If the world pandemic known as Coronavirus / COVID-19 has caused us to do anything, it has made us shift into all types of new ways of life. We’ve had to transition back and forth from in-person to remote work, and our children the same with their education. We’ve also had to deal with the ever more blatant exacerbation of the inequities pre and during COVID-19, and soon, we’ll need to be sure we’re prepared for all things “post COVID” or “post-pandemic. What will we do after it? What role will we play to be sure there is equity in resources and services?
One major entity that is responsible for making sure there is equity in resources and services is the government. Federal, state, county, and local city government systems were the funnels through which a lot of money was allocated to help. That prior sentence is filled with a lot of presumptions. Presuming those in positions of influence, and power are informed not only by our struggle but by our intentional engagement to inform policy. That’s a transition that is often and sadly influenced by “politics”.
While the federal government allocates funding to state and local governments, and some of them generate their own revenue, all “politics” are local. I’d say, even more so when it comes to transitioning to a space where residents of local municipalities are served through a lens of intentional equity when it comes to allocation of funds to programs and services. It’s not easy.
As all politics are local, locally, we’re in unprecedented municipal transition. After a 20-year tenure of Boston’s longest-serving Mayor, Thomas M. Menino (December 27, 1942 – October 30, 2014 / Mayor of Boston for 20 years), the residents of Boston were going to feel the transition of a new Mayor, even if it was Barak Obama, there would’ve been “bumps”. In 2013, Martin “Marty” J. Walsh was elected Mayor of Boston and was re-elected again in 2017, and in 2018, was sworn in by speculated presidential candidate Joseph Biden. For many of us, we saw the handwriting on the wall, Marty was headed to DC.
In March of 2021, in the middle of a world pandemic, Marty became the Secretary of Labor for the Biden Administration, we entered another transition. In an “HERstoric” moment, the Honorable Kim Janey became the first Black Woman Mayor of the City of Boston. Let’s not forget, Marty’s appointment and Mayor Janey’s accession to Mayor were during a municipal election year. More handwriting was on the wall. As the election season progressed, former Menino intern, At Large City Councilor, Michelle Wu looked to be the presumed top candidate to win the 2021 Mayoral election, she did.
While her win also made history, the city’s residents, and its employees, in less than one year, would experience another transition. Within that year, we’ve had three administrations, with multiple cabinet chiefs and department head changes. While change and/or transition is never easy, post the election, these changes are more complex when considering undertones of feelings and emotions that come with the “politics” of these changes.
If we’re going to transition into a time of true equity, and improved quality of life of all Boston’s residents, including city employees, we must give grace to both the old staff and new staff and understand that we can build upon the old ways of doing things and enhance them with new innovative ideas and approaches. Change and transition are never easy, but they are necessary.
It is imperative that these changes do not disrupt the continuity of basic city and other constituent services, especially programs and resources for our residents that are most impacted by poverty, health disparities, and all the inequities we saw exacerbated by the pandemic. We must name and appreciate the legacy staff that worked to see us through the pandemic. Their dedication, commitment, and general institutional knowledge must be acknowledged, respected, and appropriately factored into decisions around staff changes and new staff. There needs to be a good balance of old and new.
Speaking of new staff, new staff come with new ideas and an energy that can be helpful, but harmful if presented properly. The work, institutional knowledge, and job longevity have great value in times of change and transition and so do the new ideas and energy, again, if they are balanced. The old staff needs to be open to new ideas and appreciate the new energy, and the new staff must be careful not to disregard the old. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.