The Download: Murphy’s moment

It took eight years of effort, but Steve Murphy is close to getting that thing he has chased for so long. After an unsuccessful run for Suffolk County sheriff bracketed by two failed runs for state treasurer, Murphy is finally landing a better job. It just so happens that his new job – heading the Boston City Council – won’t relieve him of his old job on the City Council. No matter. The job of city council president is a plum one. It comes with a nice big office, and a budget to match.

The presidency can also be a powerful post for a councilor looking to build a resume for a mayoral run. Former city councilor Michael Flaherty used the council presidency to great effect, setting himself up as a mayoral heir apparent. Flaherty proved so successful, in fact, that Boston Mayor Tom Menino (a man who ascended to his current position via the council presidency) felt compelled to take him down a notch. Menino accomplished this by encouraging Flaherty’s colleagues to boot him from his perch atop the Iannella Chamber dais.

All of that is a long way of introducing a strange notion. Steve Murphy’s promotion won’t set him up to be Menino’s next-in-line – at least not in the eyes of the councilors lining up behind the at-large pol from Hyde Park. Apparently, to them, that’s the point. After 17 years of waiting, they believe the end of Menino’s reign is finally in sight. So at this stage of the game, a majority of the council is unwilling to put anybody in the council president’s office with half a shot of winning a mayoral race. Put another way, if Murphy wins the presidency in January, it will be because the majority of his colleagues believe he doesn’t have a shot in hell of doing anything useful with it.

The political calculus makes sense on its face, but it’s a strange message to deliver about the council’s place in regional politics – that the person least likely to advance beyond it is now best suited to lead it. It’s also a tough statement to Murphy. The guy has proved quite incapable of advancing beyond municipal politics, but he has also run strong citywide races recently. He’s a former ways and means committee chair, and he has repeatedly disappointed observers who wrote him off in crowded at-large fields. For all that, he’s about to be told, “You’re unelectable. Here’s a promotion. Congratulations.”

                                                                                                                                                                    –PAUL MCMORROW

PROBATION

A federal grand jury is probing the mess at the Probation Department, the Globe reports this morning. Meanwhile, emerging from his cone of silence, House Speaker Bob DeLeo says there’s nothing wrong with recommending people for probation jobs, even if they are your godson.

POLITICS

The Eagle-Tribune says voters deserve transparency from incoming state Rep. Paul Adams on the source of his campaign loans.

The Boston City Council moves closer to a vote to oust City Councilor Chuck Turner, who was convicted last month of a felony bribery charge in federal court. Turner can’t believe they’d do that to him.

DIPAOLA

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s says her investigation into Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola’s use of campaign money will continue despite his suicide, the Lowell Sun reports. Gov. Deval Patrick says he has no list of potential sheriff candidates, short or long, and that he’s in no rush to fill the position.

Jim Braude interviews BU School of Communications dean Tom Fiedler on whether reporters went too far in their investigation of DiPaola.

WASHINGTON POLITICS

US Rep. Stephen Lynch offers his thoughts to Jon Keller about what the new year holds for the new partisan make-up in Washington. The lengthy interview with the Southie Democrat, an outlier within his own party, sounds very much like the foundation for a challenge to Sen. Scott Brown in 2012.

The year 2012 is also very much on the minds of everybody tussling over the fate of the Bush tax cuts, the Wall Street Journal‘s Gerald Seib argues.

The first casualty of the deficit wars (not counting the Democratic House majority) will be federal employees’ salaries.

Is poor old Mitt Romney is having his lunch eaten by the winking former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska? You betcha!

MEDIA

Andrew ]McCarthy argues in the National Review Online that free speech and the public’s right to know are not absolute when it comes to national security and he says something needs to be done to hold the New York Times accountable for publishing the Wikileaks documents.

The Weekly Standard has condemned the Wikileaks document dump as un-American and dangerous, but has no qualms about writing a story using those same records to bash President Obama’s Gitmo strategy.

CHARITIES

A new study paints a grim picture for charitable giving, according the Chronicle of Philanthropy. More than one-third of charities say this year’s donations are down and 20 percent expect to cut services even as demand rises.

FOSTER CARE

A New York children’s rights group and a powerful Boston law firm have filed a class action suit in federal court in Springfield against the state’s Department of Children and Families seeking to revamp the “dysfunctional” agency. The Recorder says the suit, filed on behalf of six western Massachusetts children in foster care, claims DCF routinely places children in dangerous situations where they are subject to neglect and abuse.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The American Prospect’s Monica Potts says programs are sprouting to train displaced workers for a flood of green jobs that isn’t materializing. She says the disconnect is mostly the result of politicians being more eager to tout the promise of a new green-job economy than to enact energy legislation that would actually goose the clean-energy market. In CommonWealth’s special issue earlier this year on energy and the environment, we cast a similarly skeptical eye on the green-jobs bonanza some have predicted.

With hopes for a global climate treaty dashed, concerned policymakers and business leaders turn their attention to greenhouse gas reduction, The Washington Post reports.

EDUCATION

Tufts has tapped an Oxford scientist to succeed Lawrence Bacow as its president.

TRANSPORTATION

The Springfield Republican calls on the state to replace handrails inside Big Dig tunnels.

HEALTH

With all the talk of the dangers from concussions in professional sports, Braintree officials adopted a policy that would require baseline testing for all student-athletes regardless of sport, according to The Patriot Ledger. School health officials said during this fall’s sports season, which includes football, 41 Braintree students suffered concussions.

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