In annual address, Walsh highlights response to urgent issues

Photo by Gaelen Morse/BU News Service

By Elizabeth Dustin
BU News Service

Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh virtually delivered an annual address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Walsh touched on actions he has taken this year to address a wide range of urgent issues, from the COVID pandemic to systemic racism, and his plans for the city.

In both recorded remarks and live on Zoom, the mayor also focused on other issues such as education, struggling small businesses, and transportation problems.

“In tough times Bostonians work together,” Walsh said in recorded remarks from The Guild, a community organization that was launched to aid residents of color in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.

The Guild and other non-profits have significantly expanded under the Boston Resiliency Fund, which has raised $33.2 million since March. The Fund coordinates fundraising and philanthropic efforts aimed at assisting city residents during the pandemic. Under the Resiliency Fund, The Guild now serves over 30,000 residents throughout the city.

In the recorded video, Walsh outlined how he had taken action earlier in Boston’s fight against the pandemic than some had wished.

“We had to listen to that science and we had to take action,” Walsh said. He believes the city’s response has grown more substantial due to collaborations to develop programs to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Walsh highlighted the city’s commitment to providing accessible COVID testing, constructing the Boston Hope Medical Center, distributing 3.5 million meals to Boston citizens, providing 700,000 units of personal protection equipment, 40,000 laptops for students learning at home, doubling the homeless shelter capacity in the city and issuing $9 million to more than 2,500 small businesses. 

Despite the progress the city has made, Walsh noted that the pandemic is still a threat, especially to minorities.

“The inequalities affecting communities of color and immigrant communities continue to define the impact of this pandemic, the health impacts and the economic impacts as well,” he said. 

Walsh also discussed the Health Inequities Task Force, which he announced in late July to help fight systemic inequities. 

After the video address, Walsh was joined by the host of the virtual meeting, Jim Rooney, the Chamber Chief Executive, to discuss more about the mayor’s actions. Walsh continued the discussion focusing on improving policing in the city by building trust between the citizens of Boston and the police through reform and transparency with the community.

“The action has to be deeper than policy,” he said.

Rooney and Walsh also discussed the reopening of schools remotely last week. On Thursday, a hybrid model will begin for high-need students to return to school. 

During the pandemic, public transportation use in Boston has been down, which is threatening the MBTA financially and may require help from the federal government, said Walsh.

At the end of the virtual event, Walsh declined to answer whether he was considering running for mayor again in the mayoral election happening in 2021.

“My focus is on making sure that we continue to move Boston forward and that’s what all of our focus should be on,” he said.

If he chooses to run again, Walsh will face opposition in the race from two Boston city councilors, Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell.

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