Mayor Martin Walsh held a press conference on Monday, where he discussed COVID-19 safety for the Fourth of July, as well as announced Karilyn Crockett as the City’s first-ever Chief of Equity.
“Normally heading into the fourth of July weekend, I’d be talking about grill safety and violence prevention, and those are certainly important issues, but I’m sharing those messages again this week and we’re going to have a more deeper conversation in a couple of days,” Walsh said.
“But this year, the safety issue is COVID-19. This is traditionally a weekend for gathering in large groups, fir historic ceremonies and social events. This is not something we can do this year here in Boston or in Massachusetts. Our City of Boston Independence Day celebrations are going to be completely online.”
Walsh said that this year, gatherings should be kept “small” and recommended that face coverings be worn, and to continue staying six feet apart from others as well as continuing to wash hands or use hand sanitizer.
He said that if a crowd is “larger than expected” to leave and go somewhere else, and as a reason for leaving, he suggested saying that concern for elderly or high risk family members or neighbors is of utmost importance.
He talked about the spiking number of cases and surges in hospital capacity in some states across the country, and stressed the importance of continuing to be “diligent” so that doesn’t happen in Boston.
“We continue to see a solid 14 day decrease in case numbers,” said Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez. “In the last 18 days, we’ve only had one day where we’ve had over 30 cases.”
Last week, the positive test rate was 1.9 percent for the whole week, and the City continues to see a general cumulative rate of 17 percent, he said. Even with increases in testing capacity, the positive test rate continues to decline.
Martinez said that the City “must not lose focus on the inequalities that exist,” and said that things like increased testing in “key zip codes” is a step in the right direction.
Walsh also talked about the City’s work on equity as it relates to COVID-19.
Walsh said that the budget approved last week expands the work of the Office of Housing Stability and investments made in affordable housing by adding $16 million in new investment.
“We are facing profound economic uncertainty right now,” Walsh said. “We need to support our residents through this crisis and beyond.”
There is $8 million in rental relief available for those who are not able to get other funding. Walsh also said he is asking the state to extend the moratorium on eviction “for as long as it takes” to protect housing security in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth.
“Housing insecurity is clearly an issue of racial equality as well as general economic disruption,” Walsh said. “We have to take a deeper look inside our system” and “create equitable opportunities as we move forward here.”
He said that the FY2021 budget also makes “record investments in closing opportunity gaps in Boston Public Schools and affordable housing for low income families.”
Walsh then announced the new position of Chief of Equity, calling it “an extremely important appointment; an important moment right now for the City of Boston. We need somebody who can hit the ground running, someone who understands, not just knows the community, but understands the community, someone who understands City government and how City Hall works.”
Walsh said that he believes that those qualities are found in Dr. Karilyn Crockett, a lecturer of Public Policy and Urban Planning at MIT who has also worked in the City of Boston’s Office of Economic Development where she created “policy framework for guiding job creation, small business development, neighborhood revitalization, and public procurement strategies” rooted in equity.
“As my home town and the entire nation struggle to fight the twin crises of the coronavirus pandemic and America’s unfinished racial reconciliation, I am humbled and honored to join Mayor Walsh to imagine new possibilities for healing, recovery, justice and wealth-building for powerful communities who’ve been denied far too much for far too long,” Crockett said in a recent release from the City.
The position is a “Cabinet-level position the Mayor established last week to embed equity and racial justice into all City planning, operations and work moving forward,” according to the release.
“Under Dr. Crockett’s leadership, the Office of Equity will be charged with leading the Administration’s efforts across departments to embed equity into all city work, and actively work to dismantle racism by putting an intentional focus on supporting communities of color and marginalized groups across all departments, and building equitable governmental structures to sustain this work. The Office will support cross- department collaborative functions that advance innovative equity and opportunity policies and practices, including the strategies outlined in Imagine Boston 2030,” the release states. “To do this work, the office will utilize and leverage the City’s partnership and collaboration with community residents, nonprofit organizations and business leaders to promote equitable government policies and outcomes.”
FIREWORKS TASK FORCE
Mayor Walsh also announced last Friday the creation of a Task Force to “address the increase of illegal fireworks in neighborhoods across Boston ahead of the Fourth of July holiday,” a release states. The Task Force will have members from the Mayor’s Chief of Civic Engagement, the four At-Large City Councilors, the Boston Arson Squad, the Boston Police Department’s Bureau of Community Engagement, and leaders from the community.
Reports of fireworks this year have increased across the City, and the City reported there were 7,844 calls to the Boston Police Department reporting fireworks in June 2020, compared with 139 in June 2019.
“Illegal fireworks pose significant dangers to the safety of our residents and their property, and do not belong in our communities. Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 148, Section 39) states that it is illegal for residents to use, possess or sell fireworks in Massachusetts,” the release states.“It is also illegal to purchase them legally elsewhere and then transport them into the state.”