BOSTON POLICE PAY RAISE : THE CITY COUNCIL SETS A TRAP

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^ trapped — and not by a thing called love : Mayor-elect Marty Walsh

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At my first hearing of it, the Boston City Council’s unanimous 12-0 vote to grant a 25.4% pay raise to the Boston Police Patrolmen depressed me enormously. (The 13th vote, John Connolly, woiuld have been a No, but he is on vacation; he told the Boston Globe that he would have come back and cast his No vote if it was going to make a difference.) Why even HAVE a Council if it’s going to take a hike when the City’s funds are on the line ? 25.4% is DOUBLE the pay raise granted to almost every other of the City’s many employee unions.

Reasons for the vote were trotted out by Councillors trying not to look wind-twisted ; none makes any sense, including the Quinn Bill of 1998, by which the Patrolmen gave up certain pay raises in exchange for education-furthering bonuses. 1998 ? Really ? Come on, guys. Comic indeed was Councillor Pressley’s statement that she voted yes because she “didn’t want to begin a race to the bottom.” I don’t think it’s racing to the bottom to reject an award double that granted to other city unions. Pressley also praised “the huge sacrifices” that Patrolmen make to ensure citizen safety. Does she mean the “sacrifice” of doing public works details for which the Patrolmen get paid most generously, details that no other state requires be handled by uniformed police officers ? If you include those plum puddings, the average Boston patrolmen — as pointed out in Farah Stockman’s damning op-ed in the Boston Globe two days ago — grabs yearly pay of about $ 109,000 ! Many earn north of $ 175,000. Some scoop over $ 200,000.

These are scandalous numbers.

I am the last journalist to want public employees to earn skimp money — far from it — but Boston Police pay exceeds any argument of fairness or necessity. There has to be balance between city employees and city taxpayers — and as columnist Stockman also pointed out, most Patrolmen move out of the City as soon as their ten-year in-city obligation terminates, which means that most of them aren’t even city taxpayers — and a raise double that of other city employees is a ramp that will repercuss like crazy when the other city Unions come calling at contract renewal time.

My thinking had reached this point, when suddenly I realized that the Council had done something more portentous. They had laid a trap for the incoming Mayor, Marty Walsh. He cannot be pleased.

It is Walsh who will now have to decide how to adjust the Patrolmen’s huge pay raise to the City’s budget deficit. Walsh has said there may be layoffs. For a Union guy, that cannot be a happy message to send to his core supporters, many of whom are looking to be hired, not sent home

Next year the FireFighters of Local 718 will be coming to the table with their pay raise demand. Local 718 was the first city union to back Marty Walsh in his Mayor campaign. It was at Local 718’s request that he filed his now infamous House 2467 bill to strip City Councils of the power to review arbitrator awards — a bill that almost cost him the election. Walsh deferred whenever in the campaign he was asked about closing under-worked City fire-houses. His ducking this issue was noted by editorialists.

Walsh was already going to have a hard time negotiating Local 718’s next contract demand. By voting 12 to 0 to give a 25.5% pay raise to the patrolmen, the Council has boxed Walsh into a Local 718 corner he almost certainly cannot get free of. How can he not let Local 718 do its damnedest and thereby earn the dislike to City taxpayers ? How will he not paint himself forever as exactly “the Union guy” that people other than his core supporters saw him as ? Local 718 can, if it wants, save his ass. It will cost them pay to do it. Is that likely ?

I may of course be wrong. Walsh may find a way to wiggle free of Local 718. Even so, he cannot be happy wth the ugly leg trap that yesterday’s Council vote has placed in his path.

A foundation for the 2017 Mayor election is being laid now. Yesterday’s vote placed the cornerstone.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#MAPOLI : BAKER TAKES A RIGHT TURN…AND OTHER VEERINGS

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the would be Governor stoops for a spot of Tea : Karyn Polito to be Charlie Baker;s running mate

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A number of high-visibility Massachusetts pols did the attention-getting unexpected today. Perhaps the biggest such event of the day, however, was not a happy move and had the feeling of a surrender  : Charlie Baker, who almost certainly will be the Republican nominee for Governor next year, anointed one Karyn Polito as his Lieutenant Governor sidekick.

Who IS Karyn Polito ? A former State Representative from Shrewsbury and the 2010 Republican candidate for Treasurer. And why her ? It is speculated that Baker chose her because ( 1 ) Baker lost women voters in the 2010 Governor election by 24 points and ( 2 ) she is popular with the Worcester County Tea folks. As I wrote three days ago, Polito recently spoke at an event on the South Shore at which the featured guest was one Allen West, a stridently contemptuous, Tea party favorite and one-term (defeated) Florida Congressman. Polito is said to have praised West in her own speech at that event. That would be reason enough to wonder why Baker would link his candidacy to Polito, who served as campaign chair for Michael Sullivan’s right-wing US Senator campaign earlier this year. Sullivan’s opposition to marriage equality (and of course to transgender civil rights) mirrored Polito’s own recent legislative record. (Baker’s campaign says tat Polito has since come around and now shares his views on social issues.)

All of this represents a huge shift for Baker, who in 2010 chose as his running mate Richard Tisei, an openly gay State Senator who vigorously supports lifestyle civil rights — indeed, he was the original legaislative sponsor of the transgender rights bill that was enacted as law last year. As it happens, Polito, too, has made her own huge shift. During the Romney years she was — like almost all Massachusetts Republicans — strongly pro-choice and supportive of marriage equality. Of course we all know what Mitt Romney did in the years since he left he Massachusetts governorship. Polito has simply followed his example, bowing her reformist record to the voices who want to repeal all reform.

Such is the politician whom Baker has chosen as his symbol this campaign cycle : a gravatar of reaction, a face of opposition to nearly everything the GOP has stood for in Massachusetts since it was founded. Well might I call the Baker-Polito ticket “anti-Republican.”

Baker had other options. He could have chosen State Representative Geoff Diehl, a social progressive who spearheads the “Tank the Gas Tax” movement. He might have gone really bold and picked Pamela Julian, leader of the League of Women Voters and a force in Boston. Elizabeth Childs of Brookline was a possibility. I would have preferred any of these.

Will this ticket likely succeed with Massachusetts voters ? As hardly anybody votes for a Lieutenant Governor, in the end it probably won’t matter to anyone who isn’t a political junkie. But it should. A successful candidacy gives the angry anti’s of the Tea party a credibility that right now they thankfully lack.

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^ John Connolly as WHAT ? Mayor Walsh’s new school superintendent ? Not damn likely

No sooner had I digested this swig of political castor oil than news came that, in an interview by radio host Jim Braude, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh said that he “absolutely do(es) not rule out asking John Connolly to be his new superintendent of schools.”

WTF ? Immediately came the waves of outcry from the teachers union activists, the Diane Ravitch groupies, and the opponents of charter schools and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That was to be expected. But I too, a supporter of Connolly and his “school transformation” vision, found the suggestion a red herring — or maybe a sly nick. Connolly is screwed by this knee-chop remark no matter how he responds — IF he does respond. His best response being to not respond at all. Clearly John Connolly has a ton of career options better than the tainted biscuit that Walsh so suavely served up.

Whoever agrees to be Mayor Walsh’s superintendant of schools is bound to disappoint almost everyone : school parents wanting big reform, the Teachers Union opposing every reform except its own politically unlikely agenda, the administrators, principals, kids — you name it. Boston’s public schools need significant reconfiguration; almost any new superintendent won’t be able to get it done. Why should John Connolly descend into that vortex ?

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^ Guess who is heading to Israel as a guest of the ADL ? Yup, Council Felix G. Arroyo.

No sooner had I digested the Connolly suggestion than Councillor Felix G. Arroyo announced that he is visiting Israel next week as a guest of the Anti-Defamation League. This surprised me. Most politicians allied with the Labor Left — and Arroyo is definitely there — are supporters of the Palestinians, not the ADL. So what is up ? Politicians make trips to Israel when they have high officer in mind. Might Felix G. Arroyo be thinking of running for Lieutenant Governor ? It would make sense. He would enhance the Democratic ticket no matter which of the four likely hopefuls becomes the nominee. He’d be an inspired choice. Is Arroyo on it ?

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : this is article was updated December 5, 2013 at 8:00 am.