THE SIX so-called Young Turks first elected to the Boston City Council between 1998 and 2002 are already starting to gray a little, politically speaking. But voters will have an opportunity on Nov. 8 to revitalize the council again by casting two of their four at-large votes for a pair of promising newcomers.
John Connolly of West Roxbury surprised many last month with a strong finish in the preliminary. More surprising is Connolly's willingness to confront powerful interests in the city, regardless of the political fallout. Connolly, 32, supports an appeals process for excessive rent increases, placing the needs of low-income residents above the desires of the city's larger landlords. He tests the patience of the city's teachers union through his support for flexible pilot schools and defends the residency requirement for municipal workers. Connolly, a Harvard graduate, says he came to understand the power of education by teaching in a high-performing school in a low-income neighborhood. Such knowledge is needed on the council.
Sam Yoon of Dorchester has captured attention as the city's first Asian-American to run for the council. If elected, the candidate might even serve as a bridge between white and other minority councilors, who often vote in blocs. But Yoon, 35, offers more than a new civic identity. As a housing specialist in Chinatown, he understands the intricacies of downtown commercial development and how it can be leveraged to subsidize inexpensive housing units in Boston. As the father of a public school student, Yoon knows the importance of maintaining steady educational progress. Yoon wants to focus on citywide challenges, such as improving business districts near MBTA stations. The council would be stronger for his presence.
Incumbent Felix Arroyo of Jamaica Plain seems to have quickly captured the role once held by former councilor Mickey Roache: the middle-aged, comforting fixture on the council with the ability to attract votes citywide. The 57-year-old Arroyo, who became the council's first Hispanic member in 2002, fights for poor residents who are priced out of the housing market. But it is his overarching commitment to fairness, not his legislative efforts, that provides stability. He deserves reelection to a second full term.
Council President Michael Flaherty of South Boston can be overly cautious at times, preferring to play it safe for a future mayoral run. But he remains a candidate with wide knowledge of city operations who deserves reelection. Flaherty, 36, got a personal reminder recently about the perils of crime when a random bullet narrowly missed him and an aide. The three-term councilor appears energized and ready to fight for a safer, healthier city.