No question the MBTA is underfunded. But the simple truth is that the revenue shortages there and in other government agencies can be blamed in some measure on the outsized contracts awarded those in the public employ.
The Boston Globe reported recently that the city of Boston just recorded its largest payroll increase — 7.5 percent — in modern history, the result of generous contracts and outrageous arbitration awards. One recent such award gave the city’s police officers a 25.4 percent raise over six years — this at a time when many in the private sector are still grateful for even token increases, and states and municipalities continue to struggle with budget deficits.
Until recently, MBTA employees had among the most outlandish packages in the industry, allowing some to retire before age 50 with the equivalent of full pay and free health coverage for the rest of their lives.
Little wonder there’s no money to maintain the tracks or purchase new equipment. (Similarly, the prevailing wage rules and police detail requirements substantially reduce the amount of money available for actual construction in Massachusetts.)
Yet the politicians who approve these contracts would rather suffer the wrath of the general public when things go wrong than risk the enmity of cops, toll collectors or train conductors.
Perhaps a state assemblyman from Nevada has the right idea. He’s filed a bill requiring that any collective bargaining agreement be made public and posted online at least 10 days before it comes up for approval.
Maybe if pols heard from angry voters before these agreements were a done deal, it would restore some sanity to the system.
Spent part of this week in Las Vegas. (We were supposed to meet friends from Salem who were unable to get out of Logan due to the storm.)
The state is a political hotbed. It’s expected to be a swing state in the 2016 presidential election (most likely Hillary Clinton vs. whichever Republican survives the primaries), Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid is up for re-election that same year, and the Sin City mayor hopes to strengthen her political prospects by bringing a Major League Soccer and NHL team to town.
One of those vying for the GOP presidential nod, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was scheduled to be in town this week for a book signing and to direct more invective at President Barack Obama.
Who knew that the Father of American Jurisprudence was from Beverly? His name is Nathaniel Dane, and according to the Beverly Heritage Project he was instrumental in the drafting of the Northwest Ordinance, which encouraged the settlement of territories west of the Appalachian Mountains and prohibited the practice of slavery there. Harvard’s law school once bore his name.
He died in Beverly in 1835 and is buried in Central Cemetery.
This week is not only Valentine’s Week by order of the governor, but Nathaniel Dane Week.
The show will go on.
With former state representative John Keenan now firmly ensconced in the ivory tower (literally so, given the snowbound state of Salem State University’s campus these days) some wondered whether the city’s annual St. Patrick’s breakfast would be a thing of the past.
Not to worry. The festivities will continue under the eye of state Sen. Joan Lovely.
The venue and time will remain the same — Finz on Pickering Wharf from 7 to 9 a.m. Date is Friday, March 13.
There’s nothing easy about trying to be funny on cue, and to make sure there will be at least a few chuckles, Lovely has secured the services of prominent Boston-area comedian Jimmy Tingle.