By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
On New Year’s Day morning, Mayor Martin Walsh took his oath of office and was sworn in to his second term as the 54th Mayor of Boston in front of a large crowd filled with residents, supporters, faith leaders, and elected officials in the Cutler Majestic Theatre.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. presided over the ceremony that also included the swearing-in of the City Council.
“It is an honor to preside over Mayor Walsh’s swearing in,” said Biden. “Marty is a man of incredible character and courage. He has never forgotten where he comes from. I don’t think there’s a mayor in America who better understands the middle class, or who will do more to fight for its revitalization the years ahead than Mayor Marty Walsh. Building on the work that the mayor and the City Council have already done, the future is bright for the City of Boston.”
In Walsh’s second inaugural address he committed to prioritizing the fundamentals of the middle class opportunity by creating strong public schools, good jobs, and affordable homes in safe neighborhoods.
Walsh further committed to securing resources for Boston’s most vulnerable populations and providing more opportunity in every neighborhood across the city.
“In the last four years, we have dedicated ourselves, together, to Boston’s progress,” said Walsh. “And as we’ve proven to each other, our nation and the world, Boston never stops rising to the occasion, setting new goals, tackling new challenges, and soaring to new heights.”
“I’m honored to stand alongside this city’s residents and have the opportunity to continue our work of making Boston a shining example – our shining city on a hill – of all people coming together to make their neighborhoods and their city better each day, year, and generation. We all share the same conviction that we are always moving forward towards a better Boston, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
In his address, Walsh outlined his administration’s plans as he begins his second term including eliminating the opportunity gap, working together to help the homeless population, increasing access to housing, and investing more in recovery services – including working towards re-opening the Long Island Bridge.
“Today I pledge to you that we will rebuild the bridge,” said Walsh. “And we will create on Long Island the comprehensive, long-term recovery campus that our city and state needs more than ever to tackle the opioid crisis.”
By re-opening the Long Island facility, Mayor Walsh said that Boston will be able to offer essential recovery resources in a serene setting, and provide services spanning the whole continuum of care such as harm reduction, detox, residential treatment, transitional housing, and ongoing peer support.
In 2014 to ensure public safety, Walsh decided to close the deteriorating Long Island Bridge, shuttering the homeless services on the island. Although the city has worked to replace all shelter beds that were once housed on Long Island and have since continued to add more, Walsh believes the space has potential to be used for those suffering from substance use disorders.
The idea to work towards re-building the bridge comes after years of doubt from community members, particularly in the South End, which has been feeling the brunt of side effects of the addiction service centers around Boston Medical Center.
The City is working on developing a funding plan and is seeking the necessary permits to reconstruct the connecting bridge to the island. The estimated construction costs for a replacement are approximately $40 million to $100 million, depending on design.
Partial funding for the bridge is already contained in Boston’s fiscal year 2018-2022 Capital Plan, and the City projects to have over $30 million available from the Parking Meter Fund around the time construction could begin.
The bridge will likely be similar to the old bridge, with one lane in each direction, and sidewalks, as well as an open channel for boats below. City engineers plan to update the design and materials from the original 1951 bridge to ensure a longer-lasting structure.
In addition to providing support those in recovery, Walsh has committed to creating additional permanent supportive housing as a component of Boston’s Way Home. To date, Boston has created 4,514 permanent affordable housing units for homeless individuals but the existing portfolio of permanent supportive housing is not enough to meet demand.
At the inauguration, Walsh announced the establishment of the Boston’s Way Home Fund, which will support the City’s plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness by raising $10 million in private funds in order to create 200 new units of supportive, sustainable, long-term housing for chronically homeless men and women over the next four years.
In order to strengthen the pipeline to jobs in the City of Boston, Walsh outlined his BuildBPS program, which includes reconstructing the Boston Arts Academy in the Fenway neighborhood, providing needed upgrades to the Quincy Upper School in Charlestown, and rebuilding the Carter School in the South End that serves the students with the most profound special needs.
“We have a tremendous amount of untapped talent in our neighborhoods,” said Walsh.
Walsh said that over the next four years he will continue to build on the public schools, saying he hopes to “strengthen the academic pathways” for every student in Boston. He asked that the colleges and universities in the city commit more scholarships towards Boston school students and asked that the state fully reimburse the charter schools.
After visiting the city after the marathon bombings, Biden voiced that day truly showed the character of Boston.
“Boston owns the finish line to the rest of the nation,” said Biden. “This is a remarkable city with a remarkable past with a phenomenal future as my grandfather used to say, ‘this is a match made in heaven,’ with Marty Walsh in Boston.”