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Walsh hosts Reddit Ask Me Anything, gets young residents involved in government

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh took part in his first-ever Ask Me Anything session for 30 minutes on Reddit Thursday where he answered questions concerning everything from ongoing projects to food preferences. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh took part in his first-ever Ask Me Anything session for 30 minutes on Reddit Thursday where he answered questions concerning everything from ongoing projects to food preferences. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In an effort to continue using social media to communicate with residents from all neighborhoods, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh held a Reddit Ask Me Anything session, his first question-and-answer session of that kind.

The Reddit session, which took place Thursday, covered a variety of topics, including the legalization of medical cannabis facilities, the prospect of a city-controlled liquor license process, the introduction of Google Fiber to the city, the formation of a transportation committee and an appreciation and support for the arts.

“I have and will continue to participate in different types of open forums, be it in person or in the world of technology,” he said in a statement Friday. “The exchange of ideas, expression of concerns and posing of important questions are critical to the ongoing development of this City.”

The mayor, who responded to the questions on the Reddit forum for 30 minutes, answered a variety of policy-based and personal questions, revealing his love for Legal Sea Foods and his ability to understand Gaelic when spoken to. Throughout the AMA session, he also outlined his goals for the city over the coming months.

“My priorities include strengthening the economy and job creation; improving public safety and combating gun violence; making sure that Boston’s public schools help all our children to succeed; increasing access and transparency in city government; and making sure that when Boston does well, ALL of Boston does well,” he said in his introduction prior to beginning the Reddit forum.

One of the topics brought up by Reddit users on the forum was the proposed change to the process of liquor licensure in the city. City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley proposed legislation in March that would eliminate the city’s liquor license quota and give the city the power to appoint members to the Licensing Board.

“The Boston Licensing Board could decide whether or not, at any moment, if any particular neighborhood needs licenses,” said Jessica Taubner, Pressley’s chief of staff. “She [Pressley] believes the city should have the ability to control economic development. The city knows best.”

Taubner said Pressley has been working with Walsh to work on the liquor license proposal and bring the changes to the Boston Licensing Board.

“Councilor Pressley and Mayor Walsh are working collaboratively on this,” she said. “Mayor Walsh has publicly expressed general support for her work on this issue, and our teams are working together on this.”

Several residents said Walsh’s use of Reddit to interact with residents is another example of the change he is bringing to Boston.

Michael Zanetos, 28, of Fenway, said Reddit was a creative way to get his ideas across to the public, and because of the AMA theme, the forum allowed for increased transparency between the mayor and the residents.

“It’s more honest,” he said. “If you go out there and have a staged interview with a prepared statement, it’s one thing, but if you just sit there and have people ask you random questions, you have to be more honest and have an opinion. You can’t just have it scripted and ready to go.”

Tony Lassiter, 45, of Dorchester, said the Reddit forum might help Walsh meet the expectations the public has for him after former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino left office.

“He has big shoes to fill taking over for Menino,” he said. “It’s good for him to let people ask him questions and for him to answer them honestly. It has a positive impact on the public.”

Donald Washington, 28, of Hyde Park, said the addition of technologically based communication between city government and the people reflects the change that is occurring in Boston through Walsh’s administration.

“The city is changing,” he said. “The city is evolving. The mayor needs input from everyone, especially the young people, those who go to school. You have an open forum, really informal, where you can really talk to the city. You aren’t just sitting behind a desk. You need to walk the streets and really understand the people.”

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