What does the future hold for Boston?

Boston’s Mayoral Candidates Outline Plans to Partner with Nonprofit Sector to Advance a Strong, Equitable and More Resilient City

During the pandemic, nonprofit organizations stepped up to sustain residents through the most challenging year of our lifetimes. As such, engaging with and deepening partnerships with Boston’s nonprofit sector must be a critical piece of the next Mayor’s agenda.

In honor of Nonprofit Awareness Day, United Way collaborated with 103 Boston-based nonprofit partners to develop the Boston Nonprofit Questionnaire. We invited the five mayoral candidates to discuss how their Administration intends to partner with community-based organizations and address the intersecting needs of residents, youth, and families. Importantly, 35 Executive Directors of local nonprofit organizations volunteered their time to help inform and shape these questions.  Browse the candidates’ responses below.

Boston Nonprofit Questionnaire

Question #1: How will your Administration work with the region’s nonprofit sector to address the intersecting needs of residents, families, and youth, and build a robust social safety net that works for everyone?

Click to see Candidate Responses

John Barros

Partnerships with Boston’s non-profits will play a significant role in my administration’s plans to address issues across the city. My Boston Jobs Plan includes partnering with both businesses and nonprofits around the city to provide young Bostonians with meaningful jobs outside of school. Providing proper assistance to all parties involved in the public health crisis at Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard will involve both city resources and representatives from area nonprofits. My administration’s plans to ensure that all Bostonians have safe, quality housing includes partnering with nonprofits to provide tenants and unhoused residents of Boston with resources to retain or find a place to live. Working with Boston’s nonprofits will be a key piece of my administration’s dedication to including community voices in our plans for the city.

Andrea Campbell

The work to create a more equitable and just Boston cannot be done by City Hall alone.  We have tremendous resources in this City, which includes our flourishing non-profit and philanthropic sectors, to address the inequities facing our City. My leadership style has always been collaborative and has been about bringing stakeholders together to implement solutions to our toughest problems. I started my legal career in the nonprofit sector at the EdLaw Project serving kids pro-bono in education cases and school-discipline cases. As City Council President, I brought together hundreds of community leaders across demographics and neighborhood lines at a citywide Civic Summit to work on shared visions and action for Boston. As Mayor, I will institutionalize an annual Civic Summit. On every key issue facing our City, I will work closely with nonprofit sector to bring their expertise to bear on these pressing challenges.

Annissa Essaibi-George

As Mayor, I will partner with local non profits to enhance neighborhood outreach programs to meet the wide array of needs facing our residents, families and youth, including housing, food access, education, health care, youth programming and so much more. We must invest in staffing and infrastructure on the community level to connect people to the social safety net early on, and that will require collaboration with the nonprofits that know these neighborhoods and individuals best. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the critical role our nonprofits play in disseminating public health messaging and vaccine information.  The people who have dedicated their lives to working on the ground in our communities every day know Boston’s neighborhoods best, and they have the ability to quickly identify people who may need additional social support early on. I recognize that our nonprofits are often the true experts when it comes to what residents, families, and communities need from the City, and I will work closely with these organizations to provide them with the resources they need to connect their clients with local, state, and federal support.

Kim Janey

As someone who has worked for nonprofits for decades before serving in elected office, I know full well the struggles and opportunities that nonprofits have when working with governments both on the state and local levels. I look forward to building the connections between nonprofits and the city of Boston in a full term as mayor. I believe that nonprofits are important partners are we seek to solve large problems which the city faces. For larger organizations, I believe that we need to reexamine and reform Boston’s PILOT program to ensure that these groups are doing their part to help our communities. As mayor, I have already announced millions of dollars in grants eligible for local non-profits, including millions for vaccine equity grants across our city.

Michelle Wu

As Mayor, I will advocate at the city, state, and federal level for the resources that Boston, including the region’s nonprofit sector, needs to act with urgency as we build a more resilient, healthy, and fair Boston that cares for all residents, families, and youth. My policy proposals include creating healthy and truly affordable housing for all, making the T free, a Boston green new deal & just recovery, guaranteeing worker protections, achieving food justice, implementing a community vision for Boston Public Schools, and closing the child-care gap. The successful implementation of these plans requires that the City and the nonprofit sector work in lockstep in pursuit of this shared vision. As we reopen and rebuild our school system after the pandemic, we must take a transformative approach recognizing schools as hubs of community. Every neighborhood in Boston deserves high-quality schools as platforms for lifelong learning, health, and civic engagement. Partnerships with nonprofits are critical to the delivery of many services that children and families need to thrive. As Mayor, I’ll take bold action so our schools can serve the needs of the whole child and the whole community, empowering lifelong learning and coordinated supports.

Question #2: What steps will you take to change the way that all Departments in the City partner with community-based nonprofit organizations and residents with lived experience?

Click to see Candidate Responses

John Barros

My plans to address Boston’s biggest challenges involve consistent communication with residents, through several new departments to make accessing city services easier and to facilitate public input on city projects. The Barros administration will establish, among other departments: the Boston Arts Development Agency, to preserve housing and commercial space for Boston’s arts community, a Green Jobs Team within the office of workforce development, to partner Boston residents looking for jobs in emerging industries with businesses and organizations around the city building green infrastructure, and a Transportation Assistance Program and Office, to connect residents with to decrease their cost of transportation and improve transportation options.

Andrea Campbell

As Mayor, I’ll make sure that those who sit at the decision-making table bring diverse life experiences that represent the Boston of today. This is how we can create thoughtful and transformative programs and delivery of services. This also includes pulling in diverse local community based organizations that aren’t normally involved in City business, which can only be done by creating a culture in City Hall that prioritizes equity. It’s also important to not only hire diverse staff, but ensure they are set up for success within the City or whatever is next in their career by investing in City employees through mentorship and clear pathways for promotions and advancement.

Annissa Essaibi-George

As Mayor, my top priority is to ensure that stakeholders and community-based organizations inform city policies and priorities to address our most pressing social experience. On the Council, I have convened department leaders with community-based nonprofits including United Way, service providers, and individuals with lived experience to address issues such as the crisis of family homelessness, lack of access to mental health services, the opioid crisis, and more—because I believe those on the front lines have the solutions. Our success passing legislation to establish a Special Commission to End Family Homelessness is proof of the essential role that our community-based nonprofits play in delivering results for Boston residents. I will take that same collaborative approach as Mayor to ensure all stakeholders have a meaningful seat at the decision making table.

Kim Janey

We need to make sure that the concerns of community members are heard by those in power and that their voices are empowered by working with the city to address local problems with local solutions. My administration has been focused on empowering members of the community and including the voices of community leaders into governance decisions, such as when we made Reverend Mariama White-Hammond the Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space in Boston. I have also solicited community feedback on a number of projects in the environmental and housing sectors, because these are areas where residents have been neglected by previous administrations. During my time working for Massachusetts Advocates for Children, I spoke out against school reassignment plans which would group the best schools together while leaving many Boston students without the opportunities they deserved, and I also fought for more parent involvement in decisions made by the Boston School Committee. As mayor, I am committed to including these voices in an open and democratic process where we make the decisions that will improve Boston.

Michelle Wu

Nonprofit organizations in our region offer critical resources and services that support the health and well being of residents in each neighborhood across Boston. As mayor I will use the convening power of the city to build partnerships and strengthen the relationships between nonprofit organizations and city departments as they work together to achieve the shared mission of advancing economic, racial, and climate justice and enable all people and all communities to thrive. Importantly, the lived experiences and perspectives of the people of Boston must inform how we create policy and how we deliver services. Together with nonprofit organizations the City will work in community to learn from residents and engage as equal partners in creating the city we want.

Question #3: Please describe one innovation you will implement during your first six months in office that will immediately allow your Administration to better serve Boston residents who have suffered most directly from the pandemic.

Click to see Candidate Responses

John Barros

One of the first priorities of my administration will be ensuring that families are supported and parents can return to work. In order to accomplish this, my administration will be investing federal COVID recovery dollars into the city’s Childcare Entrepreneur Fund. This fund supports early childcare providers as they make the necessary health upgrades to their facilities to ensure that they can safely keep their business running and continue to provide quality childcare to Boston’s families. Additionally, my administration will move recovery funds into the city’s Universal Pre-K system, to grow the program for all three- and four-year-olds as well as laying the foundation for a program including (0-2) year olds.

Andrea Campbell

There’s so much that needs to be done to better serve communities who have been hit hard by the pandemic. As the City Councilor for District 4, I see this every day when talking to residents. During this campaign, I’ve championed efforts to get more residents vaccinated in order to save lives, and fought to sustain the eviction moratorium that has kept people from losing their homes during the pandemic. One innovation I would prioritize as Mayor is delivering a clear plan to make sure that our students can catch up on learning lost during the pandemic. My plan proposes that a portion of federal ARP funds, $3,000 per child, be allotted to “Student Acceleration Accounts” so that parents and caregivers, in collaboration with their child’s teachers and schools, can choose the right supports for their child that can be delivered. As a mother, I know this pandemic has taken a huge toll on our children, and that parents know best what supports their children need to make up for the tremendous learning disruption over the past year.

Annissa Essaibi-George

Living unsheltered is even more dangerous during a pandemic, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 have caused an uptick in homelessness across Boston. In order to better respond to this ongoing crisis, I will create a coordinated, aligned clearinghouse that accurately captures the state of homelessness in Boston and allows providers to track people within the system. This will make it easier for local providers to coordinate services with other agencies and providers, including the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). This new system of data collection will allow for greater transparency and will enable providers to collectively input and review data from across the city. Cross-agency coordination is essential to identifying gaps in a person’s or family’s suite of services, and streamlining the process makes it faster and more efficient to deliver the necessary services. I will work hand-in-hand with providers, nonprofits, city and state agencies, and other experts to create a program that is effective and easy to implement. We must make it as easy and seamless as possible for people to access the care and services that they need, and that requires a coordinated citywide approach.

Kim Janey

As a city, we are already working toward getting people vaccinated, and providing for the distribution of federal and state relief funds to help people recover from the pandemic. This includes $50 million in rental relief for residents who have struggled to keep up with rent payments in Boston, investing in vaccine equity grants to help get people in the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 get vaccinated, and millions more in small business and social services support for the people of Boston. We have struggled during this pandemic, but the city of Boston has provided throughout this pandemic, and I look forward to continuing this support as we emerge from this disaster. We have an opportunity to emerge stronger from this pandemic. Workers are returning to work with better pay and more protections. The city of Boston should support workers as they return, and I look forward to using the city’s power as both a messaging outlet and as a unit of government to promote fair wages, fair benefits, and fair protections for workers.

Michelle Wu

As mayor I will ensure equity in all facets of government through a justice audit that identifies institutional harms and allows us to work together to overhaul and shape decision-making going forward. This will help us to ensure that we achieve a just COVID recovery and that the federal resources directed to Boston support people most impacted by the pandemic and set the city on a path of racial, economic, and climate justice. Children and working families in Boston have seen some of the worst impacts of the pandemic - loss of jobs and housing, disruptions to learning, and the trauma of loss. Now more than ever before we must elevate the well-being of Boston’s children as a true community mission. As mayor I will marshal the full force of city government through a coordinated approach extending beyond the Boston Public Schools. By creating a Children’s Cabinet to align all City services that impact children, and a Family Corps to connect Boston families to every available resource, we will create a civic ecosystem that allows all children to thrive—inside and outside of school.

Question #4: What do you see as your own areas of personal growth in terms of equity and inclusion, and what will you do to ensure that your Cabinet members join you in the continuous self-examination and learning needed to advance a more anti-racist society?

Click to see Candidate Responses

John Barros

Through my involvement with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative starting as a teenager, I realized the importance of bringing community members to the decision-making table. To create programs and policies that are equitable and inclusive, we need to ensure that community members--those who will be the most impacted by the programs and policies--are involved in that decision-making process. As mayor, I would make sure that community members are a central part of our process in developing and implementing programs and policies. Boston’s future is about living into our aspirations for justice. I will appoint cabinet members who share my vision that Boston will be an identity-affirming and anti-racist city.

Andrea Campbell

As Council President, I brought Councilors and staff through a racial equity training. We need to actively deploy anti-racism training and tools in all levels of our city government to address the systemic inequities our City faces and I will continue this work as mayor. As Mayor, I will require yearly anti-racism training for all city departments, Commissions, and Boards. I will also deploy anti-racism tools for all city departments and Commissions to use in their day-to-day work. To measure the effectiveness of these training and tools, I will create a public dashboard to measure plans and progress to hold my administration accountable. I have also pledged to launch a Truth and Reconciliation process for the City of Boston.

Annissa Essaibi-George

I believe that a city government needs to reflect the makeup of Boston if it is going to best serve all residents. As Mayor, I will ensure that my Cabinet as well as all levels of city government look like Boston with racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. The decision-making table needs to include people who have experienced firsthand the impact of city politics and policies -- my Cabinet will be a model, but we need that type of representation in all offices and agencies. I also recognize that having a certain title or job does not make you an expert, and I will continue to engage community organizations, nonprofits, and residents in all policymaking. We all need to be lifelong learners when it comes to equity and anti-racism, and that is even more true for people working in government.

Kim Janey

Coming from a community that was neglected for a long time by previous administrations, I know that we need to incorporate voices of all of the communities of Boston into our decision-making process. We have already made strides to incorporate a more diverse leadership team, including Mariama White-Hammond as the Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space, and announcing new positions for community boards. We also need to take active measures toward untangling the roots of structural racism in Boston. I have been a long-time critic of the exam schools admissions policy, and I look forward to working with the Boston School Committee to design a process that is fair and gives students from across all of Boston an equal  opportunity to succeed. We also need to work to reimagine policing in Boston, through accountability and oversight, and I commit to working with the communities of Boston to hire a new police commissioner who shares the goal of reimagining the police. We also need to hold people accountable for the comments they make, stopping racism in its most vocal and noticeable form. Though these are only steps, they can make large process toward making Boston a more anti-racist city.

Michelle Wu

Growing up in an immigrant family skeptical of politics, and not born in Boston, I wasn’t steeped in local activism here my entire life. As a millennial whose parents came to this country in the 1980’s, I continue to seek the history and lived experience of activists and community members who have absorbed the impacts of Boston’s legacy of division and racial injustice, and organized to shift what’s possible in our city. As an AAPI leader, I strive to grow community solidarity with Black and brown communities to transform our systems. As Mayor I will build into the fabric of city operations the values and priorities that we need in order to collectively engage in the important work of building an anti-racist society. I believe that the foundation of good government and effective policymaking is civic engagement, building trust with communities and following the lead of residents most impacted. I would ensure representation of Boston’s diversity across agencies and leadership, work to get City Hall out of City Hall through neighborhood and remote access, expand resources for multilingual and cultural competency, and implement structural changes to democratize decision-making including participatory budgeting and reforming our planning and development system.

Question #5: Tell us about one Boston nonprofit that you engaged with recently. Tell us about one Boston nonprofit with whom you have a long-term relationship.

Click to see Candidate Responses

John Barros

In 1991, at age 17, I was the first youth elected to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) Board of Directors. I worked to amplify youth voices across the organization and neighborhood. In 1999, I became Executive Director of DSNI, a role I held for 13 years. I led the effort to revive a neglected neighborhood into a vibrant urban village. Under my leadership, Dudley Neighbors, Inc. (DNI), established itself as the largest urban community land trust in the country. DNI acquired over half of the 1,300 vacant lots in the neighborhood and converted 36 acres into 225 homes, gardens, parks, playgrounds, schools, a community center, and a greenhouse. I led a highly collaborative grant application process with 36 community partners and ultimately won a $5 million Promise Neighborhood planning grant from the US Department of Education, and later a $6 million implementation grant. These grants were pivotal in the effort to turn around three schools (Orchard Gardens K-8, Dearborn Middle School, and Burke High School) and establish a new in-district charter, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School.

Andrea Campbell

I recently engaged with the Mother’s For Justice and Equality, an organization centered on violence intervention with a mission that I am deeply connected to. One of my most long-term relationships has been with Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, an organization whose mission is breaking cycles of violence are especially pertinent in this time of our city. These organizations are doing incredible work every day to prevent violence in our communities and provide support for those impacted by it. I’m in awe of their work - they are examples of the many Boston non-profits who are pushing for change and deserve a seat at the decision-making table.

Annissa Essaibi-George

One of my favorite Boston nonprofits is the Winter Walk, an annual two mile walk around Boston that calls attention to homelessness. Both housed and unhoused participants walk around the city side by side before sharing a meal together at Copley Plaza. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the walk for the past few years, and I had the opportunity to co-chair it in 2021. As the founder of the City Council’s Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery, I have been a fierce advocate for those experiencing homelessness, and the Winter Walk gives me the chance to sit down with people and hear about their lived experiences. It is a deeply humbling and inspiring experience that informs my everyday work. The organization was a critical partner in helping to draft my ordinance to establish a Special Commission to End Family Homelessness.

Kim Janey

No response given.

 

Michelle Wu

I recently joined the 11th annual Mattapan on Wheels community biking event organized by Mattapan Food & Fitness and remembered that the first time I got back on a bicycle since childhood was at the very first Mattapan on Wheels over a decade ago. I’m one of so many Boston residents that this wonderful nonprofit has inspired and shaped, and it’s been thrilling for all of us to see Shavel’le Olivier, who started as a youth participant in their programming, step up as the first executive director a few years ago. I interned at Rosie’s Place during law school, right after my mom had experienced a mental health crisis and it seemed like my family’s world collapsed overnight. This nonprofit was not only serving women and their families in that same type of chaos and need, but doing so with fierce compassion, love, and humanity. The mission of Rosie’s Place was visionary when Kip Tiernan started the organization and remains critical to connecting women to services today. I’ve served as a board member and continue to draw on the values and insights from this amazing organization in my role as an elected official confronting the challenges across our city with urgency.

These responses were copied verbatim from the candidates’ submissions and not edited in any way. As a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the United Way cannot support or oppose any candidate for public office.