Councilor Lydia Edwards published her annual year in review this week, noting that most of her work has been in helping constituents of all stripes to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic – though also highlighting efforts made citywide through her Council committee chair positions and locally in Charlestown.
Edwards said that since March, the office has made a priority out of making sure residents in the district have access to City and state and federal resources to assist in overcoming the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
“Since March, it’s been a priority of mine to provide my constituents with the resources needed to overcome unemployment or food insecurity,” she wrote. “We’ve become more efficient, transparent, and accessible as a district office and I am grateful that we can continue giving back to our community during these difficult times.”
Along those lines, Edwards was the first to champion a citywide Rental Assistance Program that was picked up by Mayor Martin Walsh and is currently getting ready to disperse its second round of funding. That program was suggested by Edwards early in the pandemic as it became obvious that homeowners and renters who had steady income were going to lose their earning power – and potentially their housing. With few programs available for those not meeting low-income standards, Edwards said the program was instituted to plug a gap for those that need help, but don’t necessarily qualify for the usual city, state and federal programs.
Meanwhile, coming in at the beginning of 2020 as the new chair of two committees, Government Operations and Housing & Community Development, she said she was able to champion two major efforts to increase equity in planning and to potentially allow a major change to creating the City Budget.
“I pushed for major policy milestones like codifying equity in planning, making Boston the first-in-the-nation to do so,” she wrote. “This amendment incorporates civil rights into zoning, requiring developers to meaningfully end neighborhood patterns of economic and racial segregation.”
The second citywide change could be decided at the ballot box in November 2021, as a Charter Change championed by Edwards is likely to appear on the ballot – a change that will open up the City Budget process for the first time in a Century.
“In response to national and local calls for structural change beyond hashtags and symbols, I put forth, and the Council passed, a ballot initiative to amend the City’s Charter,” she wrote. “It would allow Councilors the ability to advocate for their community with greater transparency during the budget process and create a participatory budgeting process. This initiative would give the people of Boston greater agency over their tax dollars.”
Other reform initiatives in 2020 included Zoning Board Reform (with some aspects still at the State House awaiting approval), the Housing Stability Notification Act, and Cannabis Equity in Boston.
In Charlestown, she highlighted the monthly talks about racism and policing that were held at the Peace Park or online from June through November.
“Together, we’ve prioritized community voices at each table set before us,” she wrote. “In Charlestown, we created and maintained space with the youth of Turn-It-Around to have tough conversations on racism and equity following the death of George Floyd. We also created the first youth Impact Advisory Seat within the BPDA for the redevelopment of Bunker Hill public housing.”
The also highlighted the second annual Pride Week flag raising at the Schrafft’s Center in June.
Overall, Edwards characterized the year as very challenging, and said it has been one marked with loss – even for herself as she continues to mourn the sudden loss of her boyfriend in October.
“This year has challenged us all,” she said. “Too many of us have lost loved ones, including myself, or know someone who has. Too many have lost their homes or their jobs. It is crucial we continue to support them as we enter the new year. I am so incredibly proud of how we’ve come together for others in the face of adversity.”