Is Janey in violation of the city charter?

Calls herself mayor instead of acting mayor

WHAT’S IN A TITLE?  Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey thinks a lot.

Janey refers to herself as “Mayor Janey” in her bio and in the many press releases she puts out, although the city charter specifically states that she shall be called “acting mayor.”

Janey acquired the acting mayor position because she happened to be the City Council president when former mayor Marty Walsh stepped down to become President Biden’s labor secretary.

The lucky timing already gives her a leg up in the race for mayor, allowing her to run while exercising the power of the office. By calling herself “Mayor Janey” instead of “acting Mayor Janey,” is she trying to give herself an even greater leg up against her many campaign rivals?

Kirby Chandler, the mayor’s campaign manager, sidestepped the question with a catchy turn-of-a-phrase.

“Mayor Janey is doing the important work of mayor every day for the people of Boston,” Chandler said.  “As she’s said before, she’s not acting – she’s doing – and that’s even more important as she leads Boston to recover from the pandemic and moves us toward a more equitable future.”

Nick Martin, Janey’s chief City Hall spokesman, turns the question around. “The charter also specifies ‘he’ when describing the powers of the acting mayor,” Martin said.  “Does that mean Mayor Janey is disqualified from the role because she’s a woman? . . . She is the mayor of the city in an acting capacity at the moment. . . We’ve chosen to call her mayor.  Your question about whether terminology provides an advantage is a political one, and therefore better suited for others to debate.”

Sam Tyler, the former president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau and a veteran analyst of local campaigns, said he doesn’t think Janey is breaking the law but he does think she is using the title to gain a distinct political advantage.

“The Boston City Charter makes it clear that Kim Janey’s legal title is ‘acting mayor,’ but I don’t think her calling herself ‘mayor’ would be considered to be a violation,” Tyler said. “However, in terms of the upcoming election in what is a crowded field, that’s a different story.  Referring to herself as mayor rather than just acting mayor gives Janey even more of a political advantage that comes with being an incumbent.”