Saturday, November 18, 2006

Globe questions funny money at City Hall

Nice editorial from the Globe this morning, even if they dont have all of their facts straight. Notice that they dont blame the Mayor (or even the City Council) for the disparity in pay at the BRA. The Mayor is in control of the BRA, but plays both sides of the coin for his own benefit. When they do something that looks good he takes credit for it, when he wants them to take the hit for the dirty work he can say they are independent. I will never forget Michael Flahertys words to me when I asked why they voted away any oversight over the BRA "who needs control of the BRA?"

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!

The article:

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

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