I’ll freely admit that I cast my ballot for the incumbent Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. One week removed from the 2016 Massachusetts primary, I regret it wholeheartedly.
Since his inauguration in 2014, Mayor Walsh’s administration has been a torrent of ill-fated actions all too frequently encroaching, if not bypassing, the line of unlawful.
At first it was tolerable, little more than the growing pains of a former state legislator now taking the executive reins of a national metropolitan power.
But his latest misstep, parading around in cahoots with former President Bill Clinton to support former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for President, has left a bitter taste in my mouth that, at a moral level, will prohibit me from supporting Marty for any office at any level.
Had Hillary dominated Bernie like Michael Phelps dominated swimming in Beijing in 2008, I would gladly keep my thoughts to myself and maybe even applaud her for a performance well done. But because her edge was so slim, because there was even the slightest semblance of controversy, because I champion a system of democracy, something must be done here.
As mayor, Marty Walsh stands at the vanguard of municipal policy and accountability. As mayor of the largest city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state’s socioeconomic driver, Marty stands in the shadow of only the governor in this same regard.
For that reason, Marty should be held responsible for when, according to the New York Times, “Mr. Clinton stopped at a bake sale at the entrance and then shook hands with poll workers.”
Massachusetts Secretary Bill Galvin told the Times, “We had to remind some of our poll workers that even a president can’t go inside and work a polling place.”
I don’t think it’s inconceivable that the tag team of Marty and Bill schmoozing the inside of a West Roxbury polling station may have helped nudge Hillary to victory. That Bill went on to work more Bay State crowds in the likes of Newton and New Bedford only bolsters that notion.
After all Boston is, to borrow a cliche, an “influencer.”
Massachusetts law blatantly states “Within 150 feet of a polling place…no person shall solicit votes for or against, or otherwise promote or oppose, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, to be voted on at the current election.”
This is exactly what Bill’s presence and accompanying message constituted. And lest we forget, Marty previously served as a state Representative — a sentinel of this law.
Together, Bill and Marty executed a sleazy maneuver that would bring tears of joy to the eye of Ted Cruz and make his chest swell with political pride.
But because Hillary’s triumph was razor thin, and the only foul stench seemed to stem from Marty and Bill, I can’t help but wonder what the results would’ve been if the tandem hadn’t broken the rules. Would Bernie have won? I’m not suggesting any kind of recount or consolation in Bernie’s favor, but I demand an equal playing field for all candidates.
Frequently since he was sworn into office, Marty’s been too cavalier with initiatives that, when overlooked, have the ability to strike a blow to Boston residents.
Marty brought Everett’s Wynn casino ordeal to Boston’s backyard when he “lost his grip on the process, failing to sign a surrounding-community agreement with Wynn and refusing to engage in arbitration,” according to the Boston Globe.
The same Globe piece notes further that “Walsh quickly evacuated more than 350 homeless men and women,” from the homeless shelter on Boston Harbor’s Long Island “but he deliberated for weeks while trying to find a site for a new shelter, settling first on a vacant plot of city-owned land along the Southeast Expressway, only to switch suddenly to a different site in the Newmarket district.”
That was just his first year.
For Marty, 2015 was marred by the Boston 2024 Olympic bid which unleashed a deluge requests for public records and information in hopes of shedding light on backroom deals that led to Boston being tapped as the U.S. host city contender.
As was the case with Wynn, Marty initially opposed a referendum and subjected his administration to a contract which strictly forbade any bad-mouthing about the bid in general.
Residents of Boston railed against Marty and his Boston 2024 coalition of developers, moguls, politicians and financiers, and continuously asked for concrete evidence that taxpayers would not be responsible for Olympic cost overruns, infrastructure shortcomings and the pricing out of residents as a byproduct of Olympics development.
Olympics advocates eked out iotas of information and redacted documents but when it became apparent they’d continue to withhold details, and when the United States Olympic Committee prepared to rescind its support for Boston in favor of a city whose climate was more favorable towards the shadiness of Olympic dealings, Marty held a press conference to preemptively wash his hands of the entire prospect under the guise that public opinion was his heartfelt priority.
This year began with a whimper for Marty as it became clear for many locals that the Boston Public Schools system is woefully inadequate. Protesters gathered at his 2016 State of the City Address, at City Hall in February and, most recently, staged a 1,000-plus person walk out on March 7 to demonstrate against a $50 million budget deficit for Boston Public Schools. The dire budgetary circumstances mean reduced staff, reduced resources and reduced possibilities for students moving forward.
All the while, Marty’s team has failed to gain any traction lobbying Beacon Hill for improved late night hospitality services (extended operation hours, liquor license reform, laxer live entertainment regulations, etc.).
He’s further proven himself backward-minded when it comes to medicinal and recreational marijuana.
And since taking office, housing prices have risen meteorically and Walsh has been unable to lend a hand.
Under Walsh’s Boston Redevelopment Authority, luxury apartments and condos have sprang up in and around Downtown Boston while cost relief has been absent in the city’s outer, residential neighborhoods.
To his credit Marty did sign an executive order back in December but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. In essence, the order only really bolsters two aspects of the Inclusionary Development Policy:
First, developers who won’t include the required 13 percent of units in an on-site development as affordable have the option to build them off-site, though that number spikes gently to 18 percent in neighborhoods downtown, on the waterfront (Zone A) and Allston, Brighton, Charlestown, Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and part of South Boston (Zone B). In Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, and West Roxbury (Zone C), affordable units built off-site must constitute 15 percent of all units.
Second, developers can donate a minimum of $200,000 to the Inclusionary Development Fund per housing unit. This jumps to $380,000 in Zone A and $300,000 in Zone B.
It’s designed to keep luxury developers interested in breaking ground downtown but not to deter them from building more for the under-resourced.
This is not to say Marty’s achieved nothing of merit.
He’s advocated strongly for Boston’s public art, taken steps to reinforce the startup community, christened the new Bolling Building in Dudley Square, pushed for an encompassing Master Plan 50-years in the making, open-sourced public data, taken steps to revitalize City Hall Plaza, made City Hall gender-neutral, charted a roadmap for women and minority business owners, streamlined licensing and permitting, and strongly supported crowdsourcing ideas from Boston’s collective brainpower.
In January 2015, I even wrote favorably of Walsh and his vision.
These wins pale in comparison to the losses.
How many times must he bumble into an issue (à la Wynn, Boston 2024, affordable housing, Bill Clinton, etc.), only to realize that he’s either not read the fine print, or that it’s generally not in the best interest of the city at present, or that he flirts with unlawfulness, before we stop cutting him breaks?
In the next mayoral election, we must all consider that Marty does more damage to Boston than good despite his best intentions.
You had your chance, Marty. You don’t seem to learn from your mistakes.