By Anoushka Dalmia
BU News Service
“This is a vote about making sure we even have a democracy,” said City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu in an exclusive interview with BU News Service Tuesday. The remarks were made as she visited the Lilla G. Frederick Middle School gym, a polling station in Dorchester, to encourage voters and engage with the community.
The four-term city councilor spent the busy, cold election morning visiting polling stations in Charlestown, Mattapan, Chinatown and her neighborhood Roslindale. She came by Dorchester at noon and despite long lines, expressed confidence in Boston’s voting operations.
“We have seen incredible energy at the polls but we want to make sure we aren’t stopping because of early voting numbers being historically high,” said Wu about voter turnout in Boston communities with low voting rates. “We [want to] push past all those records by the end of the day.”
Complimentary meals were handed out to voters at the station by Fresh Food Generation Food Truck — a not-for-profit organization that works with local food producers and vendors to provide nutritional and affordable food to everyone. An advocate for food security, Wu thanked the founders of the organization, Cassandria Campbell and Jackson Renshaw, for their valuable work.
Wu’s advocacy for climate change and free MBTA travel signals a progressive lean in her policymaking. But she isn’t fretting over the moderate presidential Democratic ticket right now.
“This is about restoring the ability for us to have conversations about the direction our country should go to ensure that we are addressing this pandemic, and then taking action on issues of justice,” she said.
Even if former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris win, Wu said there is a lot to do.
“There will certainly need to be more advocacy, more activism,” she said. “And I know that at the local level, I’m going to be fighting to make sure that we are leading the way in Boston, towards that bold urgent leadership.”
Climate change, which has been a Democratic election priority in 2020, is also on Wu’s mind. She led the push for a Boston Green New Deal in the City Council in August and said she plans to make it a template for “any other city that wants to put their muscle behind organizing at the local level.”
“There’s so much that cities can do and we have a small window left to do it,” Wu said, talking about the need for every level of government participation in climate justice.
Wu also spoke about “Right to Repair,” Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot. “Right to Repair” would update the state’s law on motor vehicle repair data to include electronic vehicle data. This would allow local repair shops access to vehicle data with users’ permission.
“For me it was an issue of expanding economic access to local mom-and-pop businesses,” said Wu, who voted yes on the issue.
Privacy concerns surrounding the availability of users’ telematics data has made the issue contentious and Wu agreed that further legislative protections could be needed.
“With every ballot question, there needs to be further conversation about the legislative protections and further regulations that could ensure that we are thinking about all of the potentially unintended consequences,” she said.
Wu expressed hope for the passage of ranked choice voting – ballot Question 2 – in Massachusetts.
“This is a state with a huge pipeline of talent, activism and an incredible energy in terms of people participating and wanting to jump into political office,” she said. “Ranked choice voting makes sure that we are reflecting the true will of the people.”
As the daughter of immigrants and the first Asian-American to serve on the Boston City Council, Wu said she understands what it’s like to be unseen and unheard. She said her campaign is about creating a platform to reflect the hopes, dreams and struggles of every community in Boston.
“There are many barriers left to be broken in Boston,” she said. “In this moment, Boston is a city with the resources, the activism, the leadership, the ideas we need to lift up our communities.”