Aspiring outgoing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh seems to be eagerly awaiting his opportunity to leave City Council President Kim Janey holding the bag and having to run all things municipal.
Assuming that Walsh is confirmed by the US Senate as the next secretary of labor, Janey will receive the distinct honor of being Boston’s first female and first Black mayor. She will also inherit a city during a pandemic and an ever-looming eviction crisis.
Boston currently has a 9.9% positive COVID-19 test rate, according to Boston Public Health Commission data from Feb 5. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Trial Courts released a report in mid January showing that nearly 4,000 eviction cases had been filed in the state in December despite the national eviction moratorium in place.
There is also a good chance that Janey may have to select the new police commissioner, since Walsh’s pick to replace William Gross, Dennis White, was suspended less than a week after his appointment following reports that he abused his ex-wife when they were still married.
Meanwhile, the City Council passed an ordinance on Feb 3 that would postpone a special election. Twelve members voted in favor of the measure, none voted against it, and recently-announced mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George abstained, saying that her candidacy created a conflict of interest that her fellow councilors and mayoral competitors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell were implicitly less concerned about.
As long as Walsh, the state legislature, and Gov. Charlie Baker gets on board, Janey might get a few extra months to deal with the mess before having to decide whether or not to run for reelection.
Aside from weighing in on Boston politics, the Baker administration is falling short in its effort to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite Moderna creating the second available vaccine out of Massachusetts, the Bay State currently ranks 38th among the 50 states in terms of vaccines per 100,000 residents, according to the Brown School of Public Health, which partnered with Microsoft to track vaccination rates nationwide.
Of the population in Massachusetts, about 70% are white, while the Black and Latinx populations account for 9% and 12% of the overall population, respectively. But Black and Latinx people have only received 4% and 5% of the available vaccines, according to data released Feb 2 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Baker had intended to curb that trend when he announced that a public vaccine center would be opened at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury. The clinic opened Wednesday, Feb 3, but almost everyone in line, including Mayor Marty Walsh’s mother, was from Boston’s whiter and often more affluent neighborhoods and suburbs.
Following the first day of the Reggie Lewis clinic being in operation, Baker was pushed to create and announce a special time where only people from the local community can get vaccinated. The Baker administration apparently did not expect wealthier residents to go out of their way to take advantage of the system, reflecting a lack of awareness of just about the entire history of this country.
Following a ham-handed Senate hearing for the nominee, Walsh was on the cusp of confirmation as of Feb 6.
The GOP did not appear to even be familiar with the Boston mayor, who was made to answer for the one labor-related executive action that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have taken in their first few weeks in office. Republicans used cooked stats from the energy industry to challenge Walsh on temporary jobs that were lost when the president canceled the Keystone XL pipeline through executive order.
If confirmed, which appears likely, Walsh will oversee labor policy and union activity in the country. But Republicans were interested in griping about the first increase to minimum wage in 14 years, and trying to catch Walsh as a snobby east coast elite.
One Senator even wondered how a minimum wage increase would harm tipped workers in the restaurant industry. Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall tried to nail Walsh with a half-assed question about Boston’s cost of living based on a single cup of coffee. In response, Hizzoner plugged the very reasonable prices at Doughboy Donuts in South Boston.
Southie being Southie and all, though, management was neither peeved nor impressed.
“It seems like they make a big deal out of nothing,” shop owner Phyllis Fandel told WBZ. “It’s a coffee place. I mean, thank God—he’s a loyal customer and he mentions us, you know, But it’s … just so bizarre.”
The same might be said about how the GOP attempted to grill Walsh.