Reporter’s Notebook: Linehan and Lee at odds on award for police union

The two candidates squaring off in a rematch for the District 2 Boston City Council seat appear to be split on the issue of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) winning a large arbitration award that amounts to a 25.4 percent raise over six years.

South Boston Councillor Bill Linehan, who is facing former teacher Suzanne Lee in the Nov. 5 election, said on Tuesday that he is leaning towards voting for the award, which is before the Council. Linehan said he desires “greater parity amongst our firefighters and policemen.” The firefighters received roughly $104 million over five years, after the City Council intervened and pressed them to compromise. An arbitrator had given the firefighters a richer deal.

Lee said she would vote against the arbitration deal. The award, she said, is “way above anything most people get in this economy, adding, “both sides need to go back to the table.”

Linehan, who appears unhappy that the Council was handed another arbitration matter, said the BPPA’s award will cost the city $80 million over six years. “At face value, it looks like sticker shock,” he acknowledged, but then pointed to the firefighters’ arbitration deal.

Meredith Weenick, the city’s chief financial officer, said comparing the two deals is “not helpful” in understanding the deal. In four years of the contract, she told the council, the police also got a general wage increase. “It’s not as if police got zero in those years,” she said.
That prompted Thomas Nee, the BPPA’s president, who also sat in front of the City Council at the hearing, to say her statement was inaccurate.

Weenick also said the city budget has a gap that will need to be closed before the spending plan is presented to the City Council in April. The deficit amounts to $30 million, and the award will add about $13 million to the deficit, she said.

Mayor Thomas Menino has asked the councillors to vote down the award, and send city officials and union representatives back to the bargaining table.

The issue has also cropped up in the race to succeed Menino: City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, one of the two finalists for mayor, has said he will vote against the contract. State Rep. Marty Walsh of Dorchester has said the award is too rich and that groups should go back to the bargaining table, but he has not called for the City Council to vote it down.

Education reform group wades back into mayor race

Citing outside organizations spending over $1 million in support of Walsh’s mayoral campaign, an education reform group said on Friday that it plans to return to the race in support of Connolly, the candidate they endorsed in July.

“Our team of Democratic activists and students has resumed the outreach we did this summer with potential voters about John Connolly,” the Massachusetts branch of the group, Democrats for Education Reform, said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how much would be spent on Connolly’s behalf.

“More than 50 days ago, we stopped this work at Connolly’s request and focused these discussions on the Obama education agenda and other candidates.”

Those other candidates included Josh Zakim, who is running for the District 8 Council seat that Mission Hill’s Michael Ross gave up to run for mayor. The website of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, a state watchdog, shows that the group spent $6,178.73 in support of Zakim, which drew criticism from Zakim’s rival, Michael Nichols.

“With just 25 days until the election and over one million dollars already spent by other groups, we feel compelled to directly tell voters the value of John Connolly’s experience as chair of the City Council’s education committee, as a middle school teacher, and as the father of a student in a turnaround school,” said the group’s statement, which was released late Friday.

The group noted that there was no agreement in place between the two candidates to limit the influence of outside groups. After the Sept. 24 preliminary, Connolly called on Walsh to join him in signing a modified version of the “People’s Pledge,” an agreement first proposed in the race by District 5 Councillor and mayoral candidate Rob Consalvo. Walsh refused to sign it, reiterated his stance that it was a “gimmick,” and noted that Connolly had called it a “gimmick,” too.

During the preliminary, a separate education reform group, Stand For Children, endorsed Connolly and said it would be spending $500,000 in support of his campaign. At a press conference outside City Hall, Connolly said he did not want outside groups getting involved in the race, and Stand For Children has so far honored that request.

Walsh, a longtime union leader, has benefited from labor groups spending money in support of his campaign, such as Working America, American Working Families, and Boston Firefighters Local 718, among others. American Working Families recently spent $122,990 on a commercial in support of Walsh, according to OCPF. The ad started airing on Oct. 9.

The ministers and the vote

Reverends do not always practice what they preach. That was apparent after the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker discovered that Rev. Eugene Rivers, who in a Boston Herald op-ed had called out members of the communities of color who didn’t vote in the preliminary, hadn’t actually voted himself.

History is stacked with religious figures who have said one thing and done another. They are men of God (or gods), sure, but they’re also made of flesh and blood. So when they stand next to politicians they’ve endorsed, for many it’s fair to ask if they have in fact stepped off the pulpit and taken a role in a partisan campaign.

Rev. Miniard Culpepper, who was briefly a mayoral candidate earlier this year and is backing John Connolly, said that he has “consistently” voted. “We’re encouraging everyone to vote, even the clergy that didn’t vote last time; we hope and pray that they’ll vote in this election,” said the minister who had endorsed Charlotte Golar Richie in the preliminary.

Rev. William Dickerson, who had stayed neutral but is now supporting Connolly, said he had voted in the preliminary and in other elections. “I think if we as pastors … encourage our members to vote, then we must do the same,” he said. “So that’s what we do.”

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