Fields Corner resident Michael Cote plans to run for the Boston City Council's second district seat in a race that will pit him against 14-year incumbent and current City Council President Maureen Feeney.
Cote has challenged Feeney previously, in 2005, and he says that while the issues facing the district and the city have changed in the two years since that election, his reasons for running and the priorities he would bring to the council have not.
"I still feel that I'm going to be fighting a severe underdog situation given how dirty the streets are, how variances are handed out in such a haphazard way, and given police staffing and based on the clearance rate, I think some of these things need to be addressed. In a race where the incumbent is running completely unopposed, these things are never going to be addressed."
His campaign in 2005, he says, was focused intently on a pledge to reform city zoning codes and advocate on behalf of Dorchester residents in negotiations with new developers.
"I knew there was a city ordinance about shopping carts, but shopping carts litter the street all the time. There's a rule about trucks with three axles parking on city streets, but I see that sort of thing going on near Dorchester Avenue all the time. I was disappointed with the community constantly having to go against these developers, and then have the developer go to city hall and have their variances approved anyway without any thought," says Cote.
More recently, he says he was galvanized by his experience last summer as a co-signor on a lawsuit that Florida Corridor resident Barry Mullen brought against the city of Boston, challenging the mayor and city council to adhere to a city ordinance that anchored police staffing levels at 2,500 officers.
"The marginalization that the city put against myself and others in the lawsuit makes me feel that there isn't any real commitment there towards dealing with the situation that we're dealing with. We need to address these issues up front and, honestly, and I don't see Councillor Feeney doing that."
Cote allows that his views do often overlap with Feeney's &endash; in CORI reform, in supporting the Shotspotter gunfire tracking system, and occasionally on matters of zoning.
While Cote is an openly gay man, he says that he does not see that as a major factor in the race, or a major selling point to prospective voters.
"On gay issues the council has been pretty good, and Councillor Feeney has been pretty good as well. And we're not going to be dealing with things like gay marriage the difference between being openly gay on the council and gay supportive on the council at this point is not significant.
Cote said even shortly after his defeat in 2005 that he began thinking about a race in 2007, but several personal developments kept him from making a final decision until just weeks ago.
Cote recently led the residents of his Fields Corner condominium complex through a convoluted legal dispute with a bank that had an outstanding loan on the building that dated back to its original construction; more recently he had a brush with skin cancer. But both issues have cleared up, and he plans to ramp up his campaign gradually before taking a considerable amount of time off from his job at a software company in the summer and fall to concentrate on the race.
He will be recruiting volunteers and a part time campaign manager, he says, and while he has already spoken with many neighborhood leaders about his candidacy, he declined to name any supporters outright.
He added that he believed his candidacy would appeal to people frustrated that citizens are not allowed to participate more openly in management of the city's schools or zoning codes, because the boards with those jurisdictions are appointed, not elected.
"If we were to return to something where some of these boards were elected positions, my skill set is probably best for zoning or planning but this is where I've got to start," said Cote.