REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Patrick hands one to Menino: Let city take Licensing Board

Gov. Deval Patrick made a rare move last week: He relinquished control of a powerful entity. Known for mounting takeovers of various boards and agencies and personally signing off on press releases, the governor filed legislation that would transfer control of the Boston Licensing Board to Mayor Thomas Menino, handing His Honor the power to appoint the three-member panel.

Patrick’s legislation, filed Friday, would reverse a 1906 law that flipped control from the mayor to the governor as part of a power struggle between Yankees and the Irish.

Supporters of the measure say the move is overdue. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” Menino said. “It’s time.” The bill allows the mayor to appoint a Democrat and a Republican, with the third member from either party, to six-year terms.

The often-controversial board regulates licenses for restaurants, nightclubs, private clubs, and fortune tellers, among others.

Last Friday, Patrick appointed Nicole Murati Ferrer, a city lawyer, to replace Daniel Pokaski, who was board chairman until he stepped down last summer. She has done pro bono work for individuals who don’t speak English or cannot afford an attorney, according to the Boston Bar Association website.

Current board member Michael Connolly steps down in June and Patrick is filling his slot with retired judge Milton Wright, who is described by the National Center for Afro-American Artists as a “gifted singer and writer of a musical production as well as a lawyer.”

In 2008, the Licensing Board came under intense scrutiny after the arrests and indictments of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and former City Councillor Chuck Turner cast a spotlight on alleged backroom deals between Wilkerson and the board. Wilkerson allegedly maneuvered to keep licensing board members from receiving a pay raise in exchange for legislative action on liquor licenses she was seeking.

Pokaski denied any wrongdoing, and mewled to the Boston Globe, “My reputation’s been savaged, savaged.”

Longtime real estate broker Suzanne Iannella, a former candidate for City Council, is the third board member.

Patrick’s bill, which has to be okayed by the Legislature, allows for the mayor to remove a member for “such cause as he shall deem efficient” and restricts board members from being employed by a person or corporation engaged in the manufacturing or sale of alcohol, or “in any way, directly or indirectly, pecuniarily interested” in the manufacturing or sale of alcohol. According to the bill, “If any member of said board engages directly or indirectly in such manufacture or sale, his office shall immediately become vacant.”

District 7 candidates weigh inon a Wal-Mart in Boston

The two candidates vying to succeed former District 7 Councillor Turner are split on how to handle Wal-Mart potentially coming to their neighborhoods.

Tito Jackson, who was the top finisher out of seven candidates in the preliminary last week, said on WGBH’s “Basic Black” roundtable with reporters that he had concerns over bringing the retailer to Roxbury or Dorchester.

“Wal-Mart has – actually, first off, they have pending cases around racial discrimination as well as discrimination against women in hiring and also making sure they were paid correctly,” Jackson said, adding that the chain has a history of having a “very adverse effect” on small businesses. “I think we could have other employers in the area that in general would have better pay,” he said. Mayor Menino has also raised concerns about Wal-Mart’s effect on small businesses.

Cornell Mills, the runner-up in the Feb. 15 preliminary, said having a Wal-Mart in the area is a “double-edged sword,” but also “one more opportunity to have jobs here.” If local residents are receiving benefits and jobs, having the store in the area is “something we should take a hard look [at],” he added. “We have to be careful that our small businesses are able to maintain themselves.”

The two candidates, who face off in the final special election on March 15, also took questions about Wilkerson and Turner.

Jackson, who has Turner’s support, said he appreciated the endorsement and said Turner was considered his late father’s best friend. Jackson, the son of community activist Herbert Jackson, said the day Turner was convicted of bribery and lying to FBI agents was a “sad day” and he was “really torn up about it,” but did not respond to the question of whether he believed Turner was guilty.

Mills, who is one of Wilkerson’s sons, said his City Council campaign is a “continuation” of her work. “I’m very proud of the record my mother’s created,” he said, adding later, “I have a view of her that is separate from the view that the media has presented.”

The panel interviewing the candidates included New England Cable News anchor Latoyia Edwards; WGBH Radio senior investigative reporter Phillip Martin, and Manolia Charlotin, editor of the Dorchester and Mattapan Reporter’s sister paper, The Boston Haitian Reporter.

A portion of the “Basic Black” show, which airs at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, is available online at wgbh.org/basicblack/index.cfm.

‘Feast of Love’ planned for Wilkerson

Wilkerson supporters of are planning an “appreciation” of the Roxbury Democrat this week. In a flyer circulated to media outlets and among supporters of Wilkerson, the event is billed as a “Feast of Love.” People are urged to drop by and “share and listen to other stories of what Dianne has done for the community at large.” The event is scheduled for tonight (Feb. 24), at Prince Hall in Grove Hall, starting at 6 p.m.

Wilkerson, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison last month, is appealing. She is due to report to prison mid-March.

Quote of Note: Capuano on the battle of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to pare back some collective bargaining rights for unions drew hundreds to the front of the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday afternoon. Union supporters clashed with a smaller crowd of supporters of Walker’s proposal. Scuffles and heated rhetoric from both sides ensued. “I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an e-mail to get you going,” said U.S. Congressman Capuano, according to the State House News Service. “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

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