At-Large City Councillor Ruthzee Louijeune was elected president of the Boston City Council Monday, succeeding Councillor Ed Flynn in that post and pledging to make equity a guiding principle while aspiring to "bring everyone along" in the city.
The daughter of immigrants from Haiti, Louijeune was born and raised in Mattapan and Hyde Park and attended Boston Public Schools. An attorney, she graduated from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is trilingual with French and Haitian Creole.
Louijeune served as senior counsel for US Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 2020 presidential campaign, previously worked as a lawyer at Perkins Coie LLP, and recently started her own legal and advocacy business, The Opening PLLC.
"I believe in all of us and I believe in Boston," Louijeune said following her election. "One thing to know about me is that I unequivocally reject any zero-sum mentality that suggests that for one group to succeed, another must lose. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can address historic inequities and continue to bring everyone along."
Saying her parents "laid the foundation for all that it's possible for me today," Louijeune added, "They came to this country from Haiti – poor, Black, not speaking the language, and sacrificed so much for me and my three sisters and our entire extended family. They are our pillar."
During remarks in the council chamber, Louijeune, who was warmly greeted by Mayor Wu, outlined many priorities: rooting out housing discrimination, fighting "cost prohibitive" upfront rental costs, working with community land trusts on alternative models of ownership that prevent displacement, addressing neighborhood waste and trash pickup issues, making it easier to build affordable housing, combating "deeply rooted economic inequality" by expanding access to city contracts, space and land, and liquor licenses, and working with unions "to make sure that Boston remains a union town where we put the needs of the collective people before profit."
Prior to her election, Flynn had nominated Councilor Julia Mejia to serve as president, but she declined the nomination. "I think that it's important for us to recognize that this moment, in this body, requires us to really bring everyone together, regardless of our political differences," Mejia said.
Councillor Gabriela Coletta introduced Louijeune as the first Haitian American to serve on the council and noted her election as president came on Haitian Independence Day. In her remarks, Louijeune referenced new arrivals from Haiti seeking refuge here, and noted Haiti's distinction as "the first free Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere, and the only country in the world founded from a slave revolt."
"Today we continue the march toward true liberation as insecurity plagues our island nation, but we remain committed to our people abroad and here," said Louijeune, who said Boston is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora in the country.
She said she'll keep pushing for "shared prosperity" and using the city's strengths to lift working class residents. "Our city boasts some of the best institutions from universities to hospitals to life sciences," she said. "We have a strong AAA bond rating, strengths we can be using more to build schools and to build housing. We have the strength of diversity of our neighborhoods, but at times the education gaps, the housing crisis and disparities in health and wealth outcomes can make us feel like there are two different Bostons. Our work is to combat that, and to combat that together."
Louijeune also rejected the "old and new dichotomy" that she said some use to try to divide Boston based on its leadership changes. "I believe in a true Boston, one that has always had the riches of cultures and races and backgrounds that we see now in the halls of power,” she said, “one that embraces the rich Irish-American and the rich Italian-American and the rich African-American histories of our city, that celebrates the Latino community and the Asian community and the Somali community, and says to our LGBTQ plus siblings that we will always reject people and transphobic acts that work to threaten to make you feel unsafe.”