Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another Open Meeting Lawsuit v. the City Council

Kathleen Devine, Shirley Kressel and I filed another suit against the City Council on Monday. The suit reads as follows. We'd just like government to be transparent. They don't work on national security at City Hall, what is so difficult about allowing the press and public to observe the decision making process. I don't believe cumulative insecurity about speaking in public is the reason.



C.A. No.

Shirley Kressel, Kathleen Devine and Kevin McCrea,



The Boston City Council and its Committee on Government Operations,




1. This is an action brought pursuant to G.L. c. 39, § 23B (the Open Meeting Law) and G.L. c. 231A (the Declaratory Judgment Act) for an order requiring the Boston City Council to carry out the provisions of the Open Meeting Law. Despite the clear language of G.L. c. 39, § 23B; a previous determination of violation by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, and a recent ruling of violation by the Superior Court (See Superior Court Civil Action No. 05-01798, the Defendant Boston City Council (the “Council”) has conducted meetings in violation of the Open Meeting Law. Plaintiffs allege that the City Council Government Operations Committee (the “Committee”), a Committee of the Boston City Council, deliberated and voted without posting public notice and producing public records, and that the City Council, at its following publicly-noticed weekly meeting, conducted a “rubber-stamp” vote based on the Committee vote, without conducting public deliberations. This vote approved an increase in the salaries of the City Council members and of the Mayor of Boston, as well as increases for certain department heads and staff.

  1. Plaintiffs Kressel, Devine and McCrea ask the Court to issue an order requiring the Defendants to carry out all provisions of the Open Meeting Law at all future meetings; make public all records of the subject meetings held in violation of the law and reverse and nullify any votes, recommendations, decisions or actions taken in or as a result of such meetings.

  1. Plaintiffs bring to the Court’s attention the fact that on May 6, 2005, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against the Boston City Council for violations of the Open Meeting Law in eleven meeting over the course of about two years. On March 27, 2006, the Court (Staffier-Holtz, J.), ruled that the Council had committed all alleged violations, and was guilty of a systematic pattern of behavior of violating the Open Meeting Law. The Findings and Order are attached (Exhibit 1: McCrea et. al. v. Michael J. Flaherty and the Boston City Council, Suffolk Superior Ct No. 05-01798B). Still pending in that case are Plaintiff’s motions for remedies in addition to the Order’s declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary fine, and for costs and expenses due to insubstantial and frivolous claims advanced in bad faith, as stipulated by the Findings and Order.

Jurisdiction and Venue

4. This action is brought under to G.L. c. 39, § 23B (the Open Meeting Law) and G.L. c. 231A (the Declaratory Judgment Act).

5. Venue is appropriate pursuant to G.L. c. 223, § 1 and 9.


6. Plaintiff Shirley Kressel is a registered voter residing in Boston, Massachusetts.

7. Plaintiff Kathleen Devine is a registered voter residing in Boston, Massachusetts.

8. Plaintiff Kevin McCrea is a registered voter residing in Boston, Massachusetts.

9. The Defendant Boston City Council, (whose members are Michael Flaherty, President; Michael Ross, Vice President; James Kelly; Maureen Feeney; John Tobin; Jerry McDermott; Paul Scapicchio; Steve Murphy; Chuck Turner; Charles Yancey; Rob Consalvo; Sam Yoon, and Felix Arroyo); and its Committee on Government Operations, (whose members are Maureen Feeney, Chair; Steve Murphy, Vice Chair; Michael Ross; James Kelly; Chuck Turner; Jerry McDermott and Paul Scapicchio) are governmental bodies within the city of Boston, governed by G.L. c.39 § 23B. This suit is being brought against them in their official capacities. Defendants’ business address is One City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA 02108.


  1. Thomas M. Menino is the Mayor of Boston.

  1. The City of Boston has a Mayorally-appointed, five-member Compensation Advisory Board (the “Board”), which shall meet at least once a year and shall, in each even numbered year, report its recommendations to the Mayor, the City Council and the School Committee by the first Wednesday in March by filing same with the City Clerk. Members of the Compensation Advisory Board are deemed Special Municipal Employees pursuant to CBC Section 5-5.10A.

12. On March 7, 2006, the Compensation Advisory Board submitted a letter to Mayor Menino and to the Boston City Council regarding the Board’s recommendations for salary increases for the Mayor, the City Council, and certain City employees. The letter states, “As we do at least every other year, the Committee has met, reviewed data, and is proposing to the Mayor and the City Council specific recommendations….” “We look forward to presenting our recommendation before a meeting of the appropriate committee of the City Council….” (Exhibit 2).

13. On March 7, at 10:05AM, the City Clerk stamped receipt of a transmittal letter from Mayor Menino, sponsoring and referring to the Boston City Council: Ordinance Amending Salary Categories for Certain Offices; (the “Ordinance”) and: Report from the Compensation Advisory Board (the “Report”). The Mayor’s letter states: “The Compensation Advisory Board has carefully reviewed comparable salaries and other facts affecting such compensation.” (Exhibit 3 Mayor’s package to City Council).

14. The two items referenced above were referred to the Committee on Government Operations by the City Council President during the March 8, 2006, City Council meeting as Docket # 0347 Report from the Compensation Advisory Board, and Docket #0365 Ordinance Amending Salary Categories for Certain Offices. (Exhibit 4 Referral).

15. On April 18, 2006, a Notice of Public Hearing of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Government Operations was posted with the City Clerk for a public hearing to be held on Friday, April 21, 2006, at 11AM. (Exhibit 5 Notice)

16. On April 19, 2006, Plaintiff Kressel, by telephone, asked Lawrence DiCara, Esq., the Chair of the Compensation Advisory Board, if the Board meetings had been public, and requested a copy of the comparative study of other municipalities’ pay scales which had been conducted by the Board and used as the basis of its recommendations for Boston salary increases.

17. Mr. DiCara stated that the Compensation Advisory Board meetings were public and had been duly posted with the City Clerk. Mr. DiCara refused to disclose the study to Plaintiff Kressel, claiming that although the Board meetings were public meetings, the study was only “working papers” and did not have to be disclosed.

18. Mr. DiCara assured Plaintiff Kressel that he would present all the information at the public hearing scheduled for April 21, 2006 and would answer all questions posed by the City Council at that hearing.

19. On April 21, 2006, at approximately 10:30AM, the public hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations was cancelled. No public notice was given for the cancellation. No reason was publicly stated by the Council for the cancellation. However, on May 6, 2006, a Boston Globe Editorial (Exhibit 6a “No Stealth Pay Hikes”) quotes Committee Chair Councilor Maureen Feeney:

“There was much confusion among the councilors on Friday, April 21, that led to Councilor Maureen Feeney’s proposal to cancel the scheduled public hearing on the pay raises proposed by the City’s five-member Compensation Advisory Board. At issue, says Feeney, was whether the meeting should proceed because of the concerns that the Advisory Board’s Chair, attorney Larry DiCara, was representing a client seeking city land for a development project.”

20. On April 22, 2006, the Boston Globe published a story on possible conflicts of interest and ethics violations regarding the Compensation Advisory Board and the City Council vote on pay raises. (Exhibit 6b “Land swap proposal for clinic is criticized”).

21. On May 3 and on May 9, 2006, Plaintiff Kressel went to the Office of the City Clerk and requested copies of the meeting notices and minutes of the Compensation Advisory Board meetings, and copies of the comparative municipal pay study (the “study”). The Assistant City Clerk stated that the meetings of the Board are not public meetings, and that no meeting notices or minutes are filed.

22. To date, upon information and belief, no member of the public or press (Exhibit 6c “Pay raises eyed for mayor, councilors”) has been permitted to see the comparative municipal pay study on which the Compensation Advisory Board report was said to be based. The study has been withheld from the public and the press although no exemption has been cited to establish that the document is not a “public record” as defined under G.L. c.66 §5A,10,15,17C. The burden to show that a document is not a “public record” within the meaning of the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Law is on the custodian of the record to prove with specificity that an exemption applies.[1]

23. On May 2, 2006, Councilor Maureen Feeney, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, submitted to all City Councilors a Committee Report in advance of the scheduled Wednesday, May 3, City Council public meeting. (Exhibit 7 Committee Report).

24. The Committee report for Docket # 0347: Ordinance Amending Salary Categories for Certain Offices, states, “…that the Committee…based on information gathered by the Committee and having considered the same, respectfully recommends that this matter ought to pass in a new draft. (Emphasis supplied).

25. The Committee report further states, for Docket # 0365: Report of the Compensation Advisory Board, “…based on information gathered by the Committee and having considered same, respectfully recommends that this matter ought to be placed on file.”

26. The Boston City Council’s Committee on Government Operations has seven (7) members as stated above. The Committee report states: “Councillors (sic) Kelly, McDermott, Murphy and Ross concurring,” that is, concurring with the Chair of the Committee. Therefore, according to this Committee report, at least five (5) of the seven (7) members considered the Compensation Advisory Board’s report and drafted amendments and modifications to it, and five (5) voted to recommend that the Ordinance ought to pass with those amendments and modifications.

27. The deliberations concerning the Ordinance and the amendments and modifications, and the votes stated in the Committee report, were not conducted at any publicly noticed meeting or hearing in accordance with the Open Meeting Law.

28. At the May 3, 2006, City Council meeting, Docket # 0347: Ordinance Amending Salary Categories for Certain Offices, was brought to the floor with a brief statement of endorsement by Committee Chair Councilor Feeney. Council President Michael Flaherty immediately moved for acceptance of the Committee report and passage of Docket # 0347 “…in a new…” (Exhibit 8 Transcript)

29. Councilor Turner, a Committee member, stood to speak in opposition to the Ordinance. (Exhibit 8 Transcript).

30. Councilor Turner cited the issue of possible conflict of interest: “…the spirit of conflict of interest certainly is not being respected given the role that Mr. DiCara plays in terms of lobbying the City Council and the City …” (Exhibit 9 – Lobbying Letter).

31. Councilor Turner further stated that since the public hearing on the Ordinance had not been re-scheduled, and since the pay raise was a contentious issue (Exhibit 6a-h Media Releases) “…at the very least, the public should have a right to comment and give their perspective.”

32. Councilor Yoon stood to say he would vote for the Ordinance in that it “appears to be good public policy” and further stating: “Leaving again the appearance of conflict of interest aside, and I think our duty to be transparent in all our deliberations,…I’m just kind of stating for the record what my intention was in terms of the vote today.” (Exhibit 8 Transcript).

33. None of the “concurring Councillors (sic)” serving on the Committee made any statement at the Council meeting. No other Councilors spoke either in support or in opposition.

34. During the City Council meeting’s discussion on Docket #0347, no comparative municipal pay study[2], salary information, or other information from the Compensation Advisory Board or the Committee was deliberated upon by the Council.

35. There was no deliberation or discussion regarding the Compensation Advisory Board’s report and comparative municipal pay study, nor regarding the Committee’s amendments and modifications, at any duly noticed public hearing or meeting of the City Council, whereby the public could understand the reasons for the Council’s vote.

36. The Ordinance, in a new draft, passed within six minutes of introduction, on a voice vote, without a roll call vote. (Exhibit 8 Transcript).

37. Councilors Turner and Arroyo later asked to be recorded as voting against Docket #0347.


The Boston City Council Committee on Government Operations Violated the Open Meeting Law by Failing to Conduct Its Deliberations at Duly Posted Meetings and by Failing to Maintain and Make Public the Records of Its Meetings

38. Plaintiffs reassert and re-allege all of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-37 above, as if fully set forth herein.

39. The Open Meeting Law applies to all “governmental bodies,” including “every board, committee or subcommittee of any district, city, region or town, however elected, appointed or otherwise constituted.” G.L. c.39 § 23A.

40. Where members of a “governmental body” meet to discuss public business in private, even where members do not intend to vote on, or make a final decision on issues, this action constitutes a “meeting” under the Open Meeting Law. Thus, if there is a simple “exchange of views” by a simple majority of the members of a governmental body on a public issue, then the governmental body must comply with the requirements of the Open Meeting Law.[3]

41. The Open Meeting Law provides: “ In the hearing of …complaints the burden of proof shall be on the respondent to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the action complained of in such complaint was in accordance with and authorized by section 11A 1/3 of Chapter 30A, by section 9G of Chapter 34 or by this section.”

42. Upon information and belief, the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Government Operations did not convene a formal meeting of the Committee, but contacted individual committee members to deliberate towards, and arrive at, a decision on the proposed Ordinance and amendments and modifications to the Ordinance.

43. According to “OPEN MEETING LAW GUIDELINES” published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Attorney General Tom Reilly:

“Telephone meetings” – discussion by telephone among members of a governmental body on an issue of public business within the jurisdiction of the body – are a violation of the Law. This is true even when individual telephone conversations occur in serial fashion.14

“Revolving door” meetings in which a quorum of members participate in serial fashion, are meetings under the Open Meeting Law and must comply with all the Law’s requirements.15

With the advent of computers, it has become more common for persons, both at home and at work, to communicate through electronic mail, or “e-mail.” Like private conversations held in person or over the telephone, e-mail conversations among a quorum of members of a governmental body that relate to public business violate the Open Meeting Law, as the public is deprived of the opportunity to attend and monitor the e-mail “meeting.” Thus it is a violation to e-mail to a quorum messages that can be considered invitations to reply in any medium, and would amount to deliberation on business that must occur only at proper meetings. It is not a violation to use email to distribute materials, correspondence, agendas or reports so that committee members can prepare individually for upcoming meetings.”

14 See Harshbarger v. Board of Selectmen of Lexington. No. 88-3644 (Middlesex Superior Ct. August 18, 1989) (Order granting summary judgment).

15 See Shannon v. Boston City Council. No. 87-5397 (Suffolk Superior Ct. February 28, 1989) (Memorandum and order granting summary judgment).

44. This Court has ruled that serial deliberations violate the Open Meeting Law. (Exhibit 1: Decision on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, McCrea et.al. v. Michael J. Flaherty and the Boston City Council, C.A. No. 05-01798).

45. The Council’s Committee Report reflects that the Committee did Committee work: deliberating on information; modifying and amending the proposed Ordinance, and coming to a decision, without allowing public witness. (Exhibit 7 Committee Report).

46. These deliberations on the Ordinance without convening a duly noticed public meeting, and instead by the Chair deliberating with committee members in a serial fashion outside of public view, violated the Open Meeting Law.


The Boston City Council Violated the Open Meeting Law by Failing To Conduct Its Deliberations in Public

47. Plaintiffs re-assert and re-allege all of the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1-46 above as if fully set forth herein.

48. The City Council’s subsequent action of rubber-stamping approval in public of the Committee’s vote cannot “cure” the violation.[4] In both the recently adjudicated case brought by the Plaintiffs against the Boston City Council (Exhibit 1), and in the above cited case Shannon v. Boston City Council, this Court ruled that governmental bodies may not conduct deliberations privately and then use a subsequent public meeting to “cure” a violation. The public meeting must provide the deliberative forum that the private meeting did not, in order for the “cure to take place.” In the Findings and Order in McCrea, et.al. v. Michael J. Flaherty and the Boston City Council (Exhibit 1) this Court (Staffier-Holtz, J.) stated:

“Certainly, neither the Legislature, nor the Supreme Judicial Court intended to

allow governmental bodies to circumvent the requirements of the Open Meeting

Law simply by “curing” prior violations by holding a public meeting in which the

formal vote is held.23 Adopting that construction of the statute would allow all

governmental bodies to conduct all discussions leading up to a public vote in

secret. As this Court discussed, supra, relating to whether or not “deliberations”

actually occurred, there is no dispute but that the formal public meeting was a

mere announcement of the results of many, many discussions held outside the

public’s view.”

23 This Court’s order (Kottmyer, J.) denying

Defendants Motion to Dismiss, noted that Benevolent and Protective Order of

Elks “does not suggest that a governmental body can systematically ignore the

requirements of the act in connection with meetings at which decisions are made

on a particular subject matter and “cure” the violation by submitting and voting

on that measure at public meetings.” (Memorandum of Decision and Order on

Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. McCrea et.al. v. Michael J. Flaherty and the

Boston City Council, C.A. 05-01798B).

49. At the City Council meeting on May 3, 2006, no information from the Compensation Advisory Board was introduced, considered or deliberated upon; no deliberation took place regarding the Committee’s recommendations; neither was there any discussion nor deliberation of the reasons underlying the Committee’s amendments and modifications to the original Ordinance.

50. There was no public discussion of the issues raised by both Councilor Turner and by the Boston Globe; the public was not able to see the basis for the Councilors’ approval vote, nor for the claim of Councilor Yoon that the passage of the amended and modified Ordinance was “good public policy.”[5]

51. Committee Chair Maureen Feeney is quoted in the Boston Herald (Exhibit 6d “City Councilors OK Own Pay Raise” O’Ryan Johnson, May 4, 2006), that no Committee report was needed for all the Council to vote this Ordinance. The Committee Report states:

“This Committee is confronted by the imminent expiration of the sixty-day period delineated by the provisions of the City Charter found in Acts of 1948, Chapter 452, Section 17E, as amended by Acts of 1951, Chapter 376, Section 1. Without action by the Boston City Council, this Ordinance will be in force as if adopted by the City Council.”

However, the Committee did not simply approve the original Ordinance as submitted to them, but recommended that it ought to pass “in a new draft,” with the Committee’s recommended changes. The Ordinance, as amended, could not have been adopted per the Charter provision without specific Committee and Council action.

52. The Council, acting in full or through its committees, cannot decide that meetings may be private if they were not meetings required by law. Although many, if not most, of the City Council’s dockets do not legally require a hearing or meeting, when the Council does hold a hearing or meeting, the Open Meeting Law applies. It applies no less to discretionary meetings (other than chance social encounters) than to legally required meetings.


WHEREFORE, the Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Honorable Court:

53. Issue an Order of Notice pursuant to G.L. 39 § 23B requiring Defendants to appear at a hearing to be held within ten (10) days of the filing of this Complaint, or on such expeditious date as the Court shall fix, said hearing to be on the relief requested below;

54. Adjudge and declare that the Boston City Council and its Committee on Government Operations violated the Open Meeting Law by failing to conduct deliberations at duly posted public meeting.

55. Order the Defendants to make available to the Plaintiffs and the public at large, any and all records of the Compensation Advisory Board meetings and any studies, reports or other “working papers”, together with any and all records of the Committee on Government Operations and any other Council meetings and deliberations concerning the Ordinance, including, but not limited to, drafts of proposed changes to the Ordinance; emails; telephone messages and memoranda.

56. Adjudge and declare that the Compensation Advisory Board of the City of Boston is a “governmental body” as defined in the Open Meeting Law.

57. Order that the Defendant Boston City Council forthwith convene an “Open Meeting Law Task Force” to be comprised of five members, including the three Plaintiffs; one member from a group such as “Common Cause” and one to be appointed by the City Council. The Task Force will be charged with the responsibility of drafting an ordinance for the City of Boston similar to the Sunshine Ordinance of the City of San Francisco. (Exhibit 10).

58. Invalidate the May 3, 2006, City Council vote approving the amended Ordinance as it applies to the pay raises for the City Council and the Mayor, who would be sponsor and a signatory to an invalidly enacted ordinance. Plaintiffs suggest for the Court’s consideration that no salary changes be reversed for other City employees, who are not at fault.

59. Order that, if the Defendants, by any action, delay the ten-day, or expedited, hearing, and if they are ultimately found to be in violation of the Open Meeting Law, they be required to refund to the City Treasury any salary increase received to the day of judgment. Plaintiffs suggest that this apply only to the Mayor and the City Council members who are party to the unlawful action.

60. Order that any further violation of the Open Meeting Law by the Defendants will result in the Defendants being held in contempt of court.

61. Order fines and civil damages for the costs incurred in bringing this action.

62. Grant such other relief as the Court finds just and proper.

Dated this 22nd day of May, 2006

Respectfully submitted by,

Plaintiffs, pro se:

Shirley Kressel, 27 Hereford Street, Boston, MA 02116

(617) 421-0835


Kathleen Devine, 49 Symphony Road #33, Boston, MA 02115 (617) 536-5186


Kevin McCrea, 218 West Springfield Street, Boston, MA 02118

(617) 267- 2453

[1] Attorney General v. School Committee of Northampton, 375 N.E.2d 1188, 375 Mass. 127

[2] Boston Globe May 4, 2006, “Council OK’s big raises for itself, mayor” “DiCara said yesterday he recommended the raises after analyzing the pay of elected and appointed officials in comparable cities. The council never saw DiCara’s analysis or any other documentation showing that Boston officials are underpaid, councilors said.”

[3] Gerstein v. Superintendent Search Screening Committee, 405 Mass.465 (1989); District Attorney for the Plymouth District v. Board of Selectmen of Middleborough, 395 Mass. 529 (1985)

[4] In Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No.65 v. City Council of Lawrence. 403 Mass 563, 566 (1988). The Supreme Judicial Court deemed subsequent public meetings sufficient to ensure public access to the deliberative process of the Council, thereby curing the violation caused by private conversations. Since the May 3, 2006, Boston City Council meeting, like the public meeting in the Plaintiffs’ recently adjudicated case, “did not present to the public a review of the lengthy deliberative process, it is not sufficient to cure the prior violations.” (From McCrea et.al. v. Michael Flaherty and the Boston City Council, Suffolk Superior Ct. C.A. No. 05-01798, Findings and Order dated March 27, 2006, page 16)

[5] This Complaint does not take issue with the propriety of the pay raises voted, but rather with the process of the decision making, which did not provide an opportunity for the public to view the deliberative process.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Election day....

it is election day here in New Orleans. Ray Nagin seems to have an air of inevitable loss to him,
and that he can take it or leave it. There hasn't been a white mayor since 1978, Mitch Landreau's father: Moon Landreau.

It is almost all about race. There are adds on the radio from civil rights people saying that if Landreau gets elected "we" will lose 1300 jobs at city hall. The "We" being black people. I wonder where racially mixed people are classified? What is refreshing is people talking about race openly, as opposed to Boston where it is not discussed very frankly and usually with buzz words like "progressive".

Landreau has blacks talking about how great he is on his ads. There have also been a whole number of debates, with substantive dialogue, so people really do know where candidates stand.
Nagin also has an ad that sounds like a suburban white husband and wife making fun of all the Landreau's in State Government: sister is judge, sister is senator, aunt is school board, etc, etc. They are like the Kennedy's of Louisiana. Where were they before the storm trying to help this obviously broken city.

It feels like Landreau will win with 55 to 60 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, there are still piles of trash all over the city, crime is on the rise, abandoned cars and boats around.

It is clear that on a local, state and national level the government has failed the people of this city. No leadership is evident and the people know it, but unfortuneately they have nowhere to turn.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Obit for Herman Daley, because...after all, he was Herman Daley!

I’m on jet plane heading back to NOLA after attending the standing room only funeral for Herman Daly at the Methodist Church on Columbus. A great and (somewhat!) humble person who returned to his community after his Ivy education and MIT grad school could have taken him anywhere. ,But he decided to work towards breaking barriers, increasing programs for kids and just being a great part of the neighborhood. We always enjoyed his company at the Big House, and appreciated their coming to our wedding.
A true shame.

Very nice of Angela Menino to come. There were hosts of community leaders and politicians, Sen. Wilkerson, Councilor Flaherty, and Tim Cahill were announced to speak. For unexplained reasons Mr. Flaherty did not show, but Treasurer Cahill was very moving in talking about his friendship with Hermann. Reverend Mclee was great as always, bringing tears and smiles and a call to have Boston reflect the multicultural audience. Wonderful music, singing, and a sense of community.

Like everyone says to a widow, I told Elisa if you need anything-just call. I didn’t expect to hear from her on Sunday morning at 8:30!!! But thanks to our wonderful recent torrents, her basement was flooding. I went over and was greeted at the door, and I said “you thought I really meant that???”, we had a good laugh and quickly fixed the problem. If you know her at all, be a good neighbor and visit, or drop a card or invite her out. Or, buy a condo from her through Gibson Domain Domain!

Donations can be made to Urban Dreams in care of Herman Daly.

a tale of two cultures

Tale of Two Cultures:

It is hard to overstate how many Hispanic workers are in the city of New Orleans now. They are on construction sites all over the city, and I have personally seen guys who know no English working on public schools and for FEMA road cleaning crews. This is in a city that last year had no signs of Hispanics when I visited for long weekend wedding. Most of them are originally from Mexico and Honduras. They are regularly a topic of discussion at the Mayoral debates. (Those are forums where the candidates for an office have an intelligent discussion about their differing views on how to make a City better, very popular in open liberal western democracys)

There are a few places to get day laborers, but the main place is Robert E. Lee Circle a main crossroads area just beside downtown. Every morning there are 50 to 100 people looking for work. The going rate is 100 to 120 dollars a day, cash. Interestingly enough, more than the pay at McDonalds or other entry level jobs here, and of course that is without withholding, etc.

I recently needed some day laborers to do some cleanup on a job here. I was about to take a couple of Hispanic Americans to do the work, when a couple of native born guys from Michigan came up and asked if they could get some work. I explained exactly what the job was(cleaning debris from under a house), how much it paid, and how long the day was. They said “no problem” and explained they were looking for permanent work. I told them I always have a need for responsible, productive workers and if they worked out well, I could use people fulltime.

My experience was typical with native born Americans, before they started they talked about how experienced and reliable they are and how much they want a job. Then they get into the job, which is dirty and uncomfortable, as described, and they start to complain a bit. A few hours later, they are openly saying they aren’t getting paid enough for the job, finally near the end of the day they revolt and quit before the agreed upon time, usually with comments about the work being beneath them, or whatever, with demands for immediate payment when they want to quit, a couple hours before the end of the workday. Of course, I pay them and their time with me is done, as they kick away steady employment to go back and wait with the multitudes at Lee Circle.

The next day, I hired two Hispanic Americans to do the same job on the other half of the building. No complaints, good attitude, friendly and joking. They came back and worked a second day for me.

About a week later, I had to get under the house where the two crews had been working to start redoing the plumbing systems on the house. I first went under the Native Born American side, and was generally pleased that they guys had done a good job in difficult circumstances, thinking to myself that it was too bad they didn’t stick it out. Then I went under the Hispanic American side, and their cleanup job was far superior, it was like the dirt under the house had been prepared to become a putting green. A truly exemplary job had been done, with a better attitude. Who would you rather hire?

A week or two later, I was working on the roof and again I needed help. Again I went to Lee Circle where I had agreed to hire dos personas Hispanic, when another Native Born American came up and said he was experienced in construction and could do roofing and asked for a job. I said sure, I’ll give you a chance. All three of the guys worked out OK for the day, and we agreed to be at work the next morning at 7:30. The Native Born American then started asking insistently for me to give him a ride to the place he was staying, I told him no, I still was working and had to take advantage of all the daylight hours I could. He got to be a bit annoying; can you imagine begging someone who just hired you for a ride, and being annoying to them????

The next morning, the Hispanic guys were there right on time at siete y media (7:30) and we started pounding away on the roof in the 90 degree weather. Around 9 am the Native Born American came by and I asked where he had been, and he started making up excuses. Needless to say, I told him he wasn’t needed.

I’ve discussed with many people who try and help people to be ready for the workforce, from the Veteran’s Administration, to Madison Park High School Teachers. It is amazing the low level of understanding of what it takes to be a successful employee. If you are not going to get a good education, the low skill workforce is going to become increasingly more difficult with more competition, which is going to keep wages stagnant. There are people who want to work and who are willing to work. Many people have an air of expectancy: “I deserve better than this”, but if people don’t want to do the work to be educated, reliable and valuable they will quickly learn there are others who can take these low skilled jobs, that are more motivated and hardworking and who see work not as demeaning, but as a step to something better.

Meanwhile, my wife tells me my Spanish is getting better all the time!!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

a troubled man for troubled times

i was disappointed that in the mayoral race here in NOLA that Manny Chevrolet didn't do better.

He is a blind, manic deptressive, clarinet player who has run for office before. His motto: a troubled man for troubled times".

Some of his other signs "still troubled..."

It is hot and muggy down here, and as in Boston there is the smell of increased violence. More cops, more unhappy cops, more people just hanging around. I discovered one of the city's big time coke dealers yesterday. I'm always amazed how many people you meet can tell you who the coke dealer is in a city as he drives around his 100K porsche, but the police don't know or don't do anything about it. And I don't even do drugs. Some people two houses down from one of my projects are growing marijuana right on their front porch, in one of the historic vases. Pretty funny.

Looks as if I will be suing the city again soon, they really don't want to hold open meetings, we'll try and bring them kicking and screaming into doing the unthinkable: actually holding meetings and letting the public see what they are up to. Kudos again to Adam Reilly for blogging about their meetings, a noticable shift towards professionalism and doing something when people are watching.

Had a nice conversation with Councilor Kelly at the south end baseball opening day. I thought he looked pretty good for a man who is has been fighting cancer very hard. He seemed in good spirits, and quite welcoming.

One of the kids on my team got Manny Delcarmen's necklace, 10 bucks from Jonathon Papelbon, and faux world series ring from larry luccino, what a haul!!! Papelbon was great, with his dog "bosss". He was so kind, and so friendly with all the kids, what a great guy and a true southern gentleman. A huge hit! Also great was Ron Jackson, the hitting coach, "just keep your eye on the ball and don't let the ghosts of baseball haunt you."

Tragedy about my friend herman daly falling from his roof. He and his wife have been so nice, coming to my wedding, with a print they gave me hanging above the fireplace in the BIG House. A person who gave so much back to his community, very quietly, is a true shame. The funeral is saturday.

When are those bold ideas coming from city hall? I asked the building department if the "streamlining of the permitting process" promised last summer has started yet. They laughed at me.

On the positive side, I think the Mayor did the right thing by having the "independent" BRA up the cost of buying out of the affordable housing to$200K is a good thing. I believe that integrating income levels in a mix of housing is good for the city. Concentrated poverty is to be avoided.

be big!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

City Council doesn't deliberate; Dicara Drops Fundraiser

Here's a picture of me in Louisiana building with Habitat for Humanity!

Just got back from New Orleans last night, in time to read in the morning papers about the City Council voting itself a raise. A raise for the Mayor, who does all the work, has all the power, and all the responsibility I might agree with, but a raise for the council? After they just argued in Open Court that they have no power or authority over virtually anything?

I just spent 6 months or so traveling the city with these guys, speaking to the same groups, talking about the issues. Never once did they say they were underpaid. In fact, they said "it was the greatest job in the world", and " I wouldn't want to do anything else". Their apparent incredible job satisfaction rate doesn't jibe with the pay raise, which I believe is about the only piece of legislation they have passed other than outlawing some super serious guns, none of which I believe have been used in any of the shootings this year.

Good for Felix and Chuck Turner for voting against. And they are two of the members who could most use the money. A bit disappointed in Sam Yoon for not voting against it. He spent a year and half running for a job that paid 70K a year, how could he in good conscience vote himself a raise when the city needs more cops.

Meanwhile, the instigator of these raises Larry Dicara suddenly canceled a fundraiser that was to be at his house tonight. We just got a call and no explanation yesterday that it was cancelled. I already sent in my check to help raise money for Nuestra Comunidad's Nuestra Culinary Venture's Our Kitchen, but I was looking forward to enjoying the food of the group, and a nice night out at Mr. Dicara's house (who should be applauded for hosting the event).

Serendipity? Who knows?

If I had been elected I would try and get an amendment passed that the City Council can only vote itself a pay raise in the last quarter of their term. We should pass this law for all elected bodies, legislature, Congress, etc. That way, they would have to justify the raises in a more demonstrable manner.

Meanwhile, about these raises. So they had a report from Dicara's committee, then they were supposed to have a hearing on it that was cancelled 1/2 an hour before it was scheduled, doesn't appear that any public notice was given, but yet the report from Feeney's committee say that a number of her committee members conferred with the report: I believe Kelly, Ross, Murphy, McDermott conferred. In other words: members of the committee discussed, deliberated and recommended something without any public notice or input.

Sounds like all the making of an Open Meeting Lawsuit!!! It takes 3 citizens to file one, anyone interested?