On First Day, Walsh Focuses On Poverty And Inequality

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh swears in the new Boston City Council. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh swears in the new Boston City Council. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh begins his first full day on the job Tuesday. But he's already been at work, wasting no time after Monday's inauguration ceremony.

After the music and speeches ended Monday morning, it was off to City Hall for his first day of work.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh swears in the new Boston City Council. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh swears in the new Boston City Council. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Walsh strolled into City Hall with his longtime girlfriend Lorrie Higgins at his side. He was waving, smiling. But he quickly came face-to-face with the city's sometimes-contentious brand of politics.

Just down the hall from Walsh's new office on the fifth floor, the City Council was engaged in a tense contest for the council presidency.

South Boston Councilor Bill Linehan, who many see as a symbol of the city's old guard, faced off against City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley, who has fashioned herself a progressive champion of the new Boston.

Pressley invoked Walsh's agenda in her push for the council presidency.

"At a time when our new mayor speaks of all of our neighborhoods shining upon a hill, when he prioritizes bringing economic development to long-underserved neighborhoods, when he pledges to tackle violence, when he promises to transform our schools, we as a body should send a signal that our priorities, our agenda, our promise to residents is just as inclusive," Pressley said.

It was Linehan, though, who won the council presidency. Just minutes later, he introduced the new mayor to a packed house.

Walsh may have strolled into a tense chamber. But he's pitched himself as a conciliator — a bridge between an older, blue collar Boston and a newer, more diverse city.

He congratulated Linehan and then extended a hand to the entire council, which is often marginalized in this strong-mayor city.

"In the campaign, I spoke about working with the City Council as a partner," Walsh said. "I come from a culture of working as a partnership. We might not agree on some issues every single day, we might not agree on every single issue. But the important thing for all of us is to make sure that when we walk out those doors, or I walk out of the mayor's office, that we leave the fight on the floor."

After the council appearance, Walsh's first meeting as mayor focused on youth violence. He met with, among others, interim police Commissioner Bill Evans, the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, who has long worked on issues of youth violence, and Kim Odom, whose son Steven was shot and killed in October 2007 as he returned home from playing basketball.

Walsh, meeting with reporters afterward, said the city has to address the root causes of violence.

"We have to deal with the issue of poverty," he said. "So there's going to be an economic component to this and there's going to be a housing component to it and certainly there's going to be an education component to it."

Walsh made poverty and inequality a central focus of his campaign — and his inauguration speech.

And his day-one focus on the city's less fortunate wrapped up with a visit to the New England Center for Homeless Veterans — just a block from City Hall.

This was Inauguration Day, though. So after a few hours at work, Walsh headed to a different kind of event — a gala for Boston's first new mayor in a generation.


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