Legislature

Michelle Wu has big ideas. If she is elected mayor, Beacon Hill could decide if a lot of them happen.


Wu has “very lofty goals: ‘Let’s go after the rent control. Let’s free the T. ‘ . . . She at least put a marker there to overthrow the system. But it’s not a system that’s easy to move, ”said state representative Russell E. Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat who weighs who to support in the race.

“I’m going to spend a tremendous amount of time with my achievable questions,” he said. “You can have a bold marker, but when do you get there? “

Beacon Hill has control over a variety of municipal affairs, from building codes and licensing of liquor to whether a city can generate new forms of certain revenue. And on several occasions, Boston needs the Legislature to approve a so-called Home Rule petition to bring about major changes in the law.

Essaibi George has particularly grappled with the viability of several of Wu’s plans, criticizing her fellow city councilor for pursuing unrealistic goals, including pushing for free public transport which she describes as “legislating by hashtag.”

Wu’s campaign, in turn, has repeatedly pointed out that it has “the most support from Beacon Hill.” She has received support from at least 22 lawmakers, including outside Boston, to that of Essaibi George, offering proof of her ability to build relationships there.

“There is consensus at all levels that we need to be creative and daring to understand how quickly we support our communities,” Wu said. “This is the time for collaboration and partnership. “

Its not always easy. Former Mayor Martin J. Walsh had been a state legislator and had a good relationship with Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican. Yet it has struggled to achieve certain priorities, either because they were rejected or because they lacked the necessary public funding. When he first raced in 2013, for example, Walsh promised free preschool for everyone – something Wu and Essaibi George also offer. But when he stepped down this year, the city offered enough seating for just over half of Boston’s 4-year-olds, leaving Walsh to complain that the city needed “a bigger level engagement. of State “.

Walsh scored a victory over housing when lawmakers agreed this year to give the city more power to secure affordable housing commitments from developers. But an earlier offer to help prevent tenants from being moved – a key plank of Walsh’s housing platform midway through his tenure – failed in the Legislature.

Several parts of Wu’s platform rely on state membership. Roslindale Democrat called for removing MBTA tariffs, supported re-establishing rent controls decades after Massachusetts voters were banned, and proposed a plan to reshape the city’s development, including dissolving Boston Planning & Development Agency.

These are all actions that would require State House approval. It also proposed a “Boston Green New Deal”, a vast environmental plan that includes, among other measures, speeding up the deadlines for achieving city-wide carbon neutrality and installing more solar infrastructure on municipal buildings – actions falling under the city’s authority. But the plan also calls for free public buses and an increase in the gasoline tax to pay for it, which would specifically require legislative action.

Baker, for his part, has rejected the idea of ​​re-establishing rent control, and such proposals in the Legislature have so far failed. Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have repeatedly argued over calls for more funding for the MBTA, but they have never publicly addressed plans to replace the hundreds of millions of dollars that the agency quasi -public collects each year in tariffs if they were eliminated.

Asked about the free push, Aaron Michlewitz, a Wu supporter and North End Democrat who heads the powerful House Budget Committee, said policymakers shouldn’t rule out any ideas for improving the T, but that “l ‘main objective’ should be to stabilize the agency’s finances and provide better service.

“I have no doubts that we can accomplish a lot together. But we will have to have frank and difficult conversations, ”Michewitz said of Wu, if elected. “This is what is supposed to happen.”

Wu supporters say there is an appetite to reshape the city’s planning and development process. But whether the legislature would agree to effectively abolish the agency, as Wu requested, is unclear. Its old iteration was established under state law, which means lawmakers would have to approve such a change.

“I was with Bernie Sanders [in the presidential election], and Michelle does, too: they pitch these nearly impossible ideas. But the reality is if you don’t think big, then you don’t really think, ”said State Representative Michael J. Moran, a Wu supporter and deputy House Majority Leader.

“I don’t think for a minute that she’s going to abolish the [BPDA]”Said the Brighton Democrat.” But is she going to make big changes, like separating licensing and planning? We need to streamline it.

True, the mayor wields broad authority over the city’s sprawling bureaucracy and has the ability to carry out plans unilaterally or with the blessing of city council. Wu, for example, said she would focus on public health, such as hiring more advisers, decisions that are far beyond Beacon Hill’s consideration.

“When we talk about big issues like climate justice, of course there are global and state-wide implications,” Wu said. “But it’s also how we line our canopy of trees. street to purify the air. He converted to electric school buses. All of these city-level issues begin with the everyday impacts on people’s lives. There is always a way to progress.

Essabi George’s own platform appears to depend less on state approval for various ideas than on building on existing ones. Still, some details of his agenda could also clash with Beacon Hill’s more deliberate pace.

As both candidates pushed for universal pre-K, Essaibi George vowed to deliver it in its first 100 days, which would likely require a substantial influx of funds, including state aid. Walsh’s administration estimated at the start of its first term that it would cost $ 56 million to provide all of the city’s 4-year-olds with a quality full-time preschool.

“We can support the efforts that are already underway at State House,” said Essaibi George. “It is not necessary to initiate to the city [level]. “

The two candidates, at least for a year, are also expected to work with Baker, whose office, for example, is currently involved in identifying ways to alleviate the humanitarian crisis at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Baker has not said if he will run for a third term next year.

Essaibi George said she was confident she could work with “anyone” in the governor’s office. Wu said she wanted to make sure the city’s needs “are heard loud and clear.”

But would it be easier with a Democrat?

Wu replied in a nutshell. “Yes.”


Matt Stout can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.



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