Math and spine test for Boston City Council

Boston’s city charter provides for a strong-mayor system of government. It may, in fact, be one of the strongest city executive structures in the country. That’s why the City Council is often the butt of jokes, with its 13 members derided as the hapless supplicants whose ability to claim victory on an issue depends on persuading the all-powerful mayor to look favorably on a proposal or funding idea they put forward.

With that as the backdrop, it’s easy to see why hoping for the City Council to show some spine on a tough issue may be like waiting for Donald Trump to issue comprehensive policy papers detailing his plan to make America great again. But it is the council, alas, that holds all the cards right now in a contract dispute with the union representing the city’s police detectives.

The union and city negotiators came to a standstill, which kicked the contract to an arbitrator, who settled on a nearly 29 percent pay boost, to be paid retroactively for six years dating back to 2010. The arbitration award is binding — unless the council rejects it and send both sides back to the bargaining table.

It’s a rare bit of muscle vested in the city’s legislative body, but councilors do not exactly look eager to flex it. Today’s Globe reports that at least three councilors are publicly backing the arbitration award, and that “momentum appears to be building” to approve the package. The council will hold a hearing on the issue this morning and could vote on the matter as soon as Wednesday.

Only the city’s public safety unions enjoy the benefits of binding arbitration, and it is has led to large contract deals in recent years. The mayor is technically supposed to submit the arbitration award to the council and let it decide whether to approve the package, but there are ways for the administration to signal whether it feels the deal is affordable.

Mayor Marty Walsh’s spokeswoman Laura Oggeri provided the Globe a statement pointing out that the detectives’ award is higher than that recently received by other public safety unions and is considerably than pay increases for non-public safety unions.

The paper says the difference between the city’s last offer to the detectives — 25 percent — and the arbitration award would total about $1.2 million each year, an amount that could fund 166 additional kindergarten seats, 800 summer jobs for teenagers, or 50 police cadet slots.

Last week, more than 200 people marched on City Hall, and then to the State House, to protest talk of cuts to the Boston schools budget of as much as $50 million. Exactly what’s on the line is the subject of some dispute, as city officials say the school department is now slated to receive $13.5 million more in the coming year. But on a school department budget of about $1 billion, health care and salary costs will gobble up that increase — and then some — meaning schools could be facing cuts in programming.

No one is eager to pit kids and schools against cops — least of all the members of the Boston City Council. But the reality is that municipal budgeting is a zero sum game. It’s now up to the council to decide the right answer to this math question.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission routinely overrules local towns on disciplinary actions in cases involving sale of alcohol to minors. (Telegram & Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

More than 25,000 families across the country, including 621 in Massachusetts, are living in local public housing units despite having increased their income beyond the ceiling for subsidized housing. (Boston Globe)

Development proposals using the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law are stirring backlash in Brookline. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth’s current issue includes this look at the resistance to affordable housing in neighboring Newton.

Stoughton residents and selectmen are seeking to oust the town manager who the police chief says is the cause for his impending resignation. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Gov. Charlie Baker, in Washington over the weekend, is helping lead the charge in the National Governors Association on addressing the opioid epidemic. (Politico)

US Rep. Stephen Lynch addressed a wide range of topics including his view of Donald Trump (“least qualified” of all the candidates), ISIS, and Apple’s refusal to adhere to a court order to provide software to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. (Keller@Large)

The Globe’s Josh Miller has a look at Colorado’s experience with marijuana legalization, a possible glimpse into the future for Massachusetts, where a legalization ballot question will likely face voters this fall.

ELECTIONS

Cut through the electoral clutter, argues Robert Sullivan, and Marco Rubio is the most likely GOP nominee. (America)

The fall of the house of Bush. (Washington Post)

Despite Sen. Bernie Sanders’s strong showing so far, he lags far behind Hillary Clinton in delegate count, 502 to 70, and the gap could grow with the upcoming Southern state primaries and their large black voting blocs, which favor the former secretary of state. (New York Times)

Donald Trump’s rise is giving some Republican governors indigestion. Meanwhile, the primary season turns to the South. (Boston Globe)

As Hillary Chabot reports, there’s a whole lot of spinning going down over how Hillary Clinton will perform in next week’s Massachusetts primary, as her backers try to reset expectations in the wake of the Sanders surge. (Boston Herald) Speaking of spinning, the two camps are battling over whether Clinton’s fairly narrow win in Saturday’s Nevada’s caucuses means she’s on her way to dispatching Sanders, or that he’s hanging a lot tougher than anyone expected. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new study finds a troubling lack of diversity in Hollywood films; in 414 movies, only a third of the characters were female and 28 percent were minority. (Time)

EDUCATION

The Boston NAACP is calling for the ouster of Boston Latin School head master Lynne Mooney Teta in the wake of a report released on her handling of racially-charged incidents. (Boston Herald)

A pair of bills in the Legislature would make it a crime for school employees to have sex with students under the age of 19 even if the relationship is consensual, a current loophole that has allowed some teachers to avoid prosecution. (Cape Cod Times)

A New York-based international law firm that had pledged $1 million to sponsor events at Harvard Law School has directed the money to other purposes after a small portion was used to fund a discussion by a student group on Palestine. (Associated Press)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that during the first full year of Obamacare there was no change in the rate that people use the emergency room, one of the key goals in reducing costs under the Affordable Care Act. (U.S. News & World Report)

Falmouth is the latest town considering raising the age to 21 to purchase tobacco and is also eyeing a ban on the indoor use of e-cigarettes. (Cape Cod Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The fight over bottle deposit legislation goes on, just in a slightly different form. (Eagle-Tribune)

About that dirty water…The US Environmental Protection Agency is set to issue regulations forcing a costly cleanup of the Charles River by several cities and towns that it flows through. (Boston Globe)

The state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is struggling to deal with fears about Rattlesnake Island in the Quabbin Reservoir. (Masslive)

A possible carcinogen is found in the drinking water at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

A Globe editorial says the MBTA should work hard to maintain the Mattapan trolley line.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Boston police say they have a suspect in custody after a 16-year-old was stabbed to death in broad daylight on a Columbia Road in Dorchester. (Boston Herald)

An Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was arrested and charged with the random spree killing of six people before and after he was carrying passengers. (New York Times)

Six women and four men are arrested in a prostitution sting at 6 a.m. in Worcester. (MassLive)

MEDIA

The Beat the Press panel wonders if the Boston Globe can be fair in election coverage if Michael Bloomberg enters the race given that the paper’s owner John Henry tweeted out his support for a Bloomberg candidacy.

Nicco Mele, a former Los Angeles Times executive, warns that ad revenue at newspapers continues to shrink and says a third of the nation’s 50 biggest dailies could be gone in the next three years. (ShorensteinCenter.org)

The Lowell Sun wins a slew of awards in a New England journalism competition. (The Sun)