Four years ago, in this space, we endorsed Martin J. Walsh for mayor of Boston. The Dorchester Reporter was one of only two city newspapers (The Weekly Dig was the other) to back Walsh in the final election.
This time, as Walsh seeks a second term, we have company. The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald both endorsed Walsh this week, a reversal for both dailies who, in 2013, favored John Connolly, Walsh’s opponent. Last week, Connolly himself endorsed the mayor.
The mayor has disappointed some Bostonians, but he has clearly won over many converts in the last four years. In growing his base, the former state representative from Dorchester has punched in a solid first term in office and earned our endorsement again in next month’s final election.
Marty Walsh is a steady hand and a thoughtful, compassionate leader who is clearly the best-equipped and fully committed candidate to lead the city through the next four years.
In 2013, we wrote that Walsh has “the potential to be a transformative leader for Boston on multiple fronts, but especially when it comes to job equity and neighborhood development.” The Walsh administration is a work in progress on both fronts, and on other key indicators, but he has set in motion — or continued— important work that has made Boston a better city, with the promise for even better outcomes in the future.
The mayor has been faulted by some, including his opponent in this race, for putting too much emphasis on big-ticket wins for the city – such as landing General Electric or seeking to lure Amazon. This critique, which suggests that such efforts undermine other city priorities, like school funding or efforts to curb homelessness, doesn’t ring true to Bostonians who are paying attention.
We actually like Walsh’s big ideas. Bringing in companies that will expand the city’s tax and job base is a good thing. Boston’s long-ago days as a stultified backwater that hemorrhaged people and talent are in the rear view. The mayor has seized upon this concept. While not every initiative he has attempted has, or will, pan out, we want our city government to think big, embrace innovation, and trumpet our virtues to the world. And we expect that they will be skilled enough to be able to multi-task. Marty Walsh and his team have shown they are able to manage an increasingly complex city.
If there’s a downside to chasing big ideas, it’s the increased pressure on housing and transportation, and valid concerns about potential displacement. But these are regional problems that Boston cannot be expected to mitigate on its own. The Walsh team has put its best foot forward— and followed through — by encouraging new housing starts and seeking to build middle-income units.
The Department of Neighborhood Development’s accelerated initiative to build affordable units on formerly vacant land is a standout. The data have shown that Walsh’s overall strategy of encouraging more density and higher-end housing across the city is easing the pressure on rents a bit in older housing stock. That needs to continue and extend deeper into Dorchester and Mattapan. But clearly, the city is moving in that direction.
We’d like to see a lot more emphasis on planning out Columbia Point – where developments have been stalled or left in a chaotic state at best – and where the Walsh team can really have a constructive influence. On the development side, the Point neighborhood should become a focus of Walsh’s next term.
The administration’s record so far in improving the city’s school system is incomplete, but moving in the right direction. His team made a good call locally in converting the Mattahunt elementary school to an early education center, with an emphasis on Haitian language learners. Schools like the Kenny in Adams Corner are attracting more families. And Walsh has reached an accord with teachers to expand instruction time and fairly compensate our hard-working educators.
For the mayor, there’s ample room for improvement on multiple fronts. Police body cameras should be put into full use across the city without further delay. The city, and the state, need to change the hiring priorities for police and fire positions to allow for a much larger proportion of people of color to earn spots. Walsh’s promise to add diversity to the city workforce has been stymied in part by those civil service hiring hurdles. He has been far more successful in diversifying other parts of city government, including his own cabinet.
Much of what we saw as the promise of a Marty Walsh mayoralty has come to fruition. The city’s bond rating is top notch under his watch. He is a collaborative leader who works well with the city council and is eager to reach consensus. He has shown a willingness to re-think his own plans – as in the case of the Boston 2024 Olympic bid – when he recognizes that a course correction is necessary.
The mayor has spoken out forcefully, and with genuine feeling, about the outrages of the current regime in Washington, delivering a strong and urgently needed voice at a time of great upheaval for our nation. Cynics might say it’s a matter of expediency for someone seeking re-election, but we know from our years covering Walsh as a back-bench state rep who spoke out on matters of civil rights, such as LGTBQ equality, that Marty Walsh is simply being Marty Walsh.
Four years ago, we concluded: “City government needs a leader at its helm who has an authentic feel for our neighborhoods and who understands at a gut level the pressures of the daily grind that most city residents face. Boston will have that mayor in Marty Walsh.”
We were right about that, and Marty Walsh has earned our vote on Nov. 7.