Well done, Mr. Mayor. Now get to work

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Your landslide victory over City Councilor Tito Jackson should embolden him, columnist Shirley Leung writes.

By Globe Columnist 

Congratulations, Marty Walsh, on cruising to a second term. You earned it. Now get back to work, because there’s serious unfinished business to tackle.

Your landslide victory over City Councilor Tito Jackson should embolden you. This is not the time to sit back and hoard all your political capital. Use it, and do the hard work that first-term mayors can never get to. We all know where to start:


 Transportation. You’ve got to stop saying it’s Charlie Baker’s problem. You have no control over ordering new Green Line cars, but you do control city streets. Traffic threatens to choke the city’s economic engine, particularly in the Seaport District. Create more dedicated or pop-up bus lanes so MBTA buses on key commuting corridors can be fast-tracked.

At the same time, push developers to help pay for transportation fixes, whether it’s helping to upgrade the T or to explore creative solutions such as an aerial tram ferrying commuters from South Station to the other end of the Seaport District. Better yet, take your Go Boston 2030 transportation plan and see how the private sector can help fund it.

Now here’s the hard ask. Team up with City Council president Michelle Wu to explore playing with toll prices to manage congestion, something that is already done in London and Seattle. Wu is looking into it, but she could use an ally. Electronic tolling makes this possible now, and while there is a bill coursing through the Legislature on adding tolls beyond the Mass. Pike, I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you want to fix Boston traffic, city leaders have to take charge. Consider this: Offer discounted tolls during off-peak times and charge more during rush hour.

 Housing. You’ve drilled it into us: The city, under your stewardship, is on track to meet its ambitious goal of creating 53,000 housing units by 2030.

So why not up your goal to 60,000 or higher? Like traffic, the high cost of housing threatens to hamper the city’s economy. If it’s too expensive to live here, companies will have a hard time recruiting and retaining young talent. Already, our reputation precedes us. If Amazon is hesitant to build a second headquarters in Boston, the lack of middle-class housing almost certainly will be one of the top reasons why.


The only way to bring down housing cost is to increase the supply. Even if the city hits its goal, Boston will still be an expensive place to rent or own. In your second term, be even more aggressive in getting workforce housing built, not just subsidizing units in expensive projects. This means reining in the cost of development, and you have three powerful tools in your toolbox: tax breaks, city-owned land, and continued easing of labor union rules on housing projects. Yes, these items will likely eat up much of your political capital, but it will be worth it in the long term.

 Schools. You’ve laid the groundwork for fixing the city’s uneven school system, but now it’s time to execute. Education is the key to closing the opportunity gap in this city, and we have a long way to go. With another four years, turn your attention to delivering on a campaign promise to improve the quality of pre-K. Finish your work on reinventing high schools because the city’s employers are clamoring for a workforce with the right skills.

Finally, fix Madison Technical Vocational High School. Technology is creating a class of so-called new-collar jobs — good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. The city’s only vo-tech school should be magnet for students, the same way Boston Latin has a gravitational pull for others. This is the time, with so much corporate money pouring into the city, to bolster education. General Electric is pledging $25 million and Vertex $50 million. For once, we see a flow of money, but is there is a big idea to fund?

 An Olympic dream without the Olympics. So Boston didn’t get to host the 2024 Summer Games. That honor will go to Paris. Bidding for the Olympics was never about throwing a party for athletes but the legacy projects the event would leave behind. Over the next four years, get Widett Circle redeveloped into the next great Boston neighborhood. Restore Franklin Park — which would have hosted dressage and equestrian events — into the jewel it should be. Money from the Winthrop Square garage development can make that happen.

 Tito Jackson. You’ve won, now don’t banish Jackson. I can hardly remember City Councilor John Connolly from his unsuccessful 2013 mayoral run, and he didn’t even skip town like Sam Yoon. Jackson has said he doesn’t want to be part of your administration, but from one son of Dorchester to another, you should help the councilor land on his feet.

Our city desperately needs more black leaders, and if you’re serious about making Boston a more inclusive place, start with making sure Jackson remains a visible part of our town.


There are a lot of things you disagree on, from wooing General Electric and Amazon with tax breaks to hosting the Summer Olympics. But you have much in common and stand together on perhaps the biggest problem facing the city: our inequality of opportunity.

Even amid our economic boom, too many people in this city have been left behind. It’s a problem too big for one son of Dorchester to solve.

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist She can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @leung.