Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, launched his first of a series of town hall meetings called “Mondays with the Mayor” this week, designed for him to hear the needs of the average Boston citizen, but Walsh is not the first guy to try to achieve political success by listening to his constituents.
It may come as a surprise that I myself have dabbled in the political game. In middle school, I was-of course-running for student government because I apparently had no cooler things to do. I had to come up with a crafty slogan that would help launch what I hoped would be a winning campaign, but I couldn’t come up with any words that rhymed with my name other than cryin’ and dyin’, neither of which seemed like words that would invite victory. Ultimately, I came up with something only a tad less embarrassing: “Your Choice, Your Vote, Your Voice!”
Amazingly, I went on to achieve victory. I like to believe that my peers voted for me because I promised to act as their political voice, though I recognize that I actually won because I delivered an earnest speech that everyone thought included several hilarious jokes, and I was not going to correct them. But I digress.
The point here is that there is great value in letting your constituents be heard, or at least making them feel like they are being heard.
Because of the amount that I have read or written Walsh’s name, it is easy for me to forget that Walsh has only been Boston’s mayor for a few short months and that he still has much to learn, both about the office itself and the people he serves.
In terms of an official having a relationship with his constituents, former mayor Thomas M. Menino-known for his palpable presence in all of the city’s neighborhoods-is a tough act to follow. Even I had one indirect experience with Menino before his tenure ended. He came out on stage at Boston Calling in September to introduce Local Natives, a gesture that made me feel like an authentic member of the Boston community.
I have yet to have the same experience with Walsh, who remains a figure I have only seen in photographs. Even when I went to a meeting held by his transition committee at the Boston Public Library in January, he himself was not present and was a figure tangential to the actual proceedings.
The “Mondays with the Mayor” series should change that.
At the first meeting in the series, held at a school in Brighton, The Boston Globe reported that citizens gathered to express their concerns on issues ranging from the need for crosswalks to concerns about charter school enrollment. I will eventually attend one of Walsh’s town hall meetings-as a BC student, the city’s concerns are my concerns, and Walsh is most definitely my mayor.
Walsh is wise to reach out to his constituency in a tangible way, as he is likely to convince people like me-who have thus far seen him only as a distant image-that he is very much a present force in their lives.
My middle school campaign slogan may not have been what brought me political victory, but it at least had the right idea-Make sure the people voting for you know that you are paying attention to them. It’s worth the time.