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Mayor Marty Walsh Talks Millionaire’s Tax, General Electric's Leadership Shakeup And More

June 14, 2017

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh stopped by Greater Boston to talk about the millionaire's tax, a racially charged video under investigation by the Boston Police Department, the leadership change at General Electric and more.

On the Alexandria, Va., shooting and gun access

BRAUDE: In the wake of the shooting in Virginia and the involvement of the Capitol Police, a number of people ... are saying the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun ... is by arming the good guys with guns. How do you respond to that?

WALSH: Yeah, I mean I mean it did work today I guess to some degree. Five people still got shot and I don't know all the circumstances behind this gentleman. Was it a legally owned gun? How did he have access to a gun? But to bring it back to the city of Boston and the kids in our neighborhoods and the kids in our street that have access to guns, they have too much access to guns ... I think that in an urban area, particularly in our city, what I want to do is continue to take guns off the street.

On London Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s ongoing feud with President Donald Trump and Walsh’s feelings about the president

BRAUDE: Sadiq Kahn has said he does not want Donald Trump to get a state visit to Great Britain. He says, "his policies go against everything we stand for." Is he making the right move?

WALSH: I mean I think he is. Trump was very critical of him right after the incident happened, so I think that the mayor is probably frustrated that the first Muslim mayor of London ... understanding what Trump's comments have been over Muslims, indirectly, since he's been a candidate — and he hasn't really made any crazy statements since he's been president about Muslims, other than … trying to put a ban in place — so I think he has his right to speak his mind, his opinion. I think the people of England are really upset with Donald Trump. He basically has taken them on in little different ways and I felt that after the incident happened in London, Trump tweeted something and I felt that that was something that the President of the United States of America should have addressed to the people of the world.

BRAUDE: So he has spoken ill of you as well and I think you could say —

WALSH: Well not since then.

BRAUDE: Well yeah but you would say the same words: his policies go against everything we stand for.

WALSH: They do.

BRAUDE: Would you want him here?

WALSH: They do. They do go against everything we stand for.

BRAUDE: So would you want him in Boston?

WALSH: I mean if he wants to come to Boston, he can come to Boston and let people in Boston let them know how they feel about his policies…. He's the President of the United States of America. Nobody has a right, no mayor has a right not to allow or to accept the president coming to town.

BRAUDE: I know you're not a lawyer, but I'm sure you've been following all these Comey, Sessions hearings as best you can, considering your day job. Do you think the President of the United States has obstructed justice Mr. Mayor?

WALSH: It’s hard to say, you know. It's just it's an awful, awful embarrassment for the United States of America watching this this soap opera unfold every single night … where Sessions gets in … and contradicts what Comey said and Comey’s accusing the president of being a liar. It's just a sad situation and I would hope that the president did not obstruct justice here.

BRAUDE: But in our gut, do you think he did? I mean you're a citizen, too, in addition to being mayor.

WALSH: I don't want to prejudge anything. I want to let this thing play out before I say anything…. I would hope that the president wouldn't do that … but it seems like there's a lot more to the story that's going to come out.

On the racially insensitive video under investigation, which appears to feature a police officer and includes the tagline, “this summer, black people have met their match”

WALSH: I was angry about it when I first heard it…. it's under investigation. Today I spoke to Commissioner Evans. It’s still under investigation. This was Friday, now it's Wednesday, so we're still trying to get to the bottom of it. Certainly, a police officer concerns me — that a police officer potentially would do something like this videotape or be part of videotape.

BRAUDE: If it is what it appears, should he be fired?

WALSH: It's a potential. It’s either a potential termination or a long-term suspension. And, again, I don't know the particulars yet, but certainly anything to do with race is not something we can tolerate…. It's being taken very, very seriously and … even if it was during off-hours, a police officer is a sworn officer of the law and, whether they're on duty or off duty, they're still on duty as far as I’m concerned.

On the controversy over comments Walsh made on Boston Public Radio about pedestrians and cyclists sharing responsibility for road safety

On May 16, Walsh said, “Pedestrians need to put their head up when they're walking down the street. Take your headphones off. Cross in the crosswalk. Follow the lights. You can't be running across the middle of the street. You've got to understand cars are going to hit you.”

BRAUDE: The head of the Boston Cyclists Union said, “Boston's clueless mayor blames bicyclists, pedestrians for lethal crashes.” There were others who said similar things. What do you say to this guy and people like him?

WALSH: That response was not appropriate. If you listen to the whole show, a little later in that clip, I talk about cars paying attention as well … and that was not in response to the cyclists dying. It was in response to just people on the roads, whether it was injured by auto accidents or people crossing the street or bikes hitting people … we were talking about how do we co-exist on the roads … and as we move further into the 21st century, transportation modes are changing. We’re going to have more people taking bicycles, more pedestrians walking, more people running and we have more cars on the street because we have more jobs and more people living in the city of Boston, so we have to co-exist on the roads and we have to be careful of one another.

On the “millionaire’s tax” debate in Massachusetts

WALSH: What I want to make sure is that, as we talk about where the revenue from this tax is going, I want to have a say in where this money is going. When I think about the city budget, 70% of our budget is based off real estate taxes….  I have a proposal in front of the legislature now, which is a good proposal, to pay for universal pre-kindergarten schools. I want to make sure how this money comes to the city of Boston —

BRAUDE: So you need the legislature to make a prior commitment to you before you support the question?

WALSH: I need some help on how this money will be spent in the city of Boston.

BRAUDE: But until that point you won’t endorse the question?
WALSH: Well I'm going to have conversations about it, because I'm concerned about making sure the revenue hits the streets of Boston.

BRAUDE: What if they don't make a promise? What if the legislative leaders say I'm not going promise you in advance –

WALSH: We'll see what happens.

On Governor Charlie Baker’s handing of state finance issues

BRAUDE: …the state bond rating [was] downgraded for the first time in a quarter of a century. The governor said it was a wakeup call. Jay Gonzalez, Democrat running for governor, said, “Governor Baker is failing us.” Do you agree with Gonzales?

WALSH: I wouldn’t say failing, but I think there's certainly some structural issues with the state budget. I mean I see it in my own budget in the city as far as the money that we're not getting to the city of Boston, the fact that the House and the Senate has negotiated two different budgets and now they're doing a conference committee where they have to cut $500 million or so out of the budget. There's a structural issue there that they have to figure out.

On the leadership change at General Electric

BRAUDE: When you said the other day that you were taken by surprise when you heard that Jeff Immelt, almost a nanosecond after they got here, is leaving the leadership of GE — When someone like you makes a comment like that, it seems to me that underneath the comment, you're a little aggravated that you were not given a heads up. Are you? Are you worried at all?

WALSH: I wouldn't say aggravated. Now that a couple of days have gone by and the dust has settled, the new person that's going in has a health care background and you can clearly see maybe some of them moving GE to Boston was really about health care and this person … [John Flannery] ran the health care division of General Electric, so you can start to see maybe a little direction of where the company is going to go in the future.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. To see the full interview, click on the video link above.

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