Mayor Walsh skips South Boston parade after fruitless negotiations

By 
Gintautas Dumcius
Mar. 16, 2014

The long back-and-forth over whether an advocacy group for equality can march in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade is over, at least for this year. Mayor Marty Walsh did not march, though he kept the door open until the last minute, hoping that parade organizers and the group, MassEquality, could come to an agreement on whether gay veterans could openly march.

Two South Boston elected officials who had hedged about attending the parade, Congressman Stephen Lynch and City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty, ended up marching.

Walsh’s statement on the parade came in at 9:18 a.m., as the annual St. Patrick’s Day roast, a separate event held in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, got underway. The parade kicked off hours later.

“As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city,” Walsh, who marched as a Dorchester state representative, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible.”

Walsh appeared at the breakfast roast, cracking jokes about the Boston Globe. Walsh quipped that the Globe was an “absentee landlord” that will be soon be moving out of its Morrissey Boulevard headquarters. The newspaper’s editorial board had endorsed his opponent in last year’s general election, John Connolly.

After his appearance, Walsh went backstage and met with the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, who had also attended the roast, an annual South Boston tradition that this year was hosted by state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who is from Dorchester and a Haitian-American woman.

Walsh spoke with reporters after his meeting with Kenny, covering topics from Mayor Thomas Menino’s illness to education.

The Boston Globe reported on Saturday that Menino has been diagnosed with cancer. Walsh, who spoke with Menino on Saturday night, pointed to Menino’s frequent battles with past illnesses. “He comes through every single one strong,” Walsh said. “All I can do is offer my support to the mayor.”

Walsh also confirmed to reporters that he privately met with Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, and 10 other mayors from around the country, on Friday in Washington, D.C. Walsh said they discussed Boston possibly receiving foundation funds from Gates for education.

“I don’t know about the money yet, but we’ll find out,” Walsh said. “But he was very pleased to hear about our superintendent search that’s going on here in the city, he was excited to hear about our commitment to early childhood education. He was also excited to hear about my support of charter schools. Because those foundations really look at education, they don’t look at the type. So we had a very good conversation.”

Asked if he plans to push for a lift on the cap of charter schools on Beacon Hill, Walsh said, “We want to see it get out of committee first before we push anything.”

Wednesday is the deadline for committees to report out bills, with the Legislature inching towards wrapping up its work for the year and turning towards the elections in the fall.

In the last week, backers of charter schools ratcheted up pressure on lawmakers – including Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the co-chair of the Committee on Education – and called on them to release a bill lifting the cap.

“I certainly feel there are a lot of good aspects to the bill,” Walsh said.

Walsh said he “certainly” shares some of Chang-Diaz’s concerns around charters and their effect on school districts’ budgets. But as for raising the cap, “I have no problem with that,” Walsh said.