Mayor-elect Martin Walsh put together his advising group Tuesday, a group of more than 200 teachers, union leaders, artists, policy makers and other experts, to discuss policy ideas and pave the way for future goals Walsh established during his campaign before he fills Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s seat.
“During the course of the campaign, diversity was an issue that I heard about in every neighborhood,” he said in a Wednesday statement. “I promised that a Walsh Administration will be reflective of the City of Boston, and I’ve made that a priority in our transition work.”
Recently appointed members include former Boston Public School Superintendent Michael Contompasis, Mass. Sens. Anthony Petruccelli and Linda Dorcena Forry, Mass. Reps. Gloria Fox and Kevin Honan, President of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau Samuel Tyler and Dropkick Murphys punk band member Ken Casey, according to a Tuesday press release on Walsh’s transition website.
Carol Rose, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and part of Walsh’s team, said the varied group of people Walsh has composed shows promise for Boston 2014 leadership.
“It’s always good to have a good combination of continuity, new blood and fresh ideas, and it’s actually a really good sign for this leadership,” she said. “There’s a lot of good things about Boston, a lot of things we’re doing well here, and there are a lot of things we could be doing better.”
The areas of focus for the team, called Transition Committee’s Issues Working Groups, are to include culture, economic development, education, housing and public health. The group is comprised of 49 percent racially diverse individuals and 50 percent women, all of whom live and work in Boston, according to the release.
The goal is to help Walsh write ideas and proposals to advance certain priorities during his campaign. The group is working within a structure called “Keep, Implement and Dream,” which refers to keeping the things Boston is doing right, implementing policies the City does not have should have without funding or policy changes, and dreaming transformative ideas for the future, according to the website.
The team is currently focusing on helping Walsh ensure a smooth transition when taking over from Menino’s administration in January 2014.
Rose said her main concern is gun violence, which she plans to tackle immediately following the transition period.
“We have a holistic approach, so our concerns will be around police practices, making sure civilian oversight and internal affairs are working properly in our city and that we’re not wasting our resources with misdirected security,” she said. “We want to focus on the underlying issues that lead to gun violence and all other source of violence.”
Some residents said they have several ideas they want Walsh and his advising board to push during his term.
Jean Pierre Encarnacion, 20, of Brighton, said public transportation should be the biggest focus of his administration.
“We’re a very developed city, but the only way to get to any end of an MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] line is to go through downtown,” he said. “Most cities have a perimeter route, and it makes everything so much quicker. Until they address that, the city will never be as efficient as it could be, so they should really focus on that.”
Dan Farrell, 25, of Allston, said having a multiracial team with men and women is a good move for Boston.
“Seeing the change to more diversity in government is great just because it’s much more like what the city is like,” he said. “The more diverse backgrounds mean more diverse opinions which mean the more diversity of ideas, and that makes it [city government] better able to serve everyone.”
Byron Smith, 48, of Dorchester, said Walsh must help the impoverished before Boston could ever progress.
“Walsh and his new people have to look at three big things: jobs, food stamps and homelessness,” he said. “This city has huge problems with homelessness, and if there’s an extra threat to [the availability of] food stamps, it’s only going to get worse. It creates a cycle where people get forced into desperate situations and they have to break the law to do what they have to do to survive. If they don’t fix that, nothing will ever get better, so that has to come first.”