped out on details while speaking about their plans of action on issues of substance use and housing in a perfunctory press conference at Boston City Hall on Tuesday, following their first one-on-one meeting since Healey was elected governor last month.
“It was interesting in speaking because so many of the issues that we confront at a state level are issues that the city of Boston confronts as well,” said Healey. “I know this will be the first of many meetings and many regular meetings and conversations because that partnership between the city and the state is so, so important.”
The press conference was held following a private meeting between Healey and Wu about the Healey administration’s transition and “the important partnership between the state and the city,” according to the Healey-Driscoll press team. Before scurrying back behind closed doors, Healey and Wu complimented each other’s work, spoke of the importance of their partnership and briefly discussed confronting the state and city’s “pressing needs” around housing, transportation, substance use and climate action.
“We are here to help at the city level to make sure that her [Healey’s] administration is successful and really, really looking forward to this partnership,” said Wu while glancing back at Healey, who stood beside her.
According to a recent GBH interview, Wu said she has been conflicting with Gov. Charlie Baker over what she believes is a lack of sufficient support from the state for the substance use and homelessness crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, the epicenter of the opioid and addiction crisis in Boston. Wu commented on Healey’s commitment towards the issue and success as attorney general over lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.
“This is an issue that I know she [Healey] cares very deeply about [and] has already demonstrated in her years of public service…We are already able to benefit from the settlement that she secured and using some of those resources try to repair some of the harm from pharmaceutical companies and others in this space,” said Wu. “We have that commitment and we have that partner.”
Last month, Healey’s office announced settlements with Walmart, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan. According to the Boston Globe, her lawsuits reaped $26 billion in compensation, of which $525 million has gone to Massachusetts alone.
“I think about the money that has come in over the years. Some of it by way of settlements from the attorney general’s office, a lot of it through the legislature as well, and a lot of it has been provided by cities like Boston,” said Healey. “Right now, it’s about, let’s take stock of where things are at now, have those conversations and figure [out] what we need to do going forward.”
Wu commented on state funding for resolving the opioid crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, saying it has helped “move forward” harm reduction measures that are “meant to save lives.”
“There are many pieces that go into addressing the opioid crisis, but every step that we take has to also have to be about immediately saving lives, so we regularly take in many, many more syringes than are given out through harm reduction programs, for example,” Wu said. “We have seen a big drop and data-proven success with the goals of this program which are to ensure that there is a stop to communicable diseases which are preventable.”
Healey’s response to what the state is doing to help with the crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard lacked specifics, but she did call it an “ongoing discussion.”
“It’s all about communication and it is about the partnership,” Healey said.
Regarding housing affordability, a goal on both of their agendas, Wu and Healey did not mention any direct next steps. Healey made general comments, such as “we’re working really hard” and “[we are] looking at a lot of things we can do to support housing production around the state.”
“I’ve said that when it comes to this [rent control], it is up to communities to decide. I will tell you that housing will continue to be a priority for the Healey-Driscoll administration,” Healey said.
When Wu ran for mayor last year, she made rent stabilization a central part of her campaign. She said that she wants to place a home rule bill that would allow putting a rent control policy in Boston.
“The way that I approach policy is that it is not concrete until we have put the details forward,” Wu said. “Our goal is to really present all of the research, and conversations, and data, and thinking that is behind our policy and make the case that this is what we need in this moment in the city of Boston, and then work and engage the state at that point.”
A reporter asked Wu to comment on the narrative that she is “more progressive” than Healey. Wu paused after the question, smiled, then walked away from the reporters and cameras, maintaining the discreetness that persisted throughout the press conference.
The media aides suspended the conference within about nine minutes, leaving lingering questions and no concrete responses from the two leaders after a highly anticipated, almost month-long wait for a meeting between Healey and Wu.
“We have an incredible leader here, and the city and the state have a lot of big issues to tackle,” said Wu, “but I know with the governor’s leadership and the team that she’s assembling, we are gonna have some amazing, amazing progress here.”
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