Mayor Marty Walsh has been in Colorado this week to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival. What’s that, you ask? It’s kind of like summer camp for people who use the word “innovate” every other sentence—combined with South by Southwest for NPR underwriters, or something. More to the point, the event brings together many of the country’s biggest names in politics, technology, education, and entertainment to share “engaging ideas that matter.”
Walsh flew to California yesterday for a meeting between Boston 2024 and the U.S. Olympic Committee, then returned to Aspen on Tuesday. In Aspen, he took part in back-to-back panels, including “Police and Violence in America” and “Get a Job—Youth, Employment, and the 21st Century Economy.” For both panels, he was joined by his counterpart, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In the latter, Walsh highlighted his administration’s efforts to reach out to employers in Boston who had been identified as not hiring young people. “Being an employer and hiring a young person, you’re going to get more out of it than the young person,” Walsh said. “They’ll get a salary, but you’ll get a mentorship, and the opportunity to potentially change the pathway for a young person. It’s a good exercise for building appreciation in the workplace,” he said.
Walsh touched on the importance of changing the way we train kids for the future—whether that’s an immediate career path, or college. “If they quit school, or drop out, or graduate with no training, what happens is they turn to the streets in a lot of cases. Unless they’re lucky enough to have someone in a trade like construction, someone who can get them into the trade.”
Among Boston’s recent accomplishments, Walsh spoke highly of a program at Charlestown High School in which students can earn credit for community college, and two BUILD youth Business Incubators at Jeremiah E. Burke High School and the Community Academy of Science and Health in Dorchester. “It’s about showing young people there is a pathway for them, and what a pathway means to a career or to college,” he said.
Later on, when asked by a member of the audience which, if any, of the Republican presidential field most closely aligned with the two mayors’ outlook on education and jobs for young people, Landrieu suggested Jeb Bush, to which Walsh agreed, forming an impromptu Democratic Mayors for Bush coalition.
“He’s talking about issues and not about personal political philosophy,” Walsh said. “He’s talking about issues on how to move the country forward, and as the governor of Florida he has had to do some creative innovative things.”
After the panel I pulled the mayor aside for a few questions:
What was the impetus for coming out here?
Just the whole idea. Dan Koh, my chief of staff, was out here last year. They asked me to take part in this panel, so I figured we’d come out and be part of the panel. But when I got here, I realized how incredible this place is, the connections you can make, and the conversations are real conversation that we’re dealing with right now, in Boston and around the country. Whether it’s race relations, whether it’s pathways to careers, the environment. Every conversation you can imagine: It’s happening here.
What message were you trying to get across about Boston in the policing panel?
Really about how we’re working and trying to build stronger relationships with the community as well as the way we’re delivering police service in the city of Boston. The president gave us a shoutout the other day, talking about what’s happening in Boston, and how we’re working on relations. You know, it’s very good to get a shoutout, but it’s also important to come here and listen about what else is happening in other places.
What happened while you were in California?
I went out there for a dinner, the USOC’s board meeting is today. I couldn’t make the board meeting since I was on a couple of panels today, so I went to the dinner just to talk about any questions they might have, or any questions I have about the bid.
Are you still optimistic about the prospects of Boston getting the Olympics?
I think the 2.0 plan is a good plan, I think Steve Pagliuca and the team put an awful lot of work into it. I know people are going to pick it apart and all this other stuff. There’s still some questions to be asked, but I think the big questions that people are asking are, one was the venues: What are they going to look like, meaning how are they going to be put together, which I think was explained yesterday. And also how you’re going to pay for the Olympics, and that was pretty much laid out yesterday. Obviously there’s still some tightening up to do with that. The last question is going to come around the insurance, and that’s something the city is going to work on with the USOC and Boston 2024, and we’re not quite there yet.
Have you been inspired here at the Ideas Festival by anyone in particular?
Nobody in particular, but I’m inspired. I really am. One of the speakers at the last thing I was at was talking about poetry in prisons, so I texted [Suffolk County] Sheriff [Steven] Tompkins and told him you have to look this program up. It’s inspiring to see there’s so many great things happening in the country and so many people doing great things, if we could take them all and wrap them into one city we could really make some real change. We’re going to take some of the ideas we have here, bring them home, see what we’re doing, what we’re not doing, and if we’re not doing something right, try and improve it.
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