BOSTON MAYOR : TRIUMPH OF THE OLD OLD

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^ 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.

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^ 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.

Brian Golden

^ 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

“A KID FROM TAFT STREET IS NOW MAYOR OF BOSTON !”

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^ taking the three-part oath as Boston’s 48th Mayor :Martin Joseph Walsh of District 3

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So said Marty Walsh after being sworn in as Boston’s 48th Mayor. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland swore Walsh in. Walsh’s Mom and brother and his gal-pal Lorrie Higgins stood by to watch the “kid from Taft Street” official become His Honor. It was a moving moment no matter which of the 12 Mayoral candidates you wanted. Walsh grew up without a big name, on a three-decker street, surrounded by temptations, some of which befell him. And now here he was, the City’s leader, holder of perhaps the most powerful elected office in Massachusetts.

Other men have traced the same kind of path from bottom to top. One thinks of Diocletian, Roman Emperor, yet born a slave, who rose, who educated himself. Or of Abraham Lincoln. Or Fiorello LaGuardia and Al Smith. It is, in fact, a commonplace of politics, that those on the bottom often believe in the system more truly than many on the top and who, aspiring, steel themselves to rise within it, no matter how long or painful the climb, and to become the steward of it and of all it represents. There have been innumerable Marty Walshes in history. And yet…it is still moving to see an actual Marty Walsh actually become Boston’s Mayor and to see the gathered thousands of Boston’s elite and non-elite actually there, in Conte Forum, to witness his becoming Mayor and to cheer it.

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^ Senator Elizabeth Warren delivering her remarks to “my friend Marty”

The powerful did not hang back. Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke eloquently about the passion that she and Walsh, so she said, share for alleviating inequality and the achievement gap. Governor Deval Patrick, choosing a light comic note, told Walsh that he would wake up from “a day of blur” but to savor the moment anyway. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also sat on stage. Yo Yo Ma performed the “Danny Boy Serenade” with dominant intensity and equally masterful delicacy. The entire City Council, all 13 members, sat on the other side of the podium and took its own oath. The front rows of the Forum found a seated multitude of descendants of former Mayors : Flynns, Whites, Fitzgeralds, Hyneses, Collinses — lending depth to the occasion’s topside.

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^ the gathered thousands included a huge segment from Dorchester, all of whom cheered loudly when their Councillor, Frank Baker, was sworn in.

Walsh then delivered an inaugural address sturdy and point by point clear. All the themes of his campaign took a turn : collaboration, diversity in staffing, improving education, ending the achievement gap, attacking violent crime, and assuring full equality to all Bostonians no matter what their sexual orientation, lifestyle or origin. He thanked “,my sisters and brothers in labor” — was roundly cheered — and almost in the next sentence said “let it be known that Boston is open for business.” Here he spoke of “innovation in every neighborhood, not just downtown” and of small business, start-ups, and businesses big.

It was a firm speech, confidently delivered, steady as she goes. Which may well be the defining tenor of Walsh’s administration.

And so you have it. Marty Walsh is your Mayor. Yep.

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^ from Chelsea, with what mission ? new corporations counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, currently chairman of the State’s House Judiciary Committee

Hardly two hours had elapsed after that “yep” when an announcement was made at least as portentous as the inauguration itself : State Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, of Chelsea, is giving up his House seat and his House Judiciary Committee chairmanship, moving from Chelsea to Boston, and becoming Walsh’s chief corporations counsel : the city;s top lawyer. I admit that this choice surprised me completely. It was easy enough to believe that Walsh wanted O’Flaherty, who was first elected to the House in the same year as he (1996). The two men share much heritage. The difficult part for me was, why would O’Flaherty take the job ? He isn’t just a State Representative, he is one of the chamber’s key leaders. And also have to move house. There has to be a big story going on, and what it is, I can only speculate. It may involve the Steve Wynn casino project : O’Flaherty represents Charlestown, which Walsh did not come close to winning on election day and which will; be heavily impacted. Is O’Flaherty being asked to use his particular knowledge of the area to win the best mitigation package possible from Wynn, including — a top Walsh priority — construction jobs ? or perhaps to sue the Wynn project, or the Suffolk Downs Revere-only casino project if needed ?

We will soon find out.

We will also find out who Walsh chooses to head the other City departments. Of only one such did he say there would be a “nationwide search” : schools superintendent. Of course so. No Bostonian would want the thankless, frustrating job. (One of his two school committee appointments has already caused comment : replacing charter school principal Mary Tamer with labor lawyer Michael Loconto.) As the school committee appointment shows, not many Bostonians Walsh might name as superintendent would avoid raising an outcry from one interest group or another. Compared to schools superintendent, it’ll be easy to pick a Police Commissioner and one for the Fire Department. No nationwide search needed there.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere