Annissa Essaibi George, Michelle Wu discuss plans to address inequality in mayoral forum

Michelle Wu (left) and Annissa Essaibi George (right)
Finalists Michelle Wu (left) and Annissa Essaibi George (right) in the race for Mayor of Boston. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George)

By Dan Treacy
Boston University News Service

Boston mayoral finalists Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu participated in a mayoral forum on Tuesday night, co-hosted by King Boston and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, and broadcast on NBC10 Boston and NECN.

The conversations, held separately with each candidate, were anchored by King Boston executive director Imari Paris Jeffries, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts President and CEO Segun Idowu, and NBC10 anchor Latoyia Edwards.

The forum focused heavily on issues regarding racial inequality, and both candidates devoted significant time to their plans regarding reparations.

Essaibi George reiterated her commitment to investing $100 million in reparations, saying she would determine exactly how the money would be allocated after meeting with community members. “$100 million is a big dollar amount, but it gets swallowed up quickly,” Essaibi George said, adding that the money can be impactful for years when investment is “done well and done right.”

When asked about Boston residents who do not support reparations, Essaibi George extended an olive branch. “I welcome them into these conversations to watch, and observe and engage,” she said, claiming that every person plays a role in “correcting the wrongs of the past.”

Wu also committed to reparations for the Black community, but she stopped short of proposing a total dollar amount.

“In some ways, it’s easy to just pick a number,” Wu said, explaining that she’s “committed to setting aside funding for Black and brown-owned businesses,” and deploying $200 million in emergency relief funds to housing stability and homeownership.

Wu explained that she wants to sit down with community members and figure out where exactly reparation money would go before committing to a figure.

“Without going through the process of truly understanding the scale and scope of harms we are looking to redress, we will end up falling short,” Wu said.

When asked about her thoughts on directing emergency relief funds to Black-owned restaurants and businesses, Wu said the city must go further and also put money toward changing the system and building infrastructure in these communities to increase the number of such businesses. “Boston’s future is really on our shoulders at this moment,” Wu said, outlining goals to create more opportunities for Black entrepreneurs.

Wu also outlined a goal to surpass cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago in terms of the rate of city contract dollars given to business owners of color. She cited a study released in February that shows Boston only awarded 1.2% of all city contract dollars to Black and Latino-owned businesses during Marty Walsh’s first term as mayor.

Essaibi George decried the lack of Black-owned businesses in Boston as well, saying, “we’re basically starting from zero,” in planned efforts to increase the number of such businesses.

Tuesday’s forum came a day after the final mayoral debate, in which Essaibi George and Wu quarreled over their positions on the MBTA, rent control, and Mass. and Cass.

Early voting began on Saturday and runs through Friday, Oct. 29, with Election Day now less than a week away on Nov. 2.

The winner of next week’s election will be sworn in on Nov. 16.

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