Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Thursday he is creating a new racial equity cabinet at city hall that will bring together leaders from various government agencies to ensure racial justice issues are addressed in all major city policies.
Walsh said the point is to “build a process for change into the way government and our society works” by applying an equity lens “to every single department and service” across the city, as the next step in eliminating long-standing structural racism.
The new Equity and Inclusion Cabinet will include officials from the city departments of Resilience and Racial Equity; Diversity; Language and Communications Access; Women’s Advancement; Immigrant Advancement and Human Rights.
The cabinet is intended to “advance our work to root out systemic racism and build up racial equity in our city,” Walsh said.
The group will be led by a chief of equity and inclusion, a new position Walsh is creating.
“The work of this Cabinet will combat systemic racism in every single way that city government touches,” Walsh said.
Earlier this month, the mayor declared racism a pubic health emergency in Boston, and created a commission to propose changes in police policiesto increase racial equity. The city is also moving 20% of the police overtime budget into community health and social justice programs —though some city counsellors opposed Walsh’s plan for not going far enough to address racial inequality.
City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo applauded the mayor's intentions, but told WGBH News Walsh's plan falls short because it is still just "employees of the mayor" who serve at his whim and report only to him.
Arroyo has proposed creating an organization that is "independent and public facing" and functions like the Congressional Budget Office in Washington: It would provide an expert "racial impact assesment... like a scorecard" for any major policy and release those reports to the public. That would give the public a neutral analysis of whether the policy would increase or decrease racial equity or have no significant impact.
He said creating this agency outside the mayor's office would also ensure its permanence so that "whoever is in that seat, this is a check built into the system that is free to do their work."
The mayor also announced Thursday a new city fund to support the same goals by funneling millions of dollars of philanthropic donations to nonprofits that support minority economic achievement.
“Its mission is to increase safety and well-being and equity and the prosperity of the Black and brown community," Walsh said.
The mayor said the short term goal will be to raise $10 million for the new Boston Racial Equity Fund, with a long-term goal of raising $50 million. Walsh said the fund will partner with the new cabinet to support non-profit groups working in economic development, public health, youth employment education and other areas.
Walsh also promised a third racial justice initiative: inserting a racial equity requirement into city zoning codes to ensure new construction is not pushing minorities out of neighborhoods or limiting access to housing.
Despite his emphasis on racial equity, Walsh said in response a reporter’s question that he does not support calls by some activists to rename Faneuil Hall, because he said over time, people will simply forget the history of the building.
"If we change the name of Faneuil Hall, 30 years from now we'd forget what happened there," he said. "And I think there are certain parts of our history that we should use and learn from."
The marketplace was founded in 1742 by PeterFaneuil a merchant who made money off slavery and owned slaves himself. Enslaved people were also bought and sold in the marketplace.