This year, for the first time since 1983, the Boston mayoral election is truly wide open. Retiring Mayor Tom Menino, who was acting mayor when first elected in 1993, has presided over a city that has changed considerably since he first took office.
Physically, the city looks quite different. As examples, the central artery, an elevated highway through the middle of downtown, is gone and a revitalized Seaport District now thrives in the stead of largely abandoned lots and warehouses on the South Boston waterfront.
Moreover, as long-term residents have left the city, they have been replaced by tens of thousands of “new Bostonians” with less familial and other connections to the place they now call home. The city is now majority-minority and is home to immigrants from all over the world.
Notwithstanding the rapid pace of change, Menino, once famously labeled an “urban mechanic,” has been up to the challenge. His still high approval numbers are indicative of the high regard Bostonians have for him. Menino will be missed and the legacy of his tenure will live on for some time.
His announcement that he would not seek a sixth term in office engendered a large and diverse field of 12 candidates seeking to replace him. While the Irish Voice has been impressed by the accomplishments, life experience and vision of a number of the candidates, one stands out from the rest -- Martin J. Walsh.
Walsh is a first generation Irish American whose parents came to Boston from Connemara, Co. Galway. Like his father before him, Walsh became a union laborer at a young age, worked his way up to a leadership position in his union and ultimately graduated from Boston College.
He was elected a state representative from his native Dorchester in 1997. While Dorchester is an historically Irish American enclave, it has grown increasingly racially diverse over the years – there are large numbers of African Americans and Asian Americans – and it is also home to a large LGBT community.
As a state representative, Walsh has worked tirelessly to break down the racial divides that have long plagued the city. What’s more, he has been a steadfast advocate for marriage equality and calls his vote on the issue “his proudest ever as a legislator.”
Walsh’s path to being a mayoral candidate hasn’t been smooth. He overcame a rare form of cancer as a boy.
And he later waged a successful battle with alcohol addiction which has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of countless Bostonians. He has been recognized as a legislative leader in addressing the need for treatment for those battling alcohol and drug addiction.
Although some critics wonder if his union background and the fact that he has received a plethora of union endorsements and campaign contributions will render him unable to negotiate with Boston’s public employee unions as mayor, he has demonstrated independence as a legislator.
Additionally, his experience as a union official will preclude claims that he is acting in bad faith and help prevent lengthy, costly labor disputes. He has argued convincingly that the interests of Boston taxpayers will always come first.
Marty Walsh is a proud Irish American, a proud advocate for working people and a proud son of Dorchester. But he’s also, as one legislative colleague puts it, “a progressive, pragmatic problem-solver who will fight for every corner and community of our city.”
The Irish Voice enthusiastically endorses his candidacy and urges voters to cast a ballot for Martin J. Walsh for mayor of Boston on Tuesday, September 24.