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Marty Walsh inaugurated as Boston’s 54th mayor

Published: Friday, January 17, 2014

Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 02:01

Boston’s former Mayor Thomas Menino’s 20-year reign ended on Jan. 6, when Mayor Marty Walsh was inaugurated at Boston College’s sports arena, The Silvio O. Conte Forum.

Taking the oath of office as Boston’s 54th mayor, Walsh pledged to improve education, crime and the city’s development. He also discussed his dreams for Boston.

“We are a city of courage and champions, of hope and heart,” Walsh said in his inauguration speech. “We are a city of second chances and redemption, a place where hard times have forged character throughout our history.”

Throughout his campaign, Walsh relayed his personal story to the citizens of Boston. Those anecdotes helped Walsh highlighted Boston’s diversity issues and need for reform.

“Part of the Walsh victory is due to a powerful personal narrative, a narrative of redemption,” Tufts professor of political science Jeffrey Berry said. “People warmed up to him and admired very much his character and his successful battle to overcome alcoholism and a very modest background in terms of finances and being the child of immigrants.”

Walsh defeated a diverse candidate pool in the primary election, but was not as popular among minority communities as his opponents. Yet during the general election — with endorsements from three of his opponents from the primary — many African Americans, Latinos and Asians rallied around Walsh. 

“The endorsements of three of the minority candidates for Walsh played a critical role in helping him to gain votes from communities of color,” Berry said.

Fifty-three percent of Boston residents are members of a minority group, according to 2010 census data. This demography gave minority voices the power to bring certain issues to the forefront of the agenda in the election, James Jennings, Tufts professor of urban and environmental planning and policy, said.

“These were issues that people in power felt that trickle down efforts could address,” Jennings said. “By black and Latino voters helping to put Marty Walsh in office, they bring voice to concern about those kind of issues.”

“The door was open to bring fresh attention that heretofore have not necessarily been ignored, but certainly have not been prioritized, and one of those issues is poverty,” Jennings continued. “It’s obvious that the wealth of Boston has not trickled down to all neighborhoods.”

Walsh’s election enabled Boston residents to highlight new issues. Yet following in the footsteps of the city’s longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino, leaves big shoes for Walsh to fill.

“Menino was in office for two decades and had tremendous impact on the city,” President of Tufts Democrats Jacob Wessel, a senior, said.

Menino leaves a cosmopolitan city and a legacy of economic growth and development. Walsh now faces the pressure to manage Boston’s success, according to Berry.

“The city is thriving,” Berry said. “The downtown is one big construction area and economic development is encroaching on residential neighborhoods. Walsh needs to balance the need to keep the city growing economically and to bring more business into the city while preserving the integrity of its neighborhoods.”

Now in office, Walsh can address Boston’s socioeconomic disparities in a series of policy reforms that will pass through his desk this year, including Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance, Jennings said. The ordinance ensures “employees of vendors who contract with the [city of Boston] earn an hourly wage that is sufficient for a family of four to live on or above the poverty line,” according the Boston city government. But the ordinance has not been fully enforced up to this point, according to Jennings. It only remains in effect until June of this year, leaving room for reform.

“At a preliminary level, the problem has to be acknowledged...

Just acknowledging it there’s going to be some movement forward,” he said.

Education was another issue at the forefront of the election, as Walsh has inherited a school system in need of reform.

“Menino tried to improve the schools and he made a little bit of progress, but the feeling generally across the city is the school system needs to improve,” Berry said.

Education reforms advocate Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, said Menino was too slow to enact systemic reform.

“No doubt the schools have improved under his leadership, but he stayed very long with what I call the incremental approach—really wanting to believe that the system could retain the structure that it’s had and systematically improve over time,” Grogan told WBUR on Jan. 3. “And that really hasn’t occurred.”

Walsh will also confront transportation concerns, which he discussed along the campaign trail. As a mayoral candidate, Walsh advocated for late night MBTA service — which is now in its pilot year — and a push for a 24-hour city.

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