The Boston Globe - 08.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

A8 Editorial The Boston Globe THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 2019


nly two City Hall officials
court, but it was a
culture, a way of doing
business, that was
exposed for all to see. And nothing
about it was pretty.
Kenneth Brissette and Timothy
conspiracy Wednesday, and Brissette
of extortion, for illegally pressuring a
concert producer to hire members of
the International Alliance of
Theatrical Stage Employees union,
which was among the mayor’s
political supporters in 2013.
The verdict came as a shock to
many observers. Indeed, the two
defendants have won a lot of
sympathizers in the city, who feel
they’ve been singled out for
punishment for a practice that’s been
tolerated with a wink for decades. It
took the conscience of a jury to
conclude that even if the two men
didn’t invent playing favorites with
city permits, it’s still wrong.
Now that the jury
has done its work, the
far broader issue is
whether the conduct
described in two
weeks of testimony
represents the kind of
government that
Boston’s fated to
continue suffering
from in the future. Or
will this verdict finally
send the message to
every other city official
in every other corner
of City Hall that the-
way-it’s-always-been is
no excuse?
Brissette, hired in
the spring of 2014 to be the chief of
tourism in the Walsh administration,
and Sullivan, head of governmental
relations, were accused of strong-
arming Crash Line Productions into
hiring union labor the company
neither wanted nor needed for the
Boston Calling music festival slated
for City Hall Plaza that September.
But the testimony and the paper
trail introduced in federal court also
drew back the curtain on how
business was being done in the then-
new Walsh administration.
Shortly after his hiring, Brissette
managed to get knee-deep into a
controversy over the “Top Chef”
filming in Boston, which was being
protested by a different union, the
Teamsters, for using nonunion
production workers.
How Brissette handled that
situation was alarming. Testifying
under a grant of immunity, former
city chief of operations Joe Rull told
the court Brissette wanted the film
company to cut some footage it had
already shot but which now loomed
as a source of embarrassment with
the mayor’s union supporters.
Brissette’s weapon of choice, Rull
said, was threatening to withhold the
film company’s permits.

“You can’t do that, it’s not legal,”
Rull said he told Brissette.
Brissette was never charged in
connection with the “Top Chef”
allegations. But the exchange with
Rull demonstrated that he knew that
conditioning city permits on use of
union labor was illegal.
By summer, with the days
festival, IATSE Local 11 business
manager Colleen Glynn messaged
Sullivan with a draft agreement for
her members to work the event.
“I’m confident we can get a deal
for a dozen or so stagehands
backing,” she wrote on Aug. 20,
She was right. And as soon as the
festival organizers caved and hired
the union workers, just days before
the festival, its permitting problems
suddenly vanished.
On Sept. 3, Glynn crowed to her
members about the nine jobs secured
with “a ton of help from City Hall.”
Brissette’s lawyer,
Bill Kettlewell, gamely
tried to justify the
interactions. “It’s not
wrong for a public
servant to resolve a
dispute among
Kettlewell argued in his
closing. “That’s what
public servants are
supposed to do: bring
people to the table.”
But 12 jurors didn’t
buy it. “Vigorous
advocacy by public
officials does not
include telling private
companies... that they
must give their wages and benefits to
unions or face financial ruin,” as
Assistant US Attorney Laura Kaplan
said in her closing arguments. “It’s
not a legal negotiation when you
have a gun to your head,” she added.
Walsh issued a statement saying
he was “surprised and disappointed”
at the verdict, adding, “I have always
believed that their hearts were in the
right place.”
Really? Is pandering to this
special interest or that political
supporter what Bostonians expect
from City Hall? And does Walsh’s
continued defense of two men a jury
has found to be criminals mean that
it will be business as usual in the
days and years ahead at City Hall?
This verdict is a chance to turn
the page on a practice jaded
Bostonians have had to accept for so
long that it feels normal. The way the
city issues permits — to hold
festivals, build housing, or anything
else — should be easy to navigate,
fair to all applicants, and fully
transparent. Walsh might not think
Wednesday’s verdict was fair to the
two defendants, but he should take
to heart the verdict the jury delivered
on how citizens want government to
conduct business.

After Boston Calling

case, no more business

as usual at City Hall



By Tom Keane


uddenly, everybody wants to be a city
This September, 15 candidates will be
on the ballot for the four available at-large
seats. Two years ago, according to Boston’s
elections department, there were only eight. Two
years before that, there were only five. On top of that,
another 29 candidates (including incumbents) are
running for the nine district seats.
Why the sudden interest? Why aspire to work for
a legislative body so many deride as a “powerless, in-
Two words: Ayanna Pressley.
That’s a cynical take on the matter,
although there’s probably something to
it. Becoming a city councilor has often
been seen as either a sinecure or per-
haps a jumping-off point to something
greater. Usually, “greater” meant mayor.
Sometimes it meant clerk of courts or
registrar of deeds which — with all due
respect — is really not “greater” at all.
Yet councilors rarely made the jump
to Congress (I should know; as a one-
time city councilor I made a futile attempt myself).
With Pressley’s unexpectedly successful campaign,
however, there’s now new hope for political wan-
nabes. Imagine: Get elected city councilor and in a
few short years, you too might be a member of “the
Squad,” a national figure, and the president’s foil.
But there is more than ambition at play, I think.
There was an era in American politics, beginning
with John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960, where gov-
ernment was seen as a noble calling. “Ask not what
your country can do for you,” he said at his inaugura-
tion, “Ask what you can do for your country.” Kenne-
dy created the Peace Corps, he constantly spoke of
the worthiness of working for the government (“The
success of this government, and thus the success of
our nation, depends in the last analysis upon the
quality of our career services,” he said in 1962), and
he inspired a generation to get involved.
For many complicated reasons the enthusiasm of
that era died. Wars and scandals destroyed the luster
of public service. Conservative politicians would of-
ten identify government — and by extension, those

who worked in it — as an enemy. Business, and espe-
cially high tech, started to seem like a more effective
(and financially lucrative) way to make a difference.
People grew jaded, thinking there was no real differ-
ence between Democrats and Republicans. Govern-
ment seemed meaningless, passé.
And then along came Donald Trump to inspire us
once again.
Granted, Trump isn’t inspiring in the way of
Kennedy. He’s more like a Bizarro Superman version
of the late president, a mirror image. Trump’s
fomenting tweets, outlandish behavior, and often
cruel policies are clearly not intended to get people
more engaged, but that’s been their
impact. Post the 2016 election, people
finally figured out that politics really did
matter. Protests — the Women’s March
and Day Without Immigrants — led to
increased activism, which led to a host of
new faces running in the congressional
Still, what do national politics have to
do with local? How does outrage with
Trump translate into more people run-
ning for the Boston City Council?
Because, as Tip O’Neill opined, “All
politics is local.” Many of the national issues that
folks care about are in fact best addressed at the local
level. Think about the things that most affect our ev-
eryday lives: schools, public safety, transportation,
housing affordability, the built and unbuilt environ-
ment (buildings and parklands), trash and snow re-
moval, and so on. All are fundamentally handled at
the local level. Even the economy: city and regional
economies all thrive or fail based on all of these is-
sues as well as local factors such as attitudes toward
business development, and rules and regulations.
Hence the spate of interest in becoming a city
councilor. Sure, maybe the City Council is mostly
powerless and ineffectual. But at a minimum it’s a
bully platform. And my guess is that, after the No-
vember elections have ended, we’re going to see a
City Council more invigorated, more engaged, and
more demanding than it’s been for decades.
Thanks, Donald. You’re making public service
cool once again.

Tom Keane is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Thank Pressley and Trump

for a crowded City Council race



ast year, Face-
book an-
nounced a
new content
stream called
“Today In” to
aggregate lo-
cal news from reputable sourc-
es, only to discover it couldn’t
find enough local news to fill
it. Such is the decimated land-
scape for local news in Ameri-
ca. Between 2004 and 2018,
nearly 1,800 dailies and week-
lies closed, and although al-
most 400 digital upstarts have
emerged, they are mainly
found in big cities and affluent
areas. In addition, we lost 45
percent of newsroom employ-

ees between 2008 and 2017,
according to Pew Research.
Local journalism is in cri-
sis, online and off. Years of
downsizing in the face of digi-
tal disruption have weakened

regional and local news orga-
nizations. And the problem is
growing worse, as advertising
continues to shift in substan-
tial measure to Facebook and
Google. The Wall Street Jour-
nal reported that these giant
over 86 percent of advertising
growth in the industry by

  1. They now have 77 per-
    cent of all digital advertising
    revenue in local markets and
    58 percent at the national lev-
    el. That leaves little for the lo-
    cal newspaper.
    More pressing, these plat-
    forms have also won all of the
    attention. Google, Facebook,
    Twitter, and their offspring,
    which includes YouTube, Insta-
    gram, and WhatsApp, have se-
    cured their dominance as the
    blazing fire that has captured a
    rapt audience in this new at-
    tention economy. Meanwhile,
    they are collecting vast
    amounts of user data, which
    they couple with their crystal
    ball capabilities of extracting
    insights into consumer behav-
    ior. Centered in the regulation-
    free environment of the United
    States, where privacy rights are
    virtually nonexistent and pre-
    vious channels of information
    and fact have been obliterated,
    they control more information
    and income than many world

nations. It is the Wild West.
However, a new strategy
has emerged in the absence of
a robust revenue model for lo-
cal news. There is a new move-
ment of mobilizers: well-orga-
nized journalism-focused ini-
tiatives to support local news
outlets, many of which are
bleeding to death.
A few of these mobilizers
are beginning to have a real
impact: the ProPublica Local
Reporting Network, Report for
America, and the newly
launched American Journal-
ism Project, which has already
secured $42 million in com-
mitted funding.,
an amplifier of diverse visual
storytellers, and American
Press are also hinting at creat-
ing mobilizing efforts to shore
up local news.
The ProPublica Local Re-
porting Network has shown
the most promise, pairing lo-
cal reporters with a seasoned
investigative reporter from
afar who works with them to
track their story. Both the local
newsroom and ProPublica
publish the story in an effort
to support investigative jour-
nalism in communities where
newsrooms are without the
time and know-how to dig
deep into investigative work.
ProPublica reports that 14 lo-

New sources

of hope for local


By Heidi Legg







Founded 1872

Mark S. Morrow
Jason M. TuoheyDigital Platforms and Audi-
ence Engagement

Marjorie PritchardEditorial Page
David DahlPrint and Operations
Felice BelmanLocal News and Features
Veronica ChaoLiving/Arts

Dhiraj NayarChief Financial Officer
Dan KrockmalnicGeneral Counsel
Kayvan SalmanpourChief Commercial Officer
Anthony BonfiglioVice President, Engineering
Claudia HendersonChief Human Resources Officer
Jane BowmanVice President, Marketing & Strategic
Dale CarpenterSenior Vice President, Print Operations

Charles H. TaylorFounder & Publisher 1873-
William O. TaylorPublisher 1921-
Wm. Davis TaylorPublisher 1955-
William O. TaylorPublisher 1978-
Benjamin B. TaylorPublisher 1997-

Richard H. GilmanPublisher 1999-
P. Steven AinsleyPublisher 2006-
Christopher M. MayerPublisher 2009-
Laurence L. WinshipEditor 1955-
Thomas WinshipEditor 1965-



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