Ross ascendancy gives Connolly a new platform with 'Livable Boston' panel

Councillor Michael Ross's election to the Council president's chair on Monday signals yet another yearly council ritual - the backroom battles over committee assignments.

The early winner of this traditionally underground skirmish seems to be at-Large Councillor John Connolly, whose special "Livable Boston" committee was among Ross's first announcements. Connolly's committee theme recalls ideas he drove home at backyard barbeques and house parties all over the city during his 2007 campaign.

"We need to be focused on keeping people in the city for a lifetime, and not losing people who want to stay," said Connolly this week. "Someone who calls Boston their home for life is someone who is active and invested in the city."

The new committee will hold hearings in the neighborhoods to ask Bostonians why they stay in town and what struggles they go through to do so. With respect to the times, Ross also convinced Connolly to add to the new committee the task of discovering the impact of the recession on people's day to day.

As acting chair of the Education Committee - since former Council President Maureen Feeney stripped Councilor Chuck Turner of the role - and chair of the Environment & Health Committee, assuming he holds on to these posts, Connolly would be well placed to make some waves with "livable" ideas. And with election 2009 on the horizon and six hopefuls already officially running an at-large spot, creating a little buzz is likely on his mind.

"I've got two goals everyday as I go to work," said Connolly. "I take my experience as a teacher and position to make the schools better… and also to make Boston the greenest city in the world. That will make us the healthiest city and also the most ready to take advantage of the new green economy."

Ross also prioritized convening an economic summit of business, economic and nonprofit leaders to lend opinions on how to address the recession, promised to hold formal city council sessions in the city's neighborhoods to promote civic participation (or perhaps to escape the drab concrete walls of the council's chamber at City Hall) and vowed to put all City Council dockets online.

To get all this done, he promised to dole out Committee assignments in his first 10 days and urged his colleagues to vote on rules early as well.