Sunday, December 31, 2006

Thoughts on President Feeney's way to run government...

In honor of Councilor Feeney putting the votes together to become council president, I will post some thoughts on her testimony at the Open Meeting Trial. The most important point is that she gave pay raises to unknown hundreds of employees without knowing how much that would cost the taxpayers.

It would appear that the white councilors again outgunned Team Unity by getting together and playing musical chairs. As I predicted with Joe Heisler a couple weeks ago, Maureen was an acceptable choice to the majority voting block of 9 mostly because she has no (outspoken) Mayoral aspirations.

My thoughts:

Before the Open Meeting Trial is too distant in my memory, I will write down the points I thought were important, interesting, funny or memorable for good or bad.

The first point is that win or lose, I believe that the mere fact that the council had to stand trial to explain their actions is a victory for open, transparent democratic government. As the judge said when he denied their motion for summary judgment, the city council and mayor getting 17 percent raises, amending an ordinance without a single hearing and a 6 minute discussion on the matter certainly makes one wonder what went on. The fact that the court understood that the Open Meeting Law is meant to illuminate the process under which government operates, and provides a strong deterrent to back room deals was shown by the fact that he made them come and explain their actions in open court. Making a politician swear to tell the truth under pains and penalties of perjury is quite a strong deterrent.

First on the stand was Maureen Feeney, the chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee. She testified that she never spoke to anyone about the amendment to raise the pay of hundreds of city managers and the Mayor or City Council. She didn't speak to anyone in the executive branch of government and she certainly didn't talk to any other city councilors about the substance of the ordinance, just to Councilor Murphy and Turner about a scheduling issue. She cancelled the scheduled public hearing on the pay raise issue because Donovan Slack of the Globe called her and asked her if their was a conflict of interest because Larry Dicara was lobbying the Mayor and City Council on behalf of the Forsythe Institute to have the City give the Forsythe land for free at the same time that he was suggesting raises for the Mayor, City Council and doubling the pay of the Zoning Board of Appeals whom Mr. Dicara is in front of on a very frequent basis. After receiving that phone call from Ms. Slack on Thursday evening she waited until Friday morning around 10 am to cancel the meeting. Although she has said in public that she wanted to talk to the state or local ethics board (and drafted a letter to the ethics board for review which she never sent), what she really did was call Corporate Council Sinnott for his opinion. She is not sure when he got back to her with an opinion that it wasn't a problem, but by then the 60 day period that the Government Operations Committee had to do something with the amendment was running out. She testified that she met with T'urner and Murphy sometime the following week but didn't remember when, but she did say that they only talked about scheduling although Turner told her he was against the ordinance. She also says she didn't tell them about the amendments she was going to later make to the document.

Up until this point, in my opinion, no rules had been broken assuming she was telling the truth about not talking to anyone about this ordinance which had been in her committee for 55 days or so. But then Maureen took it upon herself to start changing things around. The submission by the Mayor had collapsed 5 pay categories for City employees down to 3 categories. On the Monday night before the ordinance was due out of her committee to the clerk by noon Tuesday, she decided to change the pay scales for hundreds of City Employees. She couldn't quite remember what made her change the pay scales around, something very vague about wanting to cut some things, although she couldn't remember what those things were. She certainly had no idea how many people were affected by the pay raises, and had no idea how much those pay raises were going to cost the taxpayers of Boston. (Her attorney at one point said 400 to 500 people, at other points 200 to 300 people were mentioned. What was clear throughout the trial was no one knew how many people this affected, nor how much would it cost)

On Tuesday morning while she was driving to the Bay Side Convention center she testified that she called in to her office, dictated the changes to the ordinance over the phone, and her staff took it from there, although her testimony got very confusing and contradictory at this point. Specifically, she at first said she hadn't talked to legislative aid Paul Koch, but later described multiple conversations with him. The long and short of it is that between 9 am and 12 noon, Maureen called in to her office, amended a major ordinance over the phone, her staff distributed the changes and a cover sheet that said something to the affect of "we the committee studied the facts, considered them, and we recommend the following changes to the full council", 4 of the members of her committee (Murphy, Ross, McDermott, Kelly) received these changes, and added their names as "concurring" on the bottom of the cover sheet. All of this happened in 3 hours, and of course the public never had a chance to observe or provide input to this.

When every Councilor is sworn on s/he receives a blue book with the Open Meeting Law guidelines, and they sign a document that they have received this document. The document has an introduction which states that the basic idea of the Open Meeting Law is that the "public's business is done in public"

Maureen started the testifiers down the path that they were going to follow during the trial, that when the members of the committee "concurred" they were only doing so as a courtesy to the chairperson of the committee. She testified that when she wrote "We" multiple times on the cover sheet that she really meant "I". She testified that just because someone "concurs" with a committee report it doesn't necessarily mean that they agree with it, and that it is not to be construed that the committee took action as a group just because they write an introduction that says "We the committee did…." and is signed by a majority of the members at the bottom as concurring.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flaherty doesn't miss a trick

Talk of the Neighborhoods has a new blog and poll at

Their first poll is "who will be the city council president?" After the first night the standings were approximately Feeney 10, Flaherty 12, and Tobin 3. The next night the poll had clearly been ballot stuffed and Flaherty had an extra 40 votes or so, so that he far outpaced Feeney and Tobin.

So often, that extra effort pays off in making what seems to be real, become real.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Field for City Council at Large starting to EnLarge

John Connolly has announced he is running, Joe Heisler told me that he has heard that Matt O'Malley is running again, Team Unity is supposedly thinking of running more than just Sam and Felix, and today I got an email from a gentleman who helped on my campaign, Eric Georgi.

His email is as follows:

I'm writing you to tell you that I am running for Boston City Council (at large.If you could make a contribution before the new year, I would greatly appreciate it.If you or someone you know of would be interested in an internship, or volunteering, I'd be glad to speak with them about it. Either way, please visit my web site ( and keep me in mind.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Juntos el mundo!!!

As many of our friends know, and now the City Council and BRA, Clara and I are taking next year off for our honeymoon. She has given notice at the hospital she works at, and we are hoping to leave in January.

We have been busy outfitting our motorcycles, getting shots for all the various diseases around the world, getting carnets and visas, and studying maps.

We are going to start from the base in New Orleans, head south through central America, hopefully make it to Tierra Del Fuego, then back up the east coast of south america before flying off on Lufthansa for summer in Europe, from there who knows!

We wish everyone a happy, healthy christmas and holiday season and if you have visited great places in the world that you would recommend, please drop us a line and let us know about them.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth-Al Gore and the City Council

I was watching the Al Gore movie an Inconvenient Truth on Sunday night with my wife, when Al quoted Upton Sinclair "It is hard to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it."

My wife said to me, "that sounds like the City Council!" It was very lattice of coincidence.

The Open Meeting Law trial ended today and I guess Maureen Feeney was in the back of the room complaining that I hadn't blogged about the trial. First of all, I appreciate Maureen taking the time to read my blog. Second, although I'm not an attorney as anyone who was in court can attest, there are rules of decorum which I decided to try and follow, one of which is not making any public statements during the trial.

Councilor Kelly insisted on coming to Court today and being called as a witness. We had no intention of calling him, and the Council's attorney Mrs. Stacy didn't want to call him either but Jimmy, always the fighter and defender of the City Council insisted on coming. Jimmy came, spoke clearly and strongly to the court, despite his obvious physical ailments. It was an inspiration to see him work so hard to participate. I felt Jimmy would feel insulted if we didn't question him, and we asked him one relevant question which he answered honestly. His handshake was firm as he left the podium. Agree or disagree with Jimmy on an issue, he will let you know where he stands and there are fewer and fewer like him all the time.

I met with Jimmy years ago when I was a young developer starting out. I called his office about a project in his district and he gave me 1/2 an hour of his time early one morning. We had an honest, frank discussion about the property. He told me that he could support the project as long as we had some union involvement. Very straightforward, businesslike and friendly, nothing like he was portrayed in the press.

The City's lawyer asked me 5 times if I was going to just ask one question as we had agreed. Although I told her numerous times that when I give my word on something, it means something, it wasn't until Jimmy told her "I know Kevin, I trust Kevin" that she finally believed me. It was a poignant moment for me, and I thank Jimmy for saying that. Of course, I held up my end of the bargain.

Although I will blog more about this later, I know Mrs. Feeney would like to read more about herself so I will describe a bit of her testimony.

As has been reported in the Boston Phoenix and the Dorchester Reporter, Maureen Feeney is looking into being the next City Clerk which is a position appointed by the City Council. She testified that on Monday night, May 1st, 2006 she decided all by herself that the pay scales submitted by the Mayor for top City workers needed to be altered. The report was due to the council by Tuesday, May 2 at noon. So, on Tuesday morning as she was going to the Bayside Expo Center she called into her office and dictated the changes to the pay structure of the City to her assistants who changed the document that she had been sitting on for 58 days. Her assistants then sent it around to the members of her committee around 10 a.m. Those members then indicated that they "concurred" with her changes, and the whole thing was filed by noon.

She testified that she didn't know how many people were affected by the changes, nor how much it would cost the taxpayers of Boston.

Now, why do you suppose she decided not to hold a hearing on the matter, and wait till the absolute last minute to file the documents with the council, thus reducing the likelihood that anyone would really look at all the changes to the pay scales of city management workers?

Because she raised the MINIMUM salary of the City Clerk from the current level of $85,000
to $95,000. It is all about the money!!! I just figured this out in court on Wednesday morning after Feeney was off the stand, after going over and over the documents. Why would Feeney knowingly put herself in possible hotwater after just receiving a scathing indictment from Suffolk Superior Court? Because she could raise the salary of her possible next job by $10,000 a year, which has real pension implications as well.

Like the Watergate episode, the lesson is always to "follow the money!!!"

A quick note of appreciation for Councilor Ross who clearly was the councilor who answered the questions with the most honesty.

Also, I'd like to thank Michael Flaherty for coming up to me after the trial, offering a handshake and congratulating me on doing a good job. It was very genuine of him, and I think an appreciation that we are doing this because we firmly believe in open, transparent government. Best of holidays to him and his family as well.

More summary later.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Open Meeting Law trial started today

Today in Suffolk Superior Court, room 304, Judge Connolly presiding, the Open Meeting Law case started.

Because the burden of proof is on the defendants to prove their innocence, they present their evidence first. This is different from typical law because the framers of the statute understood that the public is at a disadvantage about knowing what goes on if people are not meeting in the prescribed manner of Open Meetings.

Councilor Feeney was the first witness called. She explained how she changed the pay categories and the pay scales for a large number of municipal employees on her own without speaking to the Mayor or any other councilor or anyone else. According to her, no councilors asked her any questions or requested information and no questions were asked of her at the Boston City Council meeting on May 3, 2006 when the pay raises for the council, the mayor and a large number of city workers were approved in 6 minutes.

Councilor Turner was the second witness. His testimony was short.

Tomorrow, defense counsel has informed the court that Councilors Murphy, Ross and Flaherty will take the stand.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thanksgiving with the Mayor at Pine Street Inn

On Thanksgiving Day I volunteered for 3 or 4 hours at the Pine Street Inn. They have an annual holiday feast for the guests. I helped to set up tableware, serve food, clean up. It is a very enriching and humbling experience. I recommend volunteering for activities like this to all because it is impossible to come away from it without being more thankful about how lucky most of us are, and isn't that the point of Thanksgiving?

The dynamics and the people are fascinating. There was the father with his young sons around 8 to 14, taking charge of setting up the upper dining room in proper order. They do it every year. There were the middle aged cousins from the North Shore who got up at 4 a.m. to take the train into Boston because they were not sure exactly how the trains and public transportation were going to get there. Volunteers were young and old, all races, eager to do their part.

The Mayor comes in and tours the facility with the photographers and TV cameras, welcoming everyone with a hearty "Happy Thanksgiving". He caught me while I was pouring water at the tables. Some staff were grumbling that they wish that he would not come, because he just delays everything with his photo-ops. While I agree that the process could be a bit more friendly to the time crunch of the staff and guests, I applaud the Mayor for bringing the press to raise awareness of the homeless situation in Boston. He comes every year, and a man in his position does not have to do that. I also applaud Councilor Felix Arroyo who came, unannounced, without the press, and spent real time helping to serve the traditional turkey meal just as any other layperson volunteer.

The dynamics were fascinanting to me. Many of the volunteers sort of huddled together when the guests arrived for the meal, unsure at first of how to act. A number of the guests were bewildered as well, coming downstairs for a meal, not being used to having decorations, tables set up and people serving them. Quickly however, the food started moving, the controlled chaos of serving dozens of turkeys, fixings and pie and an easy comraderie and appreciation familiar to all Americans who partake in Thanksgiving took over. We all were reminded of our humanity and at our base level, hopefully, we want to help each other enjoy life.

Later, I was able to enjoy the holiday at home with friends and my wife that I love. My holiday tradition I have had since I was a teenager is to listen to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant". To remember about why war is bad, government can be hyprocritical, and the power of song. I was able to coerce an agreement from Clara that if we had a kid born on Thanksgiving that we would name it Alice, or Woody, or Arlo.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

More 911

Did you hear about the guy who called the Operator and asked for the number to 911?

Anyway, to continue the conversation about 911 and the Blog poster, the Globe had a good article today about the statistics of 911. I agree with the blogger, anecdote is no way to run a government. Unfortuneately, we increasingly have a government run by anecdote, at local, state and national levels. Ronald Reagan was the master of this..."I know a family, the Billingsleys, from West Fork, Iowa, and their tax payments are going to go to X if this is enacted"

I'll never forget Sam Yoon complimenting me on my website, saying something to the effect of "Kevin all your specific proposals and outlines of ideas are great, but I don't have time for that, I just need to let people know what a good person I am". Sam wins, Kevin loses. Who is the smart one? I proffer it is Sam. There is the quandary, good government does not always equal good politics.

Anyway here is a link to the article in the Globe, with the statistics of how 911 call responses are down, and how seperate but not equal response times are the status quo in the City.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Denied, Denied, Denied!!!-City Council to Stand Trial, Mayor may testify

For Whom does the Bell Toll?

In a clear indication that the blogging world is having some effect on the closed doors of City Hall, the attorney for the Mayor today in Court told the Judge that if he made Tom Menino testify, then "KEVIN MCCREA WILL BLOG ABOUT IT!", and then started to describe the headline from one of my blogs in November!

The judge kind of screwed up his face as if to say 'what is the relevance of whether Kevin McCrea blogs about something'. That line of reasoning didn't go very far.

Thanks for the Shout Out for my Blog in court today, Mrs. Eve Piemonte Stacy! (atty for the City) I'm glad someone reads my blog! I know that the Mayor doesn't because he doesn't use a computer according to the papers.

All kidding aside, there was positive news in court today. The City had its motion for summary judgement denied, had it's motion to deny testimony from the Compensation Advisory Board denied and in regard to their motion to keep the Mayor from testifying the judge ruled that he will hear the councilors testimony and then decide whether testimony from the Mayor is pertinent.

Trial starts Tuesday at 9 am! Courtroom 304, Suffolk Superior Court. Larry Dicara maybe the first to take the stand.

What a surprise, the trial has been put off....

Less than 36 hours before the trial was to start, counsel for the defense Eve Stacy "happened" to be in front of the judge as she described it to me, and the city council trial set to start this morning has been postponed indefinitely.

There is a hearing at 2 pm today to rule on their motion to dismiss, the Mayor's testimony, and hopefully to set a trial date.

As many people have predicted, they will NEVER take the stand. They will do whatever it takes to avoid having to go under oath and tell the truth.

Such heros of integrity to look up to, our elected officials. They keep saying to the court, we don't want to delay, we don't want to delay, but virtually every day I get another motion from them opposing this, quashing that,

Don't fight the Man, it's not good for your health!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Globe Editiorial-Force of Will needed in schools

In today's sunday Globe there is an editorial: The ABC's of high achievement. It gives it's number one way to improve education as Sheer Force of Will. It then goes on to use an example of a college prep school with a large percentage of poor and minority children where virtually all of the children pass the required exams and go on to higher learning opportunities. They cite the time that teachers spend and the insistence on knowledge and performance from all those involved.

This is why when I ran for City Council I promised, in black and white, to visit every school in the Boston School System within the two years of the term. To impress upon the students, the parents, the teachers, the administrators that they mattered and that education is important and that City Government recognizes that, encourages that, and will be involved as a partner. We spend 40 percent or more of our taxes on the schools, wouldn't you want to see how that money is spent?

The Iraq War and the deceit of the Republicans, in particular the Bush Administration are what motivated me to get involved in politics. I had to do something to try and bring honesty and integrity to the political realm. As the saying goes, think Globally and act locally. I really had no idea just how poorly run and corrupt the government of the City of Boston is. As a contractor I had seen my share of insider development deals, no show paid details, corrupt water and sewer employees, etc. but I brushed it off as just the way a big City operates.

However, the more I learned during my candidacy and the more I learn and see now that I am involved in these lawsuits involving good honest government and paying closer attention to City Hall, the more I am outraged. If one looks objectively at the City of Boston they see rising crime rates, underperforming schools, and level at best services. Meanwhile the cost of living in the City through taxes is going up by 10% or so a year.

What is the response to these issues from our elected officials? The Mayor is orchestrating to give away 100 to 300 million dollars of taxpayer land for free to an extremely rich developer
so that a 1000 foot tower as a tribute to his greatness will be built. If we sold that property at market value every taxpayer in the City would get a tax cut, not a tax increase this year. Not to mention the zoning code that does not allow for a 1000 foot tower in that location. But when did the rules ever stop these guys? Rules, we don't need no stinkin' rules!

The City Councilors are taking other jobs to pad their income, spending 5 weeks in Venezuala, 10 days in Ireland, going to law school, skipping City Council meetings to babysit, etc. It does not seem like they are applying a lot of Force of Will to correct the direction the City is heading in, let alone spending time visiting all of the Public schools in the City to let our progeny know that we believe in their future.

Maybe they don't.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Open Meeting Law trial set for Next Friday, Dec. 8

The subpeona's have been served to Mayor Menino, Larry Dicara, City Clerk Salerno & others, all the councilors are on notice to be in Court next Friday, pre-trial memo's have been submitted to the court and counsel for the council says she isn't pulling any tricks out of her bag to avert the trial. It is scheduled to start in courtroom 304, Suffolk Superior Court, Judge Connelly residing at 9 a.m.

Will these politicians really take the stand under oath starting next week on how they came to approve 17 percent pay raises for themselves without a single public meeting? It would appear so, unless something out of the blue happens.

Meanwhile, City Councilor at large Felix Arroyo is ignoring the fact that he is on trial and was noticed as a witness and is spending the month in Venezuala. He is already gone and won't be back until December 31st. His office says that he works "harder in election years". At least he voted against the pay raise, knowing full well that the money could be better spent on harder working people like cops or youth workers. Jerry McDermott will be in Ireland for a week of vacation with his family during the trial so we have agreed to take him out of order and testify first on Friday.

Next time you are looking at your real estate taxes think about running for office so that you can vote yourself a 17 percent raise outside the public view and then go on vacation in non-election years.

The council also has the audacity to request a recess of the trial for that Wednesday so they can hold a city council meeting. How important could that meeting be when council members are scheduling vacations during that time?