Boston city councilor calling for attendance accountability has missed the most meetings, minutes show

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A Boston city councilor calling for more accountability around the body’s performance has been the worst offender since the last term for meeting attendance, a metric she would like to see scrutinized in a potential assessment.

Tania Fernandes Anderson has logged seven absences at regular weekly City Council meetings since taking office in January 2022, putting her at the bottom of the pack according to publicly-posted meeting minutes that track attendance — one of the metrics she describes as being “imperative” to assessing the performance of councilors in a hearing order she’s pushing this week.

“The roles and responsibilities of Boston city councilors are fundamental to the effective governance of our city, impacting the lives of residents and shaping the future of our communities,” Fernandes Anderson states in a hearing order filed for consideration at the Wednesday Council meeting.

“It is imperative to establish clear metrics to assess the performance of Boston city councilors in fulfilling their duties to their constituents, necessitating the implementation of measurable criteria such as responsiveness to constituent inquiries, attendance at meetings and hearings, and effectiveness in advancing key policy objectives,” she goes on to state.

Analyzing metrics and accountability as they relate to accountability and transparency, Fernandes Anderson writes, “could provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of governance mechanisms, highlight areas for improvement, and foster a culture of openness and responsiveness within institutions.”

Three of four absences logged in 2023 by Fernandes Anderson — who oversaw a budget process last fiscal year that sought to cut millions from the Boston Police Department — occurred on days when the Council took big votes on public safety.

She was absent on Sept. 13, when councilors voted to reject three $850,000 grants for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, and again on Oct. 4, when four grants totaling $3.4 million were approved for the police department’s intelligence arm, over concerns the other councilors of color raised about the BRIC’s gang database.

Fernandes Anderson was also absent on Dec. 13, when the council voted, 12-0, to approve a new five-year contract for the city’s largest police union, and 6-6 to block a $13 million counter-terrorism grant for the metro Boston region.

She was present, however, and voted in favor of the federal counter-terrorism grant when, after a firestorm of criticism, it came before, and was passed by the body, 11-0-2, this term, on Jan. 31, 2024.

The hearing order she filed also calls for reviewing metrics and accountability as they relate to voting records, which she states “could offer a comprehensive understanding of elected officials’ performance, enhance public trust in the democratic process and facilitate informed decision-making by constituents.”

In the latest big vote taken by the Council, Fernandes Anderson joined at-Large Councilor Julia Mejia in voting ‘present,’ or abstaining from taking an on-the-record stance on a mayoral planning ordinance approved last week — which gave Mayor Michelle Wu the authority to create a new city planning department.

Of the 13 current councilors, Mejia was tied with Council Vice President Brian Worrell with having the second-most absences, six, since last term. Mejia was one of two councilors who voted ‘present’ on the anti-terror grant in January.

Fernandes Anderson and Mejia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Councilor Frank Baker, who chose not to seek reelection last year, was tied with Fernandes Anderson with seven absences in the 2022-23 council term, and Kendra Lara, who lost her bid for reelection, was not far behind with five absences.

Of a City Council that now makes $115,000 apiece annually, after voting themselves a raise that kicked in this past January, only Erin Murphy had perfect attendance over that 27-month time period.

The Iannella Chamber of the Boston City Council, ahead of the final meeting last year. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald, File)

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