Reporter’s Notebook: Murphy expected to get City Council presidency

When Brian Honan strode into City Hall’s Iannella Chambers ten years ago, he was expecting his colleagues to vote him into the City Council presidency. He was a lock. Friends and colleagues were clapping him on the back, shaking his hand, and offering congratulations.

But the late district councillor from Brighton would emerge from that room without the title, denied the ceremonial post because rival councillor James Kelly of South Boston, in a last-minute move, decided to throw his votes to Dorchester Councillor Charles Yancey when Kelly realized he couldn’t beat Honan.

“The move wasn’t even divulged until councilors began casting their votes, and [Peggy] Davis-Mullen, giving the first vote, named Yancey as her choice,” the Boston Phoenix would later recount. “The recriminations lasted for months, helping to promote the idea that the city’s legislative branch is a joke — a notion that has only helped Mayor Tom Menino cement his dominance over Boston’s political life.”

That vote is one reason, perhaps, why when you approach City Councillor At-Large Stephen Murphy to directly ask him whether he has the votes for the presidency, he demurs. No comment.

Murphy, a Dorchester native and the longest-serving member who has not yet to hold the presidency, is old school. He remembers his history, because he was there, and he was part of Kelly’s bloc of votes that went to Yancey.

Unlike October 2008, when Michael Ross of Mission Hill sent out a joint press release with Murphy and outgoing City Council President Maureen Feeney hours after it was clear that Ross possessed the necessary votes, there has been no official word on whether Murphy has enough to sit in the president’s chair. (Ross cannot run for the seat again because of term limits.)

But Murphy’s colleagues say he does have the votes – at least ten of them at last count. The news was first reported by the Boston Herald the day before Thanksgiving.

The numbers weren’t there for the other contenders: Yancey, making an attempt at a second term as president, and Allston-Brighton District Councillor Mark Ciommo. A push for South Boston’s Bill Linehan, another potential contender, wasn’t going to happen. (And condolences to the folks at the East Boston Times Free-Press, who spoke excitedly of a City Council President Sal LaMattina and said there was apparently a “frenzy in the neighborhood” when his name was floated.)

Ciommo and City Councillor At-Large John Connolly are expected to retain their posts atop the Ways and Means and Education committees.

Term limits, voted in during Feeney’s two one-year terms, have taken a lot of the drama out of the fight for the presidency, which could be a back door into the mayor’s office were Menino to step down.

Feeney said Murphy, who unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer earlier this year, has the fiscal know-how needed while the city continues to weather the dregs of the recession. “I think the first challenge will be the budget, things like the library,” she said, referring to the cash-strapped Boston Public Library, which has put on hold plans to close four branches.

“He’s certainly not afraid to stand up,” she added. “But he’s also a person who believes in compromise.”

The vote on the presidency is expected at the beginning of January.

Activist wants Lawton off Dem state committee

A local political activist is pushing to dislodge a candidate who sought to replace former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur from his post on the Democratic State Committee, arguing he continued running after the Democratic primary picked his opponent.

Davida Andelman said she has unsuccessfully appealed to the Ward 15 Democratic Committee and the state Democratic Party. “I’m not willing to let this thing go,” she said.

She said Barry Lawton, the candidate and state committee member who waged a write-in campaign after losing the primary, had also sent out a mail piece that took unfair shots at the ward committee during the general election. And the Democratic nominee after the primary, Carlos Henriquez, said Lawton’s candidacy was “divisive.”

Henriquez ended up easily winning November’s general election.

Democratic Party officials say they usually let local committees take the lead on removal of members, but add that once the party receives a request, the rules committee has a hearing and issues a recommendation. A two-thirds vote at a regular state committee meeting is required to remove someone.

The next state committee meeting is Jan. 5.

Asked about Andelman’s move, Lawton, who was running for the seat for the third time, “I guess all I would say is, ‘Get a life.’ ”

Before city gig was set up, St. Fleur eyed health care job

Before she took a top job with Mayor Menino’s administration, former state Rep. St. Fleur looked into becoming president of Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, according to a State House News Service review of ethics disclosure forms.

The Dorchester Democrat, who opted not to run for re-election this year, submitted her resume in Sept. 2009. The job went to Sarah Iselin, the state’s former commissioner of health care finance and policy. St. Fleur left her legislative post over the summer to take a job as the mayor’s chief of advocacy and strategic investment.

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.