A City Council committee will hold a hearing on a proposal to seek to eliminate a special election for mayor should Mayor Walsh leave for Washington before March 5, following a discussion today in which one councilor managed to insult three others.
Under a schedule set by the city charter, Boston would have to hold a special election for mayor should Walsh resign before then - in addition to the regular fall election for mayor. This potentially means four elections for mayor this year - a preliminary for a special election, a special election and then a repeat in the fall.
Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale), who sponsored the proposal, said that in the middle of a pandemic, it makes little sense to force voters to the polls four times in one year and that the money spent on all the elections could be better spent elsewhere.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, Roslindale), however, said it makes sense to spend money on the core pillar of democracy and that he is concerned about messing with well established rules when the game has already started.
Councilor Kenzie Bok (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill) agreed with O'Malley, but said she also understands the Covid-19 concern. But she added that short spans between elections might prevent voters from really getting to know candidates. She said eliminating special elections in the same year as regular elections might be worth studying, but if so, it should be done as part of a permanent change to the charter, not a one-off.
A cranky Frank Baker (Dorchester) started by slapping Arroyo, saying it's nice he's concerned about municipal finances now, unlike last year. He noted the change would require approval of the legislature and governor and said he worries the proposal would just get lost up on Beacon Hill. He also said it's pretty obvious the proposal is just an attempt to manipulate the elections to benefit particular candidates and any changes "would just look inappropriate.
And then, after congratulating Council President Kim Janey on her impending promotion to acting mayor, he took a swipe at her: "We're handing the city over to someone who has not been duly elected, for ten months, who has not been duly elected to make decisions for the entire city of Boston, for ten months." He predicted the whole thing would spill over across the entire council, which he said will wind up "looking pretty bad this summer."
He emphasized "I don't have a dog in this race," but then again, if the special election were eliminated, he might just run for mayor in September, after being called "a potato-faced, mealy-mouthed MF'er" on Twitter today. If emotions about him are so strong, it might be worth running, he said, but he concluded that he supports no changes.
Councilor Julia Mejia (at large) supported elimination of the special election this year, for the reasons cited by Arroyo. She added that multiple elections only benefit the small groups that turn out no matter what, and so would hurt the people most affected by the day-to-day decisions of city government. She said in the last council election - in which she won her seat by just one vote - just 17 percent of voters came out.
With four elections in a few months, "we're going to let a few thousand politically active people decide who will be the mayor of 700,000 people for the next four year, because we already know what's up. Don't get it twisted here, we know who comes out in droves in special elections."
Mejia's comments triggered Baker again and he went into Budweiser-ad mode: "Point of interest, Madame Chair! I don't know 'WASSUP'. So I mean, can someone break that down for me?"
Janey said if he really cares, he should take it offline with Mejia.
"Did I say 'wassup'?" Mejia asked.
"We're not going there, please, thank you," Janey added.
Councilor Lydia Edwards promised a fair and complete public hearing on the proposal when it comes to her government-operations committee.
Edwards added that she's not running for mayor. "Good luck to those who really want to, I do not know why, but, it's your dream, your life, YOLO or whatever the hell the kids say."
Only four councilors joined Arroyo in formally sponsoring the proposal: Mejia, Bok, Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) and Andrea Campbell (Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale).
After Edwards's committee holds a hearing on the proposal, it will hold a "working session" to draft a possible home-rule request for the council to vote on and send to Mayor Walsh for his action. If he signs off, it would then go to the state legislature.