Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh needs friends right now, and has a good one in Jack Connors.
“I think it’s unconscionable for the US attorney’s office to be leaking as much information as they’re leaking,” declared Connors, after joining dozens of others on City Hall Plaza Wednesday to cheer on Walsh as he embraced a property tax increase that would direct more money to housing and parks.
It was a beautiful day — not a cloud in the sky. Still, a definite shadow hung over the proceedings — the allegation that Walsh is connected to a federal investigation involving union activities from his pre-mayoral days when he headed the Boston Building Trades Council.
Let others wait and see what happens. Connors isn’t shy about telling the world what he thinks right now. Federal prosecutors, he said, “are some of the finest attorneys and some of the best public servants we have in this country and in this Commonwealth and for some of them to knowingly drop dimes to the media . . . I find unconscionable. And by the way, I find it very unfair.”
Of course, “to knowingly drop dimes” is a quaint term, dating back to a time when sources used pay phones to call in tips. Connors has been around long enough to see this act before. He was close to the late Kevin H. White, the last Boston mayor dogged by a relentless federal inquiry. White was never charged with any crime, but the cloud of suspicion hovering over City Hall drove him from office. There are many years and differences between then and now, but a criminal investigation can still traumatize and shut down an administration.
“It’s never fair when it’s an individual against all of the US Justice Department,” said Connors, acknowledging, however, that sometimes it’s deserved. But Connors doesn’t like the rush to judgment. “I think this mayor is really a good person. I admire him for being a recovering alcoholic. I admire him for being a cancer survivor. I admire him for caring about the folks that most of the wealthy folks don’t demonstrate care about every day of the week,” he said.
None of what Connors said he admires about Walsh has anything to do with the allegation connected to the mayor through anonymous sources — that he strong-armed a developer to hire only union workers. To that, Connors said, “I think for much of his life the mayor supported unions. For him to be accused of being supportive of unions shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. For him to be accused of coercing some developers to use unions . . . I’ve worked closely with developers and with the mayor, and I’ve never seen it and I would have heard about it.”
Meanwhile, Connors is standing by Walsh: “Business as usual goes on . . . My guess is that the mayor is focused on doing his job for the people who elected him, and I think he’s doing a really good job.”
On Wednesday, “doing his job” meant Walsh stood with community activists who back a bid to hike property tax bills in Boston by 1 percent, with exceptions for low-income families and senior citizens. The brunt of the increase would be borne by business owners and wealthier residents. It’s a sign of the times and the headlines that Walsh decided to go “all in,” as the mayor said, with the organizers and activists who view this tax as a way to improve their neighborhoods.
“We love you Marty,” a voice called from the crowd as Walsh began his announcement — music to a mayor’s ears, when he really needs to hear it.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.