^ District One Councillor-elect speaking at her recent “Birthday bash” celebration
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Much has been made of Boston’s newly elected, 13-member City Council having six women, five who are of color — a first. It is certainly a good thing that candidates do not have to look like me to be elected; yet the important event isn’t what our Councillors look like but what they do and have done to win a majority of the very judicious voters who make Boston democracy so special.
I know every one of the six women very well. I have actively supported the campaigns of three and gotten to know the three others as well as a dedicated journalist can. They are politicians first, which means that they’re careful what they say and accommodate to the realities of Boston’s powerful interest groups. That said, all six have fairly idealistic goals clear to their supporters and shared by them : a City in which every voice feels confident it will be listened to and where no voter should be allowed to lose hope of a better life in this City.
City elections are non-partisan, thank goodness; which means that candidates are free to amass a large following of whoever wants to follow — no one is excluded by registering in this or that political party. All six Councillors of color have achieved that kind of following, some more so than others, due to the nature of their electorate. The three who were elected city-wide — Annissa Essaibi George, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu — have perforce a broad coalition of supporters, whereas Kim Janey and Andrea Campbell, representing Black majority Districts, have a more particularist support group. (Although both Janey and Campbell also enjoy major support from non-Black voters and donors.)
The most fascinating following, however, is t.hat which supports my Council District’s new Councillor, Lydia Edwards. Granted, that District One, which covers East Boston, Charlestown, the North End, and a bit of the Waterfront neighborhood, is home to as varied an assemblage of voters as anywhere in the City, or n the entire state, so that Edwards could not have won without attracting all sorts of voters : rich and poor, young and old, middle c lass, of all sorts of skin colors; long-term residents and new, social justice activists and very right wing anti-establishment folks: she had them all in her 830 vote win — and at her recent “Birthday bash” at Filippo’s in the North End.
The more successful a candidate is at gathering a coalition of the many, the more likely she is to win an election — and the more likely to govern in the interest of all. If that is the measure, as I assert it is, Edwards has a long and significant future in Boston governance.
But so do the other five women of the new Council.
Andrea Campbell will be the new Council President — setting the tone and much of the agenda for the next two years of city policy. Michelle Wu was Council President just before her: she too made very clear her goal of radical inclusivity. Ayanna Pressleyt has now finished first three times among the four City-wide electeds: higher office seems assured if the opportunity opens up. Pressley has already won a major change in City affairs: the opening up to availability of once very limited,m expensive liquor licenses. Essaibi George has yet to choose a single priority as her hallmark, but having now won re-election, she has room to choose one : could schools reform — so very much needed — be the ticket for this former Boston Public Schools teacher ?
Lastly, Kim Janey, District Seven’s new Councillor : she succeeds Tito jackson, who often favored street theater over policy accomplishment. (He was, however, a master street actor, very much in the tradition of his long-ago Roxbury antecedent, James Michael Curley, albeit without Curley’s ruthless mastery of demagoguery and corruption.) Janey is unlikely to be a theatrician. She hails from one of Roxbury’s most prominent activist and business families and may well be a voice for business and entrepreneurship in a Roxbury which, by price and momentum, is fast becoming a high-income and young professional innovation center.
Any one of these six women could become our City’s next mayor. Will they ? It’s far too soon to know, and the field is not theirs alone. Councillors O’Malley, Ed Flynn, and McCarthy look like very solid contenders, and so do State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and State Representatives Jeffrey Sanchez– now the House’s Ways and Means chairman — and even Adrian Madaro of East Boston. (Councillor Zakim, of District Eight, is choosing a different path : seeking tgo become our Secretary of State.)
The twelve people I have named may look very dissimilar, but all have, or will develop, one political trait in common : appeal to a diversity of interests and voter types. That coalition dominates our City;’s political future is a very positive sign.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere