^ partnership : the Mayor begins his re-election strong
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Mayor Walsh’s campaign for re-election has already begun. You may not see it yet, unless you’re an everyday activist, but it is there. He is taking himself to political events which ordinarily he wouldn’t visit, and he has assembled a parcel of initiatives which align his message for 2017 with crystal clarity:
1.He is a business boom / building boom Mayor. He understands that — as he said at Forums during the 2013 campaign — his followers can’t have jobs if businesses that hire people don’t come to Boston. In 2013, that meant jobs for his Building trades base; today, it also means jobs or the highly skilled young school graduates who he wants to see stay in Boston, be employed, and contribute to the City’s prosperity.
2.He has aligned himself with Governor Baker on almost all reform matters and thereby given the City priority on Beacon Hill, where big-ticket legislation is passed, or not. Walsh and baker have partnered on housing construction, MBTA reform, opioid addiction legislation, regional infrastructure planning, criminal justice reform, and on the basic principles of public education restucture,. Though Walsh has his own plan for charter school cap lift, one with a longer time line than Baker’s, the two leaders agree on the need to restructure how education is delivered to all students.
3.Walsh has completely reconfigured City hall’s interface with voters. One can now converse directly with the Mayor on twitter or at his website, and the Imagine2030 initiative is rapidly replacing the BRA’s obsolete “community” review process for development approval so that a small coterie of NIMBY opposition does not derail necessary housing builds and neighborhood business creation — both of which the overwhelming majority of residents and customers very much want.
Walsh has also put into place an alternative Boston Public schools department, based in City hall and headed by its own education chief, Rahn Dorsey, whose mission appears to be restructuring everything about Boston public schools : buildings, curriculum, school assignment, partnering with businesses, work rules, management. All of which is needed. The City cannot continue to ask resident parents to pay $ 22,000 a year to send kids to non-public schools, or else leave the city, because a neighborhood school — much less an effective one — is not availble under the city-wide assignment methods in place sinbce the mid 1970s.
4.Walsh is beginning to refashion Boston arts and entertainments toward how his favorite other city, Montreal, does it. At a 2013 Forum, Walsh cited Montreal as the city he most seeks to emulate. Montreal hosts one arts festival after another, drawing vast tourist dollars into its treasury and creating a local community of artists and arts supporters. Though Walsh probably aimed too high too fast in seeking the 2024 Olympics — as the planners’ improvisations showed — he has now established an Indy Car Race,and doubtless more o the same will be coming, so that by 2030, perhaps, Boston will be able to master an Olympics event. Given the City’s passion for sports and spectacle, Walsh’s initiative in this matter is smart politics.
5.He has embraced the smartest of urban progressivism. Walsh supports the $ 15/hour minimum wage. He is a passionate welcomer of immigrants. He has been a leader in the LGBT equality and transgender civil rights movement.
6.He has made clear that his first fiscal responsibility is to the taxpayers of Boston and not to public employee unions that have used their substantial extorting power to gain unsupportable pay raises. Walsh successfully negotiated a Boston Firefighter contract that did not overtop previous awards. He will be negotiating a new contract soon with the Boston Teachers’ Union, a negotiation in which he has placed himself in a strong position to achieve reform, both in terms of pay and work rules.
Walsh has also imposed a shape upon his opposition, one that probably assures its defeat. Can there be, in this day and age, anything close to a majority for an inefficient public school department that eats its big budget for breakfast and that never has enough money to pay for its enormous inefficiencies? For imposing hiring conditions upon developers that make development impossible ? For using conservation as a wedge to prevent the building of housing — all the housing that is needed to keep the supply in line with demand ? Can there be a majority for “just cause” rent controls and oher bad ideas that cannot work ?
Doubtless the 2017 Mayor election will be a passionate, noisy one. Doubtless Walsh’s opponents will throw insult after epithet at him and hashtag him on twitter. Because he is dead-aiming some deeply entrenched habits and interest groups, epithets and insults will fly like sparks from metal being molded by a welder’s torch.
Perhaps the shape of Walsh’s battle will shift, as often campaigns evolve to. And maybe not.
The game is now on.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere