BOSTON MAYOR FINAL : THE POLICE AWARD…AND THE BTU

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^ Payday for the Police — the arbitrator says so

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My first reaction to the award, by an arbitrator, of a four-year pay raise of 25.4%, has already been published by Here and Sphere’s big-name media rivals : it saddles the incoming mayor with a big headache.

True enough. But it also impacts the campaign going on now, something that none of our media neighbors has addressed at all. Here’s why, and how:

1. It poses a big problem for Marty Walsh — and also an opportunity: IF he grabs it. First, the problem : Marty is already perceived as “the union guy.” He can NOT go lightly on the police award. Nor can he go tough, for no one will believe him. He can avoid the issue altogether and say it’s a City Council issue — which it is; but that hardly shows leadership.

Yet Marty knows how to show leadership — in a big way. He did it with his City Hall sale proposal. Big leadership here would be to address Police department reform, top to bottom, new Commissioner included, as he has already done at Mayor Forums. If not now, when ?

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^ Marty Walsh : handed a lemon, needs to make lemonade

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^ John Connolly : opportunities aplenty in the police award… and the Boston Teachers Union

2. For John Connolly the issue is simpler but not risk-free. People know that he doesn’t favor this award. He will likely say so, and that the Council must reject it. But that won’t be enough. He should use the matter to talk about Police Department reform generally, including diversity in the higher ranks and what sort of a Police Commissioner he is looking for.  Take the long-term view, for sure. it will comport with Connolly’s follow-the-consequences approach to school reform.

If both Walsh and Connolly can turn the police award lemon into police reform lemonade, the cooking looks less favorable to Walsh when we turn to the Boston Teachers Union (BTU):

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^ The BTU’s Richard Stutman : his (and his team’s) decision could decide the future of Boston school reform — and the election

Walsh simply can NOT, politically, come to terms with the BTU. Having “tied his hands,” as the Boston Globe put it, to labor, Walsh has no perception room at all to accommodate the City’s major public employee Union. He almost MUST adopt the program of school reform that business leaders want. After all, how is he to gain any traction at all in Wards 3, 4, and 5 — where most of the City’s business leaders live, if they live in the City at all, and where he was beaten 2 to 1, 3 to 1, even 4 to 1, by Connolly on Primary Day — if he does not go all-in with school reform ?

Not surprisingly, Walsh has begun to talk more and more about recruiting businesses — going to other cities and states to do so — to come to Boston. This is language we usually associate with Governors of Texas and South Carolina. It’s Chamber of Commerce talk. It’s certainly a good idea for a guy perceived as a labor voice — as Walsh says, if there’s not business, there’s no jobs. But it’s an agenda that implies a school reform in line with what technology-savvy businesses want to see happen. They’ve made it plain that locating in Boston means having a pool of school graduates who can at least do entry-level jobs — something that Walsh has talked about in detail at Mayor Forums.

Walsh’s union base isn’t the City’s unions — except for the Firemen of local 718. his core support — his door-knocking army — is the building trades, who work for private businesses. Good jobs for their children is what they want, any way that Walsh can get them. Reform the schools as “philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and non-profits,’ in the language of a BTU objection, puts it ? If that’s what it takes, yes. It gives Walsh a pathway out of Downtown-vote poverty.

Meanwhile, John Connolly has made enough of an impression upon Boston’s business community that he has loads of political room to work out school reform with the BTU. It would be the only union in his orbit. Keep in mind that school reform isn’t this election’s number one issue because corporate education reformers made it so. It is number one because Connolly made it his theme.

For this very reason, I suggested in an earlier column that the BTU should have endorsed Connolly as one of its two primary picks, saying something like “we differ with Connolly and how to reform our schools, but we endorse him simply for having made schools the election ‘s top issue.” Now, it appears, that discussion is actually taking place. And for good reason. Connolly was a public school teacher; his children attend public schools; and he has the trust of the business community and of Boston public school parents. If either candidate can credibly reach — SHOULD reach — a working accommodation with the BTU, it is he.

Will Walsh take the police award lemon and whip up a winning lemonade ? Will Connolly and the BTU reach an election-winning accord ? We will soon find out.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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