District 1 Councilor Edwards wins citywide game of political chess with 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 citywide rule change proffered and passed by District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards during the June 16 City Council that essentially allows the Council to remove Acting Mayor Kim Janey any time they can muster the eight votes necessary.

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 newspaper, 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 right now holds both offices of Council President and Acting Mayor. JP Councilor Matt O’Malley is only serving as Interim President in Janey’s stead. 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 Edwards received 10 votes from her colleagues – hence it being called a “warning shot.”

•ZBA REFORM

This week the citywide Home Rule Petition put forth by District 1 Councilor Edwards on reform of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was heard in the State Legislature, a Home Rule re-filed for Edwards this year.

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 – including adding a renter-only seat and an urban planner seat.

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 Boston 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.

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