The Codcast: Marty Walsh talks taxes, Baker, and more

Marty Walsh rolled to a huge reelection win last year and just hosted a national gathering of the US Conference of Mayors, where he could bask in the glow of a city booming on the strength of its enviable position as a leader in areas driving the global economy.

But the city’s mayor knows better than to rest on Boston’s laurels, and Walsh, in a Codcast conversation with Bruce Mohl and me, was frank about the challenges facing Boston — from development and transportation gridlock to the state of its schools.

We sat down to talk on Thursday, a day before news broke that school Superintendent Tommy Chang will be shown the door after only three years on the job. The mayor — by all accounts the alpha figure in deciding he’d had enough of what has been a strained relationship with the superintendent his team hired — was obviously aware during our conversation that this news was coming. That offers an interesting context for considering Walsh’s remarks when we asked about a recent report showing that the district has made little progress over the last decade in getting off-track students who have struggled in the school system through to graduation.

“They’re not performing anywhere near where they need to be,” Walsh said of the district’s open-enrollment high schools. “There’s no excuse. I can’t talk to you guys and make it sound like the picture’s rosy here.”

On transportation, Walsh said the challenges facing the city ought to point to one guiding principle: “How do we think differently outside the box?” He said the recent establishment of dedicated bus lanes during rush hours along Washington Street between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills — with the necessary elimination of on-street parking during that time — is an example of that thinking paying off. “It’s not a pilot anymore,” said Walsh. “I’m not afraid to try something.”

He sounded skeptical of whether a gondola running above the Seaport would emerge as a good outside-the-box idea, even though it will be included in a city study of transportation options for the area. “I have a lot of questions on the gondola idea,” said Walsh, who said a monorail system in Seattle has not been nearly as successful as backers originally thought it would be.

He was frank in saying he doesn’t think recent state legislation regulating ride-sharing apps goes far enough in taxing companies like Uber and Lyft. That was part of a broader discussion of transportation needs. “The T absolutely needs money,” said Walsh said.

That’s a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Charlie Baker. Walsh also pointed to what he said was one of his last votes as a state representative in 2013 — to begin indexing the gas tax to inflation to fund transportation spending. Baker supported the 2014 ballot question that repealed the indexing.

Despite philosophical differences on things as basic as tax and spending policy, Walsh and Baker have forged what some viewed as an unlikely close relationship. Walsh says the ties are genuine and he foresees maintaining a friendship with Baker beyond their respective years in public office.

That said, he repeats his vow to support the Democratic nominee for governor against Baker this fall. But it’s easy to wonder how hard Walsh will be campaigning or to what degree his political organization will be deployed against a guy with whom he said he works “so closely together and so well together on advancing Boston and Massachusetts.”

“I won’t be bashing the governor,” he said. And he said whoever his party nominates “has a big challenge ahead of them.” He did agree, however, with former party chairman John Walsh (no relation), who argued in a recent piece for CommonWealth that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s race could change the equation by boosting Democratic turnout.

As for his own political future, Walsh laughed when asked about a recent column that dubbed him the “mayor of Massachusetts” and said it’s a matter of “when, not if” he makes a move to run for governor or US Senate.

“I honestly have no idea what’s next for me,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can to be the best mayor I can be.” Walsh’s devotion to his current job seemed seemed evident. But so was the fact that he never dismissed the idea that a run for higher office could loom somewhere down the road.

Mayors of Boston occupy a prominent perch, but good ones know that success ultimately comes from paying attention to ways to make a difference at the ground level in the lives of their constituents. That Walsh gets this seemed particularly clear in his response to what we thought was a light-hearted final question asking whether he had any summer plans.

Rather than a comeback about hoping to steal a few days on the Cape for some downtime, Walsh turned it into an appeal to listeners to contact his office with any opportunities for summer jobs for Boston youth.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey says municipalities can take an additional year mulling over policies governing marijuana licensing before being required to poll voters to offer a final verdict on the issue. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s son,  A.J., was engaged in an incident on a flight from Washington, DC, to Boston that is being called sexual assault. The WBZ I-Team, quoting sources, said A.J. Baker groped a female passenger’s breast. The governor’s spokeswoman said: “This is a personal matter for the Baker Family and A.J. will cooperate with any request from authorities.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Chlorine leaks at the Thermal Circuits plant in Salem caused “mass hysteria” as workers evacuated the building, many of them vomiting. (Salem News) The plant, which produces e-cigarettes, had to be evacuated twice on Sunday. (MassLive)

The Daily Item launched a series on hunger — among the divorced and disabled, students, and a school committee member. The series also reported on ways the community can help.

The MetroWest Daily News conducted an investigation into a Framingham police employee with a lucrative side defense law practice and found that on numerous occasions in court and administrative hearings over the last eight years, Brian Simoneau, an assistant to the police chief, represented clients while he was on the clock at his regular job that pays more than $100,000 a year.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump tweeted that people crossing the border illegally should be deported without the due process of “judges or court cases.” (Boston Herald) Congressional Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Reps. Katherine Clark and Michael Capuano, gathered at the border to condemn Trump’s policies. (Boston Globe)

Stormy Daniels, the stripper whose beef with President Trump has made national headlines, performed in Springfield over the weekend at two sold-out shows. Officials said about half the audience was women. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

The state Ethics Commission determined Mashpee School Superintendent Patricia DeBoer violated campaign finance law when she sent out emails from her official school account to endorse the reelection of two School Committee members and two school-related ballot questions. (Cape Cod Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The US imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood last year, the largest amount ever. (Associated Press)

Harley Davidson says it will shift production of motorcycles overseas to avoid the tariffs levied by the European Union in response to those implemented by the Trump administration. (Wall Street Journal)

Doug Gribbel says the owners of second homes are losing out with new Airbnb regulations. (CommonWealth)

Corporations around the country such as credit card processing firms and banks are curtailing transactions for purchases and limiting loans to manufacturers and sellers of assault-type weapons in reaction to the growing number of spree shootings. (Associated Press)

The bond market’s so-called “yield curve,” which Wall Street investors look at as an eerily accurate predictor of recession, is beginning to show troubling signs of a downward trend similar to 2007 at the onset of the Great Recession. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Joe Battenfeld says Mayor Marty Walsh should pick a local, seasoned candidate to replace Superintendent Tommy Chang  who he is pushing out after just three years on the job. (Boston Herald)

Andover High School is considering a big hike in student sports fees. Three options are under consideration to increase the existing annual fee of $380. (Eagle-Tribune)

Jeremy Aponte and Jessica Tang of the Boston Teachers Union don’t want charter schools to take over in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico the way they did in storm-ravaged New Orleans. (CommonWealth)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

People worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease are adopting lifestyle changes, including diet and physical activity regimens, in the hopes of staving off the illness. (Boston Globe)

The Westport Board of Health is on the verge of approving a ban on smoking at the town’s beaches. The two state-owned beaches in Westport — Horseneck and Gooseberry — already have a ban on smoking. (Herald News)

TRANSPORTATION

Renee Loth decries a campaign by the billionaire Koch brothers to undercut efforts to expand public transportation in cities across the country. (Boston Globe)

Wendy Landman and Brendan Kearney of WalkBoston say fully accessible bus stops could help people move off of more costly paratransit service. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Jefferson R. Smith says doing away with curbside recycling would be disastrous, and argues we need to recycle better not less. (CommonWealth)

Torrential rains are becoming more intense and triggering flash flooding across the country and scientists say it will only get worse. (Washington Post)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Lloyd Macdonald, a former member of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, lays out a case for why Massachusetts should embrace sports betting and allow the state’s casino licensees to run the business. (CommonWealth)

A group of local farmers in Truro who want to form a cooperative to grow and sell marijuana wholesale say a zoning plan by town officials to restrict recreational pot cultivation, sales, and manufacturing is “a big FU to our businesses.” (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Barnstable woman was arrested after a video camera caught her apparently making off with a gift basket donated in the name of slain Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon to a charity auction. (Boston Herald)

The Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant before they can use GPS to track someone by their cell phone location. (U.S. News & World Report)

The recent arrest of a convicted sex offender for attempted rape and kidnapping as well as the attention to a convicted serial child rapist seeking his freedom has prompted a debate over the state’s civil commitment law and the chances of sexual predators to reoffend (The Enterprise) The debate is nothing new as David S. Bernstein explored the civil commitment law in a piece for CommonWealth in 2003.

MEDIA

The New York Times takes a look at the affair between one of its reporters, whose emails and phone records were seized by the FBI, and a former senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee who has been indicted for lying to federal agents.