The city budget approved by the city council yesterday has enough money to keep four branches in Dorchester, Brighton, South Boston and East Boston open long enough to let library trustees and library backers try to find more money to keep them open permanently.
The city council also agreed to seek permission from the state legislature to increase the number of library trustees and to make fundraising an official part of their job.
Peter Gelzinis reports she proposed easing school budget woes by having teachers work for a day without pay. Meanwhile, with little firefighter-like fanfare, school janitors attended a council budget hearing to protest the loss of 41 janitors come July 1 (down from the originally planned 83).
It was, Councilor Maureen Feeney recalls, complete pandemonium: Last summer, somebody opened five hydrants in the area around Norton and Bowdoin streets and the area became an instant disaster zone: Basements were flooded, backyards washed out, cars damaged and some little kids were sent tumbling down the hill because of the force of the water. Thank God a fire didn't break out in the area at the time, she says.
Never again, Feeney and fellow Dorchester Councilor Charles Yancey vowed today. Although the Boston Water and Sewer Commission is installing supposedly more tamper-proof locks on the hydrants in the area - and buying special wrenches for firefighters to use to open them - the two councilors said at a hearing today they want fines and even possible jail time as cudgels to go after kids who open hydrants during the dog days of summer.
City Councilor John Tobin said today he wants a meeting with city transportation officials to look at installing parking meters in the West Roxbury business district along Centre Street.
Tobin said he's hearing from a growing number of merchants who want meters as a way of increasing turnover in spaces. In addition to on-street spaces, the city has two small lots off Centre Street, one behind the post office, the other across from the Dapper O'Neil mural,
City Transportation Commission Tom Tinlin said he'd be willing to meet, but cautioned the city has generally resisted efforts to put meters in outlying business areas to try to keep from driving would-be customers to suburban malls such as the South Shore Plaza, where parking is free. A possibly better solution would be better enforcement of two-hour limits on parking along Centre Street, which would encourage the turnover the merchants seek while not making local shoppers flee to Braintree.
Their discussion took place at a City Council hearing on raising fines for parking violations outside of Boston Proper.
City Councilor Felix Arroyo gets library officials to at least think about reversing their decision to shut branches in Brighton, South Boston, Dorchester and East Boston, if the city or state can come up with enough money to keep them open, the Dorchester Reporter reports.
Mike Durant rounds up the coverage of the contract signed late Tuesday.
Chuck Turner interrupted a lovefest among other councilors, firefighters and the mayor's office this afternoon: As much as he admired the work firefighters and the administration did to finally come up with a contract, he could not vote for it without a guarantee councilors would press the mayor to stop the planned layoffs of hundreds of other city workers.
"You can bake cats, but that doesn't make them biscuits," he said.
The Globe reports on a breakthrough following eight hours of negotiations involving three city councilors as mediators. The Globe's Donovan Slack tweets the deal calls for a 1.5% drug-testing pay raise (an arbitration panel had awarded 2.5%) that will only apply to current firefighters.
The City Council, which has the final say, meets tomorrow morning to vote on the contract.
They called a meeting at 10:30 p.m. tonight. No immediate word on what could fire them up like that. One presumes it's one of those "emergency" meetings to get around the 48-hour notice otherwise required under the state open-meeting law.
The City Council met briefly this morning to urge Tom Menino and Firefighters Local 718 to get a room and hammer out a contract that's fair to both firefighters and taxpayers.
As one city councilor held out hope that savings from a possible concession by firefighters could save four branch libraries, BPL President Amy Ryan told the City Council she has little choice but to cut the branches - and jobs across the branches and at the Copley Square central library (roughly 75 workers - no managers).
Possible breakthrough in firefighter contract talks: Union proposes one-year freeze on drug-testing pay increaseBy adamg - 6/3/10 - 12:41 pm
UPDATE: Administration to City Council: Just say no to firefighters; that would create a tidal wave of other unions demanding similar drug-testing deals. City council to administration: With all due respect, you suck. Councilor Ayanna Pressley: "There's some sort of conflicting shell game going on here."
Local firefighters union President Ed Kelly this morning offered to freeze for one year a 2.5% raise awarded by an arbitration panel in exchange for drug testing.
City councilors Mike Ross and Steve Murphy immediately congratulated Kelly for making the "significant concession."
"I think, frankly, it's extraordinary," Murphy said.
After six hours or so of testimony and debate, the City Council adjourned tonight a without voting on the proposed contract for firefighters. The council will reconvene tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. to continue testimony, but council President Mike Ross ended the session by saying councilors will vote on the matter "at a later date" (they have until mid-July to approve or deny the contract).
Friends of the Faneuil Library report plans for a rally Thursday at City Hall before a City Council hearing on the library budget for the coming fiscal year.
The rally starts at 5 p.m.; the hearing at 6 p.m.
BPL trustees have voted to shut the Faneuil, Orient Heights, Dorchester Lower Mills and Washington Village (South Boston). Their proposed budget will also mean staff and service cuts at the Copley Square main branch.
The fun starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2 in the council chambers on the fifth floor of City Hall. According to Council President Mike Ross, the council will not actually vote on the arbitration panel's proposed settlement until another meeting, as yet unscheduled.
UPDATE: Mike Ross tweets the council WILL discuss the issue, along with an analysis of the award by an MIT managment professor brought in by the council, at today's meeting. Starts at noon in City Hall. No vote, however.
The Globe reports Mayor Menino yesterday filed his plan for paying for the contract awarded the firefighters by an arbitration panel - mostly through money the city had been saving plus money from the new meals tax. The council has 60 days to decide whether to reject the proposed contract.
Rob Consalvo, who represents Hyde Park, will seek a change in state law that would let the city go after pit-bull owners who ignore the city's law requiring pit bulls to be muzzled outside.
City Councilors Chuck Turner and John Tobin today blasted the city for not doing anything about poor air quality at the Agassiz School in Jamaica Plain.
Turner said city officials had promised to stop leaks at the school but are now refusing to do anything.
"We've had hearing after hearing after hearing" on the school and yet nothing gets done, Tobin said, adding it's so bad "you can feel the air" when you walk into the school auditorium. He said the school has such a bad reputation for poor air quality that only about 500 of its roughly 900 seats are filled.
The council agreed to schedule a hearing on air quality and water issues at the school.
In Jamaica Plain, livery drivers are parking in resident-only spots. In Hyde Park, cab drivers are running their businesses out of their homes. And in Allston/Brighton, cabbies are leaving their personal cars in parking lots, running their businesses 24/7 in residential areas.
City Councilors John Tobin (Jamaica Plain), Rob Consalvo (Hyde Park) and Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton) said the city needs to come up with regulations to keep residential areas from being overrun by businesses.
Consalvo, who said "I love tax drivers," said he knows of at least five drivers in Hyde Park who run their operations out of their houses - and is dreading the first "violent act involving a money transfer at 3 in the morning."
Tobin said that while the city has regulations barring commercial vehicles from resident-only spots, they do not apply to livery vehicles. He said the city doesn't even know how many livery licenses there are in the city.
City Council President Mike Ross reports Thomas Kochan, a professor of work and employee relations at MIT's Sloan School of Management to review the 19% retroactive pay increase an arbitration panel recently agreed to give firefighters.
In a letter to Mayor Menino, Ross writes Kochan has already found "a number of differences in the estimates and methodologies used to arrive at them."
The council can reject the proposed settlement. Although councilors had talked of discussing the issue tomorrow, they may hold off until after Menino forwards them details on how he would fund the proposed contract.
We'll find out Wednesday, when the council considers a 19% retroactive raise for Boston firefighters awarded by an arbitration panel - the council has the power to reject the award.
The Globe reports the arbitration panel concluded firefighters deserved an extra $2,000 a year in exchange for proving they're not coked up, in addition to a base pay increase equal to that given to other city workers over the same period (well, two of the three panel members; one called the award "a slap in the face" to Boston taxpayers).
The council today called on city agencies to stop doing business with any companies based in or doing substantial business in Arizona because of its law allowing police to ask people for their papers if they have "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal immigrants.
The resolution (Read here) passed on a voice vote. In practical terms, it asks the mayor's office to look for any investments in or dealings with Arizona companies and then what it would take to sell off those investments or stop doing business with the companies. At-large Councilor Felix Arroyo, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said he does not know if the city actually does have any such dealings.