^ 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



^ 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


Bill 2467

^ The State House on Beacon Bill : where H. 2467, “By Mr. Walsh of Boston, a petition…” looms mightily over the Mayor election

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Just this morning I opined about the impact that the arbitrator’s large pay raise award to the BPPA might have on the mayor’s race. Little did I know ! Only a few hours after I wrote, Marty Walsh declared his opposition to the size of the award — a perfectly reasonable opinion — only to have John Connolly call a 4.30 PM press conference on the matter. ¬†At which…

Connolly struck a body blow : that Marty Walsh, as a legislator, had sponsored and filed a bill, House 2467, by whose provisions arbitrator awards, of the exact kind now at issue, would be binding even on City Councils. And thus that Walsh’s stated opposition to the award was, in effect, opposition to himself.

The law on municipal employee arbitrations now is that arbitrator’s awards to such employees are subject to approval by the City Councils of those municipalities. If the Council doesn’t approve, back to the arbitrator goes the pay dispute. Marty Walsh’s bill would take that power away from City Councils. An arbitrator’s award would be final.

Walsh tried to explain that in fact his legislation would make an arbitrator’s award binding upon Councils only to the extent that city finances could bear it. But as Connolly pointed out, Walsh’s legislation does not contain that proviso. Though the bill’s language directs the arbitrator to factor several such concerns into his award — and says nothing about HOW the arbitrator does such “factoring” — once his award is made, that’s it.

I was sitting with a friend of mine who’s a Marty Walsh supporter — he even has two lawn signs for Walsh — when the Connolly press conference broke. My friend turned to me and said, “well that’s that. I’m not for him !” I suspect those words were said quite often in Boston late this afternoon.

It’s a very tight spot for Walsh to be in. His own legislation — H 2467 starts off saying “By Mr. Walsh of Boston, a petition…that provision be made for binding arbitration for fire fighters and police officers” — casts in stone an arbitration award that has the whole city up in arms over its size.

He has some serious, serious explaining to do — not the spin syrup that he put out today — and it had better come quickly.

Because in two days or so the City Council hears the BPPA award details and votes on it. And John Connolly will be part of that hearing.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Afterthought : ¬†Connolly’s revelation about House Bill 2467 casts a dark light on a Walsh campaign that has looked, to me, to be heading in a Romney-like direction. Just as Mitt Romney won passage of Romneycare, then proceeded to turn his back on his achievement, as a presidential candidate, so Walsh, whom Labor support lifted into a first place Primary finish, has lately taken to sounding like a chamber of commerce, Club for Growth-type business-recruiting Texas governor. It’s been curious to watch this gradual transformation; one wondered how or even if Walsh could pull it off. It seemed possible, Now it looks hyperbolic..

His campaign is also a case study in why State legislators in the Boston delegation don’t often run for mayor and, when they do, don’t get elected. With H. 2467, Walsh is using the power of the state to override the power of the City. Well and good for the labor unions whose champion he is; not so good for his appealing, now, to the entire City.

Walsh needs to rethink his campaign to;p to bottom, and fast. He has much to offer that John Connolly is temperamentally unsuited to match. His passion is infectious, His respect for everyone palpable, exemplary, But Walsh has to be a superior helmsman as well as a rock solid shipmate. Right now he has lost the helm. Connolly has it.

NOTE : I updated this story at 9.16 AM on Sunday 9/29/13.