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Boston City Councilor Primary Needs More Challengers

With the primary election for Boston City Councilors only two weeks away, few Bostonians seem interested or even aware it’s happening. Here are some thoughts.

You might not be aware of it, but there’s a city of Boston primary election two weeks from today, on September 27, 2011. The primary is being held to narrow the field of candidates for the 13 city councilor positions, of which there are four at-large (representing the entire city) and nine district councilors. 

Sadly, not every councilor position is being contested. The at-large race has seven candidates, including the four incumbents, but five of the nine district councilors are running unopposed. They are, and the neighborhoods they represent are: (The hyperlinks in this column are to the campaign websites of each candidate, if I could find one. If I’m missing any, please leave a comment below.)

District 1 (East Boston, Charlestown, North End, Downtown)
Sal LaMattina

District 5 (Hyde Park, parts of Roslindale and Mattapan)
Rob Consalvo

District 6 (West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill)
Matt O’Malley

District 8 (The Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, West End, part of Mission Hill)
Mike Ross

District 9 (Allston and Brighton)
Mark Ciommo

It’s depressing that no one’s running against these guys. Not that they’re unworthy of their positions, but why should they get a free ride?

District 4, which includes Mattapan and part of Dorchester, has two candidates, J R Rucker and Charles Yancey (the incumbent). Because there are only two, there is no primary and both go straight to the general election being held on November 8th.

Things are a bit more exciting in District 2, made up of South Boston, Chinatown, Bay Village, and part of the South End. Incumbent Bill Linehan is being challenged by Suzanne Lee and Bob Ferrara.

Seeing as five of the other incumbents are running unopposed, it’s a surprise that Mr. Linehan is being challenged at all, much less by two people (including Mr. Ferrara, who is also from South Boston).

I have to say, as a South End resident, it would be nice for once to have a city councilor who isn’t from South Boston. We’ve been given the short-end of the stick in the South End - our neighborhood is split into two council districts. It’s not fair nor does it serve democracy. Ms. Lee lives in Chinatown, which at times seems a lot closer than South Boston.

District 7 (Roxbury, parts of South End, Jamaica Plain, The Fenway and Dorchester) has four candidates: Althea Garrison, Tito Jackson (the incumbent), Roy Owens, and Sheneal Parker.

Mr. Jackson only just won his seat this past May so this is his first attempt to be re-elected. Perhaps people in those neighborhoods feel that their voices have yet to be heard, or perhaps it’s just good old democracy at work. Every incumbent should be challenged, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, it seems as though there’s only a contested race when someone chooses to step down (or, in the case of late Councilor James Kelly, when he dies, or in the case of Chuck Turner, ).

That’s what’s happening in District 3 (part of Dorchester), where Maureen Feeney has chosen to retire. Seven of her neighbors are running. They are:

Frank Baker
Doug Bennett
Stephanie Everett
Craig Galvin
Martin Hogan
John O’Toole
Marydith Tuitt

And then, there’s the City Councilor at Large race. As I mentioned, there are seven candidates vying for the four seats. Because there are fewer than eight, there’s no run-off; all seven will proceed to the general election. Here they are:

Michael Flaherty
Will Dorcena
Ayanna Pressley
Felix Arroyo
Stephen Murphy
John Connolly
Sean Ryan

It would be great if one or two of the challengers won in November, but I don’t know if that’s likely. In addition to having a good message and being “likable” to people, you have to be well-known - and that takes money. Mr. Dorcena had $1,445 in the bank at the end of August and Mr. Ryan around $441, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ campaign finance website. That’s not a lot of money available for voter mailings (or even for campaign buttons). That’s why it’s so important that these candidates get all the free press they can.

 about democracy and its shortcomings. But, I’m a pretty big fan of it. I don’t know why more people don’t run for office. You don’t need many signatures in order to qualify (although it seemsStephen Murphy would prefer otherwise). Surely there has to be at least a few Bostonians who care enough about our city that they want to be more involved.

I realize, the idea of running for office can be daunting. It can be expensive and it takes a lot of time. And, you might not like the idea of everyone knowing your personal business. You should still consider doing it, though.

But, that’s irrelevant right now. These are the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot. I encourage you (actually, I’m pleading) to learn more about each of these men and women. More important, go out to the polls to vote.

The deadline has passed to vote in the September 27th primary, but you have until October 19th to register to vote in the general election. Check out the City of Boston Elections Department website for more information.

Phyllis Browne September 16, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Mr. Keith, Why don't YOU run for office? When I was growing up, my father used to say "Fish or cut bait".
John Keith September 16, 2011 at 04:45 AM
I have?
Phyllis Browne September 17, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Is that a question (You responded: "I have?") or a statement? Congratulations if you are running.
John Keith September 17, 2011 at 06:45 AM
Sorry, didn't mean to be unclear. I ran in 2009 for State Representative. I lost. No plans to try it again, but you never know. I agree, being active is everyone's responsibility.
Phyllis Browne September 18, 2011 at 03:35 AM
My hat is off to you. Running for office is both exhilarating and brutal-my hat is off to you. Keep on reminding people that our government is our responsibility. Keep up the good work.

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