Walsh goes from shoo-in to hot seat

It was only a few weeks ago that Mayor Marty Walsh seemed to be the man for the moment.

Holding regular briefings outside Boston City Hall on all things coronavirus, he showed steady leadership and heartfelt compassion in equal measure, just what people want to see in a big-city mayor.

The pandemic seemed to have reshaped almost every aspect of life as we knew it — and that extended to speculation about a mayoral election still a year and half away.

“One year before Walsh is expected to seek a third term, there is suddenly only one issue, and he is its face in the city,” Globe columnist Adrian Walker wrote just over a month ago in a piece suggesting the crisis made the mayor increasingly look like a lock for reelection.

Fast forward five and half weeks and it looks like an entirely different picture. Suddenly the issue at the center of attention is not a pandemic but the police. And unlike the global march of a pathogen that city officials can only do their best to contain and manage, the operation of the city police department is entirely under the mayor’s control.

Walsh is under strong pressure to deliver substantive change in the wake of protests in Boston and across the country following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Four years ago, Walsh launched a series of “race dialogues” to address persistent issues of “racism and racial equity” in Boston. The call now is not for more talk, but action.

Exactly what action is not clear. The broad demand to “defund the police” has lots of different meanings.

Last weekend, Walsh said he would “reallocate” some of the police department budget to other services, but did not offer any details of what that might look like.

“Not good enough,” City Councilor Andrea Campbell told the Globe on Monday, saying the city “needs an action plan that is specific as to what we’re going to do to transform our policing systems.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Walsh called for “meaningful” change. He also said his original budget plan for the coming fiscal year calls for level-funding the police department while increasing funding for schools and housing. His statement also said he has reached out to City Council President Kim Janey multiple times in recent days to discuss the issue. “Unfortunately, that has not been able to happen yet,” he said, a clear jab to make clear that the Roxbury district city councilor, not the mayor, is the reason why there has been no movement on the issue.

Activists are calling for a 10 percent cut in the police department’s $414 million budget, with a particular eye on its $60 million in overtime spending, outlays that meant more than 500 officers earned more in 2019 than the mayor’s $199,000 salary.

“This is not how 2020 was supposed to be playing out — or so it seemed just a few months ago,” Walker wrote in his column on Walsh’s seeming inviolability amid the pandemic. “A new City Council with a progressive majority was expected to push Walsh to the left on a daily basis. Multiple members of that body were said to be laying the groundwork to oppose him.”

A month later, that leftward push is now in full bloom. And Campbell and City Councilor Michelle Wu, the two names most often mentioned as potential mayoral challengers, are in the thick of it.

When Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins and the main Boston police union got into a heated war of words last week over the issue of police killings of blacks, Walsh wanted no part of the showdown. “There’s no right side,” he said.

With the focus now on the funding and role of the police department, he’s going to have to start taking sides on issues in ways that will not please everyone. And the idea that he’ll have clear sailing into a third term next year now seems a lot less clear.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Lawmakers are taking a serious look at a bill that would create a commission to study racial disparities in maternal mortality rates. Black women are far more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related issues. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer hosts a roundtable with her police chief, Framingham High School senior Mira Donaldson, and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone to talk about policing. Curtatone said it’s very difficult to fire a police officer who commits a crime. (MetroWest Daily News)

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz rewrites his budget proposal for the city — instead of a $194,000 increase for the police department he proposes a $19,000 cut. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

A Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End is beheaded. (WBUR)

Weymouth has laid off, furloughed, or reduced the hours of 59 employees due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The former superintendent of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home wants the state to revive a 2012 plan to renovate the facility, as state officials lay out their own plan for physical improvements at the home. (MassLive)

It’s still unclear how many workers at nursing homes have died from COVID-19. (Boston Globe)

Coronavirus hospitalization rates have been increasing in nine states since Memorial Day. (Washington Post)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Law enforcement and military personnel slashed tires on many cars amid protests in Minneapolis. Officials say the tires were deflated as a defensive measure. (Star-Tribune)

Public opinion polling on criminal justice and the Black Lives Matter movement has shifted dramatically in a very short period of time. (New York Times)

The Trump administration has largely stopped federal investigations of allegations of abuse and civil rights violations in local police departments. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Scot Leigh really doesn’t think much of Joe Kennedy and his run for US Senate, calling it the best new comedy on TV. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The owner of an Oxford gym ignores a court order requiring him to shut down. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

Economic fallout from the coronavirus may delay implementation of the Student Opportunity Act, which requires significant new funding for school districts. (The Salem News)

Harvard University tells its faculty that most teaching this fall will be online. (WBUR) UMass Amherst says school will start earlier and let out for winter break earlier. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA says it will increase its frequency of transit service as things open up — but not for two weeks. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Environmentalists are vowing they will sue to reinstate fishery closures to a marine national monument 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod that President Trump removed by executive order last Friday. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell and minority police officers called for an end to the use of what they say are discriminatory promotional exams in the department. (Boston Herald)

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the formation of a Commission on Police Use of Force Policies. (Standard-Times)

MEDIA

The long-running TV show Cops was pulled from the air after the George Floyd killing and now is being shut down for good. (Hollywood Reporter)