Reporter's Notebook: City Council pushes for more library trustees, fundraising power

Several city councillors are pushing this week for the expansion of the Boston Public Library board of trustees and giving them the ability to fundraise for the cash-strapped system.

City Councillors Michael Ross, Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo have filed a home rule petition expanding the mayorally-appointed nine-member board to 13 members. Term limits would also be instituted for board members.

If approved by the 13-member City Council, the petition must get a sign-off from Mayor Thomas Menino, the state Legislature and the governor. The council was expected to vote on the proposal as the Reporter went to press.

Menino’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.

The board, created in 1878, would also receive the ability to fundraise. At a recent City Council hearing on the Boston Public Library’s budget, councillors, including Arroyo, were surprised to hear from BPL officials that trustees did little to no fundraising.

Trustees last week voted to grant a nine-month reprieve to four libraries slated for closure, including the Lower Mills branch.

Fundraising for the 26-branch system largely falls to the Boston Public Library Foundation, which held a fundraiser in early June that featured Dorchester native and award-winning author Dennis Lehane. The foundation has been in operation since 1992.

State Rep. Linda Forry, a Dorchester Democrat whose district includes the Lower Mills branch, said she supports the council’s proposal.

“I do think that was a way of them thinking creatively,” she said. Forry is the wife of Reporter managing editor Bill Forry.

But she expressed some skepticism over whether lawmakers could approve it before the end of the Legislature’s session on July 31, if the proposal makes it to Beacon Hill. “It’s just going to have to make its way up here and work through the process,” she said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to get it done by the end of our session.”

Bills that are not passed by July 31 face a harder slog through the Legislature, particularly if they are controversial.

Forry and other lawmakers have pushed back against the nine-month reprieve, saying the libraries would still be scheduled to close under the proposal, but next year instead the end of this summer.
Boston-area lawmakers in both the state Senate and House have inserted an amendment into the state’s fiscal 2011 budget that withholds $2.4 million from the library’s coffers if the libraries close. Library officials say the move would lead to “draconian” cuts to the struggling system.

Yoon heads to D.C.
Yes, that’s a “For Sale” sign outside former City Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon’s Fields Corner home. Yoon, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, is headed down to Washington D.C. to take a job as executive director of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations.

“This brings me back to my first love, which is community economic development,” Yoon said. “It’s a chance to do this at a national level and see how it’s working in states and regions across the country. So it’s a good fit.”

Yoon, who after coming in third place in the mayoral primary ran as City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty’s running mate against Mayor Thomas Menino, said he attempted to find jobs in Boston.
“I tried, I really did,” he said. “But I got some pretty clear signals that my having challenging a 16-year incumbent would pose some risk.”

The move down south also appears to take him out of the running for the 2013 mayoral election. (Flaherty has indicated he’s interested in running, whether Menino seeks another term or not.)
Yoon said he remains open to the thought of returning to Boston in the future, and plans to remain politically active with the Asian Political Leadership Fund.

Asked what advice he has for mayoral candidates, Yoon said, “Start raising money now.”

“Sam believes that NACEDA has enormous potential to grow into a powerful vehicle – and voice – for community economic development,” said Diane Sterner, chair of the organization’s board of directors, in a statement on its website. “He is convinced that the optimism in Washington, combined with the unprecedented challenges facing our communities, underscore the need for a strong alliance of CED leaders and advocates.”

Yoon’s wife is a non-profit fundraising consultant. The pair have two children who are 8 years old and five years old.

Chang-Diaz kicks off re-election campaign
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, taking a break from a debate over whether to allow casinos in Massachusetts, kicked off her re-election effort this week. Chang-Diaz is facing Democratic challenger Hassan Williams. The primary is September 14.

Chang-Diaz, who represents the Second Suffolk District, was joined at her Dudley Square campaign headquarters by state Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Roxbury) and neighborhood activists.

“When you support Sonia Chang-Díaz for re-election, you are saying that this Commonwealth needs to change... that this city needs to change,” Rushing said in a statement after the kick-off. “You are saying that there needs to be no barriers put up by any government to the opportunity of anyone in this state.”
Jean McGuire, the head of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. joined sign-holding volunteers after the campaign event, according to *South End News*.

McGuire, who supported former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson in 2008, had courted controversy back when she said Chang-Diaz was “not a person of color” at a rally that followed Wilkerson’s primary loss to Chang Diaz.

“There are white Hispanics and black Hispanics,” she had told the Reporter.

Chang-Diaz is of white, Latin and Asian descent. Her father was the United States’ first Latin-American astronaut.

But the South End News reported that McGuire is now supporting Chang-Diaz.

“Sonia’s demonstrated a commitment to the community and to issues that are on the progressive side,” she told the newspaper. “...If you come in and do a good job, I’m behind you.”

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