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6 Things To Keep In Mind For Walsh’s State Of The City

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks during a news conference Friday, after Boston was picked by the USOC as its bid city for the 2024 Summer Games. (Winslow Townson/AP)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks during a news conference Friday, after Boston was picked by the USOC as its bid city for the 2024 Summer Games. (Winslow Townson/AP)
This article is more than 8 years old.

A year and a week into his term, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh delivers his first State of the City address tonight. Here are six things to keep in mind ahead of it.

WBUR will broadcast the speech on-air and here online. Coverage begins at 7 p.m.

Olympic-Sized Shadow

"This is not going to take over my first term as mayor," Walsh vowed Friday after the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston to be the American bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.

But there's no denying the Olympics — and the public policy conversation on hosting them — are a big deal. There are costs, venues and security to be considered, alongside development goals and the allure of a global event. And the conversation will, in all likelihood, last a while, as the International Olympic Committee is expected to name the 2024 host city in late 2017.

Walsh, an enthusiastic backer of the Games, led Friday's news conference and promised "the most open, inclusive and transparent [bid] process in Olympic history." To that end, he laid out an initial schedule of nine community meetings, from Jan. 27 through this September.

The Scramble To Shelter Boston's Homeless

A structurally unsafe bridge, now closed, has upended Boston's shelter and recovery services.

Some advocates have criticized the city's response to the Long Island bridge closure and the subsequent evacuation of the island, but Walsh has defended his administration's actions.

"Trying to relocate some of these programs is a difficult situation in the city," he said last month, when announcing that a Southampton Street facility would be renovated to house hundreds of homeless people. (That's after a plan for Frontage Road was abandoned.)

Just today — and after rapid renovations — the Southampton Street site is set to open to about 100 homeless men. By April, city officials hope to shelter hundreds more people there.

Other Policies: Superintendent, Wynn Casino, The BRA

-- Walsh began dialogue about finding a new school superintendent the day after his inauguration, but Interim Superintendent John McDonough remains at the helm. A delayed timeline, defenders say, has allowed the city to attract more and better candidates. Walsh now says finalists for the all-important position will be announced next month.

-- Walsh has waged a protracted battle over the proposed Wynn-Everett casino plan, culminating in a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission last week. "[I]t has always been our belief that Boston is a host community," Walsh said with the lawsuit. Host status would allow Bostonians to vote on whether the casino project could move forward.

-- Speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last month, Walsh named Brian Golden as the permanent head of the powerful Boston Redevelopment Authority. The announcement was cheered by the business leaders, and WBUR's Fred Thys reported that part of "Golden’s popularity seems to come from his commitment to transparency."

A Data-Backed Administration

Walsh's City Hall team has embraced technology and data. Back in February, his chief of staff, Daniel Arrigg Koh, told WBUR about screens being installed in the mayor's office to allow Walsh to monitor 911 calls and other data. In the address to business leaders, Walsh touted "smart new digital tools" and their role in delivering city services to constituents.

Menino's Passing

Walsh's inauguration represented a new era in Boston politics, and his first year also saw the death of his longtime predecessor, the respected Thomas Menino, in late October.

“When I got the phone call [after Menino died] I sat down and thought, ‘I’m the mayor,’ ” Walsh recounted to The Boston Globe in November. “He was always kind of there."

Symphony Hall

One minor note about setting: Walsh will deliver his State of the City tonight at Symphony Hall, a unique location. (Menino delivered his last several such speeches at Faneuil Hall.)

What's behind this artistic turn? A new cabinet-level focus on the arts, perhaps?

"Symphony Hall is a 120 year old concert hall full of history, innovation, and change — a reflection of the City of Boston," a Walsh spokeswoman said in an email.


Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.



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