Roxbury's Terrell enters at-Large council fray

As Councillor Michael Flaherty and Mayor Thomas Menino engage in an aerobatic fundraising race, yet another voice has announced his attentions to grab for an at-Large council seat.

"I've been talking to folks around the city and it looks like we're going to make a go of it in '09," said Bob Terrell in a Reporter interview Monday. "Some of my friends have said this is long overdue."

Though his name is not a household word, Terrell has a solid reputation as a civic activist, having worked as director for both the On the Move Coalition and the Washington Street Corridor Coalition advocating for transportation justice in Roxbury and Dorchester and as an executive board member of the Roxbury Neighborhood Council. Most recently as director of On the Move, he has advocating addressing the budget crisis at the MBTA, trying to get the state to take debt attributed to the Big Dig off the transit agency's books.

"I think he might be the best candidate in the at-Large race so far," said Carlos Henriquez, who is himself considering a run in District 7. "He deals with a lot of issues that transcend race and age and he's been doing for years without looking for recognition. That's what I look for in a candidate. I'm ecstatic that he's a candidate, and I've already pledged one of my votes to him."

"I think that Boston is a city at a crossroads right now. We have a lot of challenges and issues we have to overcome," said Terrell. "I think there's a real chance to create a coalition across the neighborhoods of Boston, regardless of race, which has been a hallmark of the work I've done for years."

Years ago Terrell was chief of staff under then District 7 City Councillor Anthony Crayton, a one-term councillor who nevertheless changed Boston forever by casting the crucial swing vote in 1993's council president election. Councillor Thomas Menino won the presidency 7-6, amid rumors that Mayor Raymond Flynn was about to be snatched up for a spot in the Clinton Administration. And, of course, the rumors were true.

But even with Terrell's long history he has challenges ahead. Contender Felix G. Arroyo has already made inroads around Terrell's Roxbury home base, picking up supporters like Chuck Turner-faithful and power-campaigner Bob Marshall.

"That's a tough one," said Marshall this week. "Bob's a nice guy. But he's got a real uphill climb. He's got no name recognition. I've talked to Felix and I'm definitely going to give him a hand."

Arroyo has been pulling in supporters all over town who respect both what his father has done as well as his own work. Terrell will have to work hard to take those supporters away.

"I have a lot of respect for Bob Terrell, he's been an outstanding activist for transportation issues in our community," said Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, a political strategist and wife of Bruce Bolling, who held the District 7 seat before Crayton. "I think it is going to be hard for someone with not a lot of name recognition to break in. I think I would put my money on Arroyo, with that name."

Among Ferriabough and other city politics watchers of color, there is also the feeling that numerous candidates of color would dilute the black and Latino vote, despite the example set by Barack Obama's election that began with a primary victory in majority-white Iowa and the boost the president-elect's election gave to Boston's registered voter rolls.

Yet Arroyo, Terrell and other candidates are voicing the possibilities for a different kind of campaign season next year, one that is not based so heavily on race. Whether this new bright political era in Boston is beginning now remains to be seen.