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Mayor-Elect Walsh Plans A Smooth Transition

BOSTON — In less than two months, Marty Walsh will step into the office that has been occupied by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for two decades.

Still fresh off his victory, Walsh is taking steps to get ready, including setting up a transition team. He will release details about that team Friday, the same day he plans to go on a little vacation.

Walsh joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss next steps and his coming administration.

Bob Oakes: We know you’re getting ready for your transition, you’re going to announce your transition team tomorrow and then take a little vacation, but let’s talk issues and other things for a couple of minutes if we can, Marty.

Given that Boston schools were the top issue in the campaign, you’ve said that hiring the next school superintendent in Boston is your most important priority. Tell us the criteria you want to find in that person and whether you’re inclined to hire from inside the Boston system or go outside.

Marty Walsh: We’re going to be putting together our transition team, at least part of it, together today. And, we’re going to make more announcements next week as well, but we’re going to start to talk about, how do we transition the school department? In the superintendent, we need to make sure we have a person, as we said on the campaign trail, that’s transparent, that has a vision for this school system to do some of the things we spoke about during the race as far as reforming our high schools and looking at our pre-K system and, how do we make it more inclusive? Closing the achievement gap are all important pieces. Actually, in this race, Councilor [John] Connolly spoke a lot about education. I haven’t spoken to him other than election night, but I’d like to talk to John about some of the ideas that he shared during this campaign, and incorporate those in the system. It’s important for us to have a world-class system here in Boston, like our colleges and universities.

Speaking of John Connolly, you won a majority of the vote in the election Tuesday, but 48 percent voted for John Connolly. Do you see a place for John Connolly in your administration?

Mayoral candidate Marty Walsh, with his longtime partner Lorrie Higgins and her daughter Lauren, head into the Cristo Rey School in Savin Hill to cast their ballots. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

Mayor-elect Marty Walsh, with his longtime partner Lorrie Higgins and her daughter Lauren, head into the Cristo Rey School in Savin Hill to cast their ballots on Election Day. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

I mean, I haven’t spoken to John about anything like that. I’m not sure what John wants to do next. I think he’s probably enjoying some time with his family and his wife and winding down a little bit here. You know, we’ve been all going straight out for about eight months, John a little longer than us, and I think it’s time for everyone to just kind of sit back and take their family in for a little bit. Certainly John and myself will be having conversations.

Are you willing to entertain the idea of a casino building on the tracks property in Revere, and maybe a hotel and parking in Boston. After all, it’s a plan we might see after the voters in East Boston rejected the casino this week — but Revere approved it.

The people of East Boston voted down the casino. I think that they spoke loudly and they had some concerns. I’m sure I’ll be sitting down with the people from East Boston to talk about about what they would like to see and the future of that site as well as Suffolk Downs at some point in the near future, but I think the voters spoke pretty clearly on Tuesday.

Do you think the Revere plan would be fair to Boston? Especially since we’d get much of the impact and little of the money?

It’s a big impact on Boston, it’s similar to the Everett casino — big impacts on the city, with less of a return. And I think, again, I’m going to sit down with people and discuss it. I know that people in East Boston have concerns about a casino being built in Revere, particularly in light of the vote on Tuesday.

Boston Herald has comments from readers on what they want and hope for you as the mayor of Boston. One says, how about working on cutting property taxes? I know you told WCVB-TV last night that you would not push a Prop 2 1/2 override to raise property taxes, but how about cutting property taxes in Boston? 

I don’t know if we can cut them right now. We have some challenges coming ahead of us with the federal budget, and cutting back on potential cutbacks on the federal budget to the city, particularly around housing and different areas. So right now, during the transition, we’re going to look at the budget and see. You know, I certainly would love to help the taxpayers in Boston but, as of right now, we’re just trying to transition this team into the mayor’s team and see what happens.

I know you’ve also said you want to make sure, in the transition, you don’t miss a beat, that the City of Boston does not miss a beat. What do you mean by that?

I mean, the day the Walsh administration takes over, that we just continue to move the city forward, and there’s no stop in services, no stop in development, no stop in the education system. We just want to make sure that the next day is as smooth as the day before.

Some political analysts have said that the best way to make a transition is to ‘clean house’ immediately at City Hall. Would that be your plan? 

We’re going to take it a step at a time and see. You know, look who’s going to leave city government and who wants to stay, and make some adjustments where we need to make adjustments, and there’s some good talent in the people that work at City Hall, so I’m not looking to go in there and have everyone leave. There’s some good talent, experience, knowledge, and I want to capitalize on that if people are talented and want to stick around.

Beyond the smooth transition, what would you say is your top policy priority?

Education. Education is an important piece. The superintendent of schools is going to be a very, very important decision for me to make and I have to get that right. In other decisions you may make a decision that might not work out, whether it surrounds the other departments, you can always make adjustments. But when it comes to education, we can’t afford to lose a school year because of the kids and their education.

And what will the city be saying about what Boston Mayor Marty Walsh accomplished in his first 100 days in office?

Well, seeing that I’m only mayor-elect for a day and a half, I haven’t thought that far down the road. When the time comes, I’ll be able to say, but my initial thought is I just want to make sure that people that are living in poverty will have opportunities and I want to be able to create that here in Boston.

Alright, enjoy your vacation. Turks and Caicos?

Allegedly, that’s where we’re going.

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