Questions about crime and punishment dominated the Mattapan installment of Mondays with the Mayor, a rotating series of public forums featuring Mayor Walsh and his senior staff. The evening event at the Mildred Avenue School included several key members of Walsh’s cabinet, who sat in the front few rows of the school’s theater, and over the course of the hour each one stood for an introduction.
State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, State Representatives Russell Holmes and Dan Cullinane, City Councillor Timothy McCarthy and the newly sworn-in MBTA Police chief Kenneth Green all showed up to listen as Walsh fielded questions and explained city policy to a crowd of about 150 people, about one-third of whom were city employees.
“Mattapan is the place to be,” Mayor Walsh said. “With elected officials working together, and a lot of investment being made in the neighborhood, we’re seeing a lot of things happening in the neighborhood that’s positive.”
The mayor listed improvement projects in the neighborhood, including a Mattapan Square revitalization planning study. The state allocated $500,000 for development in Mattapan in 2016, and spent $400,000 on road projects in the neighborhood in 2015. All of the light bulbs in the street lights will be high efficiency LED bulbs by May, he said.
“It’s also an opportunity for people who might have ideas or suggestions on how we do things,” the mayor said. “So this isn’t all about questions and answers.”
The family of one murder victim stood in the back of the auditorium in the Mildred Avenue school, holding up pictures of their loved one. Two family members of people shot in Dorchester asked about how gun laws might be toughened.
“If you are caught with a gun, it should be a mandatory three years,” said Shira Shields, whose nephew died in gun violence. “It should be mandatory counseling for the families depending on the offenders age, for the whole family, not just the offender, because a lot of this starts from home.”
Current law requires a year and a day for anyone caught with a gun, and two years if that gun has ammunition.
“The concern is about guns coming from the north,” the mayor said, referring to New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. “Our gun laws in Massachusetts are tough. I think the Legislature is going to be strengthening gun laws in a couple of weeks. But honestly what we need is everyone in this room needs to contact the federal government. We need national gun legislation.”
Seventy percent of the guns recovered in Massachusetts are from out of state, Walsh said. The mayor said he liked Shields’ idea of counseling for families of people caught with guns.
Conversation also revolved around snow removal issues. The city will continue to invest in equipment that can take snow directly off the streets, instead of just pushing it around, he said. Over the summer the city bought two truck mounted snow blowers— an innovation borrowed from Montreal.
“As they go down the street, they’re going to be able to take snow into a truck and take it away,” the mayor said. “Secondly if they are going by an open space where there is a park they can shot the snow right into the park.”
One of the last questions came from a man who had just finished a 20-year prison sentence. He asked what resources might be available to him.
“I’m being released back into a society that has completely changed,” the man said. “There is nothing available for someone such as myself, who has just been released from incarceration.”
The mayor directed him to the Department of Transitional Assistance, a state run program, and pointed out a member of his cabinet who could help more directly.
“We’re setting up training programs in city government to make sure that we catch your population, meaning somebody that comes out of jail, somebody who is looking for employment, probably needs some help with training,” the mayor said.
At the end of the discussion, as the mayor left, his cabinet circulated through the crowd, starting up conversations and addressing other questions. The Mayor’s regular effort to draw comments, suggestions, and critique from neighborhoods around Boston continues on the his Twitter feed at #askMJW.