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The Thin Blue Line's thinner wallets

Posted in: Municipal government   Crime and safety
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Cities and towns were just handed some fiscal relief by the state Supreme Judicial Court but don’t expect a lot of high-fiving among local officials to follow.

If past is prologue, the SJC’s ruling that communities do not have to backfill the state’s diminished contribution to the Police Career Incentive Pay Program – otherwise known as the Quinn Bill – will further anger local police unions and could trigger some everyday work problems, including a depletion of rank and file as some older officers take retirement rather than pay cuts. Many of the rank and file already saw their paychecks slashed when Gov. Deval Patrick opened up traffic details to civilian flaggers.

The Quinn Bill, funded and administered through the state education department, was named after former attorney general Robert Quinn and passed nearly 40 years ago. By law, communities that adopted the Quinn Bill paid officers an extra 10 percent if they had an associate’s degree, 20 percent for a bachelor’s degree, and 25 percent for a master’s or a law degree. The idea behind the incentive program was that policing would be improved by a more educated patrol force. Under the original law, the state and local communities split the cost 50-50, but over the last five years the state has decreased its contribution.

In a suit brought by Boston police unions after the city refused to make up for the drop in state funds, the SJC ruled cities and towns, unless it is explicitly written into the union contracts, are not required to make good on the state’s half of the commitment. The difference is significant. Since 2009, the state has cut Quinn Bill funds by more than 90 percent. In Boston, the city would have been responsible for $10 million. In Worcester, the state has only been paying $200,000 of its share of $2.8 million, but Worcester officials have been making up the difference.

Other towns facing suits or fearful of suits have been funding the state’s portion but could get out from under that obligation with this ruling.

The Quinn Bill has been a source of controversy for decades. There was a period of time that “diploma mills” with less than challenging curricula were regularly tapped by police to qualify for pay increases, but controls were put on the Quinn Bill program several years back.

The Herald this morning already weighed in, saying the Quinn Bill is long past its useful life. In an editorial, the paper says if local police want a professional force, they should make a college degree a requirement of the job and adjust the salary accordingly.

Don’t expect police unions, among the most vocal labor organizations with unmatched solidarity, to take this quietly. One beneficiary could be Mitt Romney, who, as governor, fully funded the program even as he was slashing local aid and social service programs, notwithstanding his stump speeches these days against “big labor.”

Those that toe the thin blue line remember their friends, and as labor unions go, theirs are not as reliably Democrat-leaning as other unions. Just ask Mike Dukakis.

                                                                                                                                                           --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The House and Senate voted to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto to cut funds in the supplemental budget to four Republican sheriffs’ offices.

Patrick files a one-year transportation bond bill that includes an infrastructure bank.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Haverhill firefighters say the death of an elderly woman in a fire could have been avoided if Mayor James Fiorentini had not cut two men from their rescue truck. One firefighter says the mayor should be charged with murder for making the $200,000 budget cut, the Eagle-Tribune reports. NECN has a video report

The Bay State Banner reports on the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Boston Public Schools headquarters in Roxbury.

Howard Manly, editor of the Banner, looks at the Charles Street AME Church-OneUnited Bank controversy.

A former aide to Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy files a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging racial discrimination, the Lynn Item reports.

The Cambridge Chronicle wonders what the heck is happening with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority.

CASINOS

Steve Wynn sets loose his schmooze posse on Foxborough. The meeting featured an open bar and free appetizers.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Is Rush Limbaugh just the tip of the iceberg of a sexual counterrevolution? asks WBUR’s On Point.

ELECTION 2012

In a classic example of the value of a two newspaper town, Ann Romney gets attention from the Globe and Herald, but in very different ways. The Herald’s Margery Eagan gushes over her down-to-earth persona and the puppy-love adoration Mitt shows for her. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Joan Vennochi focuses on Ann Romney’s recent comments about her battle against multiple sclerosis, and says Mitt Romney’s vow to repeal the federal health care law would deny to Americans the guarantee of health care coverage that has allowed his wife to receive top-notch care.

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua loses his seat on the Democratic State Committee to a 25-year-old, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Rick Santorum, who proudly wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, is not winning over Catholic voters.

US Sen. Scott Brown’s “Mitt Romney problem” is growing, even as the Phoenix’s David Bernstein gushes about Brown’s campaign skills. Meanwhile, Romney’s lackluster showing among Republicans in the Berkshires in Tuesday’s primary mirrors his problems nationwide. The South doesn’t think much of our man Mitt either. The New York Times dives deeper into Romney’s fundraising weaknesses: Nearly 40 percent of his donors have maxed out, compared with nine percent of Newt Gingrich’s, and eight percent of Santorum’s. The Atlantic marvels at the competitiveness of the GOP nomination fight, given that Romney outspent Santorum six-to-one on Super Tuesday. The candidates themselves were heavily outspent by outside super PACs. BREAKING: Rich folks vote for Romney. Ron Paul sets his sights on the GOP convention. Gail Collins devotes an entire column to her favorite topic, the dearly departed canine, Seamus Romney.

The Times spotlights the Obama campaign’s data-driven voter identification operation.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Walpole nonprofit whose software is meant to help protect people’s civil liberties from cyber surveillance is unintentionally helping drug dealers and those who traffic in child pornography avoid detection on the Internet.

The Justice Department is preparing to sue Apple and five publishers for allegedly colluding to inflate the price of e-books.

EDUCATION

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan removed the chairman of the regional Diman School Committee because he supported the mayor’s opponent in last year’s election and replaced him on the board with former state senator Joan Menard, who lives in Somerset.

The Wall Street Journal explores the challenges in using test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Four finalists have been named in the search for a new chancellor for the UMass Amherst campus.

Tufts University establishes a Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

HEALTH CARE

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says a decline in salmonella food poisoning can be traced to the practice of giving restaurants letter grades for inspection results, AP reports (via Governing). Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has gone in the other direction, reluctant to have the city’s restaurant inspection program give any sort of grade, according to a story in CommonWealth.

The Republican argues that cigarettes packages should contain graphic images in order to scare people straight off smoking. A federal judge recently blocked the FDA from using such images.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is launching a crackdown on fare evaders, NECN reports.

Gov. Deval Patrick files a $1.5 billion transportation bond bill that would establish the state’s first infrastructure bank.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Danish wind turbine company abandons plans to open a research and development facility in Marlborough due to company restructuring.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

UCLA criminal justice researcher Mark Kleiman and CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas discuss the legacy of the late social scientist James Q. Wilson, father of the “broken windows” theory of policing, in this “Face to Face” video.

A 47-year-old Salem grandmother is charged with engaging in prostitution out of her home, the Salem News reports. In New York City, meanwhile, the Soccer Mom Madam is arrested, the Daily Beast reports.

A Pittsfield woman who pleaded guilty to assault and battery eight years ago is arrested after refusing to provide a DNA to the state.

The bank account for the Plymouth County correctional officers union is missing $100,000 and union officials say District Attorney Timothy Cruz has been dragging his feet in the investigation despite being alerted two years ago.

A Scituate man is suing three officers in the town’s police department for violating his civil rights after they arrested and jailed him for posting leaflets about his ex-wife and her boyfriend. It was, apparently, a bitter break-up.

Grisly testimony was offered yesterday in the trial of two men accused of a 2010 quadruple killing in Mattapan from the sole survivor of the carnage.

MEDIA

The group trying to buy the Philadelphia newspapers is changing, as former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell appears to step aside, according to a story on Philly.com.

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