Late last year, former Boston City Councilor Maureen Feeney was railroaded by public opinion in her attempt to effortlessly transition into a higher-paying gig as City Clerk, which included a pay bump and an estimated possible $60,000 a year in additional wedding fee collections.
In response last week, the Boston City Council put in place new “rules” because as elected officials it’s always good to at least fake the desire to make shenanigans more difficult for yourself to get away with.
The City Council can’t prevent the City Clerk from collecting without a home rule petition to the state legislature, which slows down the process so much, that if the Council went that route, they would likely loss any political capital that comes from making a show of actually giving a shit about honesty in government.
So that wasn’t going to work.
There is an effort at the state level from State Rep. Marty Walz to change the Massachusetts law that allows City Clerks and other city officials who can perform marriage ceremonies so that they can no longer pocket the marriage fees, which gives the Council the ability to show support for the state process without having to do any of the heavy lifting. The only drawback, once again, is the diminishing window of public interest.
Since they couldn’t take away the City Clerk’s ability to collect his or her own fees, the Council opted to add an additional $15 fee for the use of City Hall which would go into the city’s coffers.
The City Clerk is also now required to restrict the times in which marriages are performed to 10-11:30 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays – unless the City Clerk decides otherwise, which is stipulated in the new ordinance language.
The new ordinance comes after two working sessions of the Government Operations Committee. For those still trying to pick up on city government terminology, “working session” is essentially like an open, public hearing, but with that pesky transparency business getting in the way.
I’m sure that those sessions did not include a Caligula-inspired circle jerk, centered around a prostitute who overdosed on Oxycontin and Blueberry Four Loko, but really there’s no way of knowing.
Maureen Feeney isn’t the only one with dollar signs in her eyes, as the city’s annual budget process has begun. Stay tuned as each councilor takes their turn attempting to carve out pieces of the budget for whatever they think will help get them reelected, while the mayor’s office will continue to tout the proposed budget as the born fruits of past policy decisions.
Every discussion on the budget from city officials seems to focus on how closing schools, privatizing community centers and slashing city employee health insurance benefits were tough but necessary moves.
It’s kind of like how getting savagely gang-assaulted in a Southie dive bar is actually makes you stronger, because regular post traumatic night terrors keep you from letting your guard down.
Also, it seems the excited hand-wringing among City Councilors and other City Hall officials over possible improvements funded by the city’s unspent winter snowplow budget, was about as useful as expecting anyone to put up a worthwhile fight against the mayor in 2013.
Over a week ago, the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Meredith Weenick reported to the Committee on Post Audit and Oversight that the excess funds had been spent on new snow response equipment, as well as set aside to make up for the added costs of police overtime in response to Occupy Boston.
Once again, the city continues to stick to its tired spin that its financial foundation almost crumbled under the burden of overpaying cops to stand around in Dewey Square and sneer at the hippies-turned urban-campers.
In any case, the Council will likely have plenty to coo over as it begins its budget approval process. Since this is the first time in recent years when there does not seem to be the looming threat of major service cuts it certainly seems like things are smelly rosy.