Mayor Marty Walsh makes a point during a press conference with neighborhood media on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Credit: Chris Helms
Mayor Marty Walsh sat down with reporters and editors from neighborhood publications like the Jamaica Plain News on Wednesday. Here are some highlights from the conversation.
The Casey project is state-run, but takes place on several city streets. Walsh has not taken a strong public role since before his election as mayor, when he buoyed bridge supporters by issuing a statement calling on the Department of Transportation to "fairly evaluate" replacing the Casey with a "beautiful modern bridge." He later backed off that call, saying the city had no control over the project.
On Wednesday, Walsh had a simple statement when asked about the Casey: "Try to avoid it," he said.
The mayor said regular communication is taking place between the city and state over the project. His staff will be providing more details and, when we have them, we'll post what we know.
The mayor said that next winter the city may implement an odd/even side of the street plowing policy, similar to what's done with street sweeping. As all residents know, this winter's multiple storms, with no melting in between, left streets snow-choked messes.
Walsh put some numbers around the city's response to the historic winter:
- There were 101,000 calls to the Mayor's Hotline in February. Usually there are 300,000 calls a year.
- The city has long past spent its $18 million budget for snow removal. On Wednesday he said the final figure will be north of $40 million. (On Wednesday night he told WBZ the number could reach $50 million.)
- One billion cubic feet of snow fell on Boston this winter.
- Snow plows went a distance equal to driving around the world 12 times.
Walsh said he's been checking his own basement every day for flooding as the snow finally melts.
"I was expecting flooding, but it's coming down slow," he said.
Walsh said the city was very fortunate not to receive an expected fifth storm that was to have included rain.
The mayor spoke at length about his efforts to bring the 2024 summer Olympics to the city.
"I look at it as an opportunity to market the city of Boston," he said.
Skeptics point to several potential downsides of the plan, but one of the main ones is use of taxpayer dollars. Walsh said any tax money used would be for infrastructure improvements that the city would be doing anyway. He said he would make sure the city is not left on the hook for any cost overruns.
Franklin Park is being eyed as home to equestrian events and the pentathlon. The mayor said the sprawling park, or any other city venue used, would be returned to better condition than it was found in.
On the issue of the healthy salaries organizers are paying the people they recruit into their organization (including several people with close ties to Walsh), the mayor offered this analogy: That it's a "a Fortune 500 company that's being set up to organize and run the Olympics."
He said the Olympics could be the catalyst for the city to do "50 years of projects in 10 years."
The mayor addressed the rising cost of housing that's forcing some people to move.
"People are being priced out of Boston," he said.
Walsh said the key is to increase the supply of housing. He previously called on developers to produce 53,000 new units of housing at a variety of income levels by 2030.
He said the city is experiencing the third major growth spurt in its long history, the others occurring in the 1890s and 1960s.
Walsh pinned part of the problem on the lack of a cohesive plan for growth.
"The last city of Boston master plan was in 1965," he said.