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Road To City Hall: 39 Candidates In Boston’s City Council Race

By Mary Blake, WBZ NewsRadio 1030
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Mary Blake is an award-winning reporter and anchor who joined WBZ News...
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Signs for Boston's City Council race. (Credit: Mary Blake)

Signs for Boston’s City Council race. (Credit: Mary Blake)

BOSTON (CBS) — As hard as it’s been for Boston’s mayoral hopefuls to generate widespread interest in the September 24th Preliminary Election, it’s been even more difficult for the 39 Boston City Council Candidates.

You visit the different neighborhoods, and whether it’s Dorchester, Back Bay, Brighton or Mission Hill, it’s hard to find people well versed in the Boston City Council race.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports

Phyllis Orner lives in Jamaica Plain.

Related: Meet The Mayoral Candidates

“I’m having a tough time deciding on my choice for mayor, the candidates are all so good,” she says.”I haven’t really followed the city council race at all.”

Boston attorney Larry DiCara served on the Boston City Council from 1971 to 1981 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1983.

He blames the malaise, in part, on the summer obsession with the Whitey Bulger trial.

“I would argue that nothing is more irrelevant to the future of Boston than what a bunch of bad actors did thirty or forty years ago. Absolutely irrelevant. Yet, every camera was there, every microphone was there. Every artist was there drawing pictures. Meanwhile, we are electing a new mayor in Boston. We are electing a new city council. These will be people who will bring us, perhaps, into the middle of this century,” says DiCara.

He says at least four new city councilors will help determine Boston’s future, and he says like the mayor, councilors matter.

“Whether it’s the casino issue, or developing the Charlestown Navy Yard, or Copley Place or a tax break for Filene’s, the council is at the table,” he says.

This is not the first time Boston has had such a crowded preliminary field. Forty-one names were on the ballot in 1971.

DiCara says past experience suggests people vote for familiar names. So, he adds, candidates are working their bases.

“If there is a very high turnout in South Boston and Dorchester, that might help Michael Flaherty. If there’s a high turnout in the downtown neighborhoods, it could help Jeff Ross. If there is a high turnout in the Hispanic community, it could help Ramon Soto and Jeff Ross. If there is a high turnout in certain sections of the City, it might be good for Michelle Wu. Jack Kelly will benefit from a high turnout in some neighborhoods, so each of them has their individual strengths,” says DiCara.

They also have their individual stories.

“Not unlike Marty Walsh, Jack Kelly is not shy about being in recovery, which 30 years ago, people would have hidden. Today, he talks about it proudly. Jeff Ross is gay. A generation ago, people might not have talked about the fact that they are gay. He has been active in the gay community and I think that will get him a lot of votes. So, each of them brings their own strengths to the contest,” says DiCara.

How do the incumbents look?

“I think Steve Murphy and Ayanna Pressley, the two incumbent at large councilors, I would think they are in pretty good shape. Ayanna topped the ticket two years ago, and Steve Murphy deserves a lot of credit for not grandstanding while the mayor was sick. His stewardship of the city was exemplary. I expect they are in pretty good shape,” says DiCara.

He also says among the City Council district races, preliminaries are only being held in Districts 1, 4 ,5 and 8.

DiCara is predicting that roughly 125,000  voters will turn out, which is high by today’s standards but low by traditional standards. He says city demographics have changed dramatically in recent years, but Boston remains a small, big city.

“It’s less parochial than it was. Growing up in Dorchester, a mixed marriage was somebody from St. Gregory’s, and somebody from St. Brendan’s. People talked about how they’re moving outside the parish. These were big deals back then. So, we have a whole bunch of people who don’t have that history, but for the people who have been here a long time, I think it’s 5,000 people, and their relatives,” he said.

DiCara also says Boston is a healthy city, financially.

“We have a great bond rating. We can borrow money at very low rates. Give Tom Menino credit. He didn’t spend it if he didn’t have it , and, keeping the City in that good shape is absolutely essential. It’s not exciting, but it’s important that people grasp those issues,” he says.

DiCara urges all voters to turn out.

“The weather report for Tuesday says it’s gonna be sunny and cool. There’s no reason not to vote. Polls open at seven. They stay open until eight,” he says with a chuckle.

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