City Councilor John R. Connolly again went after the legislative record of his mayoral opponent, state Representative Martin J. Walsh, arguing that Walsh’s efforts in the State House would have undermined funding for community police programs.
“You need to be a real independent leader who can work for all the interests in Boston if we’re going to get our priorities straight in this city,” Connolly said at a news conference today in front of Schrafft’s Chocolate factory in Charlestown, minutes before he was scheduled to speak at a violence-prevention forum. “My opponent’s legislative record indicates the exact opposite.”
Walsh has asserted that an arbitration bill he has been pushing for a decade on Beacon Hill would install more financial safeguards during labor disputes by forcing compromise between unions and municipalities.
But government watchdogs argue that Walsh’s proposal would eliminate the requirement that the City Council approve arbitration awards for police and firefighters.
Under the bill backed by Walsh, the ruling of an arbitrator would be final and binding. Walsh has maintained that the threat of binding arbitration could force compromise.
Walsh’s efforts in the State House have become fodder for Connolly as the Boston City Council weighs whether or not to approve an arbitration award to Boston police officers that city officials said would amount to a 25.4 percent pay hike over six years. The police union has countered that the award would begin to bring the base salary of patrol officers in line with firefighters and that only the most senior officers would see that kind of pay hike.
Connolly said that during a hearing last week on the award, city officials warned that to pay for the award there could be a slew of cuts in other areas of the budget to help fund it, including to community policing.
“That’s not acceptable,” said Connolly, who has stated he will vote not to approve funding the award. The council has not scheduled a vote on the award.
A spokesman for Walsh pointed out that in 2009, Connolly voted with the rest of the City Council to approve budget cuts that would have led to the elimination of 67 police officers.
“The only person in this race who has voted to reduce the number of cops on Boston’s streets is John Connolly,” said the spokesman, Kyle Sullivan.
Those 67 jobs ultimately were saved through federal grants. It is unlikely that the award would lead to cuts of police officers or other public safety personnel, said Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a taxpayer watchdog group that opposes funding the award.
Federal grants continue to fund dozens of positions in the department on the condition that the department not layoff members of its force, while the fire department is contractually obligated to maintain a certain number of firefighters assigned to each shift, Tyler said.
That means the cuts will most likely come from other city departments, like parks and recreation or inspectional services, he said.
“The only immediate area that the city has to reduce spending is in personnel,” Tyler said.