Monday, May 11, 2009

Voices from the inside...

I have received a number of emails from people that work for City Government telling me about problems there. They describe the waste, cronyism, nepotism, etc. Unfortunately, I don't have time to check them all out but they paint a disturbing picture.

As I've been on the campaign trail collecting signatures and meeting people I'm amazed at how many city employees tell me stories about how poorly things are run. One woman who works directly with the Mayor (who is not originally from this area) told me she can't believe the low level of services that people tolerate here. Sam Yoon is pushing the 311 idea which I agree with. Even New Orleans which doesn't have anywhere near the tax base we have here has instituted a similar tracking program. Why haven't Sam and Michael introduced bills and got these programs on the Mayor's desk to implement or Veto?

Here is one same email I received which I can verify. When I was voting last fall there was a woman collecting for the can drive. I asked her where she worked and it was for the City, she was a professional, college educated, I think working for the public health commission. It was about 10:30 in the morning. I asked her if she was working on city time and she was clearly thrown off by someone asking her this, and said she was volunteering on her lunch break. She didn't sound convincing, stopped answering questions, and it seemed odd to be taking a lunch break at 10:30 in the morning. Now can drives are a nice idea, but spending public money through salaries to collect money for a fund does not seem a good way to spend tax dollars. This email adds weight to what I suspected was going on:

I hope you agree with me and will take a position on the issue of
Menino's inability to conduct elections.

In 2006 there was much fuss made over the fact that some polling
locations ran out of ballots. In a couple of cases, it took an hour for
extra ballots to be dispatched to the polling locations. This resulted
in the US DOJ putting the Boston Election department on probation,
looking over the city's shoulder through today.

The bigger problem with the 2004, 2006, and especially 2008 election is
that polling places were way overcrowded. Voters had to wait in line
for almost two hours to cast their votes. Many gave up and went home
without voting.

Mayor Menino is personally responsible for this problem. I work at city
hall, in a position that would be considered nonessential (i.e. if I'm
out sick, nobody gets paid overtime to take my place). The Mayor never
broadcast a message to city employees to direct their focus on running a
smooth election. On the contrary, members of Menino's own staff were
sent to polling locations to collect food for a can-drive. Can drives
are great, but not at the expense of an election. Those city employees
should have been assigned real work that day to speed up the polling
process. Instead, they stood as symbols of the Mayor's apathy for the
election process.

Voters could not even vote absentee to get around the long lines. If
you go to city hall and ask for an absentee ballot, they demand that you
will be out-of-town (and not just super-busy) on election day. You
can't just request an absentee ballot and be handed one; they actually
grill you like you're doing something wrong. Technically, Mass law only
lets you vote absentee if you are out of town, but it's totally up to
City Hall to enforce it so strictly. Absentee ballots may be better for
the voter, but City Hall discourages you from using one.

The Mayor has effectively disenfranchised thousands of voters in Boston
time and time again. If anything public officials do can be considered
criminal, it should be impeding your right to vote and have it counted,
whether it be by overcrowded polls, unavailable ballots, or faulty
equipment. I hope a candidate for Mayor you hold yourself accountable
to that standard.

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