^ Council President Stephen Murphy

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Boston, October 2, 2013 at 2.45 PM —- Stephen Murphy, Boston City Council president, is not at all happy with having the City’s arbitration with the Patrolmen’s Union bounced back to the Council for a yes or no.

“I’m angriest at the Mayor,” Murphy told me. “We’ve been good to him on all his projects, and now that he’s out the door he hands this to us. No, I’m not happy.” In fact, Murphy is angrier than that quote. He shares with me some not-so-choice words about Mayor Menino.

Murphy doesn’t know when there’ll be a Council hearing on whether to accept the award, which gives the Patrolmen a 25,4% raise over several years. “First the award has to get to us,” he said. “it hasn’t. I need to see what’s in it before I know how to vote.”

Will it come before the election five weeks from now ? Murphy isn’t even sure of that. One hears the frustration in his voice.

Murphy also doesn’t know if he will have the Council as a whole do the hearing or give it to District 9 Councillor mark Ciommo’s committee.

His beef isn’t with the award itself, which he hasn’t seen the details of. “There hasn’t been a lot of public outcry about the award, though the media want to make it one,” he tells me. But when questioned about the Walsh legislation — House Bill 2467 — that Connolly has cited, Murphy agrees that “it is a mistake” to take away the Council’s authority to approve or turn down arbitration awards.

The issue thus continues. It will definitely be raised by Connolly time and again. And parried by Walsh again and again. Meanwhile, Tom Menino walks out the political door with a “who, me ?” shrug.

—- Michael Freedberg



^ planting his flag in precincts of color : Marty Walsh at Bartlett Street Garage (ward 9 Precinct 5)

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Marty Walsh’s big effort to win at least a majority of voters of color continues. He is getting advice from a respected operative who knows where Walsh should up, and he is showing up and doing it relentlessly. It is essential if Walsh intends to get into the win game for November. Why ? Let us look at the numbers. (I ask my readers’ indulgence on this. It’s a lot of statistics to read, but voting is measured in statistics. They matter totally.)

We have selected 40 precincts dominated by voters of color, by which we mean Black community voters, not Cape Verdean or Hispanic. 40 precincts is, I think, a lot fairer to both candidates than the Globe’s recent one-precinct story featuring a precinct that is far from typical. Here is the list, and the September 24th result. Keep in mind that by far the majority of voters picked Golar-Richie, Barros, Clemons, and even Arroyo.

Ward 12 Precincts 2 and 4
(along the West side of Blue Hill Avenue) ……….. Connolly 68 Walsh 55
Ward 12Precincts 6 and 8
(further up the west side of Blue Hill Avenue to Grove Hall)
…………………………………………………………….          Connolly 42 Walsh 37
Ward 12 Precincts 3 and 5
(along Warren Street along M. L. King Blvd) ……. Connolly 48 Walsh 46
Ward 12 Precincts 7 and 9
(south of M. L. King Blvd to Seaver Street) ……..  Connolly 93 Walsh 73
Ward 14 complete (14 precincts)
(easterly side of Blue Hill Ave from Fayston Street all the way to walk Hill Street, and across Blue Hill west to Harvard St from Talbot Ave south) .. Connolly 479 Walsh 371
Ward 18 Precincts 3 and 21 (Almont Field area) .. Connolly 125 Walsh 81
Ward 18 Precincts 2 and 4 (Mattapan Sq)………… Connolly 85 Walsh 77
Ward 18 Precinct 15 (along River Street, railroad underpass to Hungtington Ave)\
…………                                                                     Connolly 54 Walsh 29
Ward 10 Precinct 7 (Bromley Heath housing)…… Connolly 29 Walsh 27
Ward 11 Precincts 2 aand 3 (along Washington Street from Cedar Street to Columbus Ave)
…………                                                                     Connolly 60 Walsh 60
Ward 17 Precincts 1 and 3 (Washington Street Dorchester from Park Street south)
…………                                                                     Connolly 80 Walsh 108
Ward 17 Precincts 5 and 7 (Codman Sq. west) … Connolly 33 Walsh 40
Ward 17 Precincts 8 and 10 (Codman square South and Norfolk Street west)
………….                                                                   Connolly 84 Walsh 68
Ward 15 Precincts 2 and 8 (Richfield Street / Bowdoin-Geneva and Charles Street north of
Fields Corner ………………………………………….       Connolly 45 Walsh 71
TOTAL VOTE IN 40 PRECINCTS ………………….       Connolly 1357 Walsh 1188

On Final election day these 40 precincts will likely cast a total of about 16,000 votes. If so, it means that about 13,470 votes are up for grabs, with — if the September proportions hold — an advantage to Connolly of about eight points = 1100 votes. It’s a small advantage, but as the precinct numbers show, it was, except for areas close to Walsh’s Dorchester, a consistent one for Connolly. Given how poorly Walsh performed on Primary day outside of his South Boston / seaside Dorchester base, it’s a consistent 1100 vote loss he can’t afford. But there is more to it for him than just the 1100 votes. Look:

White candidates of good will often campaign in Black communities not simply to try to win Black voters’ votes. These candidates know that many white voters are watching them and are assured of these candidates’ progressive or reformist bona fides thereby. Walsh’s serious effort in Boston’s most Black voter precincts is thus an effort to impress white voters in neighborhoods dominated by progressive or reformist whites, all of which he lost decisively on September 24th. He can’t BE Felix Arroyo, or John Barros, and certainly can’t do Charlotte Golar-Richie; but he can try to impress their white, reformist allies.

Will it work ? It might. All depends on how strongly progressive or reformist voters rate winning voters of color’s confidence, compared to the campaign’s hottest agenda issues : school reform, jobs and the building boom, the bicycle/Hubway movement, restaurants and liquor licences, diversity in the police force and Mayor’s cabinet. Yet even if Walsh’s larger objective fails, the vigor of his campaign in the 40 precincts (and some others) will keep him from being beaten decisive therein by John Connolly. This is no minor factor. Historically, Boston’s communities of color have been much more easily drawn to patrician, even Brahmin reformers like Connolly than to candidates with rough edges and laborer’s hands, who Marty Walsh personifies.

Anybody who meets Walsh sees pretty quickly that he is as passionate a reformer as he is about Labor. The only question is, how many voters of color will meet him ? And believe him ? His success on Novemnber 5th probably depends on it.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



As many of you reading this already know, we put Annissa Essaibi George on Here and Sphere’s suggested” list for the Primary. Of her we said the following :

a Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) activist, Essaibi-George has the radiance, class, and articulation for which Boston Public school teachers are justly respected. We met her and liked her instantly, and mot just because she’s from Dorchester, with strong support in East Boston as well (where she teaches at East Boston High School). She runs a small business, and has time, somehow, to also be a neighborhood activist. We think no one will outwork her on the Council, and definitely her voice for the BTU is needed, even if the BTU itself sometimes misses the political bulls-eye.”

Everything we said of Essaibi-George then, we found to be just as true as we had observed of her. We met her in the home neighborhood, that part of Dorchester centered on St., Margaret’s Church. It’s where the late House Speaker John McCormack lived, and it’s where Marty Walsh was born and still lives. Essaibi-George was born and grew up here too — and keeps her campaign headquarters nearby as well. (And yes, it was open with volunteers busy when we met her.)

Despite the exotic name — her Father came from Tunisia; George is her married name — Essaibi-George is a total Dorchester kid. She has the accent and she knows the people. When we met her at the Sugar Box on “Dot Ave” she was just finishing an intense discussion with District Three Councillor Frank Baker, who also grew up close to St. Margaret’s and still lives there.

We and Baker said our hello’s, and he left for other business, and we asked Essaibi George (AEG below) the questions we always ask of Council candidates. The first question that Here and Sphere (HnS) asks is, “what unique qualities do you bring to the Council if elected ?”

This answer we already knew : as a Boston Teachers Union memeber and activist, she will be a voice for teachers : who are, after all, the focal point of Boston’s most costly and biggest single city department.

HnS : What school reforms do you see as needed ?

AEG : “A lot of Catholic schools end in the eighth grade. We need to ramp up what we are doing in our high schools so bthat parents feel better about sending kids to them. Not every kid gets the exam schools. Each of our high schools needs to be partnered with a union, a big business, or a university. To give the kids hands-on training connected to learning. Bio-tech firms need to be in this mix). More than once a year. Let our kids see what it’s like to work. Universities: let sophomores at BU (Boston University) come to the high schools and mentor our kids. Our kids need to know what it’s like to go to college. They need to see what it’s like to do the work (that’s expected of them) in college.”

HnS : The BRA — replace it or reform it ?

AEG : “Reform it.. Don’t get rid of it. Community opinion (should be) heavily weighted.”

HnS : Doesn’t that simply enable NIMBY ?

AEG : NIMBY comes from a neighborhood not being included. There has been undue dumping of low quality housing in some neighborhoods. And too many methadone clinics. These are often for-profit, and the more people they can run through their system, the more profit. And the neighborhood ends up having to deal with it.”

HnS : As for neighborhood development, what about liquor licenses ?

AEG : “Every neighborhood has different characteristics. Again, if the neighbors feel that a liquor license is needed or useful, then the City should be able to grant it. And if it isn’t needed, then not.”

HnS : Do you agree with what Marty Walsh said a couple months back, that there os a heroin epidemic in Boston ?

AEG : “There is a heroin epidemic and a mrthadone epidemic. We need to hold the methadone clinics resposnsible for the quality of their care. Care and supervision needed.”

That discussion that we mentioned her having with Councillor Baker was, so she told us, about when the Council hearing would be held to discuss the 25.5% BPPA arbitration award — Baker did not yet know when it would be held. The subject being mentioned, we of course had to ask — indeed, she insisted we do so :

HnS : “All right then, what IS your opinion of the BPPA award ? Can we assume it is the same as everybody else’s ?

AEG : “I support the award ! We’ve negotiated, and we should make the decision before it gets to arbitration. After 24 negotiating sessions we should be able to settle ! Otherwise why have negotiations ?”

On this resolution she and we disagree. But we were impressed to find her giving so forthrightly a contrary opinion to our own. She has a point : how can a labor negotiation not reach settlement after 24 bargaining sessions ? The question wants to answer itself. Besides, we actually prefer to see diversity of opinion on the Boston City Council. If all four at-Large Councillors agree on matters, why have four of them at all ?


^ the candidate in West Roxbury, meeting voters at ward 20 Precincts 10 and 14, on Primary night

Essaibi-George finished seventh in the Primary. We’ll be looking to see her in the areas she is now focusing on, including, of course, West Roxbury and Jamiaca Plan. She has the active support of Catherine O’Neill, who was on our “suggested” list as well but finished ninth and thus missed “the top eight cut.” O’Neill comes from the opposite end of Dorchester and, as a television hostess and published playwright, has a different following from Essaibi-George’s but one that complements it. Did we mention that the Firemen of local 718 also support her ? They do.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : Our summer intern, Dave Morrison, contributed important research and reporting to this profile.