^ a Councillor, not a Don Quixote ; Michelle Wu (with Philip Frattaroli and Marty Keogh at the Frattaroli family’s post-Columbus Day Parade reception
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There’s much flap going around now,as silly a brouhaha as I’ve observed in this entire Boston campaign cycle, including an op-ed by my old Boston Phoenix colleague Yvonne Abraham, to the effect that Councillor-elect Michelle Wu shouldn’t vote for Bill Linehan as the new Council President.. Supposedly she should vote for a Councillor who “shares her agenda.” Today’s Globe quotes several persons, described as “progressives,’ who promise not to support Wu for re-election if she votes for Linehan. This is zealotry of the Tea Party kind, to which the Left, as we’ve seen in the past, is hardly immune. One quoted voice even says that “Unless (Wu) changes her mind…she’s a one-term city councillor.”
This is rubbish. It’s also as silly as a political kerfuffle can be. Boston’;s City Council has no power that the mayor doesn’t want it to have. It can propose, it can debate, it can re-arrange the musical chairs by which Council Committee chairmen are chosen; but it can’t do a damned thing of significant importance without the Mayor thumbing up.
Sure, individual Councillors can have an independent impact, if they’re willing to get frozen out by the Mayor. John Connolly pursued an independent course. Others have done so. But when the chips are on the table, and the Mayor’s agenda is at stake, you will no more find a majority of the 13 Councillors opposing than you’ll find a sting ray in your briefcase on Christmas eve.
So what’s the big deal here ? Let’s try a little political reality, for a change, and lose the ideological version of cgi-created film monsters.
The rule governing voting for Council President has long been : “vote for the weakest.”
In this case ( 1 ) Bill Linehan is no threat to run for Mayor against Marty Walsh ( 2 ) ramping up either Tito Jackson or Matt O’Malley to Council President — both of whom want the honorific — would be a threat and ( 3 ) ramping either man up to Council President would impede the 2017 (or 2021) mayor race plans of the REAL potential candidate of significance. (It’s Jackson’s and O’Malley’s very strength as Councillors that make them musts-to-avoid as Council President. Get my meaning ?)
Most important, Linehan has no base at all independent of Mayor-elect Walsh’s core support and thus has no power to oppose him on any item of import.
THAT is how Council Presidents are chosen. Stupid indeed is the newly elected Councillor who bucks that reality; and Michelle Wu is far from stupid. I applaud her acumen in this matter.
As for being re-elected, Wu’s husband notes that even if you subtract her entire vote from wards 4, 5, 11, and 19 she still won by 14,000 votes. This is an apt subtraction, because 2015 will be a Council-only election, and in these, the voters of Wards 4, 5, and 11 turn out far fewer voters than they do in a Mayoral election. Wu’s re-election will be decided in Wards 20, 18, 2, 16, and 17, and of course also in Chinatown’s Ward 3 Precinct 7. All of these feature constituencies very different from the wards identified with Tea Party Leftism or comfortable urban reform. And you know what else ? Wards 4, 5, 11, and 19 contain plenty of voters who aren’t Tea-Left. Of the 15,000 or so voters who will likely turn out in 2015 in those four wards, Wu will comfortably win at least one-third — probably more. She may slip from second to third or even fourth (though I doubt that); but re-elected she surely will be, assuming that she does the job of city-wide Councillor in painstaking daily detail. Which I have no doubt at all she will do.
— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere