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

BOSTON ELECTION : FOR AT-LARGE CITY COUNCIL

Boston voters go to the polls on Tuesday — in less than 48 hours — to choose the candidates who will face off in the November 5th “Final.”

Mayor is of course Boston’s first priority; but a City Council final eight will also be selected. Below are our choices. Please read about them all. We like all eight.

photo (69) Jack Kelly : our first choice, as the most across-the-board voice of labor we’ve seen in decades, at a time when a trusted voice of labor is most needed on the Council. Kelly’s campaign has captured the imagination and support of the entire City — even the Boston Globe –and he has the endorsements (including from Councillor Tito jackson and planned parenthood) to prove it. He also has ours.

photo (55)Chris Conroy : his campaign lacks money and moves sometimes on foot, but Conroy has much more city-wide support than that suggests. He grew up in ward 16 (Fields Corner) and lives now in ward 11 (Roxbury) and speaks in eloquent and passionate detail about bettering the City’s schools — not bit by bit, but hugely. Some might say, “a white guy in Roxbury ? and think “1969 hippie,” but that’s for throwbacks. Conroy is the Roxbury of today : diverse, and progressive for real, not just for hippie dreams.

Annissa Essaibi

Annissa Essaibi-George : 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 defintely her voice for the BTU is needed, even if the BTU itself sometimes misses the political bulls-eye.

photo (65) Philip Frattaroli : resident in the North End, he owns a restaurant, Ducali, on Causeway Street and grew up in his Dad’s restaurant business. As Mayor candidate John Barros says, “ten percent of all workers in Boston work in the restaurant business.” Reason enough to want Frattaroli on the Council; add to that his growing city-wide support, as he captures the imagination of small business people everywhere in Boston frustrated  by the red tape encasing the City’s bizarro permitting process.

photo (43) Marty Keogh : we’ve known Marty for a long time — and that’s him : this season’s most energetic voice of “traditional” Boston. From that side of Boston– as it stands  today — he has gathered the kind of committed support that elected Councillors galore thirty and forty years ago. Keogh has significant labor union support and is beginning to make some inroads into parts of “new Boston.” We can’t wait to see him debate cultural issuers with Jeff Ross (see below), progressive agenda with Chis Conroy, and school assignments policy with just about everybody.

photo (61) Catherine O’Neill : if Senator Elizabeth Warren does nothing else for Boston, her selection of O’Neill to work the campaign’s media presence deserves our thanks. O’Neill, we discovered soon enough, isn’t just a Warren protege. She comes from the large and we,ll-known O’Neills of Lower Mills, field-directed Linda Dorcena-Forry’s historic State Senate win,  is a published playwright, and hosts a Boston television show (at BBN TV). And it shows. She simply loves people and political discussion — city-wide ? no problem at all — and people take to her as well. We look forward to seeing her speak from the perspectives of both “traditional” Lower Mills and “new Boston” media on all the issues — senior citizens too.

photo (39) Ayanna Pressley : she’s an incumbent, and we hope that she continues to be one. The Chicago native is articulate, genial, classy — and has hold of an issue vital to Boston’s quality of neighborhood life : her Home Rule petition to the legislature to grant Boston control over the number and location of our liquor licenses. ask restaurant businesses if that matters ? Hint : it does.

photo (24) Jeff Ross : a South End resident — in Ward 9 Precinct 2, for political junkies like Ross — this politically experienced, veteran campaigner now steps forward to run for office himself, bringing to the battle long and progressive knowledge of what must be done to make Boston a more diverse, more fun, and more effective city for all. You have to respect — and want to see elected — a guy who grew up in a working-class, home, was the first in his family to graduate college, is a voice for the city’s LGBT community, and has the neighborhood touch too.

Conclusion : by no means do we wish to denigrate the eleven at-large candidates who did not make either our endorsed or suggested list. Indeed, the eleven include two long time personal friends and several promising newcomers. But one must choose; that’s what elections are about. If the eight people we have singled out above all “make the cut,’ Boston will enter a new political era, one less dominated by the old ways and more inclined to articulate diversity. that’s what cities should be.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WE PROFILE THE BOSTON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES : MARTY KEOGH

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^ at his recent fundraiser in Hyde Park

Marty Keogh is no stranger to those who follow Boston city politics. We remember him from when he served Peggy Davis-Mullen as her City Council aide back in the 1990s. He stayed with her through 2001.

Today, the Mission Hill native — “a projects kid,” as he puts it — whose family later moved to Hyde Park — lives in West Roxbury. He’s a practicing attorney — since 1999 — and married to Pamela Corey Keogh (from Lower Mills/Dorchester), has a young son, Nolan, (and an addition on the way), and is running for one of the four city-wide council seats that Bostonians will elect when they go to the polls to choose a new Mayor.

Keogh, like all his City Council rivals, is under no illusions about Council candidates’ struggle to get some voter attention. he knows that voters will focus almost entirely on the mayor campaign — as they must. He has no choice, then, but to campaign a good seventeen hours a day, everywhere in the city that he can find a spot to meet and greet, and anywhere that he can talk to a gathering. Indeed, as we do a question and answer with him in his profile, he is on the move, driving from shaking hands in East Boston to doing the same in South Boston — and points in between.

We asked Marty to answer the seven questions that we pose to all the at-large City Council candidates. What follows is, in effect, a conversation.

Here ad Sphere (HnS) : What in your loife makes you iunqiuely or especia;y qualified to be an effective councillor ?

Keogh : “Public service has been a part of my family’s history for well over fifty years, and I was taught that helping even one person in need was for the greater good of all… I got my first taste of helping people while working for the Boston City Council, serving as the Chief of Staff to (Peggy Davis-Mullen).

“I was in charge of constituent services, researching, writing and filing legislation that originated out of the concerns of these constituents, and implementing, delegating and overseeing the everyday duties that are required to run an effective city council office… actively coordinated and participated in neighborhood meetings throughout the city and served as the direct liaison between (her) and the community on many important quality of life issues.

“I then went to law school and for the last 14 years I have fought to help hundreds of juveniles and kids who had legal problems, elderly residents who have been victimized by scam artists and homeowners who were in danger of losing their homes. I often made little or nothing for my services, but the public servant in me found it difficult to turn a person in need away.

“I will always have the experience, energy and compassion to help people in need, and I hope to carry on this passion if elected…”

2. HnS : What are your two top priorities to work on if you’re elected ?

Keogh : “…I want safer neighborhoods and excellent schools in every neighborhood.
“Part of the reason people settle in a particular neighborhood is because it is safe, and it has excellent schools for their children that they can walk to.

“To the contrary, without safe neighborhoods or neighborhood schools, parents will leave that neighborhood just as quickly. It really is all about our kids, their education and their safety.

“As part my safer neighborhoods effort, I would like to see the Boston Police add 300 more “walking” police officers on the streets, fund the police budget to bring modern crime fighting technology to every officer, and place surveillance cameras in high crime areas in an effort to deter or catch criminals.

“I also want to start the process of building new schools in every neighborhood of the city where they are needed. Right now, there are still kids who don’t have books and cannot get the school in their neighborhood. I want to make sure that we have enough funding to buy new books and supplies, and to put arts, music, sports and special-ed programs back into every school.

“…also want to create a trade shop in every high school, because I know that not every kid wants to go to college, and that some kids want to enter the work force. My goal is to keep kids in school, and keep families in the city. Safe neighborhoods and neighborhood schools will help to accomplish this vision.”

3. HnS : casino vote : citywide or East Boston only ?

Keogh : “I am in favor of a Casino in East Boston, and an “East Boston only” Casino vote, because I recognize that this proposal will create jobs, revenue and capture Massachusetts money that will otherwise be lost to Connecticut. My decision shall rest upon the vote, intent and wishes of the East Boston residents.”

4. HnS : school reform : longer school day — yes or no ? Do you favor any of the other reforms in (John) Connolly’s agenda ?

Keogh : “I am in favor of longer school days, but only if teachers are fairly compensated for their time.

“It would be unfair to force teachers to work a longer school day without being properly compensated. As it stands now, a teacher’s job doesn’t end when the final bell rings. Teachers often work late and/or at home to prepare curriculum, tests and correct papers long after the school day ends, so as to be ready for the children the following day.”

“While I think that all of the Mayoral candidates have excellent ideas for the schools, the bottom line is that I believe in the Boston Public schools, and I believe in neighborhood schools.

“If the next Mayor wants to build more neighborhood schools, help decrease the dropout rate, make students proficient in all areas of education and bring sports, arts, music, trade schools and special-ed programs into every school, then you can be certain that they will have (in me) at least one friend on the city council.”

5. HnS : Charter schools : lift (the) cap ? partial cap (lift) ?

Keogh : “I am not in favor of lifting the cap on Charter Schools… I share the concern of most Boston parents that some Charter Schools are not inclusive enough because they do not accept special-ed kids or kids that can’t meet their educational criteria.

“I think that the Charter Schools we have now are doing well and that parents are satisfied with the education that Charter Schools provide their children, but I am also cognizant…that the Charter Schools are depleting much needed funds and resources from the Boston Public schools budget.

“I am one of only two city council candidates who actually attended the Boston Public schools and I believe we can make our public schools better.”

6. HnS : BRA : replace (it) ? Reform (and if so, in what ways) ? Should there be a separate board for planning (as some Mayor candidates have proposed) ?

Keogh : “The BRA has done a tremendous job transforming our economy, neighborhoods and skyline since the 1960’s, but the BRA needs to be more accountable and more transparent to the public it serves.

“Does that mean the BRA should be abolished? The answer is no.

“But the BRA needs to involve the public, and conduct all meetings, even if on the internet, that are open to the public.

“I don’t buy the baloney that we can’t get rid of the BRA because it is an agency mandated through the state legislature. We can, but when has the City Council actually ever tried to get rid of the BRA?

“The new City Council, if we work together, can make changes or recommendations which would, at a minimum, expose any conflict even if we have no power to stop the conflict. Through Home Rule Petition, the City Council could also recommend changes that would abolish the BRA or create a planning board separate from the BRA, as was the case prior to 1960.

“Or we could draft legislation that requires approval of any BRA project be brought before the City Council for complete review or ratification.

“But before we condemn or condone the actions of the BRA, we need to compare the pros and cons of having an independent redevelopment agency versus not having one at all. The entire reason the BRA was created was to end stagnant growth, urban blight and decay, which, for decades, was caused by the politics and inaction of the city’s leaders of the 30’, 40’s and 50’s.

“One area I would like to see the BRA focus on would be on inner city development as opposed to development among our city’s waterfronts. I love the way the city’s skyline looks, but I would love to see our inner city neighborhoods given as much attention as the Seaport District.”

7. HnS : Marty walsh says ‘there’s a heroin epidemic in the city now.”
Do you agree ?

Keogh : “I agree that there is a heroin, oxycontin and overall drug epidemic in the city of Boston and beyond.

“It is pretty clear that we have to offer help to drug users to get them off of drugs, but a much stronger emphasis has to be put on incarcerating the people who actually deal those drugs. I was impressed with the recent coordination of the many police agencies who tracked, found and arrested everyone connected with the Marathon bombings. It was through the concerted effort and sharing of information of all of our police that this happened in such a short period of time. It proves that good police work can yield great results and it helped put the public’s mind at ease.”

“If posible, I would like to see this effort re-created to reduce the amount of drugs, guns and violence, particularly in our inner city neighborhoods.”

HnS : thank you, Marty, for your thorough and detailed responses.

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^ answering a supporter’s question, at his Hyde Park “time.”

We summarize : Keogh’s responses make clear that he is as serious as a serious candidate can be. And that he will not be easily rolled in a candidate debate, or in Council meetings if elected. Fun is fun, and nobody we have met in this campaign is more fun to be with than Marty. And when there is business to attend to, Keogh is all business. It will be interesting to watch him bring his thorough preparation and fighting intensity to a Council debate this Fall.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere