When Boston City Councilors Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon declared their candidacies for mayor many months ago, the duo opened up what is normally a very narrow field for at-large Council candidates.
Despite the challenging state of municipal finances in this painful recession — which means that political expansionism will take a back seat to municipal triage — an exceedingly strong field of candidates entered the race.
That is all for the better. If ever there was a time when good ideas — that is, new approaches to old problems — were needed, it is now.
There are eight candidates seeking four citywide Council seats. It is a shame that voters will only get a chance to cast their ballots for half of the field. Most are impressive. And, in this cynical age, all have a refreshing desire to make a difference.
The two incumbents, JOHN CONNOLLY, 36, of West Roxbury, and STEPHEN MURPHY, 52, of Hyde Park, deserve re-election.
Connolly, who is finishing his first two-year term, has turned in the most impressive citywide debut since Lawrence DiCara, now a full-time lawyer, came to the Council in the seemingly ancient era of 1972.
Connolly has staked out three areas as his special turf: making government more accountable, working for a greener and more energy-efficient city, and — most noteworthy — tackling issues related to education, especially truancy, which drives Boston’s unacceptably high dropout rate.
The authority of a city councilor is narrowly prescribed by the city charter. But whoever is elected mayor would do well to endorse many of Connolly’s thoughtful ideas.
If there were an award for a local politician who has demonstrated the greatest capacity for professional growth, it should go to Murphy.
When Murphy won his seat on the council 12 years ago, he was an old-fashioned, back-slapping pol. In those days, he was more interested in locking up wrongdoers and throwing away the key than in understanding the social roots of urban crime and unrest.
Today he is a committed advocate of CORI reform. That means he wants to change the Criminal Offender Record Information system, which prevents offenders who have served their time from making new lives for themselves.
In addition, Murphy has become the Council’s leading expert on the city’s finances and budget. In these economically challenging times, that makes him a valuable elected official.
Of the political newcomers, we are most impressed with AYANNA PRESSLEY, 35, of Dorchester, and FELIX G. ARROYO, 30, of Jamaica Plain, both of whom combine progressive attitudes with practical know-how.
Pressley learned how government works as a staffer for Senator John Kerry and Congressman Joe Kennedy. She has also been active in a variety of nonprofit organizations.
Pressley speaks passionately about making the city work for everyone. Her commitment is convincing. Her experience, buoyancy, and energy suggest she will be a results-oriented public servant who will use her skills and connections to get things done.
Pressley would also be the first African-American woman ever to serve on the Council — and the first African-American elected to citywide office in Boston in 16 years. Most important, she has the right priorities and basket of skills.