As Professor Ubertaccio wrote yesterday we don’t have many formal ceremonies in politics. The inauguration of a new mayor is an important one so let me reflect on some positive qualities of our now former and newly inaugurated mayors, Tom Menino and Marty Walsh.
There were many good pieces on Mayor Menino recently but one of the best has to be Garrett Quinn’s interview with the mayor published on masslive.com. I’m pleased Garrett noted that early on the mayor declined to march in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because the organizers would not permit gay groups in the event. Menino created a little controversy recently for issuing a proclamation of unwelcome to the anti-gay Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain, which wanted to open a branch in Boston. He took some heat for that one – horrors, a mayor standing up to a business, what about corporate free speech — but I think Bostonians liked it. I know I did.
I like the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians too, but probably not as much as my Brazilian, Russian, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, and other New Bostonian students like it. Many of them have told me how welcome they feel here, and we know that hasn’t always been the case.
Lately the mayoral photographs have shown Menino getting about with the use of a cane, including the spiffy baseball bat cane. I prefer the picture of him riding a two-wheeler to promote bicycle transportation; Tom Menino in a bike helmet worked for me.
The city has bright hopes for Marty Walsh as he starts this new journey. Some of his early appointments, like Felix Arroyo to head Health and Human Services and Daniel Arrigg Koh as chief of staff show Walsh has diversity on his mind as well as bringing young energetic leadership to Boston. (The 29 year old Koh is practically geriatric compared to Ira Jackson, who was 24 when he became Kevin White’s chief of staff). On the other hand Walsh doesn’t look at himself as anointed to fix things that are not broken: he has reappointed Menino’s head of Elder Services, Emily Shea.
One nice thing about municipal politics is that we get to know our leaders. Garrett Quinn’s story relayed that Mayor Menino described his hardest days in office as those when a young person was the victim of senseless violence; he brought up the tragic death of 12 year old Tiffany Moore, murdered back when Menino served on the city council. She’d be about 37 now.
After the election I was chatting with a friend on the business side who had often attended meetings with Walsh in his capacity as head of the Building Trades. He recalled that on occasion in the middle of an important negotiation, Walsh’s cell phone would ring with someone in the recovery community needing help. Walsh would politely excuse himself, not to return until help was procured.
Inauguration Day may mean a change of administrations, but Boston will still have a mayor with a heart.