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. 

In some ways, the call to be bold is hardly noteworthy. What mayor declares that now is the time for indecision and timidity? 

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. 

In November, fresh from a trip with local leaders to Los Angeles, Walsh appeared on The Codcast and spoke effusively of the recent successful ballot campaign there that added half a cent to the sales tax across the 88 communities that make up Los Angeles County to fund transit projects.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

In what now looks like a preview of his State of the City speech, it was hard not to notice the way the mayor characterized that effort, led by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the challenge back home in Boston. 

“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.”