Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday announced steps his administration will take to fight systemic racism and inequality amid nationwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism.
In a press conference, Walsh announced the creation of a Equity and Inclusion Cabinet and unveiled a city-led fund to raise money to address racial inequity. He also announced plans to introduce a new zoning amendment aimed at creating affordable housing across the city.
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"My announcement today advances our work to root out systemic racism and build up racial equity in the city," Walsh said.
"We have to rebuild our system to as we reopen (from the coronavirus crisis) to eliminate the strain of racism to create greater opportunities for those who have been excluded in the past," he added. "That's how we're going to emerge from this crisis stronger."
Walsh said the equity and inclusion cabinet "would drive the work to dismantle systemic racism and embed equity in all planning and operations moving forward."
The cabinet will bring together existing departments at City Hall including the offices of resilience and racial equity, diversity, language and communication access, women's advancement, immigrant advancement, and human rights.
The cabinet will be led by a chief of equity and inclusion who Walsh pledged would "be at the table as we frame and decide policy at the highest level."
Walsh said the newly-created Boston Racial Equity Fund will invest in non-profit organizations that work with Black and brown residents to promote economic development, public health, youth employment, education and other areas.
"Its mission is to increase safety and well-being and equity and the prosperity of the Black and brown community," Walsh said, adding the initial goal was to raise $10 million for the fund, and the long-term goal was to raise $50 million.
Walsh said the fund is modeled after the Boston Resiliency Fund, which has raised money for those most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Walsh said he would announce next week a steering committee for the fund made of representatives from business, education and community development sectors.
According to the Boston Globe, the fund will be chaired by Emerson College president Lee Pelton. The mayor’s office expects the majority of members of the fund’s steering committee will be people of color.
Walsh said he would file a new zoning amendment this year aimed at ensuring access to housing in all neighborhoods in the city, calling on developers "to do more to fight displacement and promote including."
Walsh said the Boston Planning & Development Agency and other departments were working to create a tool to "identify and address the risk of displacement" and foster access for "historically excluded communities."
The administration earlier created a task force to conduct a review of police policies and oversight, and Walsh said he planned to make the findings public and act on the recommendations this year.
The announcement comes amid ongoing calls in Boston and across the nation for reforms to address racial inequity, including reallocating funding for police to services to support communities impacted by systemic racism.
On Wednesday, the Boston City Council narrowly voted to approve Walsh's resubmitted budget, which reallocates $12 million from police department's overtime funds to social services.
"I want to thank members of the Boston City Council for passing this budget that is fiscally responsible, makes significant investments in new community-led programs, and that takes bold steps towards our pledge of creating a more just and equitable society," Walsh said in a tweet. "I look forward to our continued collaboration by listening to residents and advocates and investing and acting on the reforms needed to address structural racism."
Julia Mejia, one of the councilors who voted against the proposal, said it did not go far enough.
"We need to stop thinking about what is easy. We need to look at what the challenges are and rise to the occasion," Mejia said in a statement.
According to the Globe, Mejia was joined by Council President Kim Janey, as well as fellow Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, in voting against the budget.
Walsh is calling for a 20% diversion of the $60 million police overtime budget to support police reforms and bolster social services. The proposal comes amid calls to defund police departments, a rallying cry for protesters who want funds to be diverted from law enforcement to social services to support communities impacted by systemic racism. Walsh has also since declared racism a public health crisis.
Activists say, however, Walsh isn't going far enough, with a protest this week calling on him to reduce the overall police budget by 10 percent and invest the money in Black and brown communities and increase job opportunities for young people.