Councilor Edwards Wins Game of Political Chess With City Council Rule Change

Some of the most interesting things in political circles and in Council business aren’t always on the agenda.

Case in point:  The rule change proffered and passed by Councilor Lydia Edwards during the June 16 City Council that essentially allows the Council to remove Acting Mayor Kim Janey any time they wish.

The matter, which didn’t exactly say that, but does in fact now give the Council that power, passed by a vote of 10-1, with Councilor Ricardo Arroyo voting against and Councilor Julia Mejia voting ‘present.’

Some observers are calling the move a “warning shot” and a “vote of no confidence” in Acting Mayor Janey, but Edwards told the Patriot Bridge, and said on the floor of the Council last week, that it was about accountability.

“This is about accountability, transparency and I would do it again,” she said. “The amount of positive responses I’ve received about this have overwhelmed me. A lot of people felt for the first time the City Council got a backbone.”

The matter was not on the official agenda, so there was no time for any opponents to muster up a way to block or oppose it. Using a bit of stealth in that regard, Edwards seized on the fact that the Council does not need an agenda item to change its own rules. That can be done from the floor at any time, so at the end of the meeting on June 16, Edwards rose and proposed the change to the surprise of many – particularly Councilor Mejia.

The rule change allows the Council to vote at any time with at least eight votes to remove the Council President – which is technically still Acting Mayor Janey, who technically holds both offices of Council President and Acting Mayor. There always was a rule that allowed the Council to remove another member in this fashion, but not the Council President. Incidentally, were the Council to remove a Council President that is Acting Mayor, it would essentially work to remove the Acting Mayor from power.

It was complicated chess.

A complex political equation.

But it received 10 votes from her colleagues – hence it being called a “warning shot.”

•ZBA Reform

This week the Home Rule Petition put forth by Councilor Edwards on reform of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was heard in the State Legislature, a Home Rule filed for Edwards by State Rep. Dan Ryan.

While many reforms were already enacted by executive order last year, the Home Rule goes further in putting term limits on ZBA members, changing the make-up and number of members and other changes.

Edwards said she had discarded the reform that would prohibit real estate professionals from serving on the ZBA, but said now that time has passed, she’s interested in revisiting that and making it part of the reform package.

She said residents can still submit comments on the Home Rule Petition and she would encourage them to do so. She would also like any other suggestions on how to reform the ZBA from the public.

•Gabriela Coletta Heads to NE Aquirium

After nearly four years of service to District One, Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards announced Chief of Staff Gabriela Coletta will move on to her next role as External Relations Manager for the New England Aquarium’s downtown waterfront planning initiative. Coletta will be leading the revitalization of the Aquarium’s HarborWalk and a campaign to ensure the downtown waterfront remains inclusive, accessible, and climate resilient for all Bostonians.

“In April 2017, almost a year to the day that I lost the senate seat, I got a call from a young woman who said, ‘if you go for it, I will be with you.’ I had no money and no way to pay her,” said Councilor Edwards. “November of that same year, we walked into Kelly’s (Square Pub in East Boston) holding hands with tears in our eyes, when she yelled ‘Ladies and gentlemen, your new city councilor!’ Gabriela is an incredible person, fiercely intelligent, and to work with her and see her grow was a privilege. I am so proud of her. She will continue to do bigger and better things. Go get ‘em Gabriela.”

Said Coletta, “It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to serve the residents of Charlestown, East Boston, and the North End. I’ve gotten a chance to meet so many people and fight alongside them during pivotal moments in our district. I’ve continued to put the community first and place the voices of residents at the center of each conversation. I’m ready to continue my commitment of working alongside residents shoulder-to-shoulder, to help better define what our neighborhoods look like, and more importantly who they are intentionally built for, for generations to come.”

Coletta first joined Councilor Edwards in 2017 as her campaign manager for the Boston City Council seat. She’s a lifelong resident of East Boston and currently lives there with her partner, Sebastian Zapata.

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