Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Party Time at Boston City Hall

Bonhomie flavored the day in Boston's City Council chamber. Tomorrow will surely not be as jolly.

This morning though, Matt O'Malley formally replaced District Councilor John Tobin following this month's special election. After he took his oath from Mayor Tom Menino, perhaps he can drive a few details.

As Council President Michael Ross said when he welcomed O'Malley this morning, "You'll also notice we've spared no expense on your name plate." That would be Tobin's with a computer-generated name taped (crookedly) over it. The new Councilor laughed along with everyone else.

By the bye, don't go looking for him on the Council web page. You won't find a picture (Image to come) or bio (election date and More information to come). Yet, I suspect that after this clerically sputtering start, he's in for the long haul and he'll be as active a member as Tobin.

No one seems to doubt his ability to out-Tobin Tobin in pushing both the necessary and the innovative. He certainly is in the mold of the remaining Young Turks such as John Connolly and Rob Consalvo. Another relative youngster, Ayanna Pressley, may fit in the gang, although she's just beginning to show her stuff.

Today's gallery of upwards of 200 was not as numerous or quite as politically rich as his campaign kick-off, but many of the same players were there — like Treasurer-elect Steve Grossman, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Tobin, Rep. Liz Malia and so forth. In addition, he might have been able to fill one set of seats with his relatives, including parents, sisters, nephews and others. All were delighted, well, except for the youngest nephew (2 or 3 by looks) who briefly experienced a personal tragedy and inspired his mom to carry him out, hand him off (I think to Dad) and rush back to see her brother sworn into office.

The folksiness of our Council continues to delight. Ross tries to keep a pleasant spirit too. When it came time to, in effect, send a posse around a couple of corners to ask the Mayor to come do the deed, Ross called up three Councilors as an ad hoc committee, named Maureen Feeney as chair because she was quickest to the front of the chamber, and told them to "go across the hall and grab His Honor."

Oddly though, as we waited perhaps eight minutes, Ross ran out of time-killing announcements and banter. Many pols would have more than the needed anecdotes, self-praise and jokes to while away the minutes. In fact, when Menino introduced O'Malley before administering the oath, he showed how an old pro does it with mentions of the new Councilor as an intern for the body and particulars of his parents and siblings.

The rest of the Council seemed to enjoy the hour of ceremony. Before they got to business, Ross was happily glad-handing pols and others, Charles Yancey was grinning and chatting up other Councilors, Pressley was flashing that huge smile, and everyone seemed to be at a class reunion. The only cautions seemed to be in the form of superstition. As O'Malley told me several times during his campaign when I said I had no doubt he'd win, so did Steve Murphy when I spoke of him as the next Council president and John Connolly when I said it was obvious that he'd formally get the title of chair of the Education Committee (which he's de facto headed for two years) — they each and all said not to believe what you read in the papers and to wait and see.

At the beginning one Councilor was absent for the quorum call. That was Chuck Turner, who faces a meeting tomorrow on whether he remains fit to stay on Council following his conviction on four felony counts ($1,000 bribe and three lying to FBI agents) and before his 1/25 sentencing in federal court. It seemed obvious that Turner would engage in some display or protest. In reality, he was likely just talking to someone and ambled in about two minutes late.

When O'Malley appeared with Ross in the front, the crowd, as the sports cliché goes, went wild. He wasn't even in office, but he got a standing ovation, I guess for being Matt. The Mayor got his own big round of applause when the posse grabbed him, but this truly was O'Malley's morning.

Menino arrived looking and acting pretty fit. After several days in the hospital with an elbow infection, he had a swagger and swung his arms like nothing hurt. His wife Angela, another Matt O'Malley fan, showed too, unusual for her.

The Mayor did not provide any of his famous misspeaking takeaways this time. He did refer to same-sex marriage as "single-sex marriage" in praising O'Malley's work with MassEquality. Likewise, he said the job involved "servicing" instead of "serving" the public. Close enough on both, I say. Otherwise, he was very Boston, as in calling O'Malley's father George "Jahj".

He was chatty and philosophical at the same time. He said O'Malley understood the real nature of the job, one which Menino used to hold as well. That is simply "to help people every day." He urged the new Councilor to "do what you think is right. The best poll is the people you meet on the street."

For his part, O'Malley praised the Council and Mayor. He thanked his mentors and supporters, particularly Grossman and Cabral, saying those two made him a better elected official and better person.

He laid out a broad set of objectives in improving eduction, bettering the economy here, and ensuring the best city services. Then without deadlines or specifics, he promised, "I will not let you down."

If any pol can sustain the affection he has earned from voters as well as those who know him, it surely will be O'Malley. Now that everyone thinks he can fly at will, he may just have to do it.

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