Party like it’s 1999

It would be fair to say the organizers of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston made a Wacko decision. As in the late John “Wacko” Hurley, the longtime organizer of the event who won a Supreme Court ruling in 1995 upholding the right of the Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston to bar whomever they choose, specifically gays.

That ban was in place for decades until two years ago when the group OutVets, an organization of gay and lesbian veterans, was granted permission to march in the fete that is a nod to the Irish as well as Boston’s Revolutionary history and Evacuation Day. The group, which marched behind a rainbow flag bearing the OutVets name, didn’t bring the locusts or plague down on Southie.

“Crowds cheered. There were no reports of demonic possessions. Except for the post-parade drunkards, people enjoyed themselves,” Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis, a proud lifelong son of Southie, wrote.

But something changed this week. Whether it is, as some speculate, conservatives being emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, or the flying of the rainbow flag making the parade “too gay,” as the Globe’s Yvonne Abraham offers, the war vets’ council decided to channel the ghost of Wacko and voted 9-4 to disinvite OutVets.

“We do not ban any persons or Groups based on their sexual orientation,” the group says about its “Rules and Regulations” on its parade website. “However, we, the Committee, will not allow the advertisement or display of one’s sexual orientation as a topic that should in any way be depicted as a theme of our parade. We feel it deters from the basis of which this Parade has been celebrated historically.”

But unlike in previous years, when the vets’ council could count on some support in the community as well as some powerful pols, the backlash has been fast, furious, and overwhelming. All of the outrage has been focused not only on the fact the group is barring LGBT marchers after seeming to open up, but they were disrespecting veterans, the whole focus of the parade.

“At the end of the day, you still served your country,” said Army veteran and Boston firefighter Dan Magoon who resigned as grand marshal after the vote. “A veteran is a veteran in my eyes. I would never, ever turn away a veteran because of who they are.”

Gov. Charlie Baker teared up when talking about his decision to boycott the parade because of the rejection of gay vets.

“That word veteran, to me, it approaches holy,” said Baker, who talked about his “difficult week” in attending funerals for two Massachusetts service members. “The idea that we would restrict the opportunity for men and women to put on that uniform, knowing full well they will be in harm’s way, and deny them the opportunity to march in a parade that is about celebrating veterans doesn’t make any sense to me. If veterans groups aren’t allowed to march in that parade for whatever reason, then I will probably find something else to do.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who, like his predecessor opted against marching until OutVets was welcomed in 2015, could not hide his frustration at the vote and called on others to join in boycotting the parade.  Ed Flynn, former mayor Ray Flynn’s son and a City Council candidate, voted against the measure and said while he hopes the council will reconsider when it meets in emergency session Friday, he will not participate if the decision stands. Stop & Shop pulled its sponsorship and several other sponsors, including Anheuser Busch, are reconsidering their involvement.

As anyone who strolls down Broadway these days can tell you, Southie of 2017 is not Southie of 1997. Or even 2007. Heck, Amrheins doesn’t even have Shepherd’s Pie on its lunch menu anymore and they actually offer poutine as a dinner appetizer.

“This issue was so over,” Walsh told Gelzinis. “And this certainly does not represent where South Boston is today on the idea of an inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade. I can’t believe we’re even discussing this.”

But the changing landscape appears lost on parade organizers. Whether they’re caught in a time warp, want one last stab at control over “their” parade, or had a momentary lapse, it is a last gasp of a bygone era.  City Councilor Michael Flaherty, a longtime defender of Southie whose family has deep roots in the neighborhood, had a harsh observation for his neighbors.

“Whoever voted for this is a nitwit,” he said.

–JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker leaves the door cracked just a tiny bit on whether his administration will seek an extension of the Pacheco Law suspension at the MBTA. (CommonWealth)

The Legislature’s pot panel hopes to have a bill regulating the industry ready by June. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lowell Parks Commission Peter Finnegan, saying the city never replaces open space it seizes for development, votes against allowing fields to be used for the construction of a new high school, effectively blocking the project.  His action prompted death threats against him. (Lowell Sun)

Worcester officials say the Massachusetts Port Authority is not excited about taking ownership of the Union Station as the city looks for someone to take the money-losing facility off its hands. (Telegram & Gazette)

Gov. Charlie Baker was in Brockton to tout his administration’s success in reducing the number of homeless families in hotels in the city to zero. But Mayor Bill Carpenter said the laudable effort resulted in “unfair” high transportation costs for the city’s schools in transporting students from their new towns back to Brockton as required by law. (The Enterprise)

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says he will scrap plans for a gun buyback program and use the money to hire more gang and drug workers. (Eagle-Tribune)

New Boston NAACP president Tanisha Sullivan says the organization will form a working group to examine whether Boston should return to an elected school committee. (Boston Herald) Sullivan was featured in the current winter issue of CommonWealth.

The Boston City Council unanimously approves a new contract with the city’s patrolmen’s union that will give officers increases of 4 percent a year along with other perks. (Boston Herald)

Herald News columnist Marc Monroe Dion trashed the idea of a third methadone clinic coming to Fall River while neighboring towns build parks and schools. Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni is considering revoking letters of non-opposition to three medical marijuana facilities. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The congressional Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare cleared a major hurdle after a marathon House Ways and Means Committee session overnight ended with a vote to abolish the tax penalty on the individual mandate. (Associated Press) Add hospitals, doctors, and nurses — sort of key constituency groups — to the growing number opposed to the measure. (New York Times)

After calling one of them an idiot and lightweight, and suggesting with no evidence that the father of another was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Trump is now trying to charm Republican senators he’ll need to to win passage of the new health care bill. (Boston Globe)

The White House said Trump is not the target of an investigation, raising more questions about the validity of his tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones during the campaign. (New York Times)

Trump has hired more than 400 people so far across the federal government, and the hires include a bunch of oddballs and former members of the swamp the president promised to drain. (ProPublica)

ELECTIONS

Conservatives are bristling at Gov. Charlie Baker’s support for the work done by Planned Parenthood, but there is still no sign that he’ll face a serious primary challenge next year from the right. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Women rallied in downtown Boston as part of the national Day Without Women strike to promote pay equity and a range of other issues. (Boston Herald) Meanwhile, a statue of young girl staring down the “Charging Bull” in Lower Manhattan that is an icon of Wall Street’s masculine ways has become a symbol of the drive for greater gender equality in corporate boardrooms. (Boston Globe)

The first full month of President Trump’s administration coincided with the biggest boost in job creation in nearly three years, with employers adding 298,000 new jobs. (U.S. News & World Report)

The parent company of Smith & Wesson in Springfield announces expansion plans in Missouri. (MassLive)

AT&T wireless customers lost their 911 service on Wednesday, and the Federal Communications Commission is trying to figure out what happened. (CNN)

A new study found that last year, philanthropic donations far outpaced government aid in grants to developing nations, with charities distributing $43.9 billion to $33.1 billion from Washington. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Globe profiles Kevin Tabb, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who will be the new chief executive of a larger network if a proposed merger of BIDMC and Lahey Health goes through. Meanwhile, Partners HealthCare, the regional behemoth that the new merged entity would go toe to toe with, had its credit outlook shifted from stable to negative by Wall Street’s three major rating firms, who warned it must stem recent financial losses. (Boston Globe)

North Shore Medical Center notifies state officials of its plan to close its inpatient pediatric unit in Salem. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

Two Concord teenagers are accused of placing homemade incendiary devices near the commuter rail tracks in town. (MassLive)

Seeking to mend fences with regulators, Uber submits to California rules and wins back its permit to test self-driving cars on the state’s streets. (Reuters)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Major enforcement actions by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection have fallen by half over the last decade, a period that coincides with a reduction of about one-third in the agencies workforce. (Boston Globe)

In a letter to President Trump, 22 MIT faculty members are urging him to recognize that the views promoted by retired MIT professor Richard Lindzen, who discounts the science on climate change and the damage done by fossil fuels, are “ill-advised” and “not scientifically justified.”

Officials from Harwich, Dennis, and Yarmouth are considering a regional wastewater treatment plant that would save millions over each town building their own. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Carlos Rafael, the New Bedford fishing magnate known as “The Codfather,” is expected to change his plea to guilty for charges of violating federal catch quotas and smuggling cash out of the country. (Standard-Times)

John Donovan, Sr., a former MIT professor who once staged his own shooting and tried to pin it on his son has now been found by an arbitrator to have spent years trying to defraud his children by filing fake documents in the settlement of the estate of a son who died in 2015. (Boston Herald)

The owner of a Framingham restaurant was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence after prosecutors say he damaged a security videotape they claim could show two intoxicated patrons who were served at the restaurant and later were involved in drunken driving accidents. Evidence that they were overserved could have cost the restaurant to have its liquor license suspended. (MetroWest Daily News)