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.