Mayor Martin Walsh is diving into the new year with a legislative agenda that is “all over the road,” he said, and made up of 55 proposals that will be sponsored by members of the Boston delegation when the new legislative session begins on Thursday.
After weeks of negotiations and meetings, Walsh lined up the proposals with the delegation in a closed-door meeting on Monday at the Parkman House. Those who attended called the meeting ambitious, optimistic, and upbeat, largely because of Walsh’s rapport with the legislators.
“I wasn’t here with Menino, but I can’t emphasize enough how ambitious Mayor Walsh’s agenda is,” said state Rep. Dan Hunt, who was sworn into Walsh’s old 13th Suffolk seat in April. “When I was at DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation), we worked with five different bills with Menino and only one got filed. With the mayor, there’s 55 ambitious pieces of legislation.”
The proposals are for a range of initiatives: allow the city to issue industrial bonds; requirements for side guards on city-owned trucks to protect bicyclists; allowing input from the Boston Fire Department on state buildings’ fire protection systems; and setting up a study into siting a regional lock-up facility next to the South Bay House of Correction.
“Sometimes his hands are tied by federal law or state law, but if he thinks his job can be easier by making it independent, he’s going to pursue that,” said Rep. Evandro Carvalho, qualifying that he had not read every bill Walsh had proposed.
Many of the bills echoed themes from the 2013 campaign, Hunt said, including a bill to be filed by Carvalho that would eliminate duplicative permitting processes between the city and state, cutting red tape for small businesses especially in the city’s Main Streets districts, as well as reforming the Chapter 70 funding formula, which distributes money to the state’s school districts.
“The whole room signed onto bills – you wouldn’t have that with a different mayor,” Hunt said. “We all trust what he’s putting in front of us, that what he’s putting in front of us is good for our district. It’s because he has such extensive knowledge on the state level.”
One home-rule petition would allow for retired police to staff police details, assignments that are badly needed in the summer months, Hunt said. “Now, tens of thousands of details go unfilled, especially in the summer. With major events like the 4th of July, the Marathon, playoff game baseball, we get a lot of police responding to that, but they don’t have the staff for a police detail to the NSTAR truck on Dot Ave. This will help ensure public safety.”
The legislators spoke glowingly about their relationship with Walsh and noted the savvy he accumulated from his 17 years as a state rep before being elected mayor. His time in the Legislature dwarfs the collective years in office by the current Dorchester delegation.
“We’ve all worked together in different capacities in the community long before any of us have run for office,” said Rep. Dan Cullinane. “We’ve known each other and we all approach representing our districts similarly. While we represent different districts and constituencies, we’re in this together.”
Walsh enjoys working with the new crop of Dorchester politicians. “Nearly every official has less than two years’ experience,” Walsh told the Reporter on Tuesday. “They’ve done some great work. They’re very eager, eager to jump into it.”
State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who is married to Reporter editor and publisher Bill Forry and has been in office at the State House since the spring of 2005, is “carrying some big stuff for us,” Walsh said. Among the “stuff,” according to Dorcena Forry: a bill that would allow the city to petition the state for surplus properties that would then be used to create more transit-oriented developments and affordable housing.
With the large crop of proposals, Walsh “wants to make sure City Hall works for the people, and I think he’s doing a great job,” Hunt said. “He’s been working at a campaign pace for the last year. Today’s his one-year anniversary since the inauguration, and he just has not stopped.”