Editorial: City Hall keeps working, despite the political season

City government continues to grind out mainly sound decisions this summer, despite the fact that there’s a hotly contested election afoot to pick the next four-year mayor. Some candidates seem to believe that means that there should be a pause in the action until they— or another person— is elected to fill former Mayor Walsh’s shoes.

We understand — but disagree— with that posture. Suspended animation does not make for good government. There’s no pause button for trash pickups, ambulance runs, house fires and the buzz of a pandemic-weary city springing back to life.

So, we were pleased to see that last week, by 10-2 margins, the city council voted through two budgets
to keep the city functioning into a new fiscal year and to get our schools prepped for in-person learning
in September. Like most budget years, it wasn’t pretty and most everyone walked away with their nose slightly out-of joint. But such is the stuff of municipal government. And, it’s fair to note: pushing through a budget in this competitive season was no small feat for the acting Mayor.

But there’s hardly room or time for a victorygallop around City Hall Plaza. Perhaps a quick spin around the Curley desk will suffice. Then, it’s back to the grind and the realities of managing a city that faces some daunting challenges.

The school committee did its job last week as well. Shaken though the body may be in the wake of a Zoom-era scandal that prompted three resignations to date, the men and women charged with governing the school system voted 4-1 to extend the contract of Superintendent Brenda Cassellius— the woman appointed by Mayor Walsh in 2019 to lead
BPS— until 2023.

To their credit, the committee resisted misguided calls— including from mayoral candidates Campbell, Wu and Santiago— to deny Cassellius an extension. What good what that do? Plunging the school department into a crisis of leadership at this critical moment as BPS seeks to navigate into a new school year seems like a supremely poor idea. We
were pleased to see that candidates Janey, Essaibi George and Barros thought so too.

But, count us among those dismayed to see thecouncil reject federal funding for the Boston Police Department’s Regional Intelligence Center— or BRIC. Last week, the council voted to reject a $850,000 federal grant that would have paid for 8 civilian jobs to help support the work of the center, which has been maligned by civil liberties activists as a sinister agency, intent on targeting people of color and immigrants in particular.

There are elements of that critique that merit further investigation and reform. But to suggest that the BPD and other big city departments should take a pass on federal grants aimed at boosting our intelligence gathering capacity for things like tracking criminal gangs and even terror cells is short-sighted.

While other federal money for policing has been accepted in recent months, we hope that the council will moderate its position and accept block grants needed to help pay for Boston’s security. The department is sorely in need of reform and strong leadership; but starving the BPD of resources and talent that could be put to good use to those ends makes little sense.

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