REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Feeney finally says it: O’Toole is her candidate

An end came to Dorchester’s worst-kept political secret on Tuesday morning when City Councillor Maureen Feeney formally announced her pick for the District 3 seat she has held since 1993. Feeney, who declined to run for another term, has been seen often with longtime civic activist John O’Toole at community meetings and marched with him at a recent gay pride parade. On Tuesday, she made her support for O’Toole explicit in a press release.

The long-expected endorsement is more noteworthy for its timing than anything else since Feeney made clear earlier this year that she won’t be sitting on the sidelines. Her backing comes long before the Sept. 27 preliminary, which will narrow a seven-person field down to two candidates.

“John clearly is the right choice for City Council,” she said in a lengthy statement e-mailed out by the O’Toole campaign. “All of Dorchester will be well served by John’s passion for service, understanding of community process, talent for working with people, and his impressive work ethic. He acts while others talk. I am proud to give him my highest endorsement.”

The endorsement also follows a slowdown in the workload of the City Council, which is now meeting every other week instead of weekly. Last week, the councillors passed one of their few big ticket items so far this summer, a crackdown on absentee landlords. Feeney was a lead sponsor of one of several proposals that were incorporated into the final legislation and chair of the committee that steered the issue through the 13-member body.

“I am honored and humbled to receive her endorsement,” O’Toole, a realtor, said in his own statement. “She has left her mark on every corner of this district and made significant improvements in the quality of life for all residents of this city. No one can fill her shoes, but I would be proud one day to walk in her footsteps.”

O’Toole also picked up two union endorsements – the carpenters’ union Local 67 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 – two high profile locals that each have longstanding ties to Mayor Thomas Menino.

District 3 candidates weigh in on Walmart
Should Walmart come to Boston? The topic came up during the special election earlier this year to replace Chuck Turner in the District 7 seat. The district includes Roxbury, which is where the big box retailer is eyeing a location, according to a July 13 Boston Business Journal report. The nearest Walmart to Boston is in neighboring Quincy.

So what do the candidates for District 3 think of the retailer possibly coming to the area? Craig Galvin, a local realtor and civic activist, said he’s “interested in bringing them to the table to talk” if Walmart is bringing in construction jobs and permanent jobs. But he added that he wants to ensure that the company is open and fair to its employees, paying them enough and allowing them to organize.

Galvin added that it was “important to investigate every avenue to provide jobs for this community.” Asked about the potential effect on local businesses, Galvin said, “I myself am a strong believer in shopping locally.”

John O’Toole called for an impact study, noting that Home Depot moved into the area about ten years ago, which led to the closure of several local hardware stores. “While you’re weighing the benefits of the construction jobs, permanent jobs and low prices, you also have to factor in the impact on small local businesses in the community,” he said.

Marydith Tuitt, an aide to state Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), raised similar concerns and added that she was still researching the issue. Doug Bennett, a former Nantucket selectman, said he was against Walmart moving into the city, in part because of the lack of a union shop. “It would really hurt small businesses and would shut them down,” he said.

In a statement, Stephanie Everett, an aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), said, “WalMart coming to Boston would create jobs and help ease the financial burden many families are experiencing. However WalMart has to do more than provide jobs. It needs to provide a salary families can support themselves on.”

The other candidates were not immediately available for comment.

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