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Michelle Wu ’07 Touts Youth Organizers, ‘Foundational’ Harvard Law Experience at Press Conference

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Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu ’07, a leading candidate in this fall’s Boston mayoral election, discussed her campaign platform and Harvard influences in a virtual press conference held Monday evening.

During the press conference — her third exclusive to Boston-area student journalists — Wu focused on how her time at Harvard impacted her candidacy, as well as the work of youth organizers in bolstering her campaign.

Wu described her education at Harvard Law School as “foundational” to her career in public service, specifically citing the influence of her first law professor, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“I walked into my first day of law school at Harvard, meeting Elizabeth Warren as my contract law professor,” Wu said. “I worked on her campaign, her first campaign for the Senate, which took place during my three years of law school, and would not otherwise have gotten any exposure [to politics].”

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Warren endorsed Wu on Jan. 15, saying in a statement to The Crimson at the time that she had seen Wu’s compassion and work ethic “first hand,” both in the classroom and on her Senate campaign. Warren added these qualities would allow Wu to “make a difference in people’s lives” as mayor through “bold, progressive leadership.”

“There’s no way that I would be in this role if I hadn’t had so many doors open through the incredible education that I’ve been able to experience,” Wu said.

In response to a question about Boston’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which requests optional payments from tax-exempt nonprofits such as Harvard to supplement lost tax revenue, Wu argued current agreements “definitely need a refresh,” adding to a growing chorus calling for PILOT reform.

“We need to get back to reexamining this system, particularly from an equity point of view,” Wu said. “We need to get to a point where Boston is aligning all of our sectors and all of our resources towards a more proactive and bolder vision, rather than just saying, ‘How do we squeeze and get closer to accountability?’”

As an example of this type of cooperation, Wu referenced a 2018 City Council ordinance she wrote on food procurement, requiring Boston’s municipal government prioritize local, healthy, sustainable vendors with humane and fair labor practices when seeking food services contracts. This most prominently included hot meals for Boston Public Schools, she added.

“We have $18 million of purchasing power across the city,” Wu said. “But imagine if all of our local universities were on board with bundling that together, all of our local hospitals, right — that’s $100 million in purchasing power annually.”

When asked about the role of youth activists in her campaign, Wu said she was “just following the lead” of “incredible” young organizers.

“Young people are leading the way right now — not in the future but right now — when it comes to the issues that are urgent in our communities around racial justice and public safety and healing and climate justice, housing justice,” Wu said.

Wu said she would center youth organizing in her mayoral administration, referencing her first public campaign event, a conversation with youth organizers in Dorchester. Wu has also been endorsed by several progressive advocacy groups, including the youth-led Sunrise Movement Boston.

She added she was “honored and humbled” by the work of the Youth for Wu group, a network of activists emulating the highly effective “Students for Markey” coalition which propelled U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) to re-election last year.

“Young people have the greatest stake in these policies,” Wu said.

—Staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at brandon.kingdollar@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newskingdollar.

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