BREAKING : TIM McCARTHY NOT RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION IN COUNCIL DISTRICT 5

Mimi Turchinetz, who would be a very strong District Five candidate, is pictured here at a Hyde Park community gala with several local activists including Maria Esdale Farrell and Pat Tierney, widow of former councillor Joe Tierney and mother of actress Maura Tierney

No sooner have I written my look at Boston’s City Council Districts in the up-coming Council election than District 5 Councillor Tim McCarthy has thrown us all a curve ball: in a long facebook post yesterday he announced that he is not going to seek re-election.

For me personally, this is sad news. McCarthy is to me more than a Councillor. He’s a friend, a close friend. He’s married to Maureen McCarthy, sister of Dan McCarthy (they’re no relation to Tim !), who was a key helper in my own stab at candidacy some 32 years ago. Tim, Maureen, Dan and I are bonded. But not only for that is Tim my friend. We share a love of local politics, local activism, and local customs. Tim is one of only three people who I call when I need advice on stuff that I dare not decide wrong.

Of course Tim’s decision impacts much, much more than the things I’m about. He leaves a District open in which very significant demographic change has left its traditional voters a small minority and one that continues to decrease. Tim may well be the last traditional Boston candidate to represent Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Readville.

That’s the way it is. The District’s new majorities have every right to succeed to the area’s Council seat. And if my own connections run deep to the traditionals, the leaders of which have been my friends for up to 50 years, that’s how it is : change happens. On the other hand, the new electoral reality in District Five isn’t only about demographics. It’s about policies. McCarthy has been one of the strongest Council voices opposing, or remaining apart from, some recent Council moves whose implications I cannot support, moves whose chief opposition is traditional voters, although there’s some indication that many of Boston’s Downtown newcomers aren’t aboard with these moves either. I refer to the Council’s attempts to ( 1 ) force tax exempt institutions to pay more in-lieu-of money than they already do — an attempt that is probably unConstitutional and self-defeating and ( 2 ) proposals to combat rising rents by encouraging land trusts and similar price-deferral devices — proposals that either don’t work or which deny to owners of real estate the benefits of the market in which they’ve invested their own money.

I fear that whoever will represent District Five going forward will join, rather than oppose, the Council majority on these proposals. I also think a new District 5 Councillor is likely to support proposals to grant some sort of vote to residents not yet citizens. These proposals have some merit; finding a way to give non-citizen residents a voice at the table is a worthy objective; but granting voting rights devalues citizenship. We should make it harder, not easier, for non-citizen residents to not seek citizenship.

These are the thoughts that trouble me today about District Five”s future. More to the moment is, who will the new Councillor be ? Ricardo Arroyo, brother of Felix G. Arroyo and son of Felix D. Arroyo — both of whom were Councillors, and Felix D. is Suffolk County Register of Probate even now — announced his candidacy two weeks ago. He has the pole position; yet certainly there are others who might enter the contest. What of Gretchen van Ness, who won a f air sized vote last November running against State Representative Angelo Scaccia ? Van Ness lives in Fairmount Hill, one of the District’s most powerful vote blocs. Might not Mimi Turchinetz, a progressive activist and lifelong Hyde Park resident, seek a seat that she ran for in 2013 ? And what of Dave Vittorini, who has worked for John Connolly and now for Michelle Wu ? There’s also likely to be a candidate of Haitian ancestry, Haitians being perhaps the largest single vote group in the District today. Perhaps a Roslindale activist might also run: I can think of a few who have the credibility to do so, starting with Robert Orthman, Conor Freeley and Ginny Cushing. Nor is that all. There might easily be ten candidates seeking a seat that gave us Mayor Tom Menino not too long ago. Indeed, might not his son Tom, Junior or Tom’s wife Lisa Menino seek the seat, coming off their powerful work for Governor Baker in the November election, in which he just missed carrying District Five ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere