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

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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