Metro, Politics

Walsh Reveals Plans For New, Streamlined Cabinet

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, plans to usher in a new era of transparency for the city of Boston.

Last week, Walsh met with a group of the city’s top officials to discuss reorganizing Boston’s city government. Although all formal details were kept from the public eye, Walsh recently released his official plan to restructure his cabinet in order to meet his plan of efficiency and collaboration within the Mayor’s office.

“Our role as a government is to improve people’s lives, and the purpose of this reorganization is to better deliver services to the people of Boston,” Walsh said in an official statement. “As a new administration serving a rapidly changing city, we’ve had an opportunity to take a good hard look at what worked, what could work better, and make changes to become more efficient and improve outcomes for the people we serve.”

Walsh’s administration will formally have 12 cabinet members, compared to the 20 members that made up former Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s cabinet. As many as 17 advisors, however, will sit in at the mayor’s meetings, including three key non-cabinet level advisers to the mayor. These include Chief of Policy Joyce Linehan, Corporate Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, and Chief Communications Officer Lisa Pollack. This group of leaders will engage in small meetings, tackling Boston’s issues on a daily basis.

Given his position, Walsh has leeway to make these decisions to his liking: Boston’s city charter gives mayors freedom in organizing their personal administration. In 1995 Menino implemented a cabinet with nine members, designed to include interdepartmental communication and strategic planning, according to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

Walsh hopes that synthesizing some of these departments will improve collaboration among departments with common goals.

“He is consolidating some departments so that there are fewer people who report directly to the mayor,” said Sam Tyler, according to The Boston Herald. Tyler is head of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and also served as one of Walsh’s co-chairmen on the transition committee.

Walsh also kept his campaign promise by creating two new positions in his cabinet. The first includes an economics-related cabinet. The creation of the Economic Development cabinet is focused on the factors that contribute to Boston’s economy-specifically tourism, employment, business, and real estate development. Over the past few months, Walsh emphasized the need for all Bostonians to share and benefit from the economic boom in Boston.

Walsh also created the Arts & Culture cabinet. The addition of this cabinet fulfills Walsh’s pledge to create an area where the city can increase diversity, as well as secure funding for Boston’s arts community.

“We’re looking for more efficiency in government. This is kind of the first step we’re going to take into reorganizing and restructuring some of the way we deliver services in the city of Boston,” Walsh told The Boston Herald. “There are a lot of issues that need my attention, and I’m certainly going to depend an awful lot upon the Cabinet heads.”

Walsh’s appointed chief of staff, Daniel Arrigg Koh, was also a key influence in constructing this new cabinet. “This is more just a way of having more coordination and keeping a smaller group at the table when it comes time for weekly meetings,” Koh said, according to The Boston Herald.

The cabinet review and restructure process began in the transition period, as Walsh worked closely with his transition team co-chairs to seek input from the committee members, as well as Boston residents, local businesses, and stakeholders. Over the course of the past few weeks, Walsh sought input through committees, citizens on the Internet, phone calls, meetings, and various public hearings.

“Mayor Walsh and his team took those comments and synthesized them into a draft proposal, which he presented to staff, offering them the opportunity to give him feedback before the new structure was made public,” Pollack said, according to The Boston Globe.

Looking to the future, Walsh may make additional changes to his administration depending on performance and feedback from the public. His cabinet changes will be implemented over the upcoming months, but the timeframe for some of these changes depend on the success of the upcoming fiscal year budget.

February 5, 2014