Mayor Walsh talks Southie St. Patrick’s Day parade, death penalty for Tsarnaev

boston marty walsh mayor walsh city hall office
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in his office at Boston City Hall.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

Metro sat down with Mayor Marty Walsh at his City Hall office for a wide-ranging interview in which he talked about the controversial South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade needing to be “inclusive” and supporting the death penalty for the accused Boston Marathon bomber if the Department of Justice seeks it. 

What’s been the hardest part of the job so far?

Probably just getting used to so many people around me… And when I say people, I don’t mean public, I’m talking like staff. Great people work here, but just trying to get adjusted to that is one of the things; I have to get used to it in private life I guess.

During the campaign you said a way to make Boston more attractive to young people is having bars and restaurants open later and upgrading online services. What’s your team doing to make those issues happen?

I haven’t focused yet on the entertainment and the restaurants in Boston. I do have a meeting scheduled with the restaurant owners in a couple weeks … We’re going to be meeting with different people about it to talk about how do we do it. A couple ideas on the campaign were to zone, zone some of the entertainment venues, the bars … one particular part of the area somebody gets to stay open later, another part of the city gets to stay open later. Some people have come up with ideas of stop serving alcohol at 2 [a.m.], 2:30 [a.m.], but have dancing til 3:30 [a.m.] so it staggers the spill out into the streets. We’re going to look at all those options.

What about online services?

It’s important because in the campaign we spoke about this. We had a ground game where we went out and knocked on doors, but we also had a digital game with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and different things like that. We bought a package of promotion on computers so we were campaigning not just by putting up signs and putting ads in newspapers, but also by Facebook … and Google. So, I think to get people more engaged, to get younger people engaged, with city government they might not show up at a community meeting, but they would probably take part in some type of webcast or different type of chatroom.

What other ideas do you want to make happen for young people in their 20s or 30s?

I think a lot of it is how do we engage young people in government. We have the [Office of] Urban Mechanics that Mayor [Thomas] Menino actually started. We want to expand upon that. My chief of staff, who’s 31 years old, is going to have some great ideas as far as engaging younger people… So we have a good, young core of people. Boston’s a younger city. I think we’re the youngest city in the country. We’re probably one of the fastest growing economies in the country. So we want to make sure we capitalize on that, keep young people here to grow our city. So we have to come up with innovative ideas and ways to keep people engaged, whether it’s through the zoning issues. Most people won’t care what the Boston Redevelopment Authority does, but we want to let people know through social media what these changes mean, what it means for the growth of Boston.

Five of the newest rental buildings in Boston, which are about 1,000 units, the cost is at least $2,000/month for a studio apartment and only get more expensive from there.

We really have to figure out how do we catch that moderate income housing here in Boston. That’s something that as we move forward here we’ll be working on… We have to create housing to keep people in the city of Boston. Two thousand dollar studio apartment might be fine, but it’s a studio apartment… We were at 319 A St. the other day: beautiful building, green [building]. You know, two bedroom is $3,500. That’s a lot of money. They’re not overly large. We have to really work on how do we capitalize on that housing, as well as creating low income housing.

You already said you’re not going to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, obviously a flashpoint for gay rights …

Yeah and I haven’t had a chance yet to sit down with the organizers of the parade. Believe it or not, I actually have a note here in my pocket that I wrote down on Saturday “Parade, St. Patrick’s.” …I would like to march in the parade. I want to march in the parade. Certainly I’ve marched in the parade in the past. It celebrates my heritage. A million people or so come into South Boston and into the community to watch the parade. It’s a great parade, but it has to be an inclusive parade.

You said it has to be an inclusive parade. They’ve been pretty steadfast and have the court order …

They do and that’s the right. That’s the Supreme Court ruling and the people of South Boston 20 years ago fought hard for that ruling. In the last 20 years a lot in this country and a lot in this city has changed. I think that with anything I’ve changed in 20 years. I’m a different person today than I was 20 years ago. So I think change is good and I think sometimes we have to adapt with change.

What are you or the city planning to mark the first anniversary of the Marathon bombings?

We’re still working with some of the organizers of it. We haven’t really gotten into much of a conversation yet about it. The memories are going to come back for everybody and I have a somewhat of a personal connection to that day… Boston’s going to rise up. There’s going to be more people at the Marathon this year than in the history of the Marathon. Boston is a unique city in this country. We band together and we’re going to continue to move forward. And as far as the details of what we’re going to do I’m not there yet.

Less than two weeks from today is the deadline for the Department of Justice to inform the judge if they want to seek the death penalty for accused Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Do you think Tsarnaev should get the death penalty?

I’m going to support whatever the ruling is. In my career as a legislator I’ve voted consistently against the death penalty. I’ll support whatever the justice department decides in this case.

Mayor Menino declared the car is no longer king in Boston. Do you subscribe to that same philosophy?

Yeah… There clearly has to be other ways of transportation. We have to continually work with the MBTA to upgrade our service. I know in May they’re going to have a pilot program to open the T from Thursday through Saturday night. I think that’s a great step in providing more efficient transportation in the city… There’s a program in place now with our transportation to do 20 miles of bicycle [cycle track lanes] in the next 10 years. So, I mean, you’re going to see more and more of it, which is a good thing. And walking as well. Walking is an important piece. You go to other cities around the country, people walk. They don’t think twice of walking 15 blocks to go to work, so I think we can look at walking as well. We have to make sure the infrastructure is there for that.

When you get home after a long day at the office, or on a long weekend, what do you do to relax? What do you do to just decompress?

I haven’t figured that out yet. I turn the news on to see if there’s a snowstorm coming. And when there’s no snowstorm coming I feel very relieved. Seriously. I mean I watch some sports if there’s a game on. I’ll watch NHL Network or ESPN or watch basketball. I obviously love my home teams, but I’ll watch other teams play as well. And then have to read briefings for the next day from here [City Hall]. I don’t have my routine down yet. It’s still early.

You live on Savin Hill, really close to the Savin Hill MBTA station. Would you ever consider ditching the car and taking the T to work?

It would be a nice idea, but very difficult. You’re always in and out. It makes it hard. It would be hard to take the train everywhere. Most of my days have been … sporadic. It’s just important to have a car… It’s just very difficult because you’re going from event to event in a very tight time.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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