Michelle Wu Sets the Bar
Cities are the government's front line of citizen engagement. When elected officials show what local government is capable of accomplishing, voters grow accustomed to that quality of service. Our DMO of the Month studied under Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law, going on to serve as her Constituency Director when Warren ran for Senate. Having spent that formative period reaching out to underserved communities on the campaign trail, it is no surprise that her advocacy continues on the city council. This July we profile a DMO who sets the bar for responsive government. Meet Michelle Wu, Boston City Council President and DMO of the Month for July.
Immigration remains a subject of intense rhetoric, both in Washington and on the campaign trail, and cities across the US have the power to make an immediate impact on the issue. Council President Wu passed a resolution stating that unaccompanied children of immigrants will not have their immigration status questioned as a condition for receiving an education in Boston public schools. The resolution also confirms that children of undocumented immigrants have the right to be represented by an attorney during litigation, sending a strong message to the Federal government which still does not guarantee such provisions. During a political climate where immigrants seeking refuge are instead scapegoated, cities have the power to offer a safe haven.
While some US cities have already declared an end to veteran homelessness, Wu targets another significant homeless population – LGBT teens. Homeless teens can struggle with finding stable work, and LGBT youth on the streets might no longer have a safe home to return to. Compounding the problem is that most shelters do not accept occupants under 18 years old, and disenfranchised youth may also be distrustful of police and government. Council President Wu is investigating how the city of Boston can better serve LGBT teens with nowhere to live, including touring homeless shelters and conducting city council hearings to address the issue. As newly elected Council President, Wu instituted a new committee on homelessness, ensuring that people who often remain invisible continue to receive Boston's attention.
Cities are pioneering the Democratic call for paid leave. Wu underscored these efforts by bringing her young son Blaise to the office, as even Councilmembers did not benefit from paid parental leave when he was born. Her solution was a bill that offers up to six weeks of parental leave for city employees with graded pay during the period. Wu's leadership carves a path for other cities to follow as more Democrats take up the fight for paid leave. Council President Wu also pushed a resolution supporting a state bill establishing a domestic workers’ bill of rights. This bill would provide protections to often mistreated workers such as cleaners, nannies, personal care attendants, and others. Domestic workers, often left out of federal protections, would gain 1 day off per 7 days of work, parental leave, and gain basic protection against discrimination and harassment. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was later signed into law, showing how municipal leaders can set an example for state government through their support of proposed legislation.
Council President Michelle Wu advocates for the underserved, from homeless LGBT teens to domestic workers to the children of undocumented immigrants. Wu is one of many DMOs building a new concept of government service. Her leadership in Boston on paid leave and homelessness create different expectations of what citizens expect from their government. July’s DMO of the Month has set the bar for what public service looks like.
First elected in 2013, Michelle Wu was unanimously chosen to serve as Boston’s City Council President at the start of 2016. She is the first Asian-American to serve in the position. A graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law, she was taught by now Senator Elizabeth Warren, going on to work for her campaign as Constituency Director. Wu was born to immigrant parent from Taiwan, and ran a tea shop in Chicago before attending law school.