Upholding a campaign promise to listen to the voice of the public and maintain transparency with his constituents, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh held the first of a series of community town hall meetings entitled Mondays with the Mayor at Another Course to College in Brighton.
The meeting, sparked by his successful Mondays with Marty program that he ran prior to his inauguration, allowed residents to share their questions and concerns with the Walsh administration. Over 250 people attended the meeting, and attendees were chosen at random to ask their questions. Those not chosen were given the opportunity to tweet questions to the mayor’s official Twitter account.
“It’s really about allowing people to have a voice,” Walsh told The Daily Free Press at the conclusion of the event. “It’s a campaign promise that we made, a commitment to come back to the communities and hear people. It makes me a better mayor, and it keeps me connected to the people that otherwise might not have a voice.”
Event attendees asked Walsh a variety of questions, ranging from bicycle safety to park maintenance. Any questions that could not be answered by Walsh were directed to one of the cabinet members or department heads, sitting in the first two rows of the auditorium.
Representing nearly all neighborhoods in Boston, many of the event’s attendees wanted to ensure that the problems in their individual neighborhoods would not be overlooked. In response to one Allston resident, Walsh said he hopes to use these meetings to show all residents that their neighborhoods have not been forgotten.
“One thing I heard on the campaign trail was that people forget Brighton, and people forget Allston,” he said. “This is the very first Mondays with the Mayor that we’ve done, and we’re doing it right here in that neighborhood.”
Walsh responded to several questions about the state of public schools and charter schools in Boston. He said the most important step residents can take at this point is to keep enrollment rates up and encourage others to support public schools.
“One of the problems we have this year is our enrollment is down,” he said. “So I would suggest that you talk to your neighbors and friends and have them enroll in the Boston Public School system because the way to improve the school system is not by running away from it. It’s by embracing it.”
Walsh addressed constituents’ concerns about the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has undergone a series of changes since Walsh took office in January. Several residents complained about a lack of transparency between the developers in the city agency and the people in the neighborhoods affected.
“We’re going to continue to move forward in a positive way for the community,” he said. “The community should have a voice at the table, and not just a voice at the table. They should be part of the discussions.”
In response to a question about a project in Cleveland Circle, BRA director Brian Golden said the BRA is looking to work with all Boston neighborhoods to agree upon projects that will be beneficial for everyone affected.
“We’re coming back out to the community to talk about how we can hopefully achieve an outcome that everyone can live with,” he said. “You don’t want to see what you might perceive to be a flawed project go on just for the sake of getting something built.”
Several attendees said Monday’s meeting was a valuable opportunity for Walsh to hear community concerns and respond to constituent questions.
Jessica Descartes, 30, of Somerville, said she works in Dorchester and has recently transitioned to a career in education, and she wants to hear more about Walsh’s plans for education reform in the city.
“For my sake, I want to hear what the mayor’s plans are for Boston, specifically if he’s going to speak about education,” she said. “I’m just trying to find my niche and see where I can be useful in Boston.”
Heather Kapplow, 40, of Allston, said Allston has a long history of the arts, and she is interested in hearing Walsh’s plans for enhancing that culture throughout the city.
“To the City of Boston, I’d love to see an arts commissioner [to be] someone who is given the instruction to think about Boston in a global perspective, not just a local perspective,” she said.
Bob Buckley, 67, of Dorchester, said Mondays with the Mayor are the best way for Walsh to reach out to the community on a personal level.
“It’s best for him to come out into the community and do, for lack of a better word, a fireside chat,” he said. “And this is better than a fireside chat because you get a chance to talk to the mayor, and the mayor has a chance to talk back to you.