Wu has argued for reforming the city's permitting and zoning system, including abolishing the Boston Planning & Development Agency, which she argues is overly politicized and lacks transparency. She has also advocated fare-free public transportation and a municipal "Green New Deal" for Boston. Wu has spoken in favor of "demilitarizing" the Boston Police Department, and establishing an unarmed community safety crisis response system that would assume responsibility for nonviolent 9-1-1 calls.
After college, Wu worked as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. But when her mother became ill, she had to leave this job, moving back to Chicago to care for her mother and two youngest siblings. To support her family financially, she started a teahouse business. In 2009, she returned to Massachusetts to earn her J.D. from Harvard Law School. When she went back to live in Massachusetts again, her mother and youngest sister moved with her.
In her first semester at Harvard Law School, one of her professors was Elizabeth Warren. When Wu explained her family situation, a long friendship between the two women ensued.In 2012, Wu worked as the constituency director for Warren's 2012 campaign against Scott Brown. In this role, she coordinated outreach to all constituency groups, including communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and women. Wu is considered a protégé of Warren.
Wu campaigning for Boston City Council in 2013
Wu, a Democrat, has been a member of the Boston City Council since January 2014, having been first elected in November 2013 and re-elected three times, most recently in November 2019. Wu was the first Asian American woman to serve on the council, and only the second Asian American member to serve on the council. In late 2014, Wu became the first city councilor in Boston history to give birth while serving on the Boston City Council. From January 2016 to January 2018, she served as president of the council, the first woman of color and first Asian American to hold the role. During her tenure, Wu has chaired the Post Audit; Planning, Development and Transportation; and Oversight committees. Wu is regarded as a progressive.
Wu was first elected to a Boston City Council at-large seat in November 2013. She finished in second place to incumbent Ayanna Pressley, the top four finishers are elected to the council. She was re-elected in November 2015, again coming in second place to Pressley. She was re-elected to a third term on the council in November 2017, garnering the most votes among all at-large candidates; her tally of over 65,000 votes was the most since Michael J. McCormack in November 1983. Wu was again re-elected in November 2019. In 2021 election, Wu decided not to seek a fifth term on the City Council, and to run for mayor instead.
In her 2019 campaign, Wu shared a campaign office with district councilor Kim Janey, and fellow at-large city council candidate Alejandra St. Guillen.
In the weeks prior to taking office, Wu announced that she would vote for Bill Linehan to serve as the president of the Boston City Council. Many of Wu's progressive backers were surprised, since Linehan was seen as the Council's most conservative member. Wu said she believed that Linehan would be the most effective at running the City Council, and supported Linehan's promises to decentralize power away from the City Council president's office, empower the Council's committee chairs, and reorganize the central staff of the City Council. The Council ultimately elected Linehan as its president by a 8–5 vote, with Linehan defeating a last-hour challenge from Ayanna Pressley.
Ahead of the start of Wu's third term on the city council, she threw her support behind Kim Janey to be the next president of the City Council. In the weeks before the start of the 2020–22 Boston City Council term, the elected members were initially sharply divided in their support between Janey and Matt O'Malley. Wu's support played an important role in helping Janey secure the support to become City Council president. On January 6, 2020, Wu nominated Janey to be the council's president. Janey was elected with every member voting "yes" except for Frank Baker, who voted present.
Wu criticized some of Mayor Marty Walsh's initiatives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Wu specifically criticized some of Walsh's COVID-19 initiative, which as the Boston Resiliency Fund and Racial Equity Fund, that solicited private sector donor funding, saying that "Philanthropy is wonderful" but that the government soliciting money from corporations and distributing it to nonprofits "creates a very disruptive and dangerous dynamic" with the effect of "distorting the political process." Wu criticized Walsh over a lack of minority-owned businesses receiving emergency coronavirus-related contracts (less than 2% of the $12 million in such contracts issued prior to July 2020 went to Boston-located minority-owned businesses, with only one such business being among eighty businesses to receive such contracts per data the Walsh administration had provided).
Wu has called for the city to facilitate an "equitable recovery" from the pandemic, chairing City Council hearings on the issue in 2020.
In February 2021, Wu proposed legislation that would seek to create an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Boston by requiring that at least one vaccination site be established in each residential neighborhood. She also partnered with fellow city councilor Annissa Essaibi George to propose a measure that would provide paid leave to municipal employees who felt ill after receiving the vaccine.
In early August 2021, Wu criticized acting mayor Kim Janey for failing to commit to require city workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Wu supported a mandate for city workers, including public school employees, to be vaccinated. Fellow mayoral candidates John Barros and Essaibi George opposed this.
In August 2021, Wu voiced support for implementing a vaccine passport program, requiring proof-of-vaccination for indoor dining and other public indoor activities. Fellow mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell had, days before Wu, made similar calls for the city to put in place rules which would require that many businesses require patrons provide proof of vaccination.
In the late summer of 2021, Wu's office compiled data which suggested that half of the city's Restaurant Revitalization Fund money that had been allocated to restaurants was given to establishments on only three of the city's 23 neighborhoods (Back Bay, Downtown Boston, and the Seaport District). It was noted that these were largely white and wealthy neighborhoods in comparison to the rest of the city. In June 2021, Wu expressed support for having a municipal eviction moratorium once the federal eviction moratorium expired.
In April 2015, the Boston City Council passed a paid parental leave ordinance that was authored by Wu. The ordinance provided city employees with six weeks of paid parental leave after childbirth, stillbirth, or adoption. Roughly a month before its passage in the City Council, Wu and Mayor Walsh co-authored an op-ed in The Boston Globe calling paid parental leave, "a must for working families". Mayor Walsh signed the ordinance into law in May. In 2021, Wu proposed the idea of expanding paid child leave to also provide leave to those who have had an abortion. In September, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance written by Councilor Lydia Edwards and co-sponsored by Wu and Annissa Essaibi George that changed the wording of her earlier ordinance from "stillbirth" to "pregnancy loss", and also extended paid family leave to those welcoming a new family member or acting as a caregiver. As a city councilor Wu has voiced her support for a $15 minimum wage.
In 2014, Wu headed the Boston City Council Special Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation. In June 2014, it released a report making 25 recommendations to streamline the city's licensing and permitting process for small businesses. In 2016, as City Council president, Wu supported a successful proposal to allow diners to bring their own alcoholic drinks into certain restaurants ("BYOB"), a move meant to promote economic vitality and assist restaurants unable to afford liquor licenses.
In January 2017, the city adopted an ordinance that Wu had introduced which allowed small businesses to forgo the fees and the bureaucratic approval process to host musical performances. In July 2018, Wu, along with fellow city councilors Lydia Edwards and Kim Janey, introduced legislation to remove as-of-right designations for chain stores, thereby requiring a conditional use permit for an chain stores to open and operate in any area designated as a "neighborhood business district". Wu characterized the proposed ordinance as protecting small business from "commercial gentrification" and pressures from large retail chains. She declared, "this legislation supports jobs in our neighborhoods by giving residents and stakeholders a voice, so that our business districts are not just shaped by which multinational corporations can offer the highest rents".
In October 2017, the Boston City Council voted to unanimously approve a resolution by Wu and fellow councilor Matt O'Malley, having the city adopt Community Choice Aggregation. In November 2017, the Boston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance written by Wu and fellow councilor Matt O'Malley which implemented a plastic bag ban. In December, Mayor Walsh signed it into law, despite his administration having previously opposed such a ban when it was previously debated by the Council in 2016.
Shortly after Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled their proposed federal Green New Deal, Wu introduced a resolution to the Boston City Council to declare the council's support for it and urge the federal government to adopt it. In April 2019, the Boston City Council passed the resolution. In December 2019, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance that Wu had introduced with Matt O'Malley that protects local wetlands and promotes adaption to climate change. Mayor Walsh signed it into law later that month. Wu also partnered with Councilor Kenzie Bok on a proposal aiming to create more affordable and climate resilient housing. Wu has been a supporter of disinvestment from fossil fuels.
Municipal Green New Deal
Wu at the 2015 Dorchester Day Parade
In August 2020, Wu released plans for "Boston Green New Deal & Just Recovery" program. The proposal aims to achieve carbon neutrality (net-zero carbon footprint) for the municipal government buildings by 2024, running the city on 100% renewable energy by 2030, and achieving citywide carbon neutrality by 2040. The proposal calls for creating "just and resilient development" through the establishment of affordable green overlay districts and standard community benefits agreements; priority planning zones informed by urban heat island maps, in order to expand the urban tree canopy; and a "local blue new deal" for coasts and oceans, using coastal and ocean resources for clean energy generation, sustainable food systems, carbon capture, and jobs.
In March 2019, the City Council unanimously passed the Good Food Purchasing Program ordinance authored by Wu. The ordinance set new requirements for public food purchasers, such as Boston Public Schools. The new policy, supported by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, pushes the city towards greater purchasing of local and sustainably grown food, and focuses on racial equity in the food chain. In October 2020, Wu published a report on a "food justice" agenda in Boston; The agenda includes increasing the minimum wage for food-sector workers and providing guaranteed paid sick leave to them. The plan also calls for the city government to support state legislation that would gradually phase out the tipped wage for restaurant and bar workers.
Wu was the leading force in efforts to regulate short-term rentals of housing units. Wu pushed for increased restrictions, including the elimination of investor units. In April 2018, Wu was targeted by Airbnb for her stance over short-term rental regulations in the city of Boston. The short-term lodging platform accused Wu of being "aligned with big hotel interests against the interests of regular Bostonians". Boston adopted an ordinance, supported by Wu, that restricted short-term rentals to owner-occupied housing units, required hosts to register with the city, and required the city to collect and publish data on short-term rentals.
Wu has, since at least 2019, supported the idea of reviving rent stabilization in Boston, which would first require a change to state law. She argues that it will assist in preventing people of color from being pushed out of Boston. Wu has called for "decommodifying housing" through the expansion of cooperative housing, community land trusts, and community ownerships. It also calls for the establishment of a renters' right to counsel, guaranteeing legal representation to tenants in eviction proceedings.
In June 2020, Wu, alongside fellow city councilors Lydia Edwards and Julia Mejia, introduced an ordinance that would establish an unarmed community safety crisis response system, moving the response to nonviolent 9-1-1 calls away from the Boston Police Department, and instead transferring the response to non-law enforcement agencies and trained health professionals. In 2020, Wu was one of eight city councilors to sign a letter urging Mayor Walsh to decrease the Boston Police Department's annual budget by 10%. Activists had been calling for such a cut, in order to instead allot that money to COVID-19 relief, housing and food access, and other programs that would benefit communities of color.
Wu has voiced her desire to "demilitarize" the city's police department. Wu led an effort to take account of the Boston Police Department's military equipment. In June 2020, Wu introduced an order to the City Council that, if passed, would have required the disclosure of information about the Boston Police Department's heavy-duty equipment, and regarding how it had been deployed during recent protests. In Boston, such City Council orders require the backing of all City Council members. Wu has advocated for closing loopholes in the policy of the Boston Police Department regarding body cameras.
Wu in 2018
In April 2016, Wu filed a petition seeking to offer an annual excise tax break to electric vehicle owners. In the early summer of 2019, Wu led protests of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare hikes by riders complaining about inferior subway, light-rail, and bus line services. In 2019, Wu was the lead sponsor on a City Council proposal that would have established a fee for resident parking permits. Her proposal would exempt low-income residents, home-healthcare workers, and certain school workers from the fee. Wu has also called for local representation on the MBTA's governing board.
Wu has proposed eliminating fares for local public transit. In 2019, Wu and fellow councilor Kim Janey proposed making the MBTA Route 28 bus fare-free. Janey would later fund a pilot program to make the bus route fare-free for three months while acting mayor in 2021. Wu's advocacy is seen as popularizing the idea of fare-free public transportation in Boston. Crediting Wu as a leader on fare-free public transit, in January 2021, the editorial board of The Boston Globe endorsed the idea of making the city's buses fare-free. Wu's promotion of fare-free public transit also inspired Lawrence, Massachusetts mayor Daniel Rivera to implement it in his city.
Zoning and permitting
Wu has advocated for reforming the city's permitting system. Wu has called for the abolition of the Boston Planning & Development Agency, which she has characterized as being extremely politicized and "opaque". In 2019, her office published a 72-page report on the matter. Wu came into conflict with mayor Marty Walsh over his appointees to the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.
In 2016, Wu supported Massachusetts Question 4 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in Massachusetts. This put her at odds with Mayor Walsh, a prominent opponent of legalization.
In 2019, Wu supported a proposed ordinance introduced by Councilor Kim Janey which aimed to ensure that the legal cannabis industry in Boston would be equitable and fair for racial minority owners. This plan, in part, works to do so by only issuing business licenses to qualifying equity applicants for a period of two-years. The ordinance also included a new oversight board to assess and vote on applications for licenses based on a set criteria. It was by the City Council in November 2019. Walsh signed the ordinance into law later that month.
In June 2014, the Boston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Wu coauthored with fellow councilwoman Ayanna Pressley, which prohibits Boston's city government, "from contracting with any health insurer that denies coverage or discriminates in the amount of premium, policy fees, or rates charged...because of gender identity or expression". This ordinance guaranteed healthcare (including gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and mental health services) to transgender city employees and their dependents. Wu called the ordinance, "a matter of equity and of fairness". The ordinance had the support of Mayor Walsh prior to its passage.
In 2018, Wu proposed legislation that would establish a city identification card program in Boston. Wu was a leading force in the years-long effort that established the Boston Little Saigon Cultural District.
At the end of 2013, the readers of Boston magazine voted Wu to be named the magazine's 2013 "Rookie of the Year", one three political awards given by the magazine that year. In 2017, the Massachusetts Democratic Party awarded Wu its Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Award, which it considers its highest honor. In March 2018, Wu was among six finalists to be honored as a "Rising Star" by EMILY's List, a national group that supports female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights. The next month, Wu was listed as one of the "100 Most Influential People in Boston" by Boston magazine. In 2019, Rachel Allen of The Atlantic wrote that Wu had emerged as one of Boston's "most effective politicians".
Since at least 2019, Wu was viewed as a potential challenger to incumbent mayor Marty Walsh, if Walsh sought reelection in 2021. In September 2020, Walsh told The Boston Globe that Wu had told him of her intent to run in 2021. Later that month, Wu announced her candidacy, declaring that she was running a "people-powered campaign to bring new leadership to Boston's executive office".
In April, an analysis by The Boston Globe found that, of the six major candidates then-running, Wu had received the least financial contributions from real estate developers. Andrew Martinez of Bisnow related this to Wu's plans to abolish the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
Wu's primary election campaign was seen as possibly being boosted by a collection of young internet activists who had vigorously supported her campaign, referred to as the "Markeyverse" due to their support for Senator Ed Markey in his re-election campaign the previous year.
Wu placed first in the nonpartisan primary and advanced to the general election, where she faced Annissa Essaibi George.
On September 25, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who placed fourth in the nonpartisan primary, endorsed Wu for the general election. After this, Wu picked up further key endorsements from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Senator Ed Markey. Martin J. Valencia of The Boston Globe called Wu's support from both of Massachusetts' U.S. Senators and Congresswoman Pressley, "an unprecedented level of support from Boston’s federal delegation in an open race for mayor".
Wu has rolled out a number of general election endorsements by community leaders from various cultural communities. In an October 7 article, Meghan E. Irons of The Boston Globe likened this to the 2013 general election campaign of Marty Walsh.
At the start of the general election campaign, Joe Battenfield of the Boston Herald described Wu as the general election's "presumptive front-runner." By early October, there was a wide perception of Wu being the leading candidate in the general election. At that time, Meghan E. Irons and Meghan E. Irons of The Boston Globe opined that the developments of the general election campaign had largely been falling in Wu's favor. Joe Battenfeld of the Boston Herald characterized Wu as "coasting on a front-runner campaign strategy". William Forry and Gintautas Dumcius of the Dorchester Reporter also opined that Wu was the leading candidate in the general election.
On October 22, the editorial board of The Boston Globe endorsed Wu for the general election.
On November 2, 2021, Wu won the election with over 64% of the vote, with George conceding to Wu at around 10:20pm EST. This made Wu the first woman, first Asian-American, and the first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston. Wu will be sworn in and assume office on November 16, 2021.
Platform and campaign positions
Wu's mayoral platform includes her previously-outlined proposals for a municipal Green New Deal, fare-free public transit, abolishing the Boston Planning & Development Agency, implementing a food justice agenda, and her previously-declared support to reinstate rent stabilization. Wu also supports restructuring the Boston School Committee (which is currently all-appointed since mayoral control of schools was adopted in the 1990s) to be majority-elected. Wu calls for the creation of the Teacher Advisory Board, and the empowerment of the Boston Student Advisory Committee. Wu proposes universal preschool and universal child care for Boston children under five years of age, and for a city office to coordinate early childhood education. Wu's police reform plan reiterates her earlier calls for the diversion of nonviolent 9-1-1 calls away from police, and instead to alternative response teams such as mental health clinicians, social workers, and community outreach workers.
When Wu was in her early twenties, living in Boston and working for Boston Consulting Group, her mother developed severe mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Wu returned to the family home in the Chicago suburbs to care for the mother and raise her two youngest siblings. She opened a tea house, hoping her mother might recover enough to run it. She also secured medical care for her mother. Later, after moving back to Boston with her mother and sister, she became legal guardian of her youngest sibling, and entered law school. She sees this as the turning point of her life.
Wu married Conor Pewarski in September 2012. They live in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood with their two sons and with her mother.
^"CITY COUNCILLOR AT LARGE"(PDF). City of Boston. September 24, 2019. Archived(PDF) from the original on September 11, 2020. Retrieved November 5, 2019 – via boston.gov. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)