JP Observer: Mayor comes through on housing, arts, staff

Looking over the wish list for Mayor Marty Walsh’s new administration created by the JP Observer in December 2013, it’s exciting to note that he has accomplished a lot in major areas.

The City made advances under Walsh in the critical arena of affordable housing, including for middle class people. Earlier this month the mayor announced that Boston issued permits for more than 1,000 units of new affordable housing units in 2015, breaking the record of 862 set in 2004. “Affordability” standards are based on Area Median Income. A record 3,800 overall new units were completed.

Walsh’s “Housing a Changing City,” released in October 2014, as part of his Imagine Boston 2030 project, set a target of 6,500 new affordable units for low and middle income folks to be created by then.

Last month, the mayor issued an executive order that standardizes Boston’s Inclusionary Zoning Policy and increases affordability subsidized by developers for qualified renters and buyers.

Walsh kept his promise to boost the arts—a very important topic for JP—and to create a cabinet level commissioner for the arts. He named Julie Burros Boston’s first Chief of Arts and Culture in September 2014 after a national search.

Burros has spearheaded an extensive community arts and cultural planning process called “Boston Creates” that will generate a draft plan with short-, near- and long-term goals to be released at a third “town hall” meeting on March 28. The kickoff town hall meeting was held here in JP in English High School auditorium with standing room only.

Just before his State of the City address last week, the mayor announced that $1 million will go directly to helping individual artists based on needs surfaced through the Boston Creates process. Half the money will expand AIR, the city’s Artist in Residence program, to place working artists in 10 to 12 City community centers to help develop programs.

Individual artists will be granted another $400,000. What arts that will include and how artists will be chosen will be announced in coming months. Also, $100,000 will fund an artists’ resource desk at City Hall staffed by a full-time Boston artist resource director that will act as an information clearing house for Boston artists.

Mayor Walsh kept the very helpful Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the Jamaica Plain and LGBT Community Liaison Jullieanne Doherty, as requested.

He hired department heads whose previous employers did not want to let them go, especially in the case of the Boston Police Commissioner.

Bill Evans was appointed by Walsh in January, 2014. Evans had been interim commissioner since Mayor Thomas Menino appointed him in November 2013 and had moved up the department ranks since he joined the force in 1982.

A school principal in Los Angeles Unified School District was quoted in a WBUR article saying Boston’s new Superintendent of Schools Tommy Chang was a good, “hands-on” administrator.

Housing, arts, and personnel appointments got good attention from Mayor Walsh during the first half of his four-year term.

Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

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