The Hill and the Hall Week in Review
Each Friday, Paul McMorrow will take you inside the smoke-filled rooms and darkly-lit corridors of government to bring you the hottest and juiciest political tidbits. This week, City Council gets tough, Therese Murray gets tougher, and Martha Coakley might want to call Denis Leary.
The first real Boston City Council meeting of the year came and went without the arrival of Charles Yancey’s dreaded parade of re-files. Last year, the councilor spoke for a good 45 minutes about all the great bills he didn’t get passed in 2006. His colleagues responded by wandering out of the room, taking phone calls, napping, or grabbing lunch. Not so this year!
Instead, it was Michael Flaherty who was the session’s surprise re-animator of dead legislative corpses. He brought a three-year-old snow melting proposal back to life, and then he went all Maura Hennigan on us and started talking about potholes. It’s the surest sign yet he’s running for mayor. Or, that he’s not the only one who’s got a broken ankle he’s not telling anyone about.
Flaherty can be forgiven for recycling old homework, though. He’ll likely be way too busy hammering Tom Menino’s vision-for-vision’s-sake plan to move City Hall to Southie to come up with new legislative whatevers. The councilor and presumed mayoral aspirant thoroughly whipped administration flaks at a made-for-public-access-TV hearing last year (at which one BRA official confessed that no feasibility studies had been done before announcing the move, but that they’d be coming eventually). Flaherty now finds himself in charge of a whole committee whose sole purpose is to
poke holes vet the mayor’s City Hall proposal. Not a bad way to spend the year before a mayoral race.
Mayor Menino’s people are clearly upset at the self-empowering stance the council has suddenly adopted. It’s the council’s role to ask tough questions, but there are huge chunks of the administration that see its sudden decision to do its job as a personal attack.
It may be Council President Maureen Feeney who bears the brunt of Menino’s blowback. It’s bad enough that Feeney is actively encouraging the citizenry to talk about how city government doesn’t work. As council president, she’s supposed to keep a lid on councilors’ pent-up ambitions. Instead, with her citywide summit and Flaherty’s special City Hall committee, she’s chosen to unleash those forces.
Plus, Sam Yoon is promising to be an aggressive chair of the council’s reinvigorated post audit and oversight committee, and to ferret out all sorts of governmental malfeasance. (The Herald’s editorial board likely couldn’t be happier if David Scondras showed up on their steps with a bottle of red wine.)
Non-vile retribution will surely follow. Angry, obscenity-laden phone calls are nothing new around here, and arguments are already erupting in the hallways.
“This body is gonna go to battle this year,” says a City Hall source. “They sense a weakness, and they’re going to attack.”
The boys on the Hill just can’t get along. They’re too busy fighting about taxes, about casinos, about whether or not they’re fighting at all. And the longer this plays out, the bigger opening it presents to Senate President Therese Murray.
She showed signs this week that she’s prepared to play a pivotal role in pushing policy through the Deval-versus-Sal logjam.
First, Murray absolutely destroyed the Commonwealth’s political establishment – particularly Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry – for falling in line behind Barack Obama.
“I don’t want to be pushed aside anymore,” Murray said at a breakfast Tuesday morning. “I don’t want to be patted on the head, saying, ‘You did a good job on that, but now we got this young person, we got this attractive man, because you can’t get elected because the media said you couldn’t, because the polls said you couldn’t. We’re going to put this guy out front. And by the way we need your help, and could your organize this or that?’ I’m not doing that anymore.”
The night before, at a Clinton fundraiser, she threw even heavier punches. “She went off,” Rep. Mike Moran told State House News. “She was great… The place went crazy when she finished her speech.”
Murray then bucked both Patrick and DiMasi on the state’s budget. She buried Patrick’s decision to spend $300 million in casino money next year, despite being a supporter of legalized gambling. Murray also said that she was looking at ways to shoehorn a version of Patrick’s tax loophole plan past the speaker and into “our budget in some way.”
There is word that Murray is close to unveiling a high-visibility measure that’ll tackle health insurance premiums head-on, and the two-way dance that dominated Beacon Hill last year suddenly gets a whole lot more complicated. And a lot more interesting.
Attorney General Martha Coakley appeared to make a dry run of her Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast material when she addressed the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Here’s hoping that the AG – an intriguing gubernatorial candidate down the road – has Hill, Holiday on speed dial. A sampling of the laff lines that weren’t:
-“I’ve brought along a few slides,” she said. “A brief photo journal of a year in the life of an Attorney General.” Flash to a beaming Alberto Gonzales. “Whoops – wrong attorney general!” Five people chuckled. It was the morning’s most successful joke.
-“By the way,” she ventured, after mentioning Turner Broadcasting’s $2 million Mooninite bounty, “with $2 million in ’07 and over $400 million in ’08 for the Big Dig, I’ve got to find some really deep pockets for ’09. Any volunteers let me know!”
-“As the year progressed, we confronted all sorts of misbehaviors. Last summer, 13 Wendy’s franchises closed without warning. Customers wanted to know, ‘Where’s the beef?”’ This flashed on the screen.
-“We were very active on the consumer protective front, but one ‘safe product’ issue we missed was apparently the widespread use of electric popcorn poppers for cooking squirrel. As presidential candidate Mike Huckabee noted last week when we talked about his collegiate days in the south, apparently, it spread to Massachusetts.” Cut to a Photoshop job of Mitt Romney holding a squirrel pie. “We need to get on that one. It’s very dangerous for consumers.”
Wire services contributed to this report.