The annual municipal budget season is always a mixed bag for journalists in Boston, who on one hand, get to see a stream of hearings that provide opportunities for city councilors to posture over their various pet causes, while on the other hand, having to endure hours of mind-numbing budget talk.
This is the time of year that the usually powerless City Council gets incredibly busy. It’s also the time of year when the majority of Boston journalists pay even less attention to municipal politics.
As an example to the nuances of budget discussions, considering the recent comments from a City Council meeting in regards to a $558,394 supplemental appropriation to the city’s transportation budget.
It’s worth noting Councilor John Connolly’s measured language in speaking out about the bus drivers’ contract.
Connolly, is the At-Large City Councilor from West Roxbury is likely to throw his hat in the ring for 2013’s mayoral race, which is also why he has a tendency to constantly appear in Boston Bastard posts.
In coming months I’ll have plenty of opportunities to take digs at the guy, so for now I’ll save it. Instead, consider his much-deserved anger at First Student, a proxy company that somehow has been given the privilege of administering the city’s school bus drivers union contract despite being based across the Atlantic and having very little incentive to give a shit about Boston students.
“It has nothing to do with the union. My issue is with First Student. They have been horrendous this year in getting our children to school on time,” said Connolly.
In asking for clarification on the weird contract web the city has with the bus drivers union, Connolly let slip, what I imagine he’s considering when he tackles busing this year.
“My question is if the schools decide to contract with a new vendor or to theoretically go in house with transportation and First Student was no longer the vendor, would we be obligated to fund the extra year on the union contract?”
I don’t think it was an accident that Connolly suggested the possibility of cutting out the middle man in the Boston Schools-Bus Drivers Union contract. Connolly has been aching to take a bite out of the $80 million transportation budget, which has always been code for ending busing in Boston.
Attacking the school department’s roughly $80 million transportation budget is usually a safe way for city politicians to call for an end to busing, without dealing the connotations of having actually called for cutting off access of the impoverished communities of color to the city’s best schools.
The issue is never that clear cut, but the politicians are well-aware of the importance of courting voters in more affluent, quasi-suburban neighborhoods who hate the idea of sharing their schools with non-white students, while trying to not alienate non-white voters.
The budget hearings are also when Councilor Charles Yancey often takes the time to, once again, demand the building of a new High School in Mattapan.
By the way, it’s worth noting that despite Council President Stephen Murphy’s claim that Yancey was removed as chair of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee because he was complaining about having to go to too many hearings, the Mattapan Council veteran frequently attends the budget hearings.
The same can’t be said for Murphy, who is likely too busy courting constituents at whichever Dorchester or Hyde Park bars that still have room left on his tab, or plotting half-assed campaigns for higher office.