NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

October 12, 2013

Another threat to Prop. 21/2

One thing I’ve been grateful for over the past few months: I didn’t have to pay attention to the Boston mayoral race with its gazillion candidates. Was able to focus on the new state tax package, the repeal of sections of that new state tax package, an ongoing national fiscal crisis, a possible war with Syria and the train wreck that’s Obamacare.

I’ve never lived in an American city, so have never voted for a mayor. When my little hometown in western Pennsylvania became a city in 1992 by incorporating with the surrounding township, some people wanted my popular father to run for mayor. I might have temporarily moved home to vote for him, but like me, he didn’t have a vocation for elected office, so declined to run.

Boston voters who were somehow able to sort through all the candidates chose two finalists, City Councilor John Connolly and state Rep. Marty Walsh. I don’t know either one, though I fondly remember John Connolly’s father, Michael, who as secretary of state oversaw petition drives, including Proposition 21/2 in 1980.

Among the opponents of Prop 21/2 were the public employee unions — primarily the teachers unions, but including the police and firefighter unions who objected to its repeal of compulsory binding arbitration. They lost the ballot campaign and that negotiating benefit, but Rep. Marty Walsh has been filing a bill to restore it for over a decade.

Compulsory binding arbitration for police and firefighter unions was one of the reasons that Massachusetts property taxes were the highest in the world during the 1970s. If the community and the union couldn’t agree on a contract, it went to compulsory arbitration, and the decision of the arbiter was final and binding. In practice, we were told by municipal officials, it always favored the union. This drove up costs, which were covered by unlimited property taxes.

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