Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is conducting the business of governing as usual—signing executive orders and meeting with constituents. But he’s being followed by a shadow of controversy on the heels of a federal indictment last week of a top aide on charges of extortion. And if he’s been thrown off his game by the scandal that was not clear in “Walsh country” where the mayor was over the weekend.
Mayor Walsh is gearing up for re-election in 2017 and has $2.4 million in the bank. Hundreds of people showed up for his breakfast fundraiser Sunday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, IBEW, in Walsh’s neighborhood of Dorchester. The mayor could not have been more pleased:
“I didn't expect anything less, I mean it’s a great crowd, we probably had over a thousand people in the hall. It’s a lot of great support Roxbury, Mattapan South End, Dorchester and Southie.”
Walsh supporters, drifting into the parking lot at the end of the event, included a veteran ironworker with muscles bulging beneath a loose fitting suit.
“He’s the best mayor the city has ever had,” he said.
Another anonymous union man responded with equal brevity:
“Anytime he wants my vote he’ll get my vote.”
That man, like a lot of the folks that poured out of the union hall, said little or nothing to news reporters on the scene. And District City Council Frank Baker said its clear why:
“He’s feeling his roots, I think. he's in his base and he wants to let us know that he's feeling good and he's going to run again. And, you know, I think a lot of the media is trying to just maybe force someone to run against him. That's what I think a lot of these bad stories are and I wish the media would let him do his job. He's not doing anything wrong.”
Kenneth Hocks echoed that sentiment. After leaving the union breakfast, he questioned why the US attorney was probing something he regards as a minor offense.
“I mean there’s so much other stuff going on in Boston and the feds just pick and choose. I don't think it's that big of a deal really.
I asked him if he still supports the mayor.
“Yeah, yea, it’s long and complicated but yeah, yeah.”
But even in Walsh country among those who hold the mayor in high regard there are those who are deeply concerned.
“’Some of the controversy going on right now, I’ve gotta straighten that out in my head.
Union workers like Larry O’Donnell, who says he is considering but has not decided if he will support Mayor Walsh’s reelection, are feeling the impact of the federal investigation.
“Walsh Country” in the view of the mayor is all of Boston, but he enjoyed his greatest electoral success in 2014 in Dorchester and other working class neighborhoods like Roxbury, where on Friday he received a rousing ovation at an Action for Boston Community Development dedication.
But outside the mood was far less effusive with one man comparing him unfavorably to Mayor Tom Menino.
Jill Lacy Griffiths, a workforce development specialist, was among those who applauded the mayor at the ABCD event. But she is cautious about his future and her vote:
“I’m waiting for the truth to come out and all of the investigations to be completed before I make any judgments.”
Also at the event was LaDaryl Hagens, who said he was concerned about how the city issues permits to stage shows, following allegations that a festival company, Boston Calling, was pressured by the city’s tourism chief to hire union workers after it had already been fully staffed.
“I’m a local artist, so it affects me in how contracts are granted.”
Hagens, a non-union performance contractor, says he worries about Boston slipping back into what he called old habits, when Hollywood studios complained about unions using quote “strong arm tactics” to force their way onto sets.
“This particular Scandal is at an infancy stage,” he said. “In other words I’m willing to let the process take its course.
But that opinion is far from unanimous, even in Walsh country.