Council debates Special Election Home Rule Petition; Moves to Committee

District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards is now in the process of scheduling a hearing to review and discuss a Home Rule Petition that would be sent to the State Legislature requesting that a potential mayoral Special Election in June be waived.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Council debated hotly the Home Rule presented by Hyde Park Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, but moved it to a hearing in Edwards’s Committee.

This Wednesday, she said she hadn’t scheduled that hearing and there was plenty of time.

Mayor Martin Walsh is still serving as mayor though he has accepted the nomination from President Joe Biden to be the U.S. Labor Secretary. He would need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can start the job, and his hearings have yet to begin. However, five nominees for Cabinet positions have already started their hearings this week, and it is expected Mayor Walsh would begin his confirmation hearings next week some time. He is expected to have no trouble clearing the Senate.

Were he approved on that timeline, it would mean an exit well before the March 6 cut-off and would trigger a Special Election by order of the City Charter. Councilor Arroyo is asking that the City be allowed to ignore that part of the Charter and move on to a Preliminary in September and the Municipal Election in November to decide the next mayor.

Arroyo said he believes a Special Election would be too dangerous and could suppress the vote of minority communities in Boston.

“Holding an unnecessary and redundant Special Election for the position of Mayor of Boston would endanger the health of Boston residents during a deadly pandemic, exacerbate an already uncertain financial future for the City, and contribute to existing inequities often seen in special elections that contribute to the disenfranchisement of immigrant, low-income, disabled, Black, and Latinx communities,” he said.

Council President Kim Janey would become Acting Mayor when Walsh leaves his seat, and would stay until the results of the Special Election, or until next January if the Special Election were waived.

Edwards has already told the newspaper she won’t run for mayor, and also told media members she didn’t know why anyone would want to run.

Her Committee will review the Home Rule request, and potentially report it out of Committee – or not. Were it to clear the Committee, it would need approval of the full Council. Then it would be sent to the State Legislature. There, both houses would need to pass the measure, and Gov. Charlie Baker would have to sign it. That process usually takes two or three months, but can be sped along if time is of the essence.

The City Charter indicates that if there is a vacancy in the mayoral seat within 16 months of the last Municipal Election, a Special Election must take place. The cutoff on that process is March 6, and Walsh is expected to leave well before that, thus requiring an act of the State Legislature to waive any Special Election.

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