The city wandered its way into 2017 reeling from Donald Trump’s election and gearing up for a mayoral challenge. Days before counter-inaugural presidential protests – one packed the Strand Theatre – took place across Boston, incumbent Mayor Martin Walsh, asserting that the city was “ready to soar,” laid out a dense package of first-term accomplishments before doubling down on education, a subject area that would dog him throughout his reelection campaign and beyond.
In a prescient nod to national political impacts on city priorities, the mayor pledged to support Boston’s residents of all backgrounds along with local efforts on construction and economic development. Officials from the city council on up to the state’s US senators opposed Trump’s immigration bans, his attacks on sanctuary cities, and a proposed budget containing the potential to slash community block grants on which main street groups rely.
“In a time of uncertainty, we will step forward with confidence in our values,” Walsh said. “With trust in government at an all-time low, we prove that government can work for all the people. At a time when cities must lead, Boston is the leader of cities.”
As to the mayoral election, City Councillor Tito Jackson came out swinging in February citing Walsh’s riskiest pursuits – the ill-fated 2024 Olympics bid and the failed IndyCar endeavor – and criticizing him on school spending. Throughout a combative but electorally unsurprising race, the councillor and the mayor diverged on their visions for growing the city’s growth, with Walsh winning another term in November by more than 30 points in a low turnout year.
Transformation was the word to describe what happened with the City Council during 2017. Three councillors stepped down – Jackson to pursue a mayoral run, Bill Linehan and Sal LaMattina retiring – clearing the way for three new faces. Ed Flynn, the former mayor’s son, took District 2, and Councillors-elect Kim Janey in District 7 and Lydia Edwards in District 1 brought the number of women of color on the council to a historic six. All incumbents seeking to keep their council seats did so.
And District 4 Councillor Andrea Campbell is teed-up to set another historic precedent. With the unanimous support of her colleagues, she will be voted in on Jan. 1 as the first African-American woman to serve as council president.
Up on Beacon Hill, a scandal darkened the Golden Dome late in the year in the midst of a nationwide conversation on sexual assault and harassment by men in positions of power. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg stepped down from his post as an Senate investigation began into whether his husband, Bryon Hefner, had sexually harassed men working on Beacon Hill over the past few years. While majority leader Harriette Chandler will serve as president until the investigation concludes, four senators, including Dorchester’s Linda Dorcena Forry, have said they would pursue the president’s seat if it became available.
Former state Sen. Brian Joyce was arrested in early December and indicted on federal charges alleging that he collected about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks that he had laundered through his law firm.
The year ended on a speculative note, with several things to ponder for the new year. A mysterious polling call went out to residents asking about at-large Councillor Ayanna Pressley potentially matching up against incumbent US Rep. Michael Capuano. While the councillor has not publicly confirmed interest in a run for the 7th Congressional District, Politico Massachusetts quoted a source close to her as saying she is “seriously considering” challenging the representative. If Pressley were to unseat Capuano, Bostonians would be left with an interesting addition to the city council roster to fill the void – fifth place at-large finisher and former state Rep. Althea Garrison.