The Hill and the Hall Week in Review

1204300281Each 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: Sal’s work on his short game threatens the commonwealth, or not, John Tobin fires a shot across Tom Menino‘s bough, plus Pervs! Casinos! And Chuck Turner!

The most talked-about man on Beacon Hill continued to be widely talked about this week, as news that Speaker Sal DiMasi has been playing golf with a decades-old friend, while not playing golf with a guy with a horrific haircut sparked an ethics uproar. It’s the surest sign yet that the state GOP has given up trying to win elections altogether, and will now focus solely on lobbing wobbly ethics complaints at its Democratic foes. (And that Scot Lehigh hasn’t met a bad golf metaphor he doesn’t like.)

The threat golf poses to democracy extends far beyond the current casino debate, though. Boston minorities who enjoy voting had better watch their backs: DiMasi occasionally hits the links with former Speaker Tom Finneran. Can federal voting rights violations, disgrace, and tears be far behind?

Legislators returned from their mid-winter jaunts to Orlando this week, and immediately got back to doing the people’s business. Which is to say, they threw themselves neck-deep into pervs. Pervs, pervs, pervs, pervs, pervs. A question nobody else has asked yet: Have any of these pervs ever gone golfing with Donald Trump? Somebody get Peter Torkildsen on the phone, quick!

Chuck Turner is one of the few city councilors who actually hasn’t been mentioned as a mayoral wannabe, but perhaps he should throw his hat in the race. Soaring rhetoric is king lately. During an otherwise excruciating debate on whether or not to accept piles of rare public housing money from the feds, Turner uncorked what may be the non-election election year slogan of the year: “This is America. Some benefit, while others move backwards. Isn’t it time we had a policy where we all move forward?”

If David Axelrod is reading this, no, you guys can’t borrow that one, too.

Turner’s paean came after one of the young session’s most bizarrely contentious debates. He and Charles Yancey had railed against the demolition and reconstruction of Roslindale’s Washington-Beech public housing development because the new housing complex, while not built in the cheap, failed, rotting mid-century style, would push residents toward home ownership, thus reducing the stock of public housing units, and thus also totally hate on poor people.

As Yancey put great wind behind this viewpoint, Council President Maureen Feeney (a self-described “project kid” who grew up in Dorchester’s Franklin Field development) shook her head and shot the Mattapan councilor one of the icier looks we’ve seen inside City Hall in a while.

How wicked excited is Mayor Menino that, thanks to councilor John Tobin, the city council will be debating term limits just as election season heats up? Obviously, the term limits proposal will be a vehicle for mayoral critics to paint Menino as this generation’s Kevin White – a tenacious mayor who remains in office, past his time, for tenacity’s sake. What remains to be seen is whether this little trick can work better than it did when Maura Hennigan pulled it three years ago.

Hey, have you heard about this casino thing? Yeah. It’s kind of a big deal. And after last week’s abrupt cancellation, the stakes for the legislature’s upcoming gambling hearing (set for a to-be-determined date in March when committee co-chairs Dan Bosley and Jack Hart can align their schedules) are growing by the day.

House members are already being polled for the big vote, even though a full third of the House is said to remain undecided. Meanwhile, reports had Gov. Deval Patrick also taking a number of casino-related meetings with lawmakers this week.

And while the pro-casino side has already lined up labor and municipal leaders to lobby fence-sitters, Bosley is hoping the hearing gives him the ammunition he needs to show his colleagues that Patrick’s rosy predictions don’t hold water.

“We’ll ask the administration what made them come to these conclusions, we’ll look at what’s happened in other states, we’ll try to collect a lot of data,” Bosley says. “We’re looking at this from an economic perspective. My two basic questions are, what does it cost to bring that money back from Connecticut, and where does that money come from?”

Bosley’s looking forward to the hearing, he says, because it’ll finally be a chance to have a “wider discussion about costs and ramifications. That hasn’t happened publicly. The public discussion has been very baseline – it’s been, ‘We’re losing money to Connecticut, and people want to gamble anyway.'”

While the hearing should be quite constructive to anybody actually willing to sit through it – the showdown over the governor’s background research should be especially contentious – Bosley doesn’t expect many of the gambling advocates who’ll testify to stray far off message, because they’ll be playing to the press, not the committee.

“It’s not a good issue for the press,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The good issues are, there’s friction between the governor and the speaker. We’ll take testimony all day, and maybe six lines of testimony will show up the next day. The governor’s going to come down and say, ‘We’re going to have 30,000 jobs,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, you’re not.’ And we’ll go back and forth and have a wider discussion, but that’s what shows up in the paper. And the proponents know this. So they never have to go deeper.”

Wire services contributed to this report.