The Nation and the World

Double promotion creates changes In Boston’s government

Kim Janey, Boston’s first Black mayor and first female mayor, was sworn into office on March 22. Janey is serving as interim mayor due to former mayor Marty Walsh’s promotion to Labor Secretary under the Biden Administration. As President of the City Council, Janey was next in line to automatically become acting interim mayor. 

President Joe Biden nominated then-Mayor Walsh for Secretary of Labor on January 7, 2021, in the midst of his transition period. Experts predicted this nomination, as Biden was looking for someone who supported unions, like Walsh, as labor secretary.

“History will be made tonight,” Walsh said about Janey’s swearing-in. “We’re an extremely diverse city from different backgrounds and different nationalities and different skin colors. I think it’s a good thing for our city. I think it’s a great thing for our city.”

There will be a regular mayoral election for the position on November 2 of this year. Precedent dictates that the acting or interim mayor also runs for mayor in the following term, and Janey announced her candidacy for Mayor of Boston in the next election in early April, making her the sixth person of color running for the position in this election. Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi George, Andrea Campbell, John Barros, and Jon Santiago are also running for Mayor of Boston, a total of four women of color and two men of color. 

Janey previously worked with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, which advocates policy changes that affect public schools in Boston. Her political career began in 2017 when she was first sworn in as city councilor of Boston. She has earned many awards for her work, including the Boston NAACP Difference Maker Award and the Sapphire Award. She has also been named one of Boston’s most impactful Black women in 2021. 

Janey has been a political activist with history in Roxbury, which is seen as the “heart of the city’s Black community.” She was inspired by the city council election campaigns in 1961, 1963, and 1965 for Rep. Mel King, who lost to Ray Flynn, an Irish-American. Her grandfather was a member of the Twelfth Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worshiped while attending Boston University. In addition, her father was one of eight Black students to graduate from Boston Latin School in the class of 1964. 

Janey was 11 during the second of Boston’s two school desegregation phases, and she recalled being pelted with rocks and racial slurs on her way to the largely-white neighborhood of Charlestown for school. Later, she attended a program that allowed her to go to school outside of the city.

“Congratulations on your confirmation, Secretary Walsh. You are a proud son of Dorchester who will bring our city with you,” Janey tweeted following the announcement of Marty Walsh’s confirmation. “The working people of America will benefit greatly from your passion.”

“Now, we look ahead to a new day — a new chapter — in Boston’s history,” Janey, a fellow Democrat, added.

Walsh believes that the labor force and workplace safety are crucial during the pandemic, and he plans to increase the number of staff in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He also intends to improve the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. 

The federal, congressional vote on Walsh’s nomination as Labor Secretary, which was on March 22, 2021, was 68-29 in favor of Walsh. He left his home in Dorchester on the morning of March 23 to officially be sworn into the position. 

The United States Secretary of Labor oversees a $12 billion agency. Walsh is pro-union, as is Biden, and he is under pressure to increase the federal minimum wage in a time where the unemployment rate remains above 6%. Furthermore, the number of people who have become unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic in the last six months has not been seen since the last recession. 

Walsh, 53, previously served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was head of Boston Building Trades Council before being elected mayor of Boston in 2014. He served as mayor in Boston for two terms. Walsh grew up in Savin Hill, a neighborhood in Dorchester, and lives in Dorchester. 

Liberal Democrats have called for a more diverse cabinet, but while there were other nominees of color for the position of Labor Secretary, Biden picked Walsh, who is white. Biden and Walsh knew each other well in a professional capacity. Biden spoke at Walsh’s second inauguration as Mayor of Boston in January 2018. 

Marty Walsh has talked openly about his struggle with alcoholism. “My name is Marty Walsh, and I’m an alcoholic,” he said at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Walsh has mentioned he is part of the 12 Step Program and has advocated that alcoholism is a disease and not a devalue of character.

Experts have called Walsh’s promotion critical during the Covid-19 Pandemic, as increased safety regulations due to the pandemic have presented complications, especially for small business owners. Janey also has goals related to the coronavirus during her time as mayor,  such as reopening Boston safely is essential during her term. Reopening and bringing back normalcy from country to city, from one town, Boston. 

Information in this article was derived from U.S News, MSNBC, the City of Boston website, NPR, The Washington Post, and WBUR.

Photo credit: WGBH News and WBUR

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