Ross moves to review city charter with Tobin as chair

Newly-reelected City Council President Michael Ross kicked off his second one-year term with a call for members to review the city's charter. The review is the first in nearly a half-century, and follows an intense debate in December over whether to place limits on how long the mayor and council members can stay in office.

West Roxbury District Councilor John Tobin, who was an early proponent of term limits, will chair a special committee charged with the review. Nonpartisan voting rights group MassVOTE, which also pushed for term limits, is also expected to be involved.

"All of us participated in a genuine conversation last month about term limits and mayoral succession,"Ross said. "However we felt at the time, or how we feel today, it is clear that a few council sessions are not enough time for the considered debate and deliberation these issues deserve and many of our constituents want. Now is the time to broaden our thinking and take a serious look at the structure of our city's government through charter reform."
Ross was one of the six votes in support of term limits in December. Seven councillors remain opposed, and two proponents -- Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty -- left the council last year to unsuccessfully run for mayor. Their replacements, sworn in this week with the mayor and their colleagues, are split.

Ayanna Pressley, the council's first African-American woman, is supportive of the concept, while Felix Arroyo, the council's second Latino, is not.

But Ross maintained that the charter review is "broader"than term limits. Asked whether that will include the current rule of allowing the city council president to become mayor if the current mayor leaves office, Ross said that rule is a "legitimate question for us to focus on."

The rule is how Thomas Menino became mayor in 1993, when then-mayor Ray Flynn accepted an ambassadorship from President Bill Clinton to the Vatican in Rome.

In his inaugural speech, Ross also called for more transparency within the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and urged to more quickly post documents on their website, though he added he did not support dismantling the quasi-public agency.

The agency came under fire from Menino's opponents on last year's campaign trail, all of whom -- Councillors At-Large Flaherty and Yoon and South End businessman Kevin McCrea -- called for its abolishment.