In his defense, Marty Walsh never said he wouldn’t plaster his name all over the city. Before last fall’s preliminary election, Boston.com and the Globe opinion pages sponsored a series of informal debates with mayoral candidates. In one of them, my colleague Alan Wirzbicki brought up outgoing mayor Tom Menino’s habit of attaching his name to everything — down to the city’s recycling bags — and asked Walsh and two other candidates if they’d do the same. Click the video above to see Walsh’s answer.
Key quote: “I mean, my name will go on some things.”
Since Walsh didn’t promise restraint at that moment, at the height of a wide-open primary, it’s hardly surprising that he’s marking territory with abandon now. Four months into Walsh’s tenure as mayor, reporter Andrew Ryan wrote in Monday’s Globe, “his name has been added to hundreds of pieces of public property, including the newly renovated Childe Hassam Park in the South End.”
Yet notwithstanding the shiny new sign bearing the park’s name and “Martin J. Walsh, Mayor,”
that park project is a decent illustration of why a mayor, especially a brand-new one, should be coy about claiming authorship. At the dedication ceremony a couple of weekends ago, Walsh came by and delivered a nice speech. (I live not far away.) But the planning and fund-raising for the park project began years ago, long before Walsh, a former Dorchester state representative, declared his mayoral candidacy. Neighborhood organizers broke ground for construction last spring, just as the mayoral campaign was beginning. Success has many fathers, the expression goes — inevitably, another new plaque in the park bears Menino’s name — but in this case no one would suspect “Martin J. Walsh, Mayor,” of paternity.
Unfortunately, putting your name on stuff has become one of the perks of being elected to Boston’s top job. Walsh spokeswoman Kate Norton says the new mayor is following Menino’s practice and isn’t claiming any special involvement with Childe Hassam Park; by the time the fence at that park was installed, and it came time to put up a sign, Walsh had already taken over as mayor. But before Walsh goes too far in emulating his predecessor, he should consider the message it sends: Boston is a place where even modest little signs are a political opportunity, and where whoever’s currently mayor will take credit for everything.