City council approves raise for cops

WBUR reports the city council voted 12-0 (John Connolly was not present) to approve an arbitrator's controversial pay hike for police officers. Councilors cited what firefighters are paid.

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It isn't controversial enough if passed unanimously

What should happen: Pensions should be eliminated and instead the city contributes to a 401k/403b plan provided the officer makes matching contributions themselves. The amount the city contributes to the plan should be no more then 15% of the officer's base pay which excludes overtime and other supplements.

This would put the city in a better position long term and might even allow the officer to retire with additional funds provided they invested sensibly and worked a long time. This would be fair to the officers and to the people they serve.

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B-but then politicians couldn

B-but then politicians couldn't bribe public employees with future monies which may disastrously not exist!

With all the un or underfunded liabilities which can't go on forever it would actually in be in the interest of public employees to move toward 401k style plans rather than pensions backed with nothing but empty promises.

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Hyperbole much?

Detroit didn't collapse just because of a municipal government far more corrupt than anything we've seen in a long time in Boston. It collapsed because it relied on a single industry that once held a near monopoly (well, triopoly) on its industry and proved unable to adapt to change fast enough. That's a pretty stark contrast to Boston.

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Adam

I know you're from NY, but you might want to look into the fact Tom had a kid. Look at where he works/ worked before you talk about how honest our polls are.

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Yes, I know about Tom Menino Jr.

I've now been a Bostonian far longer than I lived in New York, but thanks for the concern about my lack of Boston knowledge.

I didn't say there was no corruption in Boston, just that it's nowhere near the level they've had in Detroit. That and that Detroit didn't turn to prairie because of municipal corruption. I would add it's a bit early to impugn anything about the new mayor when he hasn't even taken office yet, but I suspect we'll just have to disagree on that point.

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Not yet

My friend, not yet. But on a side note I think were all thankful for UHub minus the white guilt and bike lane hysteria. I may not agree with you politically, but I'm thankful for what topics you post, and the fact most comments are one liner bs come backs.

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Ok I'll bite

But could you first sign up and a get a login instead of this anon posting? It really does help build a constructive and logical debate surrounding the many things disscussed here on Uhub, including the progressive changes we've seen around this town/country and for what its worth, reporting on the changes to local road infrastructure in favor of a less car-centric culture and highlighting some of the accidents that are spawned from that same culture.

I mean, I'm assuming your the same anon from above that already played the "have you lived here long" townie card with Adam. If your gonna fire pot shots, have a little bit of courage and put a name to it, even if its just Mickey Mouse commentary.

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Detroit did collapse because

Detroit did collapse because of municipal corruption Adam. By the 1980s the leadership knew the city's main industry was dying and they continued to make promises and drain cash out of city pension funds despite knowing the money was clearly not going to be able to meet the obligations. The leadership always assumed the bill would come due long after they left and that someone else was going to bail the city out. There should be criminal charges for gross mismanagement of pension funds in that city. Managers were literally paying themselves bonuses out of funds they knew were going to go bankrupt.

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That could be, but ...

Hey, I came of age in a city in rapid collapse, you know, New York in the 1970s. And with just as much municipal malfeasance as Detroit (if less outright corruption as simply spending far beyond the municipal means). "Taxi Driver" wasn't so escapist for those of us actually living in the city then (OK, maybe "Escape from New York" and "The Warriors" were just a bit over the top). Got so bad the state basically took over municipal finances. Hey, just like Detroit, only without screwing city pensioners through bankruptcy court.

But New York came back. Why? Part of it might be who got elected, but a larger part is that, like Boston, New York has a far more diversified economy than Detroit.

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Menino, Jr.

Mayor Menino kicked the contract to the council, hoping they would reject it. This potentially would harm his son, so I do not get the relevance of this relationship.

Also, what does this have to do with Marty Walsh? I suspect he preferred to have it voted on favorably so he could avoid dealing with it, but who knows. If he had lobbied in favor, I think it might have swayed enough votes to force a renegotiation. The lame-duck mayor does not have a lot of clout, the mayor-elect does.

Seems likely to me that Walsh did not want to get into a big fight with a union right off the bat.

Given the police are exempt from the residency law, most live outside the city. Why they matter so much in local politics puzzles me.

And Adam, I agree, Detroit and Boston are very different. Detroit suffered from a combination of corruption and incompetence, along with an economy that has been sliding downward for decades. There is always corruption, but Boston has managed to avoid anything as damaging that Detroit endured.

Tom Menino Jr. is not in that union....

and would not benefit by that contract, even though he may benefit by future contracts of the other unions.

That being said, it is complete BS that Menino Jr. gets special treatment within the BPD because of who his father is (contrary to popular belief of the Herald comment crowd). Menino Jr. is actually a very competent, hard working, intelligent employee, and I would rank him in the top 5% of police officers you would want working for the City of Boston.

I speak Mumbonics!

Mayor Menino once referred to the his son's employer as "the Boston Police Intelligent Unit". I'm telling you, this guy Walsh is going to be like an Alcatraz around our necks!

If you like Detroit...

**It collapsed because it relied on a single industry that once held a near monopoly (well, triopoly) on its industry and proved unable to adapt to change fast enough**

It collapsed because they promised everything to everyone in perpetuity in order to solicit votes.

Kicking the can down the road till their term of office was over, leaving others to deal with promises made. The same bad planning can happen here, there and everywhere. In Detroit it happened sooner rather than later.

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Hi - I'm from Detroit

sort of - the commercial base shifted out to oakland county in the 1960s and 70s (due to lax zoning and tax incentives) and people followed. Also - since the auto companies gutted the public transit system and destroyed denser downtown neighborhoods with the highways, people on the economic margins who lived in certain areas of the city simply couldn't get to even menial jobs out in the suburbs, so sections of the city were abandoned. the center of population in the metro area is now actually north of the city - the northern neighborhoods within the city are actually ok and relatively safe since people who live there are closer to where the jobs are, but there's really not much opportunity there since there's no physical place for people to start their lives there. there's also the who racism thing - it wasn't until maybe the past couple decades or so that black families actually felt comfortable moving north of 8 mile (seriously - there's an actual wall that was built to separate a black neighborhood from a white neighborhood).

And it's not just Detroit that's struggling - it's also the blue collar suburbs in Macomb County that are also having problems - especially since a lot of factories have closed there. Also the land area of just the city of Detroit would just barely fit inside 128 - the metro area is massive, low density and very dispersed. You cannot have such a large amount of infrastructure and the requisite services that are needed to maintain said infrastructure unless you have a large enough tax base - something like half the properties in the city fail to pay property taxes every year - and since they no longer have much industrial base to make up the rest (not to mention most of the corporate HQs are out in Southfield), the city cannot afford to provide even basic services because they don't have the revenue. Believe me - it's bare bones there - like they do garbage pick-up once every other week in some places and they won't plow entire sections of the city during snow storms.

Boston is nowhere close to having any of these problems. We're getting all worked up over some raises which squeezes the budget slightly - it's not even at the level of the city having to raise property taxes.

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An attractive argument

but a ridiculous one.

Boston has a massive, highly diversified economy; Detroit does not. Boston has, relative to Detroit, a clean city government. Boston has an expanding tax base rather than a shrinking one. Boston doesn't have the massive poverty and social problems that plague Detroit. The middle and upper classes have not abandoned Boston the way they have abandoned Detroit.

Not that Detroit isn't a good cautionary tale about not kicking the can down the road and stiffing your successor with the liability for your promises, but let's be somewhat serious here.

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**Boston has a massive,

**Boston has a massive, highly diversified economy;Detroit does not. Boston has, relative to Detroit, a clean city government. Boston has an expanding tax base rather than a shrinking one.**

Right now these things are true, but they are not all guaranteed to be forever that way..especially when we are promising pensions into perpetuity.

**Boston doesn't have the massive poverty and social problems that plague Detroit.**

Again, for now....

**The middle and upper classes have not abandoned Boston the way they have abandoned Detroit.**

For a long time they didn't abandon Detroit either. It's when things go into a death spiral, that all hell breaks loose. Taxes start to spiral, middle class leaves, property values go down, budgets get strained, crime increases, etc.

I think the powers that be thought that the future of Detroit was stable because of the industry.

Times change...as does one's outlook...

No - Boston is on a slow track

And there is no guarantee we will be like Detroit - i.e. - there is still time to change course - but we are running out of wiggle room.

Here's the problem:

City revenue is growing at less than 3% a year (maybe 3.5% this year - but it's a banner year because of all the development coming online - that won't last forever)

Fixed costs and public safety - which represent 35-40% of the budget are growing at 6-7% a year. They have already squeezed out a lot of "nice to haves" (our parks budget is an embarrassment as one example), and Menino has jettisoned a lot of the fluff by attrition because he's had little choice - he's raised as much revenue as he could and then kept handing it out so there really isn't a huge amount of slack left in Boston's budget/ staffing.

When 40% of your budget is growing twice as fast as your revenues - it doesn't take long before that portion of the budget literally eats everything else (schools are another 35% - meaning after fixed costs, public safety and schools you only have 25% of the budget left - and god forbid Boston schools start to see more of an uptick in population - that spells game over at $20k plus per student when you add up all the costs).

If you can't cut, you have to raise taxes. Property taxes on residents have been growing 7% a year for the past 10 years - that obviously can't continue.

So if you can't cut and you can't squeeze any more blood out of the stones you have - what new stone do you squeeze? And please don't say busing - in the context of the budget the savings are a flea on an elephant's behind.

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HA HA HA HA

You really think the same politicians and bureaucrats which can't keep costs down running anything else are going to keep healthcare costs down?

Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and the VA are such shining examples of "quality" single player healthcare that everyone is rushing to dump their private insurance ASAP to get into those systems and the solvency of each of those programs is unquestionable.

We can have single payer healthcare AFTER we have single payer legal services. Let the lawyers in the legislature have to live under the same rules as they wish to inflict upon the medical profession for a few years.

Yeah the old system we had a

Yeah the old system we had a year ago was just allowing old people to die from dehydration or heat stroke left and right. Oh wait! Sorry -that was the British NHS and French single payer healthcare systems.

Part of the reason why US healthcare is so expensive is that we pay the R&D costs for the rest of the freeloading world. If we didn't not only would little innovation occur but the rest of the world would ignore our medical patents and bankrupt the biomed companies.

Forget the percentages

The percentage of base salary match is a complete red herring. The only thing that ought to matter to the employee or the employer is the dollar value of the total package. Of what difference is it if your on-paper salary is $100K per year with a 20% retirement plan match or $120K per year with no retirement plan match? (OK, the numbers need to be fiddled some to account for tax effects, but you get my point.)

And the only thing that ought to matter to the taxpayer is what it costs per year, here and now, with no hidden unfunded future liabilities, to put a full time police officer on the street.

Are you serious?

Either you are hoping no one notices or you are actually convinced yourself of this bogus rational.

Yes, you may put in 10% but if the pool of contributed money isn't enough to pay all the pensions the city must kick in the remainder. That's the problem -- a pension is a guaranteed life long benefit irrespective of how much the city is collecting from current offers.

So if you want to agree that your pension won't be a fixed sum but rather your portion of the pool of contributions from current officers no one will have a problem. So, are you willing to give up your guarantee of a fixed life-long income? If not, you are part of the problem. Don't try to claim pensions are budget neutral (or fair to the city) because of a token 10% contribution from current employees.

"unfunded" liabilities

is almost entirely healthcare costs - if you look at the recent city budget report healthcare costs rose something like 150% over the past 10 years. no one anticipated this - and the city has had to start making cuts in how much they contribute to current employees. If it weren't for ballooning healthcare costs we probably wouldn't even be talking about the public pensions (likely they'd be in decent shape now - which they weren't during the recession). Healthcare costs are currently 11% of the city's budget and growing - this is where the discrepancy is.

The best solution to reigning in these costs is state-wide single-payer system - get the city off the hook for healthcare and they're back in the black- hell - this would be a boon to the MBTA as well...

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Oh, I'll eat crow on this one

Okay, okay, I looked at the numbers, and yes, the City is paying their obligations to make sure the system is fully funded. And a lot more than I would have thought.

Still, the option of moving employees to a 457 system entirely wouldn't save the City money. There's still obligations, and the City would still be on the hook for that. Moreover, as we are not Social Security members, we'd be screwed if, at retirement, the stock market tanked a la 2008.

And I will note that I've said before, the retirement system, both government pension and Social Security, need to be reformed. But doing away with them smells of getting us back to the bad old days of the 1920s.

I got news for you

If the stock market tanks or even underperforms the city's assumptions u r still screwed. Where do u think they r investing that money? CDs at the bank? The tax payers r on the hook to make up the difference. Un less of course u keep raising taxes to pay for those pensions and health care and everyone moves to where all the ex Detroiters now live. Starting to get the picture? Eventually all the public workers have to pay taxes to fund their own pensions.

Anecdote on need for Higher Pay

This is an anecdote (so n=1), but a worthwhile story nonetheless. I am close friends/family with many (like me, white, irish catholic) BPD patrolmen who were fighting strongly for this raise, and over the holiday I had a drink with several of them and got into a friendly argument. One of the main points they kept driving home was that for them to afford to live in their home neighborhoods (were all West Roxbury & South Boston cops), AND send their kids to private school, they needed the raise. What was unanimous was (1) if they city was going to make them live in Boston, they HAD to live in South Boston or West Roxbury, and (2) they HAD to send their kids to private/catholic grammar schools. Public grammar school was not an option, and not one of them had attended a single public grammar school. To be sure, more than one of these guys had wives who were BPS teachers.

So again, their argument was we need to get paid enough to not send our kids to public schools. So in short, we have a city where public employees must be paid enough to not be subject to public schooling for their children. That's either (a) a perception problem, or (b) an actual problem. As several guys wives were BPS teachers, I'd move closer to (b). I don't have an answer to this problem, but just an anecdote to show the quagmire we are in as a City.

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One of the reasons they changed the residency requirment.

Why be a Boston Cop when you could work in Newton/Cambridge/Brookline/Quincy and get higher base pay (some still have full Quinn for new officers) without the forced overtime and lack of time off on demand? This was one of the reasons they changed the residency requirement.

At some point in the 1990s getting a job as a Boston cop was hard to get, at some point this changed and the City had a hard time getting qualified applicants for the job. About 10 years ago, Boston cops were actually transferring to other departments, a practice that was basically unheard of before this. Boston then started to accept transfers on their side, and some of the tide started to turn again.

I have friends who make this argument to me too, and it used to have merit. Now they can move so I have less empathy for them.

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Flaw in your argument

I think I saw the average cop with OT makes $109k (not sure if this includes detail). Average teacher makes about $90-$95k. Plus about the most generous health and pension benefits in the country save maybe for the US congress.

At household income of $200k per year (or more if the cop husband has a side job or the teacher wife works in summer or tutors for money after school as many do) the argument you can only afford to live in these two neighborhoods is bogus. Plus there are several very good schools in the city - esp. the Eliot, Quincy and several in W. Roxbury area. Lottery dependent - but for the lucky few...? (maybe instead of raises we give the cops, firemen and teachers first dibs on seats for their kids in elementary schools?)

I don't think this is their point Stevil

West Roxbury is a nice place to live, and in my opinion has much more to offer to a family of 5 than a place like South Boston does. They can afford to live in other parts of Boston, but they would still have to go to the same School system.

As good as some parts of the BPS is, it is still a below average school system for your average Boston kid.

And Boston teachers and firefighters use the same school argument. Most move out as soon as they can, and/or send their kids to private schools. Many of my friends have their children in the METCO program as well.

Most of my point was that the Boston police was losing jobs and new applicants to other Cities.

Firefighters are another breed, fighting fires is the same everywhere, but the pay in Boston is so much better than everywhere else, applicants flock to Boston for those jobs.

Teachers are similar to cops in that they can choose surburban schools and face less classroom management issues than Boston with less pay, or they can even choose private schools with even better classroom management issues than surburban schools with even less pay. (compared to your Newton cop facing less dangerous situations than your average Boston cop, with more time off and less forced overtime as well)

Easier solution

Instead of giving them the raise - just get rid of residency (which in my opinion is a stupid rule). We can afford eliminating residency a lot easier than this (and I'm not saying no raises either - they just need to be in line with inflation and revenue growth - 1%-3% annually - not 4%.

Also - aren't teachers exempt from residency and can't cops move out after 10 years?

There is NO FREE LUNCH

The city would be paying for healthcare one way or another. If it wasn't from direct payments it would be from less local aid returned to Boston as the state reallocated the budget to pick up the tab.

Seriously

As someone who opted out of something that my family has long been a part of. I felt getting an education and working HARD was going to be THE ticket to a more fruitful life, I'm kicking myself. Now with OT an officer ( who's job is far more dangerous than a construction worker statistically) will make well into the 6 figure rang with less than a few years experience. This is absurd for many reasons. One of which, it will discourage our youth from furthering their education and second hurt our nation in the long run when we are no longer innovators.

Well why become a physician when you can join the BPD, save yourself the HARD work and MONEY. Now the ACA is really fucked.

Union strong, right!

Ps less money for out abhorred education system. And next year who is going to bitch about the fact they don't make as much as BPD, it never fucking ends.

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No

But in boston it's a reason why student weren't/ aren't seeking a higher education. What % of boston college (not BC) students are from Boston.

25% Raises? What in the world is going on?

...and they voted unanimously for it? Cripes!

Are these people INSANE? Is this a blatant example of how out of control government spending and public sector unions are? And they have the nerve to talk to us about a tax increase? I guess we get the government we deserve, huh?

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Thats based on the Market

Union pay is not. If it was, cops would not be receiving a 24.1% raise. You can calculate an estimate on their future salary based on average annual pay increases, as you can with a future value of a loan. I take it you're not a math person.

if that's how it's being done

if that's how it's being done, then I guess so.

I just don't understand why people are so up-in-arms about this. Sure it's a lot of money, but do they expect cops to just never get a raise, despite the fact that cost of living in Boston is going through the roof? Average rents in my neighborhood have gone up 600+ a month in the past 4 years that I've seen, and from what I've heard, the housing shortage is causing a similar trend everywhere else in the city.

It's closer to 4% annually

Retroactive to 2010 and then going forward to 2016 I believe - when they negotiate a new contract. And now that the firemen and cops got these increases, what happens when the teachers come up for negotiation - and there are as many teachers as cops and firemen combined.

See my post above:

Total revenues increasing about 3% or less

Fixed costs = 19% of the budget (pensions, debt service, state assessments) increasing about 8% per year
Public safety = 18% of the budget - increasing 4% a year
Schools = 36% of the budget projected to increase 6% in FY 2015 projected and 5% in 2016
Non- school Health care = 7% of the budget - getting a bit tamer - but still a wildcard

That's 80% of the budget going up faster than revenue growth

Leaves 20% and shrinking for EVERYTHING else.

That means everything else has to get squeezed 5-10% every year for the foreseeable future - how do you do that without raising taxes and where do those revenues come from?

We can argue until we are blue in the face over what's fair. It comes down to what can we afford.

The huge pay raise is

The huge pay raise is criminal. Victims are all Boston taxpayers, and likely the City's fiscal future.

Councilors like Pressley and Murphy voiced their feigned concerns, then voted Yes anyway.

All councilors have proven themselves-yet again-to be chicken sh*t. Including the no-show.

Moving vans, anyone?

Details increase as well

Since detail pay is based on the hourly rate those organizations and corporations that are forced to pay details will transfer those costs to everyone else. The water department, NSTAR and National Grid, any company doing work on city streets, building construction, all represent costs that will increase 25% in 5 years as well.

The bright side is that Boston must have one of the best police departments in the nation. Having legitimized graft and its intrinsic corruption Boston police do not need to resort to illegal forms of squeezing money out of the system. The graft money even gets to be taxed! But that assumes that police will always find a way to suck out of the economy more money than an actual free market would support.

To throw some more gas on the

To throw some more gas on the fire, the average police officer is not getting a 25% raise. If you have less than 15-20 years on the job, and no criminal justice degree (must be a CJ degree), you will be getting a 17% raise over 6 years. That is a 2.8% per year raise, which is pretty much in line with COLA over the past 20 years. That is before overtime and details, so for an average of about 40 hours a week. The OT rates are going up, but if you are working OT, that is time not spent at home with family. And a decent amount of the overtime is mandatory, so even if I don't want to work I am contractually obligated. As for the comment about not being HARD work, and taking the easy way out for the easy money, working every night, not coming home to my wife until midnight at the earliest, only seeing her a couple times a week, with the goal of helping to keep the community safe, at least safer, I respond that this line of work is far from easy. As with every organization, there are people the might not live up to the standard, but I can tell you all, with out hesitation, that the majority of Boston Police Officers are the hardest working people out there. And we all took this job knowing that there would be long hours, dangerous situations, and a pretty thankless career ahead of us, and we still love it.

Think what you will about this contract, but know that there are a lot of hardworking men and women out there who are grateful that our lives have been made a little bit easier with this raise.

Fine, but you chose your line of work

Like most people (I suppose), I am grateful for much of what you and other cops do.

But, perhaps unlike most people, I am really concerned about cops' increased pay. How much pay is enough for you guys? (How high is up?, Tommy Nee thinks to himself, no doubt)

Are you cops the cream of City employees, whose unions negotiate contracts consistently inferior to BPPA's and others? Your sweet paychecks come at their expense, too, not just the taxpayers'. Or couldn't you care less?

You DO realize that the City's fiscal future and the future of other departments are in jeopardy now, right? Especially with the results of the arbitration vote? OK, good. Now go send someone to spread the word: Bad times lie ahead.