BOSTON (CBS) – “We are ready to be a Boston for everyone,” said Mayor-elect Michelle Wu in her election night speech. And for her sake – and ours – you hope that’s true.
Consider the litany of thorny, deep-seated problems that await new mayor after she takes the oath on November 16th:
• How to help the troubled souls being removed from Mass and Cass and prevent the emergence of another tent city;
• Finding a new police commissioner and deciding whether or not to keep the current school superintendent;
• Figuring out how to spend the one-time federal funding windfall amid competing demands;
• Coming up with a politically-viable plan to keep the non-rich from being priced completely out of the Boston housing market;
• Easing the city’s chronic traffic and parking woes.
And that’s just page one.
But didn’t she spell out what she was going to do about all that during the campaign? Yes, but you might as well file all of that rhetoric in a drawer, if not in the trash.
There was a reason why the late Tom Menino during his 20-year run, eschewed the “vision thing” in favor of a nuts-and-bolts, “urban mechanic” approach. That’s what a successful Boston mayor does; it felt like every time Marty Walsh tried to “think big” (see: Boston Olympics) he stepped in it.
Wu’s winning coalition was clearly drawn to her branding as a big-thinker with sweeping plans, unwilling to “nibble around the edges” of change. “It wasn’t my vision on the ballot,” she said in her speech. “It was ours.”
But as Annissa Essaibi George noted, her ability to deliver on those lofty promises will be severely constrained by Beacon Hill’s control over MBTA funding and rent control policy, and, now that the voters have approved a ballot question empowering greater city council control over the budget, by her former colleagues there.
Make no mistake, Wu was the overwhelmingly preferred candidate of the local business establishment. They will now be calling her to press their agendas. Same goes for the progressive groups who rallied behind her. When those agendas come into conflict, on whose side will the new mayor come down? Will she be quick enough to return their calls and adept enough to find compromises between them? And don’t get us started on how her campaign promises will fare at the State House, a place where resentment of Boston’s priorities often outpaces affinity for them.
Boston’s new mayor seems every bit as smart, tough and skilled as her predecessors, if not more so. Her victory was in no small part a function of her warm personality, compelling personal story and powerful work ethic.
But the fun is over. She has two weeks to surround herself with savvy insiders who can help her handle the intense pressure and make it clear to potential critics/challengers (Andrea Campbell, for one) she is there to stay.
If anyone can pull it off, it’s Michelle Wu. For someone who cared for an ailing mother and raised younger siblings while excelling in school and graduating from Harvard Law, maybe it’s child’s play.
Maybe. But Wu should hope that all Bostonians take to heart Essaibi George’s exhortation in her gracious concession speech: “It’s going to take all of us to move this city forward.”