Walsh compares vibrant Boston with dysfunctional Washington in State of the City speech

Mayor Martin Walsh waved from the stage of Symphony Hall during his State of the City speech on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Chris Lovett photo

During an upbeat State of the City address Tuesday night at Symphony Hall, Mayor Marty Walsh contrasted Boston with the dysfunction in Washington, comparing the city's successes with the paralysis in the federal government.

The state of Boston is strong, Walsh told an audience of hundreds.

"But I’m concerned about the state of our union," he said. "What happens in Washington, we feel on the streets of Boston. But here's what matters more: what we do in Boston can change this country."

Walsh touted the city's booming economy and what he called its record-low unemployment rate. He called Boston the best city in the world to find a job.

"If you want to grow good jobs and rebuild the middle class, look to Boston," Walsh said. "If you want to see how social justice strengthens all of us, look to Boston. If you want to cut crime, protect the environment, lift Americans up, leave no one behind, build a more perfect union, then look to the city of hopes and hearts. Look to the city of courage and champions. At a time when cities must lead, look to Boston, the leader of cities."

Boston is often cited among the cities with the greatest income inequality, but some economists also point out that's because it has not pushed its poor people out.

The mayor boasted of building affordable housing, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting in protected bike lanes, opening parks and libraries.

"Less than a decade ago, libraries were slated for closure," Walsh said. "We listened to the residents who cherish them. Today, not only are they open, we invested over $100 million in renovations for libraries in Mission Hill, Brighton, Roslindale, Dorchester, Roxbury, Chinatown and other neighborhoods. That's in addition to a $78 million renovation of our historic central library in Copley Square, where there’s more to come."

Walsh contrasted inaction on climate change in Washington with Boston's plan to deal with rising sea levels.

"The White House turned its back on climate change," Walsh said. "But in Boston, we believe in science."

On schools, Walsh pointed to a vast program of building new ones and refurbishing others.

"Already, we've spent over $300 million on brand-new schools, major renovations, and modern furniture," Walsh said. "Another $800 million is on the way to give the children of Boston the great schools they deserve."

Walsh did not address how the schools propose to bridge the achievement gap between white and Asian students on one hand and black and Latino students on the other. He told reporters afterwards that of course he's working on that, too. And he defended the unpopular closing of some older schools as the last option on the table, saying new ones will open.

He also gave reporters a message for President Trump.

"Get to work," Walsh said. "Right now, the government's shut down. The President is making a mockery of him sitting in the White House like we feel bad for him... That's his job. He should be in the White House."

Walsh said soon he, a Democrat, and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, will travel together to Washington to push the Democratic House and the Republican Senate for more money for housing, transit, and the environment.

This story first appeared on the website of 90.9FM WBUR, Boston's NPR News Station, on Jan. 16. The Reporter and WBUR have a partnership in which they share content and resources.

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