Reporter's Notebook: Baker seeks three elected slots on school committee

The city’s School Committee would be converted into a hybrid group of elected and appointed officials, under a bill District 3 Councillor Frank Baker filed this week.

The home rule petition splits the panel into a group of four mayorally appointed members and three members elected by a citywide vote. The petition would need the approval of the City Council and the mayor, a most unlikely event, before being sent to the Legislature.

Under the set-up in place since 1992, all seven members of the school panel are appointed by the mayor. A nonbinding referendum in 1989 showed broad support for an appointed committee instead of the 13-member elected body that existed then, nine of whom were elected by district vote and four at-large, much like the City Council. With the referendum as an impetus, then-Mayor Ray Flynn pushed for the change to a mayorally appointed council.

Baker said he is seeking to add independence to the panel, noting that he had heard calls for elected members during his 2011 campaign for the District 3 Council seat. “I think the way I have it filed is a feasible way,” he said, but added that he’s open to changes.

Talk of a hybrid School Committee surfaced in 2010 after outcries over City Hall’s plan to close some schools and merge others. The head of the Boston Teachers Union, Richard Stutman, told the Reporter then that a hybrid model would mean a “return to sanity and participatory democracy.”

Meg Campbell, a Dorchester resident who serves on the current School Committee, said an elected school committee could become a “political stepping-stone.” Speaking of the current set-up in an interview with the Reporter after she was appointed in 2012, she said, “I think it works. It’s kind of like – do you want an elected hospital committee, do you want an elected police committee? I think it gets kind of messy.”

Capuano says no to special Senate election
Congressman Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) said on Tuesday that he will not be a candidate in the special US Senate election that is expected to take place later this year, after the confirmation of John Kerry as Secretary of State.

“After careful consideration, I have decided not to enter the race for US Senate,” Capuano said in a statement. “Instead, I look forward to focusing on the important issues facing the new Congress. My current work in the House and whatever opportunities the future may hold, afford me the greatest honor of my life, fighting for the Citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Capuano’s decision follows that of state Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) to also take a pass on the special election. Downing said as he was weighing a run and had received positive feedback from his friends, family, and colleagues. “I wish their faith in me was enough to sustain a campaign, but I know that every consideration – especially financial – must be made before a race of this type is undertaken,” he said in his own statement. “After considering every aspect of a possible campaign, I have determined that I will not be a candidate for the US Senate in the upcoming special election.”

That leaves Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) as the only candidate to formally announce a campaign, and Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) as one of the few serious candidates still weighing a campaign.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, who desires the interim appointment, a temporary slot while the Senate special election plays out, backed Markey last week on an MSNBC show.

Lawrence O’Donnell, a Dorchester native, had the Newton Democrat on his show, “The Last Word,” last week. O’Donnell was supportive of Frank and lashed out at a top adviser to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren for floating other candidates for the interim slot, like former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Arthur Bernard, a former chief of staff to Gov. Deval Patrick. O’Donnell called Doug Rubin, a Patrick adviser, an “abject buffoon” for floating candidates without Capitol Hill experience. Rubin responded on Twitter, saying, “I’ve been called a lot worse!”

Former Menino aide Kelly weighing at-large Council run
A former City Hall aide is mulling a run for one of the City Council’s four at-large seats. “I am considering all of my options but I haven’t made any sort of concrete decision yet,” said Jack Kelly, who served as Mayor Thomas Menino’s neighborhood liaison in Charlestown. Kelly said there is a need for more people at the state and city level talking about comprehensive substance abuse programs.

Currently working at Massachusetts General Hospital as a community relations manager, Kelly is a member of the Charlestown Neighborhood Watch and the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition. He has also written for Patch.com and, according to his LinkedIn profile, served as an extra in the Ben Affleck movie, “The Town.”

He left his City Hall job in 2011, after serving for five years. He started at MGH last October.

The four City Council incumbents include City Council President Stephen Murphy, and Councillors Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo, and John Connolly. Michelle Wu, a South End resident and former Elizabeth Warren campaign aide, said in December that she is running for one of the four seats.

Applications for nomination papers at the Elections Department will be available on April 17. Contenders must pick up 1,500 voter signatures to make it onto the at-large portion of the ballot.

Uphams Corner’s DePina promoted in Arroyo’s office
Joy DePina, an Uphams Corner resident, is moving up in City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo’s office. She has been promoted to deputy chief of staff, the councillor said last week. DePina has been on Arroyo’s staff since he started at City Hall in 2010, when she was named director of constituent services. She served as his deputy campaign manager in his 2009 run for at-large and previously worked as a health care organizer for Northeast Action.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Email us at newseditor@dotnews.com and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.

Topics: