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Marty Walsh inaugurated; Boston City Council picks Bill Linehan as president

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Marty Walsh inaugurated; Boston City Council picks Bill Linehan as president
Martin J. Walsh (r) is sworn in by Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, as the first new mayor of Boston in 20 years succeeding former mayor Tom Menino. Looking on are Walsh’s family and Boston City Councilors. Holding the Bible is the new mayor’s mother. (Photo: Don West)

Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu and Josh Zakim

The new Boston and old Boston were in stark contrast Monday with the inauguration of Mayor Marty Walsh and a contentious vote for the presidency of the City Council.

At Boston College, Walsh was sworn in on a multi-racial stage with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland administering the oath of office and former state Rep. Mel King leading a group of students in song.

In City Hall, events took a more divisive turn as at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley failed to derail South Boston Councilor Bill Linehan’s ascent to the council presidency.

The 8-5 vote came on the heels of Mayor Marty Walsh’s swearing-in ceremony. Pressley and Linehan supporters packed the council’s Iannella Chamber for the vote. District 7 Councilor Tito Jackson moved to allow the candidates to make a speech before the vote.

In her remarks, Pressley stressed her experience as a city-wide councilor in securing several legislative victories she has eked out, including her home-rule petition to lift the cap on liquor licenses in Boston — a vote where Linehan was the sole dissenter.

“I’m accountable to residents in all 23 neighborhoods in the city,” Pressley said. “And my work speaks to my commitment.”

Linehan, who lined up the seven votes necessary to win the presidency well in advance of the meeting, declined to speak.

With no further deliberation, the votes were recorded. For Linehan: Frank Baker, Mark Ciomo, Sal LaMattina, Linehan, Timothy McCarthy, Steven Murphy and Michelle Wu. For Pressley: Tito Jackson, Matt O’Malley, Pressley, Charles Yancey and Josh Zakim.

Councilor Bill Linehan

While City Hall insiders had little doubt Linehan would win, a current of tension ran through the body’s deliberations Monday. As the councilors registered their votes, at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty indicated his support for Linehan referring to him as a “son of South Boston, Bill Linehan,” using an antiquated honorific often deployed on the council floor.

Voting next, Jackson indicated his support for Pressley referring to her as “representing the whole city of Boston, Ayanna Pressley.”

When newly-elected Councilor Michelle Wu indicated her support for Linehan, Pressley supporters hissed.

In his victory speech, Linehan pledged to represent the whole city in his role as council president.

“Collectively, we have received votes from every neighborhood of the city,” he said. “We have to work to make sure their voices are heard.”

Outside the Iannella Chamber, some of those voices expressed disappointment in the council’s first vote of 2014.

“How is it that a woman at the top of the ticket lost to a man who nearly got the city sued because of his leadership on the Redistricting Committee,” said Mariama White Hammond, executive director of Project HipHop.

White Hammond and other voting rights activists say Linehan attempted to re-draw the city council’s voting boundaries in a manner that violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, engaged in deliberations without holding public meetings and refused to let community groups submit maps for consideration by the council.

Linehan’s stewardship of the redistricting process earned him the enmity of black, Latino and Asian activists who were advocating council district boundaries be redrawn in ways that give candidates of color better chances of being elected. The council later voted on a compromise map that did not lessen the electoral prospects of candidates of color, but did little to expand them.

Chinese Progressive Association Executive Director Lydia Lowe said the 2014 council is showing a conservative bent.

“We’ve got a forward-looking mayor and a backward-looking council,” she said.

The council president has the power to make committee appointments and determine what is included or excluded from the council’s weekly agenda.

The battle for the council presidency surfaced the second week in December when Linehan reportedly secured pledges for seven votes. White progressives, black, Latino and Asian activists pressured Wu to withdraw support from Linehan. Wu showed up in the council chamber Monday with her own supporters and followed through on her pledge to vote for Linehan.

“The council had an opportunity to move the city in a more progressive direction,” said Gloribel Mota. “They decided not to. We’ve got new faces taking the same positions.”

NAACP Boston Branch President Michael Curry said his organization is planning to closely monitor the council and issue report cards on councilors’ votes.

“I think they failed the first test,” he said. “This was a disappointing first vote. It reminds us that we have a lot more work to do in the city of Boston.”

Walsh sworn in

The mayor, whom Lowe referred to as forward-looking, made his first entrance into the City Council chamber calling on the body to work collaboratively.

Walsh’s swearing in ceremony, held at Boston College earlier in the day, played on themes of inclusivity and openness, with the new mayor pledging to run the city with openness and inclusion.

“I will listen, I will learn, I will lead,” the mayor said in his remarks.

Walsh has been listening in the weeks leading up to his swearing-in with a series of community meetings held at Roxbury Community College and other venues around the city. He has also begun assembling a new leadership team in City Hall, appointing as chief of staff Daniel Arigg Koh, the 29-year-old former general manager of the HuffPost Live news website, as chief of Health and Human Services former at-large Councilor Felix G. Arroyo and as chief legal counsel state Rep. Gene O’Flaherty, whose district includes Charlestown and much of Chelsea.

Walsh’s first announced picks demonstrate an hybrid mix of old and new Boston with O’Flaherty, an at-times conservative-leaning Democrat, Arroyo, a labor-friendly and popular counselor and Koh, an Andover native with no experience in Boston’s politics.

The inauguration was attended by political luminaries including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Deval Patrick, former mayor Ray Flynn and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

Following his appearance in the council chamber, Walsh headed into a meeting on public safety with members of Mothers for Justice and Equality, interim Police Commissioner William Evans and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Thompkins.