Five Takeaways From Mayor Walsh’s First State of the City Address

Mayor Marty Walsh wasn’t afraid to get personal during his State of the City address Tuesday night.
Mayor Marty Walsh wasn’t afraid to get personal during his State of the City address Tuesday night. –The Boston Globe/Jessica Rinaldi

“The state of our city is strong and getting stronger,’’ Mayor Marty Walsh said in his first State of the City address Tuesday night at Symphony Hall. There were details, of course; Walsh praised police work and his record on diversifying City Hall, announced efforts to promote Boston’s technology industry, and spoke of building new schools across the city.

Here’s a five-point breakdown of some of the key takeaways from Tuesday night.

This is Walsh’s city now.

That statement can most easily be seen in the decision to move the speech to Symphony Hall, a departure from the traditional venue of Faneuil Hall. That decision was a mix of necessity — the mayor’s office expected increased attendance out of curiosity for his first speech — but it was also symbolic of a changing of the guard in Boston city leadership.


Why Symphony Hall?

“It’s full of history, yet also innovation and change, just like our city,’’ Walsh said. Later in his speech, the mayor recognized Mayor Thomas Menino’s passing but also acknowledged the many things that the city has yet to achieve, such as racial harmony and, on a more concrete note, fixing pot holes.

After 20 years of a Menino-led Boston, Walsh came into office last year under a Menino shadow. A year later, Walsh is fully his own man.

Walsh isn’t afraid to get personal.

We knew this from the 2013 mayoral campaign trail, when Walsh openly talked about his history of addiction and alcoholism and admitted he still attends AA meetings. In Tuesday’s speech, he again emphasized his past struggles when talking about his decision to close down the Long Island bridge and evacuate the homeless shelter there.

That surprising decision has overwhelmed many of the city’s sheltering and recovery services, which weren’t prepared for an influx of people to feed and house.

Walsh explained that decision by going personal. “That hit me hard. I knew the impact it would have on people I have worked hard to help,’’ he said. “For years I drove out there, every other week, to share the message of recovery.’’


Walsh said he was committed to sheltering every person, no matter what, and pointed to the city’s new Office of Recovery Services as a broader policy measure that would study and make changes to impact struggling people.

“This isn’t just policy to me. It’s personal,’’ he said.

Education, education, education.

That was the main message of the speech, which spent a considerable amount of time on the problems in Boston Public Schools.

“In a city that established public education, a city with the greatest universities in the world, access to an excellent public school is seen as a lucky break.’’

Walsh touted the plan to add 40 minutes of school time for elementary and middle schools, and noted the expansion of city-wide pre-K. He also pitched the idea of literally building more schools as part of a 10-year plan to identify what construction needs to occur.

Walsh didn’t touch much on higher education, but he did mention a new program that would attempt to create a “high-tech career pipeline’’ between Charlestown High School and Bunker Hill Community College. Which brings us to…

Walsh is pinning the city’s future on innovation and tech

That was just one of several tech-related announcements. The city is set to create a “startup czar,’’ whose job will be to help Hub entrepreneurs. That will go alongside a regional program called “StartHub’’ to do similar work.

One of the loudest cheers of the night came for the announcement of the ParkBoston app. “Soon, you won’t have to fumble for quarters to pay the parking meter,’’ Walsh said to raucous, slightly-sarcastic cheers.


#THIBos is a questionable hashtag

Promoting tech-friendly policies doesn’t mean all of the city’s online interactions are perfect. Walsh’s office promoted people to tweet about the speech using #THIBos, which stands for Thriving, Healthy, Innovative Boston.

But it’s not clear what #THIBos relates to upon seeing it in a random twitter stream. People were, understandably, confused.

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