Walsh talks priorities with Ward 5 Democrats

Mike Deehan, Special to the Reporter
Feb. 19, 2014

Mayor Marty Walsh stopped by a meeting of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee on Tuesday night to update the active and outspoken group on his priorities and the first few weeks of his administration.

The progressive Democratic stronghold comprising parts of the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, the Fenway, and Chinatown was not friendly territory for Walsh on Election Day. The Dorchester legislator took only 23 percent of the area’s votes, with his opponent, former City Councillor John Connolly, winning support from most of the other 77 percent. After speaking to the group, Walsh told the Reporter that his message isn’t different in neighborhoods that he lost now that he’s mayor and he’s looking forward to building connections there.

“The election’s over and we’re moving forward. No, it doesn’t change at all. I have a lot of room for growth here and I intend, four years from now...to win this neighborhood,” he said.

Walsh told the gathering of about 40 people about his plans to revamp the Boston Redevelopment Authority -- it's undergoing an audit -- while looking for input from neighborhoods like their own that see development firsthand. He updated the group on his recent hires at City Hall, including filling positions at the heads of the city’s health services, housing and economic development office, as well as key posts on his staff.

One major appointment Walsh has yet to make is that of a permanent superintendent for the Boston Public Schools. The mayor said he wants whoever becomes superintendent to “inherit a system on the rise,” and is working with staff and interested parties to make sure the permanent hire “sticks,” as he put it.

Of particular interest to the Ward 5 community was Walsh’s promise of naming a Cabinet-level arts chief, a post he said he expects to fill “in the near future.” After addressing the committee, Walsh told the Reporter he will see what the budget for the new office will be before hiring somebody to run it. Walsh said at the meeting the office may not be fully funded this fiscal year, but that it will receive full funding sometime in the future.

One of the changes Walsh said would be coming to City Hall is a data-driven approach to governing. Walsh was impressed by the informational dashboard former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had at his disposal in his office, a display that showed real-time data on city departments, hotlines, and conditions. His cabinet will be instructed soon to deliver new and better ways of providing services and data, the mayor said.