Mayor Martin Walsh came across as earnest, calm, and agenda-driven during his inauguration Monday in front of thousands of supporters and civic leaders at Boston College. Walsh, 46, made clear throughout his speech that his key concern upon entering office will be to ensure expanded economic and educational opportunities for “every person in every corner of our city.’’
Like so many Boston politicians before him, Walsh cited the vision of a “city upon a hill’’ used to great rhetorical effect by Puritan leader John Winthrop in a 1630 sermon. But Walsh put his own spin on the phrase, citing the need for Bostonians to stand together on Savin Hill, Bunker Hill, Jones Hill, Mission Hill, Eagle Hill, and other areas where many residents still struggle to find jobs.
Walsh, who appeared unflappable during the morning’s festivities, identified four priorities: creating jobs, stopping gun violence, improving schools, and increasing transparency in government. It’s the right agenda, of course, but one that any new mayor in any big city might put forward. More specifically, he announced the launch of a Neighborhood Business Districts program to jump-start small businesses in scattered neighborhoods. That fits nicely with his promise to streamline the city’s business permitting and licensing requirements, which would be a boon for downtown businesses, as well. “We have to make clear to everyone that Boston is open for business,’’ said Walsh, to strong applause.
Walsh also made clear that he will launch a national search for a new school superintendent. Although the inaugural event overflowed with Walsh’s political supporters from his native Dorchester, the new mayor is sending some positive signals that he will be looking outside his familiar circle for talent, and not only in the schools. Over the weekend, Walsh chose Daniel Arrigg Koh — a Harvard MBA graduate with City Hall experience — to serve as his chief of staff.
An inauguration of the first new mayor in Boston in 20 years is a time for choirs, oaths, benedictions, and recessionals, not for specific plans on how Walsh intends to pay for reforms such as universal early childhood education. It was a fine, well-managed event. But the most important work is what comes next.