Walsh uses Facebook to reach out to Boston residents

In contrast to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who never had a computer in his office, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh hosted his second interactive social media question-and-answer session Wednesday, answering questions from Massachusetts residents through the City of Boston’s Facebook page.

Walsh held his first Q&A on Twitter in January, entertaining any questions about his goals for the city. In Wednesday’s Facebook Q&A, Walsh chose to focus on education and innovation.

“Social media is an opportunity to directly connect with constituents in real time, and engage on a personal level,” Walsh told The Daily Free Press during the Q&A. “These conversations are a fantastic way for me to hear what is on your mind, and I use this information to inform what we focus on in the City. Where I can, I always want to hear directly from constituents.”

Several Facebook users posted concerns about budget cuts in Boston Public Schools and Walsh’s commitment to quality education in Boston.

“We are actually investing an additional $36 million in our schools next year,” Walsh said to Facebook user Carrie Dunning Dyball. “There’s always more to do, as we are [facing] significant challenges from state and federal sources continue to decline. The City is stepping in with additional resources where we can.”

Walsh also responded to questions regarding the growing number of condominium developments in and around the City of Boston. He said green space would continue to be a priority for the Innovation District.

As the Innovation District builds out, we want to make sure that it remains a place that people want to live, work and play,” he said to Facebook user Keith Gross-Hill. “There will be new green space emerging there in the coming months.”

Caryl Rivers, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communication, said social mdeia has had a huge political impact, one that was seen largely for U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 election.

“It is a more direct way to connect with their constituents than having a news conference,” she said. “If someone doesn’t see it on the evening news or read it the papers the next day, they don’t get the communication.”

Several residents said Walsh’s social media activity will allow him to hear concerns directly from Massachusetts residents and speak to people directly.

Mileena Torres, 19, of Dorchester, said Walsh made a good decision in choosing education as the highlight of his first Facebook Q&A.

“Education is one of the most important issues in Boston right now, so it’s important that he shows that he cares about these issues and he’s trying to repair them,” she said. “It’s important to show people that he cares about other people’s opinions.”

Rodeline Prince, 26, of Jamaica Plain, said Walsh’s use of social media would help him contact young people, especially students who will be affected by his education reform.

“I’m actually not into social media, but I think he’s doing a good thing by talking to people through Facebook and Twitter,” she said. “It’s modern and a way to connect with young people. Boston’s a very young town, so it makes sense.”

Mike Gilroy, 56, of the South End, said social media is a great place for the mayor to start, but he should also be finding ways to unite Boston’s neighborhoods and communicate with the older people in Boston, who may not be active on Facebook or Twitter.

“While I’m sure the mayor is using social media to keep in touch with young people, which is good, older Bostonians would probably be more interested in town meetings and connecting the neighborhoods initially,” he said. “That was the strength of the previous mayor to some degree, but this mayor could do a lot better. Forget the [Boston Redevelopment Authority]. Forget the amount of big developers. It’s connecting the neighborhoods that would be a positive thing.”

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