Mayor Martin Walsh was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club Breakfast Series Feb. 14 at the club’s facility in Chelsea.
Walsh, who is serving his second term as mayor of Boston, drew one of the largest crowds in the 23-year history of the monthly breakfast that has featured such prominent guest speakers as Gov. Charlie Baker, former Govs. Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis, former Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, former Congressman Mike Capuano, former Boston Mayors Kevin White and Ray Flynn, former State Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Bob Reynolds, Peter Lynch, and Boston professional sports team owners Bob Kraft, Wyc Grousbeck, and John Henry.
Mr. Kraft’s son, Josh, is the former executive director of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club and the current CEO and president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson joined Josh Kraft in welcoming Walsh to the breakfast during introductory remarks.
“It’s an honor to have for the first time a sitting mayor of the City of Boston as our speaker,” said Robinson. “This kid from Savin Hill grew up in the city with a lot of challenges, took leadership in the unions, served 16 years as state representative, and was elected mayor of the City of Boston in 2013. We all see the success – the schools continue to get better, you see an impressive number of companies moving to Boston and bringing people jobs, and crime continues to go down in Boston. The mayor continues to make Boston the most livable place in America to live, play and work.”
Kraft said, “I want to thank the mayor for being here today. He is a great friend to my family. I talked to my father [Patriots owner Robert Kraft] this morning and he said, ‘There was no more vocal and energetic fan in Atlanta than Marty.’’’
“Mayor Walsh is a great resource for the city of Boston, he’s a community guy and understands the city on every level and he’s a Boys and Girls Club alum,” added Kraft.
Walsh addressed issues such as affordable housing, transportation, education funding, economic development, the environment, and veterans’ homelessness, in a speech that was frequently interrupted by applause in appreciation of his many accomplishments as the city’s chief executive.
Walsh said when he became mayor, his administration put together a housing plan “to create 53,000 units of new housing by 2030.”
Walsh said in an effort to bring new businesses to Boston, his administration created an office of economic development.
“In that office, we brought in all small businesses and all the different departments and we put them under one umbrella, one roof,” said Walsh.
Walsh seemed to take considerable pride in noting that “Boston is the first city on the East Coast to have every single resident within a 10-minute walk to a park.”
Walsh said the funding mechanism for education is “broken, it doesn’t work.”
“We need a complete change [in education funding] in Massachusetts,” said Walsh. “It doesn’t work in Boston. I don’t think it works in Chelsea. It doesn’t work for most cities and towns. Former Senate President Tom Birmingham came in with education reform in 1993 and it was a brilliant move, investing a billion dollars in education and he came up with a whole bunch of requirements. But since 1993 to 2019, we haven’t really changed the formula and we haven’t changed the way education funding goes. And in that same time, education has changed.”
Walsh said there is a bill in the Mass. State Senate, called The Promise Act, “that actually lifts up all 351 cities and towns on how we’re going to better fund education.”
Speaking about veterans’ homelessness, Walsh said he was learned in 2015 from the New England Shelter For Homeless Veterans that there were “575 chronic veterans on the street.”
“We implemented a housing plan and we came up with a system, and by the end of that year , we housed over 500 chronic, homeless veterans in the City of Boston,” said Walsh. “Now, we’ve housed 1,600 chronically homeless people in the city. We created the Boston’s Way Home Fund. We’ve raised $6 million in 14 months. Our goal is $10 million. I want to build 200 more housing units for homeless veterans.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett, State Rep. Dan Ryan of Charlestown, Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino, and Chelsea City Councillors Leo Robinson were among the public officials in attendance at the breakfast that is a fundraiser for the Jordan Boys and Girls Club.
“It was great to see the mayor in Chelsea talking about regional approaches to issues like housing and transportation,” said Walsh. “The mayor understands what it’s like to be a legislator and to live and work in a big city.”
Leo Robinson, a long-time city official, said he was impressed by Walsh’s speech that highlighted the city’s approach to the opioid crisis and his continuing efforts in addressing veterans’ homelessness, and the need for affordable housing. “When Martin Walsh was a state representative, he was the keynote speaker at an opioid conference in Chelsea, and to see him still working hard on this issue is a good thing to see,” said Robinson. “He is a very popular mayor and the large audience at the breakfast is indicative of the high regard in which he is held throughout this entire region. I have a lot of respect for Marty. He gets it.”