City Councilor Michael Ross vowed to make City Council more open to the public and take immediate action to counteract the financial crises facing Boston residents after council members unanimously voted him City Council president on Monday.
Ross (Fenway, Kenmore, Back Bay), who will be Boston’s first Jewish council president, received a unanimous vote from the council after making an agreement in October with former opponent City Councilor At-Large Stephen Murphy. Ross agreed to appoint Murphy as council vice president if Murphy withdrew his bid for council president.
‘I accept this responsibility at a time of great challenge,’ Ross said at the meeting. ‘Crisis is hitting home and hitting us hard. It is important that this council gets to work right away.’
Although the council usually waits until February to take action, at which time all committee members will have been selected and oriented, Ross promised to situate committee chairs by next week to make way for immediate action. He cited the foreclosure crisis, state budget cuts and the rising costs of heating and food as reasons behind this decision. City Council will reconvene Jan. 14.
Ross said he will also be forming a committee to explore how the recession will affect Boston residents.
Councilor Chuck Turner began the meeting by acknowledging the financial crisis and the ‘problems that seem unsolvable’ by bringing in representatives of the ‘major faiths’ to lead the opening prayers and provide the ‘spiritual intellect’ necessary to lead the ‘political intellect.’
Turner, who was indicted in December for taking bribes, began proceedings in the absence of a council president because he is the oldest member of City Council, in accordance with council rules.
Mayor Thomas Menino, who arrived after the vote, called for teamwork from the council to counteract the nationwide financial crisis in these ‘difficult times.’
As part of his pledge to make City Council more accessible, Ross invited the city’s small business leaders ‘to run the front line’ of the financial crisis. Ross said he will work toward having all city documents filed electronically and posted online and for more meetings to be held at night in neighborhood venues.
‘A government works best when it takes the time to listen,’ he said.
Ross said after the meeting that he is honored to be the first Jewish council president. His father, Steve Ross, who survived 10 concentration camps during the Holocaust, attended the meeting.
‘It’s taught me to care for those that need care most,’ Ross said of learning from his father’s experiences.
Ross succeeds Councilor Maureen Feeney (Dorchester), who said in a statement released yesterday that she is looking forward to ‘a renewed focus’ on serving the constituents in her district and is happy to have Ross as her successor. Feeney finished out her second term as council president in 2008, and according to council rules, council presidents cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
‘I could not be more pleased and proud of the Council’s unanimous vote today to elect Councilor Mike Ross as the next president of our body,’ she said in an email to the Daily Free Press. ‘Mike has distinguished himself as a passionate and tireless advocate for the people of Boston and I have such great confidence in his ability to lead this Council in these challenging times.’
Ross is the designated councilor for the Fenway and Back Bay regions, in which many of Boston University’s students reside. He was an avid supporter of the Boston Zoning amendment, which passed in March and limited the number of unrelated undergraduate students allowed to live in an apartment to four.
Staff writer Camille Roane contributed reporting to this article.