Sweeping up

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  May 30, 2007

Bigger shake-ups are coming. Patrick is still holding several dozen resignation letters from Republican holdovers in offices of varying importance — “some are like starting pitchers, some are like back-up catchers,” one Democrat says — which he asked for in early May and will act on by the end of this week. He is working on important and potentially controversial selections to head the Department of Correction and the Department of Environmental Protection. And openings at the authorities kick off with one at MassPort in June.

That said, Patrick will likely have to concede losses on some of his pet items, such as the local-options tax — and we don’t yet know how he handles political defeat.

Still, the administration seems to be staying ahead of the game and has already leaked a number of probable firings in the next round of personnel changes so as to avoid too many surprise reactions. (Holdovers under close watch include Jennifer Davis Cary, secretary of elderly affairs; Elizabeth Childs, commissioner of mental health; Thomas G. Kelley, secretary of veterans affairs; and Anne Collins, registrar of motor vehicles. Positions within the administration and finance wing are also likely to turn over.) For the moment, at least, his office is standing its ground without losing its footing.

Will Allston-Brighton’s new city councilor be more of the same?
Judging by Bill Linehan’s recent victory over Susan Passoni in the South Boston special election, and the lack of fresh blood among the at-large candidates, the hope that Boston city politics had entered a new phase appears to have been overblown. The same can be said of the crowded field vying to replace Jerry McDermott as Allston-Brighton’s city councilor.

Of the eight candidates who submitted signatures to get on the September preliminary ballot for city councilor, four have already run unsuccessful campaigns in the area. Local activists Mark Ciommo and Rosie Hanlon lost to McDermott in a runoff in 2002; attorney Tim Schofield and assistant district attorney Gregory Glennon narrowly lost this past year’s state representative race to Michael Moran. Schofield is considered a darling of the progressives, while Glennon is seen as more conservative. Ciommo, director of the Veronica Smith Senior Center, has strong political connections that have some calling him the early favorite.

The way the wards divvy up, that might leave Hanlon, director of Brighton Main Streets, without a base to vault her forward, say some close observers of A-B politics. And it would almost certainly leave Maureen Feeney the only woman on the 14-member council, which has been the case since the departure of Maura Hennigan in 2005, and the recent failures of Passoni and Patricia White to get elected the same year. No women are running for the four citywide seats, and aside from Hanlon, the only woman candidate is Althea Garrison, this time running her usual quixotic campaign in Chuck Turner’s Roxbury district.

Gender is unlikely to move the A-B voters, observers say. Ideology might also play a minor role. Voters in the district are primarily concerned with finding an advocate who will represent residents’ interests, as Harvard University and Boston College proceed with their expansion plans in the neighborhood.

Harvard’s proposed “50-year master plan” will transform lower Allston, while the recent announcement that BC will buy the Archdiocese’s land in Brighton signals the end of a traditional buffer between the campus and the residential parts of Brighton.

Regulating those two behemoths is not the only issue on the minds of A-B residents, but it is the biggest one, says Moran. Which is why lesser-known candidates, like auditor Benjamin Bloomenthal and 26-year-old activist James Joseph Jenner, are arguing that an outsider, without ties to politicians and lobbyists, will better represent residents’ interests in negotiations with Harvard and BC.

On the Web
David Bernstein's Talking Politics: http://www.thephoenix.com/talkingpolitics

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To Be Named Later

In addition to the appointments that will be announced by the end of this week, Governor Deval Patrick is looking to fill several more key open positions.

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. This will be one of Patrick’s most important and far-reaching early decisions as governor, and observers say he needs to leak his nominee’s name before others’ get bandied about in the press.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION. Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy is gone, temporarily replaced by James Bender. Many observers believe an outsider should spearhead reforms, but it might take Patrick a while to find an experienced person willing to come to Massachusetts, where overcrowding and a belligerent union make the job unappealing.

COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. Since the department is currently run by acting commissioner Arlene O’Donnell, a Republican appointee, most observers expect to see a new face soon.

MASSPORT BOARD. “The real action, where it matters, is the authorities,” says Democratic consultant Dan Payne. MassPort, MBTA, MWRA, and others will have openings soon, beginning with one MassPort board member’s term ending in June.

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