Sen. Eric Lesser discusses urban issues with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at Boston City Hall By Shira Schoenberg, The Republican
BOSTON - State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, met Tuesday with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, in an attempt to build relationships across Massachusetts' east-west divide.
"It's important for us in Western Mass. to expand those types of links and build those types of relationships," Lesser told The Republican/MassLive.com. "The default is for it to be all about Boston, so any opportunity we can get for leaders in the eastern part of state to hear what our concerns are is an opportunity we should jump on."
Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said, "The Mayor enjoyed meeting with Senator Lesser today and looks forward to collaborating with him on a number of valuable priorities for the future of Massachusetts."
Western Massachusetts residents and politicians often complain that state resources are directed primarily toward the eastern part of the state. The issue has boiled up again recently with debate over whether, if Boston wins a bid for the 2024 Olympics, the games should be concentrated in Boston or should be spread statewide. This could affect, for example, which transportation projects are prioritized in the coming years.
Lesser said the topic of the Olympics only came up generally, in the context of ensuring that all parts of the state are treated fairly.
Lesser said he talked to Walsh about urban issues such as homelessness and economic development, and how lessons learned in Boston can be applied to Springfield, Chicopee and other cities in Western Massachusetts. They talked about Walsh's experience growing the technology sector in Boston and how to incorporate the technology industry into a city's economy. Lesser said Walsh was eager to learn more about communities in Western Massachusetts.
"He was very enthusiastic about wanting to continue a dialogue," Lesser said.
Walsh also offered Lesser advice from his time in the state Legislature - for example, about how to stay in touch with constituents. Walsh was a state representative from 1997 to 2014, when he left the House to become the mayor of Boston.
Lesser, a former White House aide under President Barack Obama, won a seat in the state Senate in 2014 in his first bid for elected office.
Lesser said his first conversation with Walsh came when Walsh, a Democrat, called Lesser to congratulate him on election night. Tuesday's meeting at Boston City Hall was set up by Walsh chief of staff Daniel Koh, who went to college with Lesser.