Four new members of the Boston City Council were sworn in at Faneuil Hall on Monday, joining their nine returning colleagues to create a historic council that is majority female and majority people of color. District Councilors Kenzie Bok, Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, and At-Large Councilor Julia Mejia—the first-ever Latina on the council—all took the oath of office for the first time. At the first Council meeting shortly after, District 7 Councilor Kim Janey, whose district covers about half of the South End, was elected council president. Janey succeeds Andrea Campbell, who was the first black woman to hold the title.
Mayor Marty Walsh walked the councilors through the oath at the ceremony, and then delivered a speech. “This has certainly been a momentous election in the City of Boston,” Walsh said. “This will be the most diverse council in history.” He expressed his faith in the councilors and praised their past successes.
“I’m excited to have you and have new voices as a part of the conversation as we move Boston forward,” Wash said. “I want to make sure that Boston is the best city for everyone who wants to live here and be here.” He said that right now, there is “zero partnership” in Washington, D.C., and that he believes “Boston can and must show a way forward.” Walsh added that Boston will continue to lead with its values, and he is “honored to do this work alongside you,” he told the councilors.
District 8 Councilor Kenzie Bok won every precinct in the district and garnered 70 percent of the vote in last November’s election. On her inauguration day, she confirmed her excitement and readiness to take on the role of serving her constituents. At the top of Kenzie’s list is working on affordable housing, as she has most recently served as Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning at the Boston Housing Authority.
Bok said she’s “just ready to get to work. You knock on all these doors and people have so many ideas and things to work on and so I’m ready to get to it.”
She joked that her first steps are to get her email up and running and her office in order, but she also has plans for what other issues she wants to tackle first.
The proposed sale of the Hynes Convention Center is a big issue in the Back Bay that will have an effect on the entire city, and Bok said that is high on her list of issues to work on right away.
The feeling of excitement and pride was palpable on Monday morning, especially for the newly elected councilors. “It’s such an exciting and historic council to be part of,” Bok said. “I think that what’s nice; we’re going to be collaborating as a whole body on some of the biggest issues that face the city.”
After the inauguration ceremony, the councilors headed across the street to City Hall for their first meeting together, where Janey was elected as the first order of business. In her speech, Janey thanked her fellow council members, especially Andrea Campbell for her leadership on racial equity, as well as Mayor Walsh and her family. She also outlined work the council has done this past year, and what she believes needs to be focused on in the coming term.
“I am so proud of the work that we have accomplished together,” she told her colleagues. “There is no better way to begin this term than by working with you to create a more inclusive and equitable Boston for all.” Janey promised to continue to prioritize racial equity and inclusion as a City Council.
“Representation matters,” Janey continued. This council is made up of the first openly gay woman, the first Latina woman, and is more representative of the City of Boston as a whole, she said. “My district has rich history and amazing cultural assets,” she said, but it is also “ground zero for many of the inequalities in our city.” There is an “enormous wealth gap” despite economic prosperity in the city, and the housing affordability crisis continues, she added.
She also talked about other issues plaguing the city, such as the climate change crisis which she said “needs urgent action,” as well as car congestion that brings the “flow of traffic to a grinding halt.” ‘Gun violence is also still too prevalent in many of the city’s neighborhoods, she said.
“Working together, we passed the short-term rental ordinance, millions of dollars in affordable housing, the wet-lands protection ordinance, and a new strengthened Trust Act to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters,” Janey said of the council’s work this past year.
“We must work collaboratively in our efforts to create a bright future for all of Boston,” she said. She also announced the creation of a City Council Committee on Payment in Lieu of Taxes, as this has been a focus of the Council especially this past year. She also proposed free MBTA buses to help with the economic disparities still felt strongly throughout the city. “This is a climate justice and economic justice issue,” she said of transportation. “The dangerous decisions coming out of the White House are putting us all at risk and jeopardize our ability to live out the American Dream. Who is at the table matters,” as it “determines not only what is served, but who gets to eat.”
Despite the many issues the city faces, Janey appears ready to take on her new role.
“We must be intentional .in creating economic opportunities for local residents, women, and people of color,” she said “As the new council president leading the most diverse City Council in history into the new decade, I know the challenges before us require bold action, creative solutions, and strong leadership.”