Among the boilerplate disposed of by the council was the formal receipt of grants for the redevelopment of Union Station and the adjacent Hotel Charles site. Allegedly, the project is moving forward. An ordinance on livery vehicles was referred to committee and a first step was made for an ordinance that provided clarifying language to the city’s vicious dog ordinance. Various property transactions were also approved and an authorization to pay bills from previous years was sent to committee.
The council received a report from finance officials that said the city was on track in its budget spending. Planning and Economic Development Chair Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen also announced that the city will likely expend more than $106 million in tornado rebuilding and recovery costs.
|Councilor Fenton (Facebook)|
However, by far the most interesting part of the meeting came from an item that was not even on the agenda. Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton, the Finance Committee chair, brought an item out of the committee to fund tiered furloughs, terrace mowing and an extra position at the animal control center. However, the actual measure was one sent up by the mayor at the last meeting which would do all those things, but add $100,000 to the police department budget above the mayor FY2012 budget and provide money for bulk pickup. It is unclear what the bulk-pickup referred to as there has been no apparent cessation of bulk pickup in the city.
The finance committee had been wrangling with the mayor for weeks to get the tiered furloughs without being forced to accept essentially rescinding the more than $2 million in cuts the city had ordered for FY2012. Administration officials had essentially been claiming that the council had cut terracing mowing and police overtime. While the former was caused by an indiscriminate 5% cut from other-than-personnel-services accounts led to the reduction of some services like terrace mowing and animal control, police overtime was never at issue.
Fenton, after he offered his changes to the mayor’s appropriation, called on the mayor to “be genuine to the principles of government.” City Council President Jose Tosado, a challenger to the mayor this November, also chastised the mayor for playing games with the council. Finance Director T.J. Plante snapped at the council for not alerting him or the administration about the finance committee meeting that preceded the council meeting. However, the meeting was properly and publicly posted and Fenton reminded Plante that he had apologized for not extending a personal invitation, an apology impliedly had been accepted. Throughout the back and forth between the council and Plante, the finance director remained evasive and indignant at the council’s deliberations.
|Councilor Ferrera (Urban Compass)|
Nevertheless nobody saw Ferrera’s move to amend Fenton’s order to include the police overtime and bulk pickup funds anyway. Confusion ensued as Fenton tried to withdraw his motion to stop the process. However, the clerk announced that Ferrera could just as easily pull the item back from committee. City Clerk Wayman Lee said the vote for Ferrera’s motion could proceed because the item had been in the committee for long enough. However, the clerk miscalculated the days. Thirty days must pass before “any” councilor can pull an item from committee. Not nearly as much time had passed since the measure was sent to committee initially.
Members of the council, fearful of appearing to oppose a measure that would ostensibly benefit the police department, fell into line and voted for the measure by a wide margin. Fenton permitted his original motion for the tiered furlough, mowing and animal control to pass as well, which was approved overwhelmingly.
The entire show was a sad display of the fear, incompetence and opportunism that still, apparently runs wild through the city council. The council did not cut the police overtime budget. In fact, the mayor offered a smaller number in this fiscal year than last and now wanted the council to add more to the budget. Additionally troubling is that police overtime will do nothing to correct the city’s crime problem. The problem is not enough cops on the beat, but a broader more systemic social problem that no amount of policing can correct by itself. Problems like poverty, poor education and a lack of jobs play a far bigger role than policing alone. Sadly, addressing those problems thoughtfully and intelligently because impossible without the wise fiscal stewardship the city requires.
|Pietá by Luis de Morales|
6. Justin Hurst: 4,245
8. Miguel Soto: 2,398
9. Charles Rucks: 2,327
11. Bruce Adams: 2,036
Then from earlier today, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer answers the claims that establishing fairness in tax code is itself “class warfare”.
Pepe did criticize some economic developments like the Asylum building demolition, the School Department relocation and the sale of the old HQ. Sarno dismissed concerns about the school department’s old building noting that the alternative bid called for far more public subsidies. Tosado shot down Sarno’s boasts about progress on some projects like Union Station, which have been in development for decades.
The jockeying to preserve the city’s reserve fund reached a critical vote yesterday leaving the confrontation between the mayor and the council at a standstill. The items in question that reflected the mayor’s policies took up precious little on the council’s agenda, which as per usual was loaded largely with the typical minutiae of approving grants and funds for specific projects. Additionally, there was movement on new revenue measures taken against tax delinquents and other housekeeping.
|Councilor Fenton (Facebook)|
The fear, expressed by the fiscal hawks on the council, was that the mayor was using the need for a financial transfer as a way to backdoor extra money into the general fund. The transfer would need the two-thirds vote one way or another and the transfer for the budget hole is not in dispute. However, if the council approve a larger than needed transfer, the mayor would only need simple majority votes to approve supplementals that could negate the council’s cuts.
On the reconsideration Tosado voted yes, but some councilors switched their votes, oddly. In any event the item went to committee where it will no doubt be dissected and torn apart by committeemembers. Another measure for CitiStat, whose future remains uncertain after the council essentially defunded it was also sent to committee. The council made a strong stand today showing it remains serious about being taken seriously as a part of the city’s government. The city has a strong-mayor system and nobody denies it. However, it is not a unipolar system and many on the council, most of whom are by way of ward representation freshman, remain insistent that they be respected.
|Prof. Elizabeth Warren (Facebook)|
Warren’s statement of her intentions is as follows:
“The pressures on middle class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,” said Warren, who in recent weeks has been in kitchens and living rooms listening to people all across the state. “I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts.”
Warren gained national attention in the early days of the fiscal crisis when she was named to the oversight board for TARP, the financial bailout passed by Congress in 2008. Warren, who had been a consumer advocate and champion of the middle class for years, later advocated for the establishment of a consumer advocacy institution to protect customers of financial services. The oversight authority sought had existed within the Treasury and Federal Reserve , yet the lack of interest or coordination across these agencies left consumers out on a limb. During the years when easy credit built up the economic bubble, consumers were ultimately only left with a heavy debt load. Warren was successful in her effort to convince Pres. Barack Obama on the need for the agency and with his support, the agency became part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act passed in 2010.