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Boston mayor needs to focus on the city

Mayor Marty Walsh gave an address after being sworn in last year at the Conte Forum at Boston College.
Mayor Marty Walsh gave an address after being sworn in last year at the Conte Forum at Boston College.Dina Rudick/Globe staff/file 2014

It’s time for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to reread his inaugural address.

The one he delivered in January 2014, which listed his priorities as “strengthening our economy . . . improving public safety and stopping senseless gun violence . . . ensuring our schools help every child to succeed . . . and increasing trust and transparency in city government.”

There’s a real disconnect between that simple, sensible agenda and the one he embraced when he put his signature on a bid that, at least in theory, called for public financing to fund land and infrastructure costs for an Olympic stadium.


Spare us the projections about the alleged windfall of Olympic-sized economic benefits, or the perky stories about how New York City got the High Line park by not winning an Olympic bid.

Walsh should keep the focus on delivering the basics for all before icing the cake for some.

The Boston economy is booming — but not so much for low-income residents in Roxbury or Mattapan.

People generally feel safe — but less so, if you’re a 7-year-old riding a bicycle in Dorchester, like the one who was recently hit by gunfire.

The schools have a new superintendent — but a long way to go before every child in Boston can expect to get an excellent education.

Meanwhile, Walsh’s transparency pledge is running up against an Olympic-sized wall. The mayor’s misty-eyed appearance before the United States Olympic Committee apparently interfered with his ability to read the fine print in the Boston 2024 bid. How else to explain the section in the bid documents that proposed the city finance land and infrastructure costs in Widett Circle by issuing tax increment financing bonds? That’s also the section that was mysteriously redacted when Boston 2024 presented parts of its bid to the public.


Even if you support that financing concept when it comes to encouraging big employers like Vertex to build in Boston, using it for a stadium is another matter.

And, by the way, if transparency is Walsh’s goal, why is he having secret talks with Robert Kraft about the possibility of committing Boston to build and own a $200 million soccer stadium in Boston?

As reported by Globe columnist Shirley Leung, Kraft is promising to structure the deal so that Boston would not be at risk for any cost of the building.

That’s the same promise made in San Diego back in 1997, when Larry Lucchino — now Boston Red Sox president and Boston 2024 adviser — led the push to build a new ballpark for the Padres. The city of San Diego contributed more than $200 million to the project through the issuance of bonds, to be paid off with hotel-room taxes and new property taxes. The California budget crisis led Governor Jerry Brown to shift the tax revenue that was supposed to pay off these bonds to other state needs. San Diego is now fighting in court to hang onto it. Kraft is saying he would make the payments, but the bottom line is that when financial times change, past promises can turn into empty ones.

Walsh comes across as humble and open to ideas. But now it’s time to set aside the “pinch me I’m mayor” part of that equation. He’s too thrilled to be at the end of an ask, whether it comes from Boston 2024 or Kraft.


Walsh insists none of it changes his priorities, but it certainly changes the headlines.

Big dreams are not bad. But the basic goals Walsh put forth in his inaugural address are big enough in their own way. Accomplishing them for all Bostonians, not just for a select few, is no small task.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.


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