Last week saw the final meeting of City Council President Jose Tosado, who leaves the body after 10 years on the job. Tosado, of course, decided not to run for re-election this year, instead opting for an ultimately unsuccessful mayoral campaign.
I’ll admit to regarding Tosado with a jaundiced eye for much of his time in city government (he’d served on the Police Commission and the School Committee prior to coming to the Council), due to his association with former Mayor Mike Albano. Tosado helped Albano win his first election, in 1995, by working the North End vote for Albano; in return, the new mayor gave Tosado a seat on the Police Commission. Tosado benefited under Albano again a few years later, when Albano appointed his ally, long-time Councilor Brian Santaniello, secretary of the Elections Commission. That freed up Santaniello’s Council seat for Tosado, who’d been the 10th-place finisher for the then-nine-person Council in the previous election. Tosado went on to become a popular councilor, topping the ballot in both 2007 and 2009.
I got to know Tosado better during his mayoral campaign (funny enough, he issued an out-of-the-blue invitation to meet for coffee right around the time rumors of his plans to run for mayor intensified) and found him to be a nice and genuine-seeming man, with a low-key manner that was personally appealing—although, admittedly, perhaps too low key for a mayoral campaign. In an interview, Tosado cleverly deflected the notion that he was one of “Albano’s guys” (“Frankly, Mike likes to hang out with young white kids,” Tosado told me. “I didn’t fit that profile. I was 40 years old; I was married with kids.”); more important, his campaign showed some innovative thinking about addressing Springfield’s toughest problems. In the end, though, voters, apparently, were not impressed, and Tosado lost to incumbent Domenic Sarno by a brutal 72 percent to 28 percent.
Tosado, to be frank, did not appear to enjoy the more public, showman aspects of running for mayor, a disinclination that stood him in stark contrast to the gregarious Sarno, who seems most at home working a crowded room. When I spoke to Tosado shortly before Christmas, I asked if he plans to get back into politics at some point. It’s too early to say, he told me—adding, “I’m still a young guy.”
In the meantime, Tosado’s role as Council president will be filled by at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera. Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak has been elected the Council’s vice president.
Ferrera’s ascension to the Council presidency was an early Christmas present to Western Mass. Politics and Insight blogger Matt Szafranski, who has made his distaste for Ferrera blatantly clear. (See this November post questioning whether Ferrera’s hiring to a job with the scandal-plagued state Probation Department was connected to political contributions made by him and his family.) In a recent post on Ferrera’s unanimous election as Council president, Szafranski wrote, bruisingly, “The unanimity had been a surprise as several councilors were thought to object to Ferrera’s nomination. Ferrera has been known for his often gratuitous motions, insipid questions and pained understanding of basic council procedure and city business.”
I’m less surprised by the unanimous vote; while city councilors engage in all kinds of backroom dealings and back-stabbing maneuvers in the thick of a fight for the presidency, typically, by the time the public vote comes around, tempers have cooled enough for all the parties to present a not-always-persuasive show of solidarity (a tradition that makes the occasional show of insurrection all the more dramatic, such as Amaad Rivera’s snub of rival Councilor Kateri Walsh last year, when, rather than cast a vote for her to be the Council’s vice president, he simply responded “present” during the role call). Still, Szafranski’s point about Ferrera’s rocky relationship with some of his colleagues is well taken; over the years, I’ve had a couple of councilors tell me privately that they believed certain failed proposals put forth by Ferrera would have fared better had they come from a different councilor.
Szafranski did offer this sardonic praise of Ferrera’s performance at the last Council meeting: “At-large Councilor James Ferrera was voted Council President. Ferrera’s acceptance of the presidency and recognition of Tosado and at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh’s [sic] for her vice-presidency were executed without any blatant gaffes on his part.”