^ the old ways first, then the new, maybe : Trin Nuguyen, Alejandra St. Guillen, Joyce Linehan, Joe Rull, Keith Williams, Eugene O’Flaherty
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Mayor Walsh’s first list of appointments has already generated much controversy. I find a lot of the talk otiose. A new Mayor will make new appointments. Who knows if all will last ? Abraham Lincoln, newly at war, made many appointments of generals, but not for two to three years did he identify a team who would and could do the job. It would not surprise if Walsh’s appointments follow a like course.
That said, the current appointments do accord us a look at how Walsh thinks. In the campaign he promised to create a cabinet of adminstratiors that would reflect the cultural diversity of today’s Boston. This he appears to be doing. The appointment of William Gross as deputy Police Commissioner fulfills a commitment in particular to apppoint a person of color to a Police leadership position. His cabinet also now includes Alejandra St. Guillen of Oiste, Felix G. Arroyo (as Chief of Health and human Services), Keith Williams, and Trinh T. Nguyen. St. Guillen will interim direct the Office of New Bostonians; Nguyen, the Office of Jobs and Community Service. Williams, who served Mayor Menino as deputy director of Neighborhood Services, will interim manage the Office of Small Business. These appointments stand; yet all, except Arroyo, are positions of deputy level. The top positions in the new Mayor’s adminstration have gone almost all to people who to Walsh are long-established, close associates and friends. The only exception so far is new police Commissioner William Evans; and even he is a man of tradition.
^ campaign commitment honored : new Deputy Police Commissioner Bill Gross
The two-level division of Walsh appointments mirrors how the Mayor campaign played out. First aboard were Walsh’s core supporters, those who were wth him before the 12-candidate primary. From them has Walsh called upon Joyce Linehan, his new director of policy; Joe Rull, his chief of Operations; Chelsea-Charlestown State Represenative Eugene O’Flaherty, who will be his Corporations Counsel; and — reportedly — former State Representative Brian Golden, of Brighton, as interim director of the BRA. At second remove come those who Walsh added to his support vote after the primary — including Felix G. Arroyo, who alone among second-wavers has earned a first level position in the Walsh administration. One is led to believe that Walsh has said, “First group, I trust. Second group, I will see if I can trust.”
That Walsh seems to value long time relationship so highly isn’t unusual at all in local politics. It’s the norm. It’s how Boston voters vote, and it’s why Boston politics changes hardly at all, especially compared to Boston commerce, Boston residence, Boston fashion and social life. Being a “new” Bostonian is a disadvantage in city governance. It was both the great strength of John Connolly’s campaign — because “new” Boston is so dynamic a presence now, and quite numerous — but it was also that campaign’s big weakness. The old knew its opponent very well, identified it very specifically both geographically and in lifestyle. Walsh has made the very practical decision to emphasize the old and the long-time — shrewdly, if ruthlessly — and to accord the new and the briefly recognized an entry, yes : but not the big prizes. Incremental change it is. We know the drill.
^ George W. Bush favorited : former St. Rep Brian Golden of Brighton may be directing Mayor Walsh’s BRA
It’s also fascinating to see how many of Walsh’s long-timers now live outside the city and will have to move back into it in order to take positions in his administration. Can I also note that many of these long-timers are politicians of very conservative views ? Brian Golden endorsed George W. Bush in 2004. Eugene O’Flaherty is one of the most socially conservative Democrats in the Legislature. I don’t know Joe Rull’s political opinions, but he is a South Boston native — and Southie is right now by far the most Republican-voting neighborhood in the City. Doubtless all three men will accomodate their views to Walsh’s Left-tinged labor traditionalism — because when you take a job with the boss, you do so knowing what he wants of you. But the appointment to high City office of political people much, much more conservative “at heart” (as most will tell you privately) than the brief they are given has been a fact of Boston city governance as long as I can remember. There hasn’t been a Mayor administered by operatives of reformist mind since Kevin White’s first two terms.
No wonder that Michelle Wu voted for Bill Linehan for Council President. She gets the message coming from the corner office — and from 40 years before it, of governance by very conservative folks. The theme is clear.
—- Mke Freedberg / Here and Sphere