The More The City Council Changes, The More It Stays The Same

The city didn't get a totally revamped council, but rather a shuffling of the exisiting cast members.

Boston doesn’t do change very well (as I mentioned in my post on the mayoral election). That showed in Tuesday’s City Council elections, which were supposed to usher in a totally revamped political ensemble but ended up being more like replacing cast members.

So, in the role of mayorally ambitious Irish-American gadfly we will have Michael Flaherty (again) instead of John Connolly. The role of preternaturally gifted young minority will be played by Michelle Wu in place of Felix Arroyo. Mike Ross gives way to Josh Zakim as the Jewish intellectual downtown progressive, and Tim McCarthy replaces Rob Consalvo as the nuts-and-bolts Hyde Park constituent-services guy.

The rest of the cast and crew return intact, including alleged dinosaur Bill Linehan of South Boston, who held off a second challenge from Suzanne Lee; Stephen Murphy, who appeared vulnerable to the crop of fresh at-large faces; Charles Yancey, whose Quixotic mayoral tilt prompted several challengers to take him on; Frank Baker, the first-termer from Dorchester who many expected to have a rehash of his bitter 2011 battle; and Sal LaMattina, a large chunk of whose district was at the polls soundly rejecting the casino package he campaigned for.

So the council won’t look a whole lot different than it did before. But it will be different, nonetheless.

This council, unlike those of recent times, will begin entirely unyoked by the man across the hall. Ayanna Pressley, who topped the ticket again, is now her own political powerhouse. Michelle Wu, who won nearly 60,000 votes in her first appearance on the public stage, is well on her way to that status if she avoids mistakes, and she seems congenitally incapable of making them. Michael Flaherty and Stephen Murphy have their own independent identities and support. And the district councilors, old and new, are for the most part beholden to new mayor Marty Walsh for nothing.

Over time, Walsh will undoubtedly wield the machinery of City Hall to tether many of them. But for now, this is a body free to flex its muscles and exert its presence. If they choose to do so—and can find common ground on which to work—this could be a very different City Council, whether the electorate intended it or not.