On Dec. 1 at 6pm an assortment of elected officials including Mayor-elect Joe Ganim will participate in inaugural ceremonies scheduled for McLevy Green Downtown. On Dec. 7 the new City Council will conduct its first meeting with the marquee agenda item selection of City Council president. The pol who has led the legislative and budget making body since December 2007 Tom McCarthy says he will once again seek the top spot. And according to a number of council insiders he may well have the votes locked up.
McCarthy became council president the week after Bill Finch won the mayoralty in 2007. As deputy director of Labor Relations McCarthy also serves at the pleasure of the mayor. So during Finch’s eight years as mayor McCarthy’s had the dual role as head of the legislative branch of government while serving at the pleasure of the mayor that his critics say compromised checks and balances in government. McCarthy asserts serving at the discretion of the mayor has no bearing in how he conducts himself as council president. The City Charter prohibits city employee councilors but City Attorney Mark Anastasi has rationalized that state law allows it.
McCarthy enjoyed his council role enough that he sometimes bypassed political opportunities for election to the state legislature. McCarthy remained loyal to Finch even after Finch’s primary loss to Ganim, following Finch’s lead to support Mary-Jane Foster in the general election.
McCarthy could have jumped on Ganim’s campaign ship, but remained firm he did not believe Ganim’s return would be good for the city, irrespective of McCarthy’s alliance with Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, a strong Ganim supporter. Ganim and McCarthy are not strangers. McCarthy, 41, was in his mid-20s fresh out of law school when he became active in city campaigns including Ganim’s reelection in 1999. He landed a job with the city and won election to the City Council in 2001.
Council president is a key position in shepherding through the mayor’s proposed budget and deciding committee assignments as well as the various other council business such as approving ordinances, development contracts and appointments to boards and commissions. It’s not always easy keeping 19 others in line. Council president is also next in line if the mayor cannot serve.
Will Ganim and McCarthy get along? Depends on a number of factors. Ganim, as the chief executive, will first analyze if he wants to keep McCarthy on the payroll. He’ll also examine the other council members seeking the presidency. Will they be any better than McCarthy? How much political capital does Ganim want to expend trying to deliver someone over McCarthy?
From the city charter:
The mayor shall preside at the meetings of the city council, but shall have no vote therein except in case of a tie. The mayor shall not vote to break a tie in the election of city council president or adoption of an ordinance …
At the beginning of each term of office the city council shall elect from among its members one council member to be president of the city council who shall serve for a term until November 30 of the next odd-numbered year or until the president of the council’s successor has been elected. The president of the city council shall preside in the absence of the mayor, and when so presiding shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the absence of the mayor and the president of the city council at any meeting, the city council may choose one of its members to act as president for the occasion who, when so presiding, shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the event of the death, resignation or inability to act of the president of the city council, the council shall elect another president in his place …
In the event that the mayor is temporarily absent or temporarily disabled and is, because of such absence or disability, unable to perform the duties of his office, the president of the city council shall possess all of the powers and perform all of the duties of the mayor until the mayor is able to act.
In the event that a vacancy occurs, for any reason, in the office of mayor, the president of the city council shall act as mayor, until the office of mayor is filled as provided in subSection (c) of this section.