Tuesday, November 28, 2006
So today I decided to call up Councilor Steve Murphy's office. He is the chair of the Public Safety Committee and is usually known to be knowledgeable about police and safety issues. I wanted to ask him to introduce a bill to clear this confusion up. If a citizen goes on the City website they will see an ordinance to have 2500 police officers on the street. But if the City's position is that this ordinance is not valid, they should wipe it from the books. I thought Councilor Murphy would be the appropriate person to do so.
When I called his office I had surreal conversation around 10 a.m. with his receptionist as follows:
Recep: Councilor Murhpy's office.
KM: Kevin McCrea for Councilor Murphy.
Recep: He is not in right now, I can take a message. Are you the guy who ran last year?
KM: Yes, I am. I just don't assume that everyone knows who I am.
Recep: (Takes my phone number and asks:) Can I leave him a message?
KM: Yes I was calling about the ordinance to require more police officers.
Recep: Oh, wouldn't that be great.
KM: Yes, it would.
Recep: I live in Allston and you can't get a 911 call answered. We don't even bother
calling 911 anymore if there is an emergency.
KM: Really, I didn't realize it was so bad in Allston. One of my friends had her 13 year old
daughter beaten up in Dorchester by 3 kids on Halloween night and it took 911 five
hours to respond.
Recep: Someone needs to do something
KM: I agree. Thanks for your time and please have Councilor Murphy call me.
I couldn't believe it. The receptionist in the Public Safety Committee chairs office is telling me that we can't rely on 911 service in this City. Astounding.
Hope Steve calls me back. I agree with his office employee, someone needs to do something.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Shirley Kressel was at the meeting and told members present that a violation was occurring. One of the "old" turnpike board members even chided one of the new Romney appointees about "so, this is the new and transparent board, huh?"
The amazing thing is that they got their hearing scheduled in 10 days!!! While we have had to wait months and years for our suit to get resolved. Clearly, knowledgeable lawyers are better than pro se citizens like us.
Can't wait to find how they did it, maybe a short order of notice.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I was at the building to install the new Carbon Monoxide detectors required by law. These are just one more safety measure that increases the cost of housing in MA, because one or a few people died because someone didn't follow the building code. Does it make the house safer?-yes Would putting padded floors in everywhere make houses safer? Watch out, it might be coming...
Anyway, every month she gives me a written explanation of why she can't pay the rent or the back rent. I hadn't been in her apartment in awhile, but boy was it nice!! About a 5 foot wide projection TV with full cable, and verizon DSL for her computer! It made me feel ashamed that I would actually even ask her for the $100 in rent that she owed me, because clearly life was very difficult for her. Who can be bothered paying their rent when there are important cable and telephone DSL bills to pay!
To think that I got rid of my cable because I thought it was an extravagent expense!!! Maybe I should be on section 8? Of course the city just raised the taxes on the building by 25% this year. I wonder if I can raise her rent by 25%?
Saturday, November 18, 2006
"It is unclear as to just how many decisions the Supreme Judicial Court and/or injunctions are necessary for the defendants to comprehend that the Open Meeting Law means just that-
I couldn't say it any better.
Perhaps the future MCAS multiple choice questionaire would be as follows:
If you are a legislative branch politician, Open Meetings means what:
1) Have your aids talk to their aids to work everything out so you won't be bothered
2) Have a quorum minus one meet in a room while the others stand outside and
don't let anyone know about it
3) Have Open Meetings
4) Just do what the Executive Branch tells you to
Remember, 3 is the magic number!
The Globe will obliquely criticize a government agency but never say "how come the Mayor of 13 years allows this to go on"? They know what goes on, but wont assign responsibility. Are they afraid of the Mayor as well, or just part of the monied elite running the city.
Secondly the article says the BRA is independent of the City, however, there is approximately 7 million dollars in capital improvements given to the BRA from the City in this years fiscal budget, 7 million dollars with no oversight. Remember that when you pay your tax bill!
SALARIES OF top managers in the Boston Redevelopment Authority outstrip those of other City Hall executives whose responsibilities are considerably greater and whose jobs are more transparent.
Boston's five-member compensation advisory board analyzes salaries and cost of living indexes in other cities before recommending executive salary ranges to Mayor Thomas Menino. Menino, known as tightfisted, often lowballs even his most talented managers. The BRA, however, operates under no such constraints because, as a quasi-public agency, it receives no funds directly from the city's operating budget. The BRA's culture is closer to a private corporation than a city department. And its salaries and perquisites are more generous than other departments at City Hall, sometimes unfairly.
Quasi-public is still public. The BRA has revenues from ground leases and sales of public lands. Its statutory authority to grant tax concessions and acquire property through eminent domain derives from the Legislature. Accountability and transparency are just as relevant on the ninth floor of City Hall, where the BRA staffers work, as any other floor.
Salary discrepancies between BRA executives and other city managers look even more imbalanced in light of the scope of their duties. William Sinnott , City Hall's top lawyer, earns $125,500 for overseeing the legal work of a city with a $2.1 billion budget and more than 16,000 employees. Kevin Morrison , his counterpart at the BRA, earns $137,676 for his legal oversight of an agency with 290 employees and an annual budget of $16 million. This week, Dot Joyce signed on as Menino's press secretary for $95,000 annually. Susan Elsbree , her BRA counterpart, earns $127,551 for buffing up the image of her agency. Tony Marinello , the BRA's administration and finance chief, makes $131,368 while Karen Connor , who supervises budgets for the entire city, earns $107,689. Mayor Menino was so impressed with the organizational skills of his 29-year-old former campaign manager Beth Leonard that he recommended her for a $115,235 post as chief of staff at the BRA. But there is something amiss in the salary structure when she out earns experienced City Hall managers like Antonia Pollak , Thomas Tinlin , and William Good , commissioners of parks, transportation, and inspectional services, respectively, who earn between $102,304 and $113,074.BRA executives perform complicated work and face some of the wiliest real estate moguls in the city. But top executives in City Hall bear even greater responsibilities for the safety and well-being of Bostonians. Executives understand there are sacrifices in choosing public service. But city department heads are bearing more than their fair share of pain while BRA executives go to town
Friday, November 17, 2006
Here are some of the myth v. reality's one accountant friend sent in:
That's the point - it's not what you pay - it's what you get. One idea for the presentation - a "myth/reality" page. The mayor's PR team has done an amazing job of convincing people of things that aren't true. Had drinks with someone yesterday - and he says the schools are underfunded and understaffed, taxes are low (actually for him they are - he has two kids in the Kilmer school and lives in W Roxbury - all the benefits of the suburbs and $5000 in taxes) and life is generally good in Beantown. Here are some examples:
Myth - schools are underfunded Reality - we spend $17,000 per student or $400,000 plus per class
Myth - schools are understaffed Reality - staffing levels per pupil are at all time highs
Myth - schools are improving Reality - scores are up, but we still rank 3rd from the bottom in MCAS and SAT scores
Myth - City struggles to find enough revenues Reality - we spend $3500 per person on city government (we could use some comparisonsto other cities/towns on this)
Myth - Without Mayor Menino - none of the advances of the city would have happened Reality - virtually every city in the country has seen a rennaissance - but we are one of the only ones losing population
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The City finally raised the real estate tax on Mayor Menino's house, from 300K to 400K. Of course, the city the raised the value on the house I live in by 400k on its own. So, since I ran for public office criticizing the "corruption, collusion, and cronyism" at City Hall they have doubled the value of my home.
Coincidence? I think not. Just like it's not coincidence that Menino's campaign secretary becomes the chief of staff at the BRA and gets a 20 percent raise after 6 months on the job, then takes 3 months off. Wish I could get a job like that!!! Great article in today's Globe by Donovan Slack about this.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
They have a specific request for a microscope if anyone could help, that would be great. If it is in Boston, I could take it down for them in my travels if we can't ship it.
Here is the request:
Anne Mulle <email@example.com>
Reply-To: Anne Mulle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Greetings to CGHC Docs & friends!
Common Ground is looking for a microscope to do wet mounts, KOH preps for
skin. Does anyone know of any labs or hospitals that may have a microscope
waiting to have a new home?
I think the biggest issue for change on a ballot is here in N.O. where they are voting to get rid of the inherently corrupt 7 assessor system. I haven't seen any advertisements for keeping the current system.
I am for the Arizona measure to have a 1 million dollar lottery for voting participants. We need to get more people involved. So many people feel as though the politicians don't care about their needs or concerns, just the people who can pay the "admission fee."
This years political season isn't over yet and already papers are writing about next years. The West Roxbury Transcript called me to see if I'm running for city council again. Highly unlikely, as I've made commitments to my wife, to rebuilding in New Orleans, and I've just put another historical building under agreement to renovate last week.
I'd like the papers to do a column on campaign promises six months into each politicians terms. I heard so many promises from city council campaigners, and have seen not much but emptiness and pettiness so far. Work on housing, schools, PILOT payments, more streamlined permitting (what a joke, every politician from Sam Yoon, to Tom Menino, to Deval Patrick talks about this but I'm yet to see it at any building department I go into), and yet I don't see anything. I will say in watching a City Council meeting on line that Michael Flaherty runs an objective tight ship. Also, I hope Sam Yoon continues with his pursuit of a 311 plan (watch out for the Mayor stealing your idea!! Ask John Tobin). The 311 calls work well in New Orleans and it is an efficient way to seperate emergency calls from neighborhood issue calls.
Morning 40 Federation is a great band out of New Orleans who should be on Saturday Night Live. They are from the Bywater, and headlined last weekends neighborhood festival which was a great time. The premise of the band is that every morning they wake up and have a 40 ounce malt liquor before doing anything. They are tight, they have charisma in buckets, and sign great songs about being drunk and partying, sometimes through a megaphone. "Wake up, turn over and carry me home" is one of the clever lines, surely only a love drunk person (or drunk love) could understand.
Congressman Jefferson is in the fight of his life here, he will probably win the first round, but may lose a run off.
New Orleans is in tough shape. The violence here continues unabated. Virtually every other day there is a murder, and this in a city 1/3 the size of Boston. People are getting crazy, drugs abound and I don't hear as many hammers or nailguns which usually form a daily cacophony in the neighborhoods. People are excited about the Saints, but not a lot of people are marching back into the City. There is no discernable increase in population, and of course money for rebuilding is stuck in the pipelines.
Rumors....about the City Council Race, it all depends on whether Murphy gets hitched to the Patrick regime. If he goes, then John Connolly is on the Council. Someone at my Ward Committee meeting said there maybe an agreement between Connolly and Tobin to let Connolly have the West Roxbury Seat and Tobin runs at Large. Doesn't make much sense to me as John has almost won city wide already, why would he take a step back to district councilor? But, Tobin wants to advance and although he is quite popular in his district, it is limiting him. I wonder if he will again vote for Flaherty for City Council President? If I had to handicap it right now, if Murphy stays and runs again, the money would be on all 13 councilors being re-elected. Remember 98 percent of incumbents get sent back to their office in MA. Especially if no one starts running by Jan. 1. Remember both Sam and John were running at this point last year, it is no coincidence that they were the top vote getters amongst the new candidates.
A police union person I spoke to was hesitant to talk about the new police commissioner. Very cagey, which doesn't bode well. A friend is a public defender in Lowell and she says that the police there are notorious for pulling over minorities, especially asian and hispanic kids. So, there are an inordinant amount of drug related arrests for those kids, but not as many for the whites, even though she says they believe that just as many of the white kids have low level amounts of drugs as well. Sort of like Bill Belichick's kid in Weston!
The New York Times had an interesting piece on the City Council in New York. (Name one! I dare you!) They just voted themselves 25% raises, although they, like Boston do not have much power and many of the members hold outside jobs making hundreds of thousands a year. However, they do have two, four year term limits so at least there is turnover. They now make $110 or $120K a year, the second highest in the country and they are the only body in NY that can vote itself raises.
I am getting frustrated working in New Orleans. The low level of education and high level of incompetence makes getting things done increasingly difficult. In the last day I've had countertops made incorrectly, tile that was ordered two months ago turning out to not having been ordered, doorknobs that I've been after for months coming in and being the wrong ones.
It completely underscores the importance of good education.
Speaking of which there are some very fishy numbers in the Boston School Department budget, more on that later. But, essentially we are spending more and more on the budget while we have fewer and fewer students.
Go out and vote, and do a good deed,
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I'd like to thank Sam Yoon for sending one of his office staff over to learn about this stuff. The biggest boondoggle coming down the Pike is that the Mayor is about to give away 100 million to 200 Million dollars worth of our money when he gives away the Winthrop Square garage to the BRA for FREE!!!!
I implored (I believe it was Frank) Councilor Yoon's representative to try and get Sam to at least have the Mayor give the property away with a 99 year lease which is common in large government transactions so that 100 years from now our grandchildren will be given this large gift from our generation to help pay their taxes!!
The Globe was there as well and hopefully they might write something about it. Last night was the beta test, and we have some tweaking to do, but hopefully we will be able to post this on the ABN website: ABNBOSTON.org and bring it around the city to help educate the citizens about how the city works.
Off to New Orleans, can't wait to see Kermit Ruffins tonight in the Bywater! Unbelievable, but one of my tenants down there is complaining about getting the heat turned on. It's only 70 degrees!!!
Make sure and vote next tuesday, I won't be in town but I voted at City Hall which is Open weekdays till 4:30 to vote and saturdays from 10 to 2. Let your voice be heard. One vote for Deval from my camp!