Walsh hits all bases in inaugural address

Mayor Martin J. Walsh was sworn in as the city’s 54th mayor on Monday at 11:07 a.m. in front of 8,000 of his closest friends and near and distant relatives who had gathered in the sports arena of his alma mater, Boston College. The 46-year-old Savin Hill native took the oath on a Bible held by his mother, Mary Walsh, and with his brother John Walsh and his partner Lorrie Higgins standing nearby. The Hon. Judge Roderick Ireland, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, administered the oath to Walsh, who then delivered a 20-minute address to the jubilant crowd, which included thousands of campaign volunteers who had helped the former state representative from Dorchester ascend to the city’s most coveted political job last November.

The inaugural remarks celebrated the city’s proud revolutionary past and present: from its patriotic and abolitionist roots to its pioneering advocacy for gay rights. With a rhetorical flourish that invoked the words of Puritan forefather John Winthrop— who dubbed Boston a “City upon a Hill”— Walsh extended the metaphor to the neighborhoods, setting the stage for an administration that many— including the new mayor— hope will see greater prosperity and peace across the city.

“We are a City Upon a Hill, but it’s not just the shining light of Beacon Hill,” said Walsh. “It’s Savin Hill, where I live. It’s Bunker Hill, Bellevue Hill, and Fort Hill. It’s Pope’s Hill, Jones Hill, and Telegraph Hill. It’s Copp’s Hill, Mission Hill, and Eagle Hill. So when I say we are sworn in together, it means we’re in this together. We are in this together – every neighborhood.”

As Walsh spoke, former Mayor Thomas M. Menino was leaving City Hall en route to an undisclosed vacation spot. The outgoing mayor chose not to attend the inaugural events, insisting that Walsh should not share the spotlight on his big day. In the end, despite some private grumblings from both sides that the decision was a snub, there was no question that the full glare of the day’s pomp and circumstance belonged to the new chief executive of Boston.

Still, Walsh’s remarks included a gracious nod to his immediate predecessor:

“As a citizen of Boston, I am grateful for the lifetime of outstanding civic leadership by my predecessor, Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Tom Menino, and his wife Angela. As a legislative aide who started his political career in the same building where I started mine, to a district city councillor, to mayor of our beloved Boston, his legacy is already legend and his vision is all around us. I am grateful for his support, and his advice as I go forward. Thank you, Mayor and Mrs. Menino.”

Walsh’s speech doubled as a State of the City address, one that is customarily delivered in January. And so it was peppered with policy nuggets that outline the initial emphasis of an administration in its infancy.

“My priorities are clear,” Walsh said. “Strengthening our economy and creating jobs; improving public safety and stopping senseless gun violence; ensuring our schools help every child to succeed; and increasing trust and transparency in city government.”

Walsh pledged to make the prevention of “senseless violence” a day one priority— and in fact, he did convene a meeting with mothers of young people murdered in the city in recent years on Monday afternoon following the ceremony at Boston College and a visit to the Boston City Council chambers.

“There were fewer murders last year – 40 homicides in our city,” Walsh noted. “And while that lower number is good news, and a testament to the hard work that has been done, we know, as Acting Police Commissioner Evans said the other day, 40 homicides still represents 40 grieving mothers too many. And I agree. We know what works. We know there are steps we can take now. We must redouble our efforts, and recommit ourselves to the safety of every citizen in our city. We will do that today and every day I am mayor.”

Walsh next addressed the city’s public schools and pledged to “begin conversations” on Tuesday with the school committee to “launch a nationwide search for the next superintendent of the Boston Public Schools.”

I want our next superintendent to be a proven urban education leader who shares my commitment to eliminating the achievement gap, universal early education, high school reform, inclusion programs, dual language programs, a new approach to school construction, and expanded, high quality career and technical training.”

In a section of the speech focused on job creation and economic development, Walsh said he was “committed to restructuring” the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the quasi-city agency that Walsh had targeted for reform in his 2013 campaign. “We have to make clear to everyone that Boston is open for business,” Walsh said.

The new mayor said he hoped to “revitalize” the Main Streets Program— one of Menino’s signature programs— and said he would “launch Neighborhood Business Districts, which will provide wider access to city resources.”

Walsh used Uphams Corner’s Strand Theatre— a city owned asset— as an example. “ The Strand is part of my family’s history – a place I walked past countless times as a kid. And just recently, I began and ended my own campaign for mayor within its storied walls. Now, as the Strand approaches its 100th anniversary, it can once again be an economic engine for the neighborhood, an education resource for our teens, and a new performance and gathering spot for our entire city.”

The address was well-rehearsed and carefully worded, but Walsh’s casual and often self-deprecating personality shone through in places. He grew emotional, but remained composed, when he mentioned his late father, John Walsh, who passed away in 2011. And early in the speech, he drew laughter when he noted the gravity of the day for him and his family: “We are city of big dreams, and we have what it takes to make dreams come true. And if you doubt any of that, look at this kid from Taft Street in Dorchester who’s now your mayor. I know my mother’s not the only one surprised.”