Sunday, June 16, 2024

In Cambridge’s form of government, most city councillors figure out how to gather buckets of No. 1 votes from a variety of different interest groups and demographics. It is risky to rely on one geographic area to get elected. But Tim Toomey made the blocks that make up East Cambridge his responsibility. He never forgot how so many East Cambridge residents lived, and that East Cambridge was a starting point for so many immigrant families.

Tim was celebrated Saturday at the naming of Timothy J. Toomey Jr. Park, praised as a 24/7/365, full-service councillor and as a kind and gentle leader. It is also important to point out what a fierce advocate he was, as well as the political strategy he executed to deliver for his neighborhood. He was politically independent and approached every interaction with a city manager and every mayoral election with precision and one goal: Helping East Cambridge.

For a period, Tim and I battled, but when I was elected mayor it was with a key vote from Tim, followed by him coming to discuss a list of things that mattered to his constituents. He wanted a state-of-the-art police station more accessible to East Cambridge, more open space and support for the Frisoli Youth Center. Tim put his feelings aside to get things done.

He also championed the Grand Junction Path and was a relentless advocate for seniors, human services and affordable housing. He was constantly visiting and caring for those in senior and public housing.

Tim walked among people. I reflect on his response to the horrific murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley in 1997 and how he stayed by the family and consoled the neighborhood for months. Many elected officials felt awkward visiting in the midst of such pain, but Tim asked all to take part in the healing.

Most unique about Tim is his willingness to break from the pack and change his mind. Most politicians are not willing to risk being in conflict with their base. Fewer are willing to acknowledge a change of heart. He allowed relationships to evolve and allowed his own perspectives to change too. He at first supported the death penalty for the killer of Jeffrey Curley, but came to oppose it. He took time to explain his change of thinking in a personal and respectful way to his supporters. He also shifted on other really sensitive political issues. He did not pretend to always know the answer. Rather than let political vengeance or stubbornness control, he was open to change. Tim is one of the most incredibly complicated and purely simple people you will meet.

Working-class East Cambridge is hard to keep happy – a tough crowd, to say the least – but Tim proved East Cantabrigians are as loyal as they are tough. Trust comes hard with folks who are used to seeing the short end, and Tim knew that. Only Tim, with his daily grind and humility, could have presented a consistent voice that East Cambridge could trust.

Well done, Tim Toomey. You’re one of a kind.

Anthony Galluccio, Trowbridge Place

Anthony Galluccio served with Tim Toomey for many years on the City Council and in the state Legislature.