BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE BOSTON HERALD BLOWS IT

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^ Marty Walsh as Boston Building Trades Council Business Manager

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Yesterday in its editorial, the Boston Herald made two endorsements for Mayor: Dan Conley and John Connolly. I have no quarrel with their doing so. They should endorse. What upsets me is their going on to NON-endorse candidate Marty Walsh. That is harsh. Unfair was their reason : that until recently he has been the Boston Building Trades Council Business manager — a Union guy — and thus, said the editorial, not a friend of taxpayers.

This is bogus. Completely bogus.

Union workers pay taxes, don’t they ? They earn a solid paycheck, and thus they pay a lot of taxes. So what’s the Herald talking about ?

In a phrase : the prevailing wage law, commonly known as the Pacheco Law. By the Pacheco Law, workers on jobs pursuant to State-funded construction contracts must be paid the prevailing wage for union construction contracts made with private businesses.

What is so wring with that ? Yes, all taxpayers, not just union workers, pay into the higher hourly wage mandated by the Pacheco Law. Non-union workers would, it is true, cost less. And if that were the whole story, the Herald might have a point.

Except that that IS NOT the whole story. Union workers who earn the prevailing wage do not stuff their extra money into suitcases. They spend it. They enter the discretionary economy — where economic growth most flourishes — to buy discretionary things and thus help tons of businesses to exist, to hire their own workers, and — hopefully — to pay those workers well.

That is how a growth economy works and why a reductionist economy doesn’t. A growth economy isn’t just me and my wallet, you and your bills. A flourishing economy involves all of us who are in it. Money doesn’t stay put in any economy. It moves constantly, into my pocket, out of my pocket; into yours, out of yours; then on to the next and the next and so on. The more money that moves the more freely, the better an economy is for everyone.

To reduce construction workers — to reduce ANY workers, and here I specifically include fast-food workers, who are now seeking $ 15.00 an hour and should have it — to the lowest doable wage is to reduce the economy, to starve it of what it lives by. Is that what we want ? Really ? i think not.

Right now our economy is growing much more slowly than it should because a huge portion of the pay being earned in it is going to CEO’s and hedge fund managers an ever-decreasing amount of said pay is going to everyone else. An economy cannot grow — can hardly exist — if only a tiny few have money to participate in it. Is this not basic Economics 101 ?

Right-wing pundits blame unions for the problems besetting municipal budgets and the slow growth of private-sector jobs. They are wrong. Unions are nothing more than workers banding together to force reluctant employers to grant them fair earnings. Workers earning a collectively bargained income do not crater municipal budgets. That’s the consequence of many other events, the housing bear market especially.

As for employers’ wage policies, not all take a reductionist view. Many employers understand that a well-paid work team is an asset to a business. well paid workers don’t leave the job as quickly; and turnover is a huge — and largely avoidable — cost to businesses beset by it. Well paid workers also suffer less stress; and an unstressed work team is healthier, thus less likely to call out sick, and better motivated. How have these basic economic conditions been so sweepingly un-learned in today’s America ?

That Marty Walsh is a union guy is a good thing. Endorse him, or not, that’s fine. We at Here and Sphere haven’t yet endorsed, and it may not be Walsh whom we end up supporting. But please, do not dis-endorse him because he is and was a business manager for Boston’s Building Trades Council.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : this article was updated on Sept. 13, 2013 at 11:12 EDT.

BOSTON CITY COUNCIL RACE : JACK KELLY OF CHARLESTOWN

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^ At-large Council hopeful Jack Kelly at a recent “friend raiser” in Dorchester

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Note : Here and Sphere will make an effort to interview as many City Council candidates as we can reach. This effort must, unfortunately, come second to our coverage of the Mayor race — coverage which starting on Monday will continue every day right through to the September 24th Primary. We will, however, do what we can with the time that we have. First up is Jack F. Kelly III, who was born and grew up in Charlestown, the son of two working patents : a Verizon worker Dad and a Mom who has worked for Boston Public Schools for over two decades.

We first met Kelly at a block party in West Roxbury early last month. About two weeks ago we attended a “Mondays for Marty Walsh” town hall in Charlestown, where we heard first hand the concerns that that neighborhood has with the City’s powers that be. Given the smallness of Charlestown — but its long significance in Boston’s political life too — it was our decision right then that Jack Kelly would be our first City Council interview.

We talked to Kelly at a fund[-raiser event in the Savin hill section of Dorchester — an event he prefers to call a “friend raiser.” What follows was the substance of our talk :

Here and Sphere (HnS) : “What’s your campaign’s chief issue ?”

Kelly : “public health; fighting drug addiction, HIV and hepatitis C. It’s what I do currently, working for Mass General (Hospital). We have to increase the presence of community health workers.”

HnS : “so you agree with what Marty Walsh said that night in Charlestown, that there’s an heroin epidemic in Boston ? He didn’t overstate ?”

Kelly : “Absolutely. No, he did not overstate things. Drugs are everywhere and I see it in my work and know of it in the ‘Town. (Keep in mind that) fighting the drug plague is fundamental to (public) safety.”

Note : Kelly knows the drug menace personally. as his campaign bio puts it, “After graduating from high school, my life took an unexpected turn. Like many kids in my generation throughout Boston, I became addicted to…Oxycontin. for several years I struggled with …addiction… (until) on October 12, 2003…with the help of my community, prayers, and addiction programs, I became sober and began my life again.”

HnS : “fighting drug addiction and diseases like HIV and hepatitis is hardly the usual City Councillor undertaking.”

Kelly : “That’s why i can be heard. It has to be addressed.”

HnS : “Turning to other issues, the various casino proposals are an issue in Charlestown. What is your position ?”

Kelly : “it’s an issue everywhere in the city. I favor an East Boston vote only, not city-wide.. Traffic’s an issue; we will deal with it. The one casino I do NOT want in any circumstance is the Everett proposal. The traffic impact would be intolerable. Any casino has to be in Boston, but you know what ? Why not have it on one of the Harbor islands ? Doesn’t that make the most sense ?”

HnS : “School improvement has been john Connolly’s big issue, one that has given him citywide strength. And that means charter schools. What’s your position on legislation to lift the ‘cap’ on how many charter schools we can have ?”

Kelly : “Definitely school improvement. I favor increasing the number of charter schools but not eliminating the cap entirely.’

HnS : “Partial ‘cap’ lift ?”

Kelly : “Yes.”

HnS : “one thing that John Connolly specifically cites in his school improvement agenda is that the school day should be longer. Your view  is ?”

Kelly : “i agree; but teachers must be compensated for a longer day.”

HnS : “The Boston Globe two days ago focused on the various mayor candidates’ positions on the BRA. Changing the BRA seems on everybody’s mind. What do you think should happen ?”

Kelly : “i want more transparency and for the city council to have a vote on who the new director will be. And by more transparency : all meetings with developers should be videotaped and shown online to be posted on (the websites of) affected neighborhood(s) and their civic association(s).”

HnS : “But you don’t advocate replacing the BRA ?”

Kelly : “correct.”

HnS : “Lastly, a numbers question. You come from Charlestown, one of the City’;s smallest neighborhoods. How can you win citywide ?”

Kelly : “It’s not just Charlestown. It’s the entire City Council District that I’m from, that includes East Boston and the North end. We haven’t had anybody elected city-wide since John Nucci;. It’s about time.”

HnS : “How can you do it ?”

Kelly : “I’m strong in South Boston, Dorchester, West Roxbury. I have friends all over the city, from labor. I was an ironworker after I became sober, a Local 7 member. I also know people everywhere in Boston from being Charlestown Neighborhood co-ordinaor for Mayor Menino. Look at my union endorsements !”

NOTE: Kelly has major union support. His campaign website notes the following union endorsements : Teamsters local 25; Teamsters 122; Laborers 223; IBEW Locals 103 and 104; Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers local 6; Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 12; Plasters and Cement Masons local 534; Custodians Local 1952; Pipefitters Local 537; Sprinkler Fitters Local 550; Sheet metal workers Local 17. (Of these, the most significant might be the Custodians union. Most custodians live in the city — unlike the members of many construction Locals —  and they are numerous; and almost all of them vote every election.)

HnS : “Thank you for talking to us !”

We will likely cross Kelly’s campaign path often as we go about Boston neighborhoods this alt month of the Primary campaign. (indeed, we have already met up with him often.) Still, it’s an uphill fight for the first time candidate, even given his already wide-ranging political resume: in addition to being a neighborhood co-ordinator in Mayor Menino’s administration, Kelly was an elected Hillary Clinton delegate to the 2008 Democratic Convention — considering the size and strength of the Council field. Incumbents Stephen Murphy and Ayanna Presley are running for re-election; former Councillor Michael Flaherty seeks to return to that body. To win the one remaining at-large seat, Kelly must top Lower Mills native Catherine O’Neill (now a resident of Savin Hill); Marty Keogh, a well known West Roxbury attorney; , former Senator Warren campaign staffer Michelle Wu, a South End resident, North Ender Philip Frattaroli, former District Councillor Gareth Saunders; neighborhood co-ordinator Ramon Soto, a Mission Hill resident; and nine others.

His unique candidate profile and personal witness of major public health issues just might do it.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

CORRECTION : this article has been corrected. The original article said that Kelly favored a city wide vote on a casino proposal. In fact, he favors only an East Boston, neighborhood vote. This change has been made in the article that you have read.