In a space more often occupied by goalies and point guards than politicians, new Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, had one simple message to share from his platform above the floors of Kelley Rink: we move forward as one.
Walsh, the 48th and newest man to be elected Mayor of Boston, chose to be inaugurated in Conte Forum at Boston College, his alma mater. His choice of location breaks with tradition-set more than six miles away from City Hall, it is the farthest site from the city’s political hub ever chosen for a mayoral inauguration. Those who followed his campaign, however, know that this decision is the first of many traditions Walsh plans to break as he enters office.
As the city’s first new mayor in two decades, Walsh holds nearly unlimited political power-a thought formerly unfathomable to any man in Boston except outgoing mayor Thomas M. Menino, who announced last March that he would not seek reelection after 20 years as mayor. While Menino has been lauded for his success as mayor, critics point out the domineering effect he had on his own administration. David Bernstein, a contributing editor and leading political voice at Boston Magazine, wrote that Menino’s efforts to personally control the vast majority of decisions within the city of Boston have “served to keep good ideas out for years, and good people, too.”
As Walsh took the stage to speak for the first time as mayor, his message held a different kind of power-a power that does not lie within one man, but within thousands.
“When I say we are sworn in together, it means we’re in this together,” Walsh said in his inauguration speech. “We are in this together-every neighborhood. We are in this together-every race and religion. We are in this together, every man, woman and child. For our seniors and our students, for rich and poor, and everyone in between … Together, we can create one Boston-one Boston, a hub of opportunity, community, and equality for all.”
As he outlined the issues to be immediately tackled by his newly appointed cabinet and staff, Walsh made it clear that the work begins now.
Although nothing in Walsh’s speech contradicted any platform points made in his campaign, the order in which he plans to face those issues piqued the interest of Monday morning’s listeners. His campaign team promoted Walsh as a champion of organized labor, a man able to collaborate with various members of the political landscape to break down barriers that precluded taking active measures-such as the hushed truths concerning racial profiling within the Boston police force.
Today, however, Walsh discussed his desire to bring down violence and crime in local communities by addressing the parties plagued by issues of crime every day, such as the police force, the recovery community, and, most poignantly, the affected families. “There were fewer murders last year-40 homicides in our city,” Walsh said. “And while that lower number is good news … 40 homicides still represent 40 grieving mothers too many.”
After the ceremony, Walsh convened a meeting between the parties listed above to formulate possible steps that could be taken to diminish crime and violence on the streets of Boston.
Walsh discussed other platform points, such as caring for senior citizens and connecting with the youth culture-which he sees as integral to Boston’s “responsibility to every generation”-in broader, more generic terms, and also gave mention to the restructuring of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). While Walsh promised a speedy overhaul of the BRA during his campaign, he backpedaled in early December, saying that he was not in a rush to deal with the powerful city agency that has overseen development in the city of Boston in recent years-including developments on BC’s own campus. With the resignation of BRA director Peter Meade in effect today, however, Walsh may need to face the agency’s redevelopment sooner rather than later.
Walsh reiterated the importance of education, which took center stage during the campaign season. During his speech, he announced that he plans to launch a nationwide search for the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools tomorrow.
Early in his speech, Walsh cited examples of citizens directly telling him the changes they want enacted as he assumes this new role. Early on, he made a promise to the residents of Boston: “I will listen. I will learn. I will lead.” While only detailing plans for a few of his campaign platforms in his inauguration speech, the mayor gave his listeners a clear takeaway before leaving Conte Forum: “I am inspired every day by the people of our city by your hopes, by your dreams, by your determination,” he said. “I am listening. I will keep on listening. We will move Boston forward together.”