Walsh sits with Menino, gets warm reception in House

By 
Andy Metzger, State House News Service
Nov. 6, 2013

Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh and Mayor Thomas M. Menino meet in Menino's office on Nov. 6, 2013. Photo courtesy Menino's office

Fresh off a 3.5-point victory for mayor of Boston, Rep. Martin Walsh addressed reporters Wednesday, saying he would announce appointments to his transition team as early as Friday and had received congratulations and advice from Mayor Tom Menino.

"A lot of people are going to be coming at you. You have a lot of friends now. He said just, you know, be careful and move forward," Walsh recounted at a Boston Common press conference Wednesday afternoon. Walsh said the mayor of more than 20 years told him to keep the people of the city foremost in his mind and "stay connected."

Walsh defeated City Councilor John Connolly, a West Roxbury pol who entered the race before Menino announced he would not seek a sixth term and earned the backing of education reformers and the city's business community.

The Dorchester Democrat received a congratulatory call from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, a voicemail from Vice President Joe Biden - who had accidentally called a different Marty Walsh - and a conciliatory call from Connolly.

"He said to me, 'You're my mayor,' and you have my support," said Walsh, who praised Connolly for bringing education to the fore. A former secretary/treasurer of the Boston Building Trades whose ability to negotiate contracts on behalf of the city was called into question, Walsh said, "It got a little testy in the last couple days."

Speaking from the House rostrum to his fellow representatives Wednesday, Walsh said after winning a special election in 1997 he couldn't sleep and drove to the State House at 2 a.m., parking across the street and staring in awe at the building where he would work.

Before Walsh won the Savin Hill seat it was occupied by Jim Brett, who is now president of the New England Council and in 1993 lost the mayoral election to Menino, who had become acting mayor over the summer.

Walsh told reporters he would resign from the House soon after Jan. 1, and said he would "potentially" play a role before January. He said if the Boston City Council rejects an arbitration award to the Boston Police Patrolmen, restarting negotiations, he would offer to play a role in those discussions.

Over the years, Menino has developed a reputation for freezing out certain developers, most famously Don Chiofaro, who has sought to redevelop a parking garage between the Kennedy Greenway and the New England Aquarium.

"We're going to make some changes, positive changes, and add a lot more transparency to the process, and anybody who wants to come and invest in our city, as long as it's a good smart investment and there's future jobs for people, certainly my door's open to them," Walsh said when asked whether he would reconsider projects such as Chiofaro's that Menino opposed.

Walsh has advocated selling City Hall and City Hall Plaza, a concrete expanse and a building in the "brutalist" style, and moving the city's government into a private development.

"It's not my top priority to be quite honest with you," Walsh said Wednesday. "My top priority is to make sure we have a smooth transition."

After the 13-minute presser on the sunny common, which ended as gusts of wind kicked up leaves, police halted traffic on Beacon Street, as Walsh made his way across the street to the House chamber to greet his colleagues, shaking hands with some children along the way.

In the chamber, Walsh was introduced by Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, who told the News Service he would not seek a position within Walsh's City Hall and became emotional when referring to Walsh's late father.

"Marty, the gentleman from Dorchester is my dear friend. I can't tell you how proud I am of him today, and I know his father is as well," O'Flaherty said.

O'Flaherty said Walsh had accomplished the American Dream by being elected mayor as a first-generation immigrant whose parents left Ireland seeking better opportunities for themselves and their family. "What greater opportunity could they ever have envisioned than having their son elected mayor of the city of Boston?" O'Flaherty said.

DeLeo cautioned colleagues coveting Walsh's House Ethics Committee chairmanship that they'll have to wait until he leaves.

"He stayed true to the man that he is," DeLeo said, Walsh's goal during an education reform debate in 2010 was to make sure students in Boston had the same opportunities as students throughout the state.

"You've been a good friend. You have tested my patience at times, many times actually," DeLeo said. "But on behalf of the House I cannot tell you . . . what your victory, what you stand for, means to everyone in this House of Representatives."

Walsh was greeted like a celebrity when he entered the chamber, with people gravitating towards him to shake hands and have their pictures taken with him.

"This is unbelievable," Walsh said, recounting how he fell in love with the House as soon as he joined it.

Michael Norton contributed reporting.