Boston City Council
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Boston City Council

Boston City Council
Coat of arms or logo
Seal of Boston
1909 (current form)
Council President
Seats13 officially non-partisan
9 district councilors
4 at-large councilors
BSC 21.png
Length of term
2 years
First past the post; block voting for the at-large district
Last election
November 2021
Next election
November 2023
Meeting place
2010 CouncilChamber Boston City Hall 16.jpg
Boston City Hall
Boston City Charter

The Boston City Council is the legislative branch of government for the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is made up of 13 members: 9 district representatives and 4 at-large members. Councillors are elected to two-year terms and there is no limit on the number of terms an individual can serve. Boston uses a strong-mayor form of government in which the city council acts as a check against the power of the executive branch, the mayor. The Council is responsible for approving the city budget; monitoring, creating, and abolishing city agencies; making land use decisions; and approving, amending, or rejecting other legislative proposals.

The leader of the City Council is the president and is elected each year by the Council. A majority of seven or more votes is necessary to elect a councillor as president. When the Mayor of Boston is absent from the city, or vacates the office, the City Council president serves as acting mayor. The president leads Council meetings and appoints councillors to committees.


Prior to 1909, Boston's legislative body consisted of an eight-member Board of Aldermen and a Common Council made up of three representatives from each of the 25 wards in the city. When the Boston City Charter was rewritten in 1909, the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council were replaced by a nine-member City Council.[1] All nine councillors were elected at-large for terms lasting two years. The new charter also gave the Mayor the power to veto all acts of the City Council. The first council meeting as a unicameral body occurred on February 7, 1910.[2]

The procedure for electing city councillors was changed by Chapter 479 of the Acts of 1924, which provided for the election of 22 city councillors, one from each ward, beginning with the biennial election in 1925. The procedure was changed again by Chapter 356 of the Acts of 1951, which provided for the election of nine city councillors, all at large, for two-year terms.[3]

In November 1981, Boston voters approved again changing the composition of the Council, to 13 members: 9 district representatives and 4 at-large members.[4]

District representation

The 1981 referendum establishing the current 13 member composition of the Council did not indicate how the district lines would be drawn, only that the districts be of approximately equal population[4] and district lines not cut across city precincts.

The Council created a districting committee to propose several different possible district maps and hold public hearings before presenting one plan to the Council to approve.[4] State law required the City Council to make a final decision on the districts within 90 days of being notified that the referendum had officially passed, meaning that the Council voting on the districts would be the 1982 Council, not the 1981 Council creating them.[4] Then-president Patrick McDonough, who opposed district representation, appointed Rosemarie Sansone, a major advocate of district representation, as chair of the districting committee, but chose Frederick C. Langone, Dapper O'Neil, and John W. Sears as the other three members, all of whom opposed district representation.[5] Both Langone and O'Neil would be returning to the Council in 1982, but Sansone did not run for re-election in 1981 and would not be able to vote on the district boundaries if the committee did not work quickly to present a plan to the Council before the end of the year.[4] Public hearings over possible district boundaries were full of heated debate between advocates of drawing lines to protect neighborhood unity and advocates of drawing lines to create two predominantly minority districts and give minorities a voice in local government.[6] Contention centered around Dorchester and the South End. Dorchester, Boston's largest neighborhood, needed to be split into at least two districts.[7] A simple split in half would create either a north and a south district or an east and a west district.[7] An east district would be largely White (75% or greater) and a west district would be largely African-American. North and south districts would have less extreme majorities. Many residents were opposed to both divisions, stating that they would increase racial segregation in Dorchester and continue the political powerlessness of minorities.[7] A more complicated split taking into account areas with large minority populations would create one predominantly minority district and one predominantly white district but treat Dorchester as several smaller neighborhoods to be divvied up among surrounding neighborhoods rather than as one community.[7] In various proposals, the South End, due to its location, was grouped with either South Boston or Back Bay/Beacon Hill by advocates of neighborhood unity, or Roxbury by advocates of minority-dominated districts.[5]

Two days before the 90-day deadline, freshman councillor Terrence McDermott, who had been appointed as Sansone's replacement for chair of the districting committee, presented a plan to the Council which was approved 7-2 (the dissenting votes came from Raymond Flynn and Bruce Bolling).[8][9] Today's district boundaries are only slightly different from those adopted in 1982, with the South End and South Boston forming one district, and Dorchester roughly split into an east and a west district. The Council faced more challenges after finalizing the new districts, such as whether or not district councillors should receive a lower salary than at-large councillors[10] and where office space for four additional councillors could be found in City Hall.

Acting mayors

When the Mayor of Boston is absent from the city, or vacates the office, the City Council president serves as acting mayor. The city charter places some restrictions on an acting mayor's authority:[11] an acting mayor "shall possess the powers of mayor only in matters not admitting of delay, but shall have no power to make permanent appointments."[12] Three presidents of the Boston City Council have served as acting mayors of Boston for extended periods after the Mayor vacated the office:

In June 2021, the city council granted itself the authority to remove its president by a two-thirds majority vote.[12] Should that action occur while a council president is serving as acting mayor, the role of acting mayor would be assigned to the new council president who would be elected by a simple majority of the city council.[12]

Membership milestones

Districts and current council

Council districts

By law, Boston municipal elections are nonpartisan in that candidates do not represent a specific political party. However, most city councillors have been members of the Democratic Party. John W. Sears was the first Republican elected to the Boston City Council, in 1980.[43] Chuck Turner, who served during 1999-2010, was a member of the Green-Rainbow Party. Althea Garrison, who served during 2019,[44] has identified as an independent since 2012, but formerly served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Republican.


As of January 2020, the City Council has the following committees:[45]

Standing committees
Special committees
  • Special committee on Charter Reform


The salary for councillors is half of the mayor's salary. Every four years, the Council votes on whether or not to raise the mayor's salary, thereby also raising its own salaries or not.

In June 2018, the Council voted to increase the salary of the mayor from $199,000 to $207,000, effective after the mayoral election of November 2021 (term starting in January 2022); this increased the salary of councillors to $103,500, effective after the council elections of November 2019 (terms starting in January 2020).[46][47]

City Council salaries since 1980
Year(s) Salary Ref.
1980 $20,000 [48]
1981-1986 $32,500 [49][50]
1987-1994 $45,000 [50][51]
1995-1998 $54,500 [52]
1999-2002 $62,500 [53]
2003-2006 $75,000 [54][55]
2006-2015 $87,500 [56]
2016-2019 $99,500 [56]
2020-present $103,500 [47][57]


(#) denotes different instances of a councillor serving as president

1.^ O'Neil was elected City Council president after the death of predecessor.[58]
2.^ While Kim Janey served as Acting Mayor and was absent from Council proceedings, Matt O'Malley presided over the Council.[59]

Public records of Boston City Council

  • City Departments' Annual Reports
  • Complete stenographic machine record of the public meeting of Boston City Council
  • Full text of Captions from Webcasts/Cablecasts of Boston City Council
  • City Council page at
    • Publications of Boston City Council
    • Communications of Boston City Council distributed by email
    • Communications of Council Committees

See also


  1. ^ O'Connor, T.H. (1997). Boston Irish: A Political History. New York: Back Bay Books.
  2. ^ "Boston City Council 1910-2009: Selected Accomplishments" (PDF): 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 24, 2010. Retrieved 2011. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Archives Guide ~ City Council". Archived from the original on April 28, 2015. Retrieved 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e Radin, Charles A. (November 12, 1981). "Sansone asks neighborhood input on Hub voting-district lines". The Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 294237682.
  5. ^ a b Radin, Charles A. (December 9, 1981). "Boston district debate begins with sparring over South End". The Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 294126626.
  6. ^ Ashbrook, Tom (December 15, 1981). "Dorchester speakers spar over districting proposals". The Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 294105725.
  7. ^ a b c d Radin, Charles A. (January 24, 1982). "Districts - A clash of plans". The Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 294125017.
  8. ^ Powers, John (March 7, 1982). "Neighborhood boy remaps city; Terry McDermott solved a political Rubik's Cube". The Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2009 – via
  9. ^ Jordan, Robert A. (February 25, 1982). "COUNCIL OK'S 9 DISTRICTS". The Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2018 – via
  10. ^ Jordan, Robert A. (March 4, 1982). "Issue for Hub council: What to pay district councilmen". The Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 294155654.
  11. ^ DeCosta-Klipa, Nik (January 22, 2021). "What's actually the difference between being mayor and acting mayor?". Retrieved 2021.
  12. ^ a b c McDonald, Danny (June 9, 2021). "Boston councilors pass rule change that would allow them to remove a council president, including Acting Mayor Janey". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2021.
  13. ^ "Kerrigan Faces Busy Day as Boston's Acting Mayor". The Boston Globe. January 5, 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 2021 – via
  14. ^ "Congressman Takes Job as Boston Mayor". The Tampa Tribune. January 8, 1946. Retrieved 2018 – via
  15. ^ Doherty, Joseph (January 26, 1945). "Kerrigan First World War II Vet to Head City Government". The Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2021 – via
  16. ^ "Curley Elected Mayor Of Boston 4th Time". The Philadelphia Inquirer. November 7, 1945 – via
  17. ^ "Hynes Is Temporary Mayor: Curley Starts Prison Term in Danbury, Conn. City Clerk Sworn In as Legislature Enacts Law By-Passing Kelly". The Boston Daily Globe. June 27, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved 2021 – via
  18. ^ McGrory, Brian (July 13, 1993). "Menino, 'a neighborhood guy,' now at center stage". The Boston Globe. p. 12. Retrieved 2021 – via
  19. ^ "Mayor Menino through the years". March 28, 2013. Retrieved 2021.
  20. ^ Gavin, Christopher (March 22, 2021). "Kim Janey becomes Boston's acting mayor, makes history as first Black person, woman to hold the office". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2021.
  21. ^ Gavin, Christopher (April 6, 2021). "Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey enters race to seek a full term". Retrieved 2021.
  22. ^ "Unofficial Election Results". October 3, 2016. Retrieved 2021.
  23. ^ "Mrs. Harris Wins City Council Race". The Boston Daily Globe. March 31, 1937.
  24. ^ Herman, Jennifer L. (2008). Massachusetts Encyclopedia. North American Book Distributors.
  25. ^ "Banks Finally Seated in City Council After 21-Month Contest". The Boston Daily Globe. August 7, 1951.
  26. ^ "City Council: Ayanna Pressley, At-Large". City of Boston. March 7, 2016. Archived from the original on July 13, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "Bostons first Latino City Councilor sworn in". People's World. January 23, 2003.
  28. ^ "Julia Mejia Sworn In As Boston's First Latina City Councilor". CBS Boston. January 6, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ Krone, Mark (October 10, 2013). "Boston Mayor's Race: Then and Now". Retrieved 2018.
  30. ^ Allis, Sam (December 18, 2005). "The New Kid". The Boston Globe.
  31. ^ Marston, Celeste Katz (August 25, 2021). "Mayoral candidate Michelle Wu says she's not in 'the typical mold of a Boston politician'". NBC News. Retrieved 2021.
  32. ^ "Media Faces A Delicate Issue In Covering Boston City Councilor Althea Garrison". WGBH. January 11, 2019. Retrieved 2021.
  33. ^ Woo, Elaine (October 23, 2003). "Louise Day Hicks, 87; Boston Politician Was Early Critic of Busing". The Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ "Boston Council Member Bruce Bolling Magazine Candidacy In Mayoral Race". Jet. Vol. 84, no. 12. July 19, 1993. p. 29 – via Google Books.
  35. ^ Encarnacao, Jack (January 5, 2016). "Michelle Wu takes reins as Boston City Council president". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2016.
  36. ^ "Andrea Campbell to be the next City Council president". The Boston Globe. December 9, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  37. ^ Bedford, Tori (November 3, 2021). "Tania Fernandes Anderson Makes History As Boston's First Muslim City Councilor-Elect". WGBH. Retrieved 2021.
  38. ^ "Electoral Maps". Boston Redevelopment Authority. Retrieved 2014.
  39. ^ "City Council District Map". City of Boston. Retrieved 2014.
  40. ^ "2012 Guide to Elected Officials and City Services of Boston". League of Women Voters Boston. Archived from the original on September 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  41. ^ "Boston City Council Members". City of Boston. Retrieved 2013.
  42. ^ "Erin Murphy sworn in as newest Boston city councilor at-large".
  43. ^ "Short Circuits". The Boston Globe. January 27, 1980. p. 1. ProQuest 293356284.
  44. ^ Valencia, Milton (September 6, 2018). "Finally, Althea Garrison will be a city councilor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ "Standing Committees, Special Committees". January 29, 2016. Retrieved 2020.
  46. ^ "Editorial: Elected leaders profit as we pay". Boston Herald. June 29, 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ a b Valencia, Milton J. (June 13, 2018). "Mayor, councilors could get 4% raises". The Boston Globe. p. B5. Retrieved 2019 – via
  48. ^ Richard, Ray (January 8, 1980). "Iannella new president of Boston City Council". Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 293397598.
  49. ^ Langner, Paul (September 28, 1980). "White to approve his pay hike". Boston Globe. p. 1. ProQuest 293997728.
  50. ^ a b Rezendes, Michael (January 29, 1992). "Raises will be asked for council". Boston Globe. p. 22. ProQuest 294639718.
  51. ^ Jordan, Robert A. (December 27, 1986). "Unfinished '87 business". Boston Globe. p. 25. ProQuest 294384926.
  52. ^ Aucoin, Don (December 22, 1994). "City councilors get a pay raise; Little public outcry heard as officials vote themselves 21 percent increase". Boston Globe. p. 30. ProQuest 290723825.
  53. ^ Schweitzer, Sarah (January 31, 2002). "Ross named to key post as council eyes pay issues". Boston Globe. pp. B.2. ProQuest 405438915.
  54. ^ "The rewards of public service". Boston Globe. June 29, 2003. p. 11. ProQuest 405528161.
  55. ^ Walker, Adrian (February 20, 2006). "What worth councilors?". Boston Globe. pp. B.1. ProQuest 404992402.
  56. ^ a b "Boston City Councilors OK 14 Percent Pay Raise For Themselves". Archived from the original on November 10, 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  57. ^ "Let voters decide on Boston City Council terms". The Boston Globe. February 26, 2019. Retrieved 2020.
  58. ^ Marquard, Bryan (December 20, 2007). "'Dapper' O'Neil, champion of personal politics, dies at 87". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2012.
  59. ^ {{cite web |url= |title=Meet Boston City Council's New Council President, Matt O'Malley | |date=March 31, 2021 |accessdate=April 6, 2021}.}

Further reading

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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