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Council agrees to try to eliminate special mayoral election this year; action now up to legislature and governor

The Boston City Council voted today to try to bypass a special election for mayor should Marty Walsh resign before March 5. The issue now goes to Mayor Walsh - who has said he supports the idea - and then the state legislature, which would have to approve the change in the state-issued city charter.

The council voted 12-0-1 in support. Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (at large), one of three councilors who has announced a bid for mayor, voted "present."

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) had sponsored the proposal, citing the potential Covid-19 risks and the costs of potentially running a special election to choose a mayor who would only serve until voters in the fall picked a mayor for a four-year term.

Arroyo, who is not running for mayor, expressed gratitude to other councilors for their action, but said he was disheartened over recent weeks to hear so much concern about the political ramifications for potential candidates, rather than the health and safety ramifications for Boston voters.

City Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown), who oversaw discussions on the proposal, praised her colleagues and the public for their discussions. "This is, I think, a victory lap for all of us," she said. adding the council "moved as fast as possible" on the issue and showed a level of consensus not always seen at other levels of government.

Edwards said "99.99%" of the people who testified at a hearing last week supported the move.

City Councilor Frank Baker blasted whoever leaked a memo from a city attorney that suggested councilors running for mayor should abstain from any vote because of the potential conflict of interest - and grew angry at people who criticized councilors for supporting pay raises for themselves, an issue that had not previously come up in public discussions about the mayoral raise.

Arroyo retorted he didn't leak the memo, but that whoever did was within their rights, given the public nature of councilors' jobs. He said he spoke out - and released a copy of a memo from the state Ethics Commission that said candidates could vote - because of the importance of what should be a public discussion. He said ethics never even came up in council votes in 2007 and 2019 related to elections and said the original memo unfairly impugned three councilors thinking of running - referring to Wu, Campbell and Kim Janey, who will become acting mayor - and their supporters.

City Councilor Julia Mejia (at large) who spoke after Baker and before Arroyo responded to him, said the dispute shows "we still have a lot of work to do in terms of building relationships" among councilors.

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The Committee heard from many Boston residents expressing support for not having the special election because it would be unsafe during a pandemic and will disenfranchise voters

Elections disenfranchise voters.

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That sounds like something from Yakov Smirnoff's old routine

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Four elections for a single local position in the span of what, 7 months? Surely that will encourage increased civic participation...

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The Boston City Municipal elections are some of the poorest attended election events. Too many elections so close together would see voter turnout drop dramatically.

And not explored is how, or if, any early voting locations or mail-in ballots would be accommodated.

The City and its Election Dept are not equipped to do that many elections that close together. The handful of months will allow the city to continue and the candidates develop their campaigns.

Janey as "acting mayor" could theoretically run for city council again and decline to run for Mayor. In fact I don't believe she has made any announcement on that yet. So the candidates announced are Wu, Campbell, George and Depelteau. Garrison has stated she would run (as always) but I don't know if she has pull papers yet.

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The Pandemic and the kinds of exposures that elections generate.

Try to keep up.

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Somehow Massachusetts has run 2 statewide elections in the past 6 months without trouble. Moreover, the entire nation had an election a bit over 3 months ago that was not seen as a superspreader event.

As one whose tax dollars will actually pay for the elections and as one who will be eligible to vote in whatever elections come up in Boston this year, I think it is silly to run a special election, then have another election for the same office a few months later. I'd have said the same thing in 2017 if Walsh was appointed to a cabinet position at the time.

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for another position before their term of office is up.

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Slavery and involuntary servitude are unconstitutional.

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Ron's right, there was literally a war about this.

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was voted in by the people. Hardly slavery or involuntary servitude. Is it really too much to ask that they make a commitment to actually serve in that office for the FULL LENGTH of the term they were voted in for.

Apart from death or serious illness, there is NO legitimate reason for an elected offical to leave office prematurely. Especially when outdated rules and laws require that a special election be held to fill the vacancy they leave behind.

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There are an infinite number of reasons.

And hey -- you ever have an employee who clearly didn't want to be there? Almost always becomes a lousy employee. At best lazy and shiftless. Why would you want an elected official who was mailing it in or worse to stick around?

I'm not saying Mayor Walsh is mailing it in -- just that if you don't allow electeds to leave their offices, you risk getting exactly that.

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He should have known, 3 years ago, when he ran for re-election?

Sorry, but I’ve worked with a bunch of people over the years who have resigned upon getting that bigger job. Heck, should Pressley have been barred from running for Congress because she had that City Council gig? Sorry, I didn’t vote for her, but she had the right to go for the bigger job.

This is very different from when politicians leave for private sector jobs sometimes right after getting re-elected.

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There's a lot of reasons why someone might want or need to leave an elected position early. What if someone just doesn't want to do the job anymore and wants to retire? What if their spouse gets a better opportunity and they'd like to move? Heck, what if it turns out they committed some offense and want to resign before they're forcibly removed?

And in the end, what does it benefit anyone to force someone to stay in a job they don't want, especially when everyone knows they'll be gone in a few months? We'd just wind up in exactly the same position we are now, just with Walsh as a nominal figurehead.
If the issue is these "outdated rules and laws", then that's what needs to be changed, and it sounds like the Council is taking the right steps to do that in this case.

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The things that made that possible expire... mail in voting, guaranteed absentee ballots, all of that stuff expires in the Legislature March 31 and would be unlikely to be available for a mayoral election in May. The city doesn’t want to put that in the hands of the state.

New polling centers are also being opened or closed for the first time in a decade. Not to mention many of them are elderly care facilities and schools.

Ultimately, any time you make more asks of somebody in the non profit or public sector world , you’re going to experience attrition and fatigue. Same for voters.

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I'm not sure if 'straw-man' is the exact right phrase, but having 4 elections within a year is just plain silly. The pandemic part is an excuse or rationalization.

It's like when companies ask you to switch to electronic billing "for the environment". They really want to save the cost of printing and mailing your bills to you. The environment is their 'pandemic'.

e-billing really is better for the environment.
Voting in person really does pose a bit of COVID risk.

But neither is the honest reason behind the advocacy.

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I do think, though, if they are not going to have a special election like they are supposed to, then the person taking the acting mayor spot should be an at large city councilor, who was voted in by voters throughout the city, and not one from any one district who was voted in by a relatively small number of voters.

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Anybody up for changing the law? A waiver is just a band-aid.

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