A standing-room only crowd filled the Boston City Council chamber this morning for the swearing in of new City Councilor Matthew J. O'Malley. The event drew scores of elected officials, labor leaders, and one notable guest from the opposite side of the fifth floor in City Hall: Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
An upbeat Menino returned to his office today for the first time in almost two weeks after he contracted a bacterial infection in his left elbow on a trip to Italy.
Wearing a dark suit and a powder blue tie, he entered the chamber to warm applause and seemed energized by the crowd, recounting familiar political advice in a brief speech ("the best poll is people on the street"); cracking a joke about his gaff the last time he administered the oath of office (he said "mayor" instead of city councilor); and hobnobbing with local luminaries (careful to avoid actually rubbing elbows).
"It's great to be back at City Hall," Menino told a crowd of reporters after he administered the oath of office to O'Malley. "Any time in the hospital is too long."
Heavy with glad handing and plaudits, the swearing-in of a new city councilor marked a strange contrast with the hearing scheduled tomorrow, when Councilor Chuck Turner will likely be thrown out of office because a jury convicted him of accepting a $1,000 bribe.
Turner attended the swearing in and quietly left, but he issued a 1,000 word statement to his supporters about why he will not resign.
"Fifty five years ago, Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955 refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus rather than submit to the tyranny of the discrimination of the South," Turner wrote in conclusion.
He also wrote that "55 years later on Dec. 1, I am refusing to give up my seat on the Council rather than submit to the prosecutorial tyranny of former US Attorney Sullivan."
But the buzz today was for O'Malley, who won a special election earlier this month to fill the seat vacated by John M. Tobin Jr. when he took a job at Northeastern University. O'Malley blushed as onlookers showered him with acclaim, the 31-year-old's face turning almost as red as his hair.
"It is such an incredible honor to be standing here today," O'Malley said in a speech in which he thanked his political mentors, parents, siblings, cousins, and even his nephews, one of whom had to be rushed out of the chamber when the 3-year-old boy burst into tears.
"More than 15 years ago, I first set foot in this camber from Boston Latin School as an intern for Councilor Peggy Davis-Mullen," O'Malley recalled. "I was struck by the concrete walls, the buzz in the hallway, and the personalities that make up our city government."
When Menino spoke to reporters after the ceremony, he describe how he scraped his elbow in the shower in Italy and then a few days later his entire arm swelled to the point he could not get his watch on his wrist. Menino contacted his doctor in the United States and went to Brigham & Women's Hospital the day after he returned to Boston.
Doctors diagnosed Menino with cellulitis, a skin infection, and septic bursitis in the left elbow. He underwent minor surgery to remove bacteria and spent three days in the hospital before returning home, where he has continued to receive antibiotics as he recovers.
He expects to be working full time again by the end of this week, Menino said, and acknowledged learning one valuable lesson during his ordeal.
"I will never again plan a vacation in November," he said.