Reporter's Notebook: Baker now undecided on breadth of casino vote

District 3 Councillor Frank Baker says he’s undecided about whether to have a citywide vote on an East Boston casino or limit a referendum to the neighborhood in which Suffolk Downs hopes to build its proposed gambling mecca. The Boston Herald first reported Baker’s move last week.

“I want to see everything” before committing, Baker told the Reporter, referring to the potential deal that Suffolk Downs will offer the city, such as infrastructure improvements, in exchange for a sign-off on a casino.

Baker, a supporter of casinos, noted to the Reporter in November that since a casino is likely to affect the entire city, he supported a citywide vote, saying “opening it up to the city would ensure that people’s concerns are met.”

An “informal” Herald poll last week found district Councillors Mark Ciommo, Bill Linehan, Michael Ross, Rob Consalvo, and Sal LaMattina in favor of a vote limited to East Boston. Councillor At-Large John Connolly was also listed among them. Charles Yancey and Matt O’Malley were listed in support of a city-wide vote while City Councillors At-Large Stephen Murphy and Felix Arroyo were listed as undecided.

Mayor Thomas Menino has long supported a vote limited to East Boston.

Finneran weighs in on Walker win in Wisconsin, Brown-Warren showdown
Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, who recently left his radio job at WRKO, appeared this week on WBZ-TV’s “Keller At-Large” show to chat about Wisconsin politics and the local US Senate race.
Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat, said the Wisconsin election, in which Gov. Scott Walker remained in place despite a recall pushed by union leaders furious over a cutback in collective bargaining rights, was “relatively unique” and doesn’t apply to Massachusetts.

But he compared the recall to a Civil War battle, saying Gettysburg proved a “fatal blunder” for Southern forces because the Union army, like Walker, had the “high ground.”

“People are so worried about their economic present, let alone their future. They know what’s going on with their own pensions, and their own health care contributions and everything else, and they saw the unions out there throw a temper tantrum,” Finneran told host Jon Keller. “About what? Being asked to pay about six percent to the cost of their future pension and about ten percent or twelve percent to the cost of their health care. Here in ultra-liberal, ultra-blue Massachusetts, for years, public employees have been paying 11 percent into the pension and 25 percent on health care. So they fought on crappy, factual ground. How do you get any sympathy – electoral sympathy – if you’re fighting on lousy ground?”

Asked about the Senate race between incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren, Finneran said he expects the race to come “thundering down the stretch.” He called Brown a “very skillful campaigner” who has a “good chance” at reelection, noting that Massachusetts voters have pulled the lever for Bill Weld and Ronald Reagan.

The question is, Finneran said, whether in a high turnout year, voters will split the ticket, voting for President Obama and then marking their ballot for Brown.

Perez promoted to chief of staff in Arroyo’s office
Heather Perez, who handled communications for City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo’s office, was promoted to chief of staff last week. A Boston University graduate with a degree in political science, she replaces Stu Rosenberg, who left Arroyo’s office last month for a top position with a US Senate campaign in his native Wisconsin. Before she joined Arroyo’s office, Perez served as a legislative aide to former state Rep. Willie Mae Allen, a Mattapan Democrat.

Arroyo has also tapped Athena Laines, a former research analyst for an environmental consulting firm, as his policy director. Laines is a Boston University graduate with a degree in environmental analysis and policy.

Mayor tumbles, Yancey reacts
Charles Yancey’s resume includes a brief tenure as City Council president and his founding of an annual book fair. Now the long-time District 4 councillor can add another accomplishment: mayoral life-saver.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Dorchester last Friday, Mayor Menino, with scissors in hand, appeared to reach for a railing that wasn’t there. According to a CBS Boston video, he had started to fall forward down the two front steps of the new Hearth at Olmsted Green development when Department of Neighborhood Development Director Evelyn Friedman grabbed him on one side and Yancey seized him from the other. A gentleman from the crowd also rushed up to help stop the fall.

“This is a first: Charles Yancey saved my life,” Menino could be heard quipping to the crowd about a man with whom he has often clashed. On Tuesday, Yancey chalked up his quick move as a “reflex” action. “I grabbed him from the abyss, really. Anyone would have done the same thing,” Yancey told the Reporter. “It was just somebody who literally was falling and I couldn’t allow for it to happen.” The councilor added: “I have to say he was a little heavier than I thought he was.”

On Sunday, Yancey saw Menino and his wife Angela at a fund-raiser for state Rep. Gloria Fox in the South End, and Mrs. Menino thanked him as they left. “It would have been a disaster if he had fallen on those scissors,” Yancey said.

Asked if the incident will make it into his monthly newsletter, which extensively documents his public appearances and initiatives, Yancey said, “That’s a good question. I told my staff I didn’t want that in the newsletter. I don’t have strict editorial control. It’s not my intention to put it in the newsletter.”

But Yancey acknowledged that what everybody is asking him about is the mayor’s fall. “I can’t go anyplace without people mentioning it to me,” including fellow city councillors, he said.

Asked what his colleagues have said about the incident, Yancey said, “Some of it I can’t repeat.”

But the reason all the officials were gathered for a ribbon-cutting will be in his newsletter, Yancey promised: a $16 million development providing affordable housing for formerly homeless elders that is located at the former Boston State Hospital campus. “It really is a beautiful facility.”