The Boston City Council held its first meeting of the year on Monday, with five new council members who had been sworn in just two hours earlier.
The Council welcomed new District 4 Councilor Brian Worrell, At-Large Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, District 6 Councilor Kendra Hicks, District 7 Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, and At-Large Councilor Erin Murphy, who filled Michelle Wu’s vacancy on the council after she was elected mayor. Departing City Councilors include: Andrea Campbell, Matt O’Malley, Annissa Essaibi-George, Kim Janey, and Michelle Wu, who now serves as Boston’s mayor.
Per City Council General Rules, the eldest member of the City Council presides over the meeting if neither the president nor the president pro tempore are present. Therefore, Councilor Liz Breadon presided over the beginning of the meeting until Ed Flynn was elected the new council president. Also in attendance in the Christopher A. Iannella Chamber were Mayor Michelle Wu and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz.
“This is what democracy looks like,” Breadon said. “It took a huge effort to get us here today.”
This Council welcomed its first Haitian-American member, Ruthzee Louijeune, as well as the first woman of color to serve as the District 6 councilor, Kendra Hicks. The City Council also welcomed Brian Worrell, the first Black man on the council since 2017, and the first Cape Verdean immigrant and first Muslim councilor, Tania Fernandes Anderson.
The Council then unanimously voted to elect Ed Flynn as the new council president, and he took over the rest of the meeting.
“Thank you to my colleagues for placing their trust in me as your incoming City Council president,” Flynn said. “I am honored to be elected by my colleagues as president of the Council. I’m humbled by the trust you have placed in me.”
He also said he was “honored” to have five new council members this term. “We’re so fortunate to have such well-experienced and educated incoming colleagues,” Flynn said.
Councilor Louijeune who lives in Hyde Park, is a “lawyer and advocate working for working people,” Flynn said. Councilor Murphy, he said, is “an educator with decades of experience in the classroom.”
Councilor Worrell is a “small business owner with deep roots in his community,” Councilor Hicks is “an artist, a community organizer, an activist; and we know that she’ll continue her advocacy for her district here at City Hall,” and Councilor Fernandes Anderson is a “strong advocate for our children and families,” Flynn said.
“Each of you have demonstrated your dedication to public service to earn this job, and I am confident—and I know our colleagues are confident—that you will make a difference for the people of Boston, and we look forward to working with you on many issues impacting now just your district, but also the City.”
Flynn then talked about the Council’s focus heading into this term, saying that civic groups and constituents have asked him about it.
“During my time at the Council, this body has kept public health, housing affordability and stability, equity, social, and economic justice at the forefront of every discussion we have when it comes to our role in government, and I know that will continue,” Flynn said. ‘It is critical that we continue to always be mindful of issues impacting our seniors, persons with disabilities, working families, veterans, communities of color, and our immigrant neighbors as well. As councilors, our job is not always in the news, but the important work we do in city government and our neighborhoods is critical.”
Flynn also talked about the spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks as the Omicron variant continues to spread. He urged the importance of heeding “the guidance of our scientists and public health professionals, and to stress to our neighbors the importance of vaccines, boosters, face coverings to limit the spread of the virus or its impact when we have breakthrough cases.”
He continued, “Boston is a city with great spirit, history, and pride. Our communities deserve to have a city government that listens and works with them.”
The Council also addressed two late file matters filed under the provisions of Section 17F of the City Charter, which is essentially an information request. Both matters were filed by Councilor Frank Baker, and the first requests information relating to the recently announced mandate around COVID vaccinations in the City for City employees, and the second requests information relating to the Best Western Roundhouse Hotel, which is currently vacant and has been proposed to be used for services and housing for unhoused people. The mayor is required to respond to the requests within one week.
“Sorry this is unorthodox filing this, but we’re in a period here now where we won’t have any hearings; we don’t have any committees,” Baker said at Wednesday’s Council meeting. “Both of these things are looking to be implemented in the month of January, so that’s why we have the 17Fs.”
With regards to the first matter, Baker said he is “not taking a position” on the COVID vaccination mandates announced by Mayor Wu, but he said he is seeking “clarification” on certain points, including “what jurisdiction” the city has on mandating private businesses to comply with the mandate, as well as “hundreds of people can potentially lose their jobs…every department’s going to be affected by this,” he said. He also said he wants to know if people will be allowed to return to work if they do comply with the mandate.
For the Roundhouse Hotel matter, “I couldn’t be any more different from what the pathway that this administration is taking right here,” Baker said. He said he wants to know who will hold the lease, and what monetary “commitment” will be required from the city, as well as other things like the level of security and whether or not drugs will be “used” on site.
The Council voted to suspend the rules and passed both matters.
The next City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan, 26 at noon.