Walsh and the new ‘be bold’ imperative
Mayor looks to lead with restless council on his heels
MOVE ASIDE MELANIA with your “Be Best” campaign. Marty Walsh has issued a new alliterative B-based edict for our times here in Boston, where the mayor has declared a pox on incrementalism and half-measures.
“Be bold” was the mayor’s message in his State of the City speech last night.
It came in a plan to commit $500 million to affordable housing efforts, in a call for big increases in transportation funding, and in a vow to essentially forward-fund with city dollars the $100 boost in state aid that Boston schools are slated to receive once the recent education funding bill is fully phased in over seven years.
All of it was meant to showcase a mayor committed to being, well, bold, a term he invoked repeatedly last night and one that figured prominently in the flurry of press releases his office issued on various aspects of his speech.
But Walsh’s stance takes on an added political dimension in the current climate. The Boston city council is not the pliant rubber stamp of the past, and it includes at least two dynamic women of color with forceful profiles who are seen as potential challengers to Walsh when he’s up for reelection next year.
With that looming in the background, the mayor declared that Boston students can’t wait for the seven-year phase of the state education funding boost. “The time to act is now,” he declared, pledging to use city money to get the schools the $100 million in new funding the state formula will bring on an accelerated three-year timeline. It’s a funding plan “bold enough” to make the vision of quality schools across the district a reality, he said.
One of the mayor’s would-be challengers, however, was less than impressed. City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who has made education a focus of her work, issued a press release following the speech ripping the performance of the schools, where she said 4 out 10 non-exam school students fail to graduate from high school, and two out of three of those who do finish fail to get a college degree within six years.
“The Mayor’s announcement falls into a disturbing pattern of flashy announcements that feature big dollar figures, but never change the dynamic for children and families,” Campbell said.
Meanwhile, Walsh made a big play on transportation, an issue on which his most frequently mentioned potential challenger, City Councilor Michelle Wu, has been out in front ahead of him.
What was Walsh’s message to state lawmakers, as they prepare to take up transportation financing early this year? “Be bold,” he said.
And if they aren’t prepared to go far enough, Walsh urged the Legislature to pass a bill that has stalled on Beacon Hill for several years to allow local communities to raise money for transportation spending through regional ballot questions.
“That’s a bold idea,” Walsh said of the LA ballot initiative. “We have to think bold here in Massachusetts, and I don’t think we think bold enough.”