Monday, December 14, 2009

Pols Hugging Base in Boston

"We have six votes and one more day," said Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon's chief of staff, Mary Grissom. His term-limits law could need seven of the 13 for Wednesday's vote. It would be an excellent way for him to exit after four years as an at-large councilor.

You surely recall that Yoon did not run for re-election to go instead for mayor. He lost, as did Councilor Michael Flaherty, who got in the final against longest-serving Boston Mayor Tom Menino. (Links in this paragraph are to their Left Ahead! podcasts.)

Today, I joined a hundred or more citizens, including Universal Hub's Adam Gaffin, at the operations committee hearing on mayoral term limits. UH has a lengthy report here. The gist of it is that Yoon wants two term (eight-year) limits on mayor. He want to limit council terms as well, but figured he had a shot at the seven votes for mayoral limits, and the council piece would naturally and shortly follow.

This has inspired the Left Ahead! crew to revisit this subject for its podcast tomorrow, Tuesday, December 15th, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The live stream is here. You can head there, to Left Ahead! or iTunes to catch it in the can.

If you can't get enough of this, you can also check our podcast two years and a few days ago with Councilor John Tobin. He has long called for term limits and supports this version as well. Like a couple of his peers, he also calls for councilor term limits as well.

I'm not a regular at council meetings and can't tally the six or seven who might side with Yoon. On the Government Operations Committee, John Connolly joined Yoon and Tobin at the hearing testifying in favor of term limits. Bill Linehan, Charles Yancey, and Committee Chair Maureen Feeney were against. Absent were Chuck Turner and Vice-Chair Rob Consalvo (coincidentally my new district councilor). I bet they split, with Turner for lmits and Consalvo against, but that's my felt sense.

As such, the committee's report would be favorable for passage in two days. In that vein, the other mayoral also-ran this, Kevin McCrea, testified for limits at the hearing. Intriguingly enough, he said he had very recently spoken with Menino, who he said pledged to sign the bill if it came to his desk. That's delicious hearsay.

Councilor Sal LaMattina was briefly at the meeting but did not testify. Councilor Mark Ciommo opposes limits. Council President Michael Ross was absent but Fenney said he'd watch the hearing on council TV. Councilor Steve Murphy had no reason to be there.

If the dozen plus citizens inspired to rush through two-minute drills of testimony are any indication, term limits for mayor are very popular. Also, the number showing up for a hearing on Monday morning was extraordinary. Only one testified against term limits. The passion and calls for meaningful democracy definitely favored limits.

So, we can find out Wednesday how persuasive Yoon is in his last three weeks in office. According to his chief of staff, this is as close as Boston has ever gotten to mayoral term limits. Passage would require the councilors to put public interest above self-interest. If they hadn't allowed themselves to consider it before, they heard today that limits on their jobs are in the chute if this comes down first.

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