It’s a new year. New decade. New Boston City Council. New city charter?
At the beginning of a new council term, with progressive-minded councilors holding a super-majority, Councilor Lydia Edwards is calling for a hearing to review the city’s charter — what could ultimately become an effort to give the council more power by taking some away from the mayor.
The request will be introduced to the full council at a meeting Wednesday, and will likely be sent to a committee.
Any effort to amend the charter, the city’s official governing structure, would need citywide voter support in a referendum, or an act by the state Legislature. But the call for a hearing is the first step toward that effort, and the strongest push by a councilor in recent times to head in that direction.
“Bostonians deserve a government that is responsive to the needs of their daily lives and tackles the fundamental challenges of our time,” said Edwards, of East Boston, a sophomore councilor who helped shape some of the council’s boldest legislation over the last two years — including efforts that pushed Mayor Martin J. Walsh to the left.
Edwards, a former labor and housing lawyer, spearheaded the city’s approval of a real estate transfer tax, for instance, and helped draft regulations governing the short-term rental industry.
“It’s critical we ask residents whether the structure of city government today is capable of delivering what the people want,” she said.
In recent years, particularly as more progressive members have joined the body, councilors have lambasted their relatively weak role in city government, as the city charter places most power in the mayor’s office. Councilors have complained, for instance, about their inability to alter or reject individual line items within the budget; they have to say yes or no to the budget as a whole.
Councilors have also grumbled about their limited say over development projects.
In the last election campaign, council candidates debated the structure of the School Committee, whose members are appointed by the mayor, and whether those members should be elected — and whether student members of the body should have voting powers.
Though Boston was incorporated as a city in 1822, its modern charter dates back to 1909. It has been amended multiple times, most recently in 1993, when the city drafted new rules for filling council vacancies.
Edwards did not immediately recommend any specific changes to the charter, though her request for a hearing suggests the council could look into the strong-mayor form of government, as well as the setup of the School Committee.
“It is critical the form of government in the city of Boston involve, activate and empower residents of our city in holistic and democratic deliberation over the future of our communities,” Edwards said. “I believe it is now time to engage in an inclusive, citywide discussion.”
Walsh’s office said Monday it is reviewing the request.