In the Doghouse

Boston Mayor Walsh: Business Interests Before Public Health?

January 28, 2015

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's 2015 legislative agenda includes another attempt to expand late-night alcohol sales, and allow city bars to stay open as late as 4 a.m. If enacted, alcohol consumption and related harm and costs to the city are likely to increase, given that every drink consumed produces $1.90 in economic cost. Perhaps Walsh is not aware that maintaining limits on hours of alcohol sales is recommended policy to prevent excessive consumption.

Yet Walsh does have experience supporting effective alcohol policy, and his push for late-night bar hours is a 180-degree turn from that prior experience. As State Representative he sponsored and supported a bill banning alcohol ads from state property including the MBTA subway system, and continued supporting the policy as he ran his successful mayoral campaign.

As his mayoral term goes by, Walsh continues to increase his focus on business interests and away from public health and human services. Walsh's late-night bar proposal comes at the same time that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has selected Boston for its 2024 Olympic bid, largely due to business and political interests that drove the effort. Residents are skeptical that political leaders will be able to fund the Olympics without spending public money that should go toward housing and education.

Calling himself a long-time friend to the recovery community, Walsh also proposed a new Office of Recovery Services as part of his legislative agenda this year. He should reconnect with his friends in that community, and see how they feel about the effects of expanded late-night alcohol access, not only on members of their community but also on youth, college students, young adults, and local property owners. Public health advocates, including the recovery community, won't be silenced about the negative consequences of expanded late-night alcohol sales.