Reporter’s Notebook: Jockeying for presidency of City Council under way

Within the concrete walls of City Hall, low-level jockeying for the City Council presidency is ongoing. Term limits, instituted by Dorchester’s City Councillor Maureen Feeney, prevent the head of the 13- member body from serving more than two consecutive years. Ross’s second term is up at the end of the year, and councillors will vote on his successor in January.

Here’s a snapshot: the current favorites are District Councillors Sal LaMattina of East Boston and Bill Linehan of South Boston, insiders say.

Other potential names in the mix include City Councillor Mark Ciommo of Allston-Brighton and City Councillor At-Large Stephen Murphy, who faced off against current City Council President Michael Ross, the district councillor of Mission Hill, in the last scramble for the presidency in 2008.

Next year is also set to feature a budget hole even deeper than this year’s, as well as City Council elections in November 2011. The president would be presiding over a more active council, with some members seeking to assert increased independence from the mayor’s office.

The City Council president’s duties include taking over as acting mayor when Tom Menino heads out of town and presiding over weekly council meetings in the Iannella Chamber. The seat can also be used as a bully pulpit, to up a profile, and to raise money.

Which is why city councillors, some of whom harbor mayoral aspirations, are careful about whom they’re picking. Menino was a City Council president who slid into the mayor’s office in 1993 after President Bill Clinton tapped Ray Flynn as ambassador to the Vatican.

Conventional wisdom holds that a city councillor at-large is unlikely to get the job, because of the city-wide base that would enable them to become a formidable mayoral contender should Menino leave and they become acting mayor.

The same conventional wisdom says that councillors are reluctant to vote for City Councillor Rob Consalvo of Hyde Park, thanks to the persistent theory that Menino will step down at some point in the term, with Menino favorite Consalvo taking over as acting mayor until the next mayoral election. (For his part, Consalvo says he’s not interested in the top job this year, arguing that it would “take away” from his district councillor gig.)

Elected in 2006, LaMattina is a life-long resident of East Boston, and served in the mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. Linehan, elected in 2007, has also worked in the Menino administration and is a life-long resident of Southie.

Ciommo has also been on the council since 2007, and had spent 14 years as the head of a local multi-service center.

Of course, plenty of shifting of allegiances can occur between now and the vote. And the Menino administration, which reportedly wanted Murphy in the job in 2008, is also likely to have a role in the process.

City Hall observers frequently note that Murphy is the longest serving councillor to not hold the presidency. A Murphy spokeswoman called talk of the race for the City Council presidency “highly speculative.”

But City Councillor Chuck Turner said Murphy recently approached him for his vote, which he has already committed to Councillor Charles Yancey, who served a term as president and is a frequent candidate for another one.

Another City Hall insider maintains that Murphy has Ross’s vote: He secured it in exchange for Ross getting the presidency and Murphy getting the vice presidency two years ago.

Ross secured his votes by early Oct. 2008, in a deal announced jointly by Ross, Feeney, and Murphy.
Howell says he’s running for Sixth Suffolk seat again in 2012

Darrin Howell, an aide to City Councillor Turner, says he plans to make another go at running for Sixth Suffolk state representative two years from now. Financial analyst Russell Holmes won the Democratic primary on Sept. 14., beating Howell, Karen Payne, the head of the Boston branch of the NAACP, past candidate Kathy Gabriel, and local justice of the peace Divo Monteiro.

“The plan is to run again,” Howell said Tuesday. “This was an incredible learning experience” for next time.

Holmes received 910 votes, or 32.94 percent of the total. Payne received 622 votes, or 22.51 percent, while Howell grabbed 16 percent, or 442 votes.

There aren’t any Republicans running in this year’s race, meaning Holmes will win the general election on Nov. 2. The district includes parts of Mattapan, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain.
Former City Council candidates hit for not filing campaign reports

The state’s campaign finance watchdog has referred to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office the names of three former City Council candidates the agency says haven’t filed their 2009 year-end reports.

In a Sept. 10 letter to Coakley, Michael Sullivan, director of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, said former candidates Ego Ezedi, Tomas Gonzalez ,and Scotland Willis had not filed “certain required campaign finance report(s).”

All three ran unsuccessfully for City Council At-Large last year, in a field that, before a September preliminary, included a total of 15 candidates.

“While the system of referring non-filers has been efficient and effective during the past years, the strongest possible action should be taken against those individuals and political committees who continue to ignore this statute and disregard the importance of compliance,” Sullivan wrote. “It is critical to the overall effectiveness of this agency to send a clear message that non-filing, even by those with limited activity, cannot be condoned.”

Sullivan also said that each candidate or campaign committee treasurer who did not file has been assessed a penalty. The penalty is $10 for each day late a report is late, with the fine going up to $2,500 total.

Gonzalez, former chief of staff of Boston’s Commission on the Affairs of the Elderly, said his report had not been filed primarily because his treasurer had moved. “I’m going to call them today and clarify that,” Gonzalez told the Reporter last week.

Ezedi, a senior pastor at the Empowerment Christian Church who has attempted runs for City Council At-Large and against District Councillor Charles Yancey, did not respond to a request for comment. Willis, a local business consultant, could not be reached for comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Material from State House News Service was used in this report.