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In Tobin’s Absence, Work for District 6 Goes On

City Hall staffers, At-Large councilors pitch in to take on West Roxbury concerns.

When West Roxbury's City Councilor John Tobin resigned his seat last month to take a job at Northeastern University, District 6 lost its primary elected official and neighborhood advocate. The district did not; however, lose its voice in City Hall, with officials from the Council and Mayor Thomas Menino's office picking up the constituent services slack created by the vacancy.

City Councillor At-Large John Connolly lives in West Roxbury and has taken on many of the neighborhood's concerns.

"I view my role as trying to step in as the district councilor, at least until the next district councilor is elected," Connolly said.

Connolly said that his office has experienced an increase in constituent calls from residents who may have previously relied on Tobin.

There has "definitely been an uptick" in calls from the area, Connolly said.

Connolly said he thinks many District 6 residents saw he and Tobin as a team already, and many are now coming to him because of his familiarity with the Parkway area.

"I'd say 50 percent of my neighborhood calls come from West Roxbury already and there's a lot of stuff John Tobin and I would team up on," he said.

As part of a greater emphasis on reaching out to the West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale communities, Connolly said he plans to hold regular office hours at the Roche Bros. supermarket on Friday mornings starting in September.

"John did a great job with response," Connolly said, adding that he wants to fill that role.

Connolly said there is no typical call that comes into City Hall, describing situations involving everything from traffic concerns, trash pickup, block parties, permitting, zoning and school issues.

"The bottom line is, it all revolves around basic quality of life concerns," Connolly said.

Several former members of Tobin's staff are still working at Tobin's old office in City Hall, now simply referred to as the "District 6 office."

"The residents of District 6 are extremely lucky to have Dave Isberg," said Council President Mike Ross.

The remaining staff in the District 6 office work on any piece of constituent service that does not require the role of a councilor, according to David Isberg, Tobin's former chief of staff, who is now leading the district office.

"Basically, what happens is that the councilor resigns, the staff remains until the new person is sworn in," Isberg said.

Ross said that he is "satisfied that residents of District 6 do have a place to call and do have an advocate." Ross said that Connolly is the logical resource for residents to reach out to. At-Large Councilor Felix Arroyo, a Jamaica Plain resident, is also available to help with district issues, Ross said.

When issues come up that need direct attention from a councilor, such as a zoning or licensing issue, Isberg said, the District 6 team sends the call to Connolly or Arroyo to follow up.

Mayor Thomas Menino told Patch that Chris Tracy, his neighborhood liaison for West Roxbury, is available to handle any resident calls too.

"You know, we're a multi-service operation," Menino said.

City Hall sources say the new city councilor could be sworn in by Menino either just before or after Thanksgiving, if the election results are certified and other technicalities are taken care of promptly.

The primary election is taking place on Oct. 19 and the special election to determine the district councilor is on Nov. 16. Currently, there are three candidates for the race with Democrats Sean Ryan,  Jim Hennigan and Matt O'Malley.

To reach Connolly's office, please call 617-635-3115; or to reach Tracy, please call 617-635-3485.

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