As his transition team seeks to get a handle on the levers of city government, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh met with local and state officials early this week after returning from a post-campaign vacation in the Turks and Caicos island territories. He also stopped by a regular meeting on crime and civic issues near Codman Square.
“I’m going to pay special attention to our neighborhood,” Walsh told a crowd of 200 people at the Joseph Lee Elementary School on Monday night. He then quipped: “That part’s off the record.”
Walsh, who has served as one of Dorchester’s state representatives on Beacon Hill for 16 years, spent about a half hour fielding questions on charter schools, light poles, parking, trash pick-up, and public safety. At the end, he pledged to appear at the next meeting and to be a regular presence at future meetings. Speaking to reporters outside after the session, Walsh said the community is active and holds elected officials’ “feet to the fire, and that’s a good thing.”
At the meeting, he was joined by City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo, who is part of his transition team, City Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley, state Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Linda Dorcena Forry, state Reps. Russell Holmes and Dan Cullinane, and District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey.
During the question-and-answer period, Walsh said he would bring back trade programs in schools, reform the high school system, and review the state of school facilities. He plans to hold a town hall-style meeting soon, he added. Attendees said they would like the talk turned into action.
“I hope he follows through on it,” said Kathy Gabriel, a Trinidad native who ran for state representative in Mattapan in 2010.
Acting Police Commissioner William Evans, who took over after Ed Davis stepped down from the job on Nov. 1, also attended the meeting. The South Boston resident said afterwards that he hopes Walsh will allow him to stay on permanently as commissioner.
Decisions like that – along with picking a permanent schools superintendent – will be on a lengthy to-do list on Walsh’s desk once he’s sworn into office on January 6. Just how many positions he will get a chance to fill remains unclear.
Outgoing Mayor Thomas Menino has already set the wheels in motion on a number of appointments, including two School Committee slots that will open up in January: The terms of Mary Tamer and Hardin Coleman will expire and the process for choosing their successors is under way. Menino will likely choose who will fill the slots and Walsh will be left with the task of formally swearing them in.
One other School Committee slot, an opening that was created by Alfreda Harris stepping down earlier this fall, was filled the day before the Nov. 5 election with the appointment of civil rights attorney Margaret McKenna, whose term will expire in January 2015.
Other appointments, like those to the board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, have to pass through the City Council, whose members may choose to hold them up in an effort to aid the incoming mayor. Menino has proposed that Clayton Turnbull serve a term that expires in January 2018.
Earlier on Monday, Walsh met with Gov. Deval Patrick and acting Boston schools chief John McDonough. “This is a strong partnership and it’s not a new partnership,” said Patrick, a Milton Democrat who has 14 months left in his second term and isn’t running for a third.
Addressing reporters who had gathered outside the governor’s third floor office inside the State House, Walsh said he asked for an increase in local aid, a significant part of the city budget that has faced a steady decline in recent years, in their brief meeting. The governor smirked in response, Walsh noted with a chuckle.
After meeting with the governor for nearly a half-hour, Walsh walked out with Patrick and looked at the press corps assembled outside of Room 360.
“It’s the first time I’ve come out of the governor’s office with so many people waiting to hear what I have to say,” he joked.