Linehan has demonstrated an independent streak, according to other councilors, but is still thought of as a Menino loyalist, having worked for the mayor for years. The same is true for LaMattina, another name being bandied about for council president.
They are safe choices, but would also probably be play-it-safe presidents. It's unlikely either of them would have thrust the council into the firefighter-contract fray the way Ross did.
Ross has also used special committees to encroach upon new, politically dicey territory — and put them in the hands of the most aggressive members of the body. He chairs one committee reviewing possible changes to the city charter; Connolly chairs another on "livable Boston"; Arroyo chairs one on the 2010 Census process; and Pressley chairs one on women's issues.
Up to Menino
The new direction of the council might also be threatened by the political cycle, where the seemingly distant 2013 mayoral race is never far from anyone's mind.
Meanwhile, councilors with an eye on 2013 will inevitably start trying to draw more attention to themselves — which is sure to cause bad blood with some colleagues, and the Menino administration.
And the ongoing independence of the council may ultimately depend on Menino, who turns 68 next month. Right now, he is viewed as something of a lame duck. Mobility issues, brought about by a leg injury after the election, have limited his usual omnipresence in the city. Several insiders wonder more broadly about his health.
If Menino begins sending signals that he's planning to run again in 2013, and starts taking independent-acting councilors to the woodshed, you're likely to see the council recede. Otherwise, expect it to keep pushing the boundaries, and making more of an impact.
To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.