Substantial congratulations are in order for Boston Mayor-elect Michelle Wu. She not only bested a spirited challenge from fellow at-large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in last week’s election, she also built a broad base of public support and a capable political organization that carried her to victory with a truly massive popular mandate.
Now comes the hard part.
Wu will come into office Nov. 16 with a quiver full of good ideas for attacking the city’s many pressing challenges, from schools, to transportation, to housing costs. Each of these issues individually poses a serious threat to the city’s – and therefore Massachusetts’ – continued economic success. Together and left unaddressed, they could imperil much of what makes Boston special.
This editorial board endorsed Wu’s run for mayor because she promised the kind of sweeping change necessary to make important dents in the city’s problems, and because she has both a proven track record of building broad coalitions and the inner steel to see solutions through.
While Wu gets to work showing Bostonians, as Essaibi George said in her gracious concession speech last week, “how mothers get it done,” we urge her to consider making several of her rival’s important policy proposals her own as she embarks on what will doubtless be a lengthy citywide rezoning process that should allow for more as-of-right growth.
First, commission a one-stop online portal where anyone with a project before the city, from a 20-story tower to a bathroom remodel, can submit paperwork and track the approvals process. Under the current, inefficient setup, sometimes a simple missed email can create weeks of delays as an application or a certificate gets refiled, or worse. Such a system will be vital to lowering construction costs – and thus, sale prices and rents for new homes. It will also open the ranks of developers to new and diverse entrants and help current homeowners easily add accessory dwelling units, if Wu moves to expand the pilot launched by former Mayor Marty Walsh.
Second, require city officials to end reviews of all but the largest development projects by a date certain. Putting a “shot clock” on both city decision-making and the triangular politicking between neighborhood groups, BPDA officials and developers will also increase certainty for developers, and therefore savings for buyers, renters and businesses in need of space.
Third, make transforming Madison Park Vocational Technical High School a top priority. The city faces a serious shortage of workers in the construction trades and other high-earning fields that are accessible to those without college degrees. A revived Madison Park can both help empower thousands of residents currently locked out of good-paying jobs in Boston’s growth industries, and help more families benefit from a construction boom that will need to continue at a good clip in order to address sky-high home prices and ongoing, strong demand for new homes from Millennials forming families for the first time.
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