At the outset of the 2017-2018 session, the Legislature passed a surprise bill giving themselves pay raises, along with judges and statewide officeholders. Yet lawmakers have been slow to accomplish much else.Read More
Paramedic certification, closure of beach dune on tap for Nov. 18 Special Town Meeting
By Carol Britton Meyer
October 17, 2019
At a special town meeting called by the Board of Selectmen for Monday, Nov. 18, Hull voters will consider two warrant articles related to a proposed change in the town's paramedic hiring bylaw and a re-vote of the May 2019 town meeting article pertaining to a proposed Beach Avenue dune construction project.
The Hull Times heard from Town Counsel James Lampke as we went to press that a judge recently ruled to deny the request for injunctive relief filed by attorney Robert Galvin on behalf of two Beach Avenue residents to stop the project.
Lampke said in an email that “the judge issued what I would call a very strong and supportive decision in favor of the town… substantially agreeing with the arguments made by the town.”
Articles for the warrant, including citizen petitions, will be accepted until Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m. At that time, the warrant for the special town meeting, scheduled to convene at Hull High School at 7 p.m., will close.
The first article relates to a request by Fire Chief Christopher Russo that the bylaw requiring the hiring of only those firefighters with paramedic certification be amended as soon as possible so as to create a broader pool of candidates, including EMTs without paramedic training, to fill a large number of departmental vacancies.
"Changing the bylaw will not change the level of service on our ambulances," Town Manager Philip Lemnios told the Advisory Board Wednesday.
"Even with the proposed bylaw change, residents will still receive the same level of care as is currently provided because there are sufficient staff members with paramedic certification in the department to staff our ambulance service," he emphasized. "There is a rotation between serving on the ambulance and acting in a firefighter's capacity."
Lemnios noted that Hull is the only community he knows of that requires 100 percent of its fire department staff to have paramedic certification.
This is not the first time the town has considered this issue; in 2018, for example, a similar proposal did not prevail at town meeting.
"The rationale behind this current article is pretty much the same," Lemnios said, "but the need for this change has only become more pronounced."
Russo said he lost 10 members of the fire department in the past 18 months due in part to resignations and retirements, and more vacancies are anticipated in the next several years.
The fire department is funded for 25 positions, but the current staffing level is far lower, with 14 paramedics and two EMTs. "Changing the by-law would allow more hiring flexibility," Russo said. "We have to get our staffing back up; [being under-staffed] affects morale."
The current town requirement to hire only candidates who hold a paramedic license has become more challenging over time, according to Russo, due in part to a greater demand for paramedics as more communities in eastern Massachusetts have moved to a paramedic level of ambulance service.
"I try to hire [firefighters/paramedics/EMTs] who are a good fit for the job and who want to be here,” he said.
Despite the lack of manpower, Russo said the current staff "is providing great service and has had some tremendous saves.” The Hull FireDepartment carries out approximately 1,000 to 1,200 transports a year.
The proposed change would give Russo the flexibility to hire new staff based on the overall needs of the department while maintaining its paramedic certification as well as accomplishing the other department missions, according to Lemnios.
The fire department will seek candidates who over time will become certified paramedics, the town manager stressed.
"We're working on a benefits package to help attract candidates in order to be more competitive," Russo said.
Two Advisory Board members were of the opinion that including what the town believes to be an appropriate ratio of paramedics to EMTs might make the article more acceptable to voters. But others contended that including such details in the warrant article would not be a wise move and could possibly tie the town's hands unintentionally at a future time.
Board member Dan Sullivan said he has "long endorsed this approach," referring to the proposed bylaw change. "We don't demand that everyone in a hospital functions as a doctor. There are many levels of support." The same principle applies to the paramedic/EMT issue, he pointed out.
"It's difficult to maintain paramedic status for an entire career," in part because of ongoing training requirements. "It's an arduous process," Russo said.
Jay Polito, another board member, suggested including a sunset clause in the proposed bylaw change that would allow the immediate staffing needs to be addressed "and to see how the bylaw change works" if supported by town meeting voters.
Beach Avenue dune article
The second article – to take another vote on the 2019 town meeting Beach Avenue article – is on the agenda at the request of Lampke. This relates to Attorney Galvin's seeking of a preliminary injunction against the town to prevent construction of the dune to close the gap between the two existing dunes across from several waterfront parcels (house numbers 131 to 145). There have been a number of court date delays, and a new date to hear the case has not yet been set.
Galvin also claims that the May town meeting voice vote – that the now-former town moderator John Silva determined at that time was in favor of authorizing but not requiring the selectmen to acquire by "gift, eminent domain or otherwise" a portion of, or interest in those parcels – is invalid because there was no actual vote count, just a voice vote, which he deems was too close to determine without a standing vote
More information is expected in the coming weeks, and the Advisory Committee will vote on these two and any other warrant articles that are filed before the deadline prior to the special town meeting.
The Advisory Board will meet again Oct. 21 and 28 to discuss the warrant articles further. Chairman David Clinton plans to invite representatives of the firefighters’ union to attend and to present their views.
Russo said he has had initial conversations with fire department staff "so there are no surprises. We've talked about this issue every year, and I think the collaboration is coming together. I think this would be a change for the good. My goal is to provide the best service possible to the public, so I want to be proactive and get ahead of this [staffing] problem."
If the bylaw change passes, there would be collective bargaining and regulatory processes to follow.
The last day to register to vote for the meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 29. Residents will receive their warrants by mail on Saturday, Nov. 9.
By Catherine Goldhammer
October 17, 2019
I walked through Endless Summer a few weeks ago. I walked quickly; the hullaballoo is wonderful and also more than I can take. But there were a few people I wanted to see, so I went. And I did see them and converse with them, and then I walked back out through the circus performers and their hoops and bowling pins, past the Coast Guard vehicle and the little train, through the music and the food and all the people.
My first conversation there was with a young man I like very much and enjoy talking with. We often seem to be of the same opinions on matters concerning the town. Somehow we got to talking about parking and in particular the parking at Pemberton, and I mentioned not being able to find a parking place, and he agreed. And then we realized that I meant a space in which to sit and ponder while gazing at Peddocks and at Boston and at the currents, and he meant a space from which to take the ferry. It was a small moment, and we didn’t talk about it further, but I remember walking away a little surprised that we didn’t think the same thing. (I am aware how not humble that sounds.)
What I want is for the Gut to be free of commuter parking. I want it to be the way it once was, not so long ago, a place where people came every day, all day, in and out, to sit and read the newspaper, or have their coffee, or talk with a friend, or fish, or watch the airplanes (yes, some came just for this), or look for starfish with their grandchildren, or just stare at those crazy currents while trying to solve all of life’s problems or even just one of them. I don’t know what the average stay was, but I would guess no more than a half an hour. That parking lot was always full of people coming and going and solving life’s problems.
I understand the comprehensive issues of the Pemberton area, not the least of which is that people need to park somewhere to go to work. But I still think that the Hull Gut parking area is a town treasure and that at least this one spot of Pemberton should be protected as such. Even in Hull, where there is water everywhere you look, there is nothing else like the Gut. There are still a few parking places reserved for the ponderers and the solvers and the novel-writers and newspaper readers. But not many. Not enough.
I had another conversation on this topic recently, with another person I like very much and like talking with. This was very enjoyable, if much shoutier. To give you an idea, there were stretches of time during which neither of us heard anything the other one said because we were both talking loudly simultaneously – for minutes.At one point one person said, “I am very humble,” and the other said, “You are the least humble person I know.” Neither of which is true, but all of it was funny. And then we finished that part of the conversation and talked about other things in an easygoing manner for some time.
These conversations reminded me how complicated Pemberton is, including the Gut parking area and its uses. And yet I want what I want. I suspect I won’t get it. Sometimes it is this: They see an orange and I see an apple, and neither of us is wrong.
Catherine Goldhammer is the author of “Still Life with Chickens: Starting over in a House by the Sea.” She lives and writes in Hull.
This article was originally published in the October 10, 2019 edition of the Hull Times.
Eleven months into the 2017 fiscal year, Attorney General Maura Healey's office has received 16,000 calls to its wage theft hotline, or about 70 per day, said Cynthia Mark, the chief of Healey's Fair Labor Division.Read More
Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran will lose his pension because of false testimony he gave in relation to a redistricting court case, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday.
The high court reversed a decision by the Boston Municipal Court and sided with the state Retirement Board, which found "his crime constitutes a 'violation of the laws applicable to his office or position'" requiring the forfeiture of his pension, according to the decision written by Justice Barbara Lenk.
Finerran pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of obstruction of justice related to the 2001 redistricting law, according to the decision.
The Supreme Judicial Court case was remanded to the "county court where an order shall enter reversing the judgment of the Boston Municipal Court, affirming the decision of the board, and remanding to the Boston Municipal Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." Finneran is a registered lobbyist. He worked in biotech and the media after leaving the Legislature.
– Andy Metzger/State House News Service
By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
.In between name dropping, Irish songs, and conventional messaging, Massachusetts public officials tried their hands at stand-up comedy Sunday, focusing a stream of zingers and duds on recently approved legislative payraises, the immigration debate, and – of course – President Donald Trump at the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast.
Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, a black Haitian-American who lives in Dorchester, set the tone in welcoming Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and noting that she had not invited Trump.
"We're just going to stick with the one token Republican this year," said Forry, the host. "Ironically, I used to be the token at this breakfast."
Forry mocked Trump's Twitter obsession with her own fake tweet from the president, holding up a sign that read, "Good Luck on yur STUDID breakfast SAD!!"
The governor's devotion to the Republican Party was also a topic, with Forry telling him, "You know you're not really a Republican," and at another point calling Baker "the least favorite governor at the White House."
Baker fed into that thread with his post-election video dubbed "a bipartisan love story" that strung together photos of the governor smiling and laughing with the state's top Democrats as Barbara Streisand sang longingly about memories.
Attorney General Maura Healey tweaked legislative leaders for the hefty payraises they approved for themselves this year, displaying House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg riding in "tricked-out Mercedes."
"I thought they told you not to spend that payraise all in one place," Healey said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also capitalized on the raises. "What I do love is when elected officials take a stand," Walsh quipped. Singling out Forry and South Boston Rep. Nick Collins, he said, "They are profiles in courage. I mean voting for your own payraise, on a roll call. That takes a lot of guts."
Collins jabbed back at Walsh, of Dorchester, for shortening the route of this year's parade in South Boston.
"Remember that year when Mayor Flynn, a Southie guy, decided to shorten the Dorchester Day Parade?" Collins said. "Me neither. Never happened."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren kept up her focus on the president, describing the Irish as "the immigrants Donald Trump likes."
Referring to the Patriots come-from-behind Super Bowl win in February over the Atlanta Falcons, Warren said, "Wasn't it great to see a victory that wasn't decided by the Russians?" She added, "I am still amazed by Julian Edelman's catch. Those are big hands. Not tiny little presidential hands."
She wrapped it up with: "Any minute the president will declare that when you're famous you can grab someone by the blarney stones."
Sen. Edward Markey also targeted Trump. "It's hard to measure the historic meanspiritedness of this administration," he said. "Saint Patrick was famous for driving the snakes out of Ireland and unfortunately they seem to have all landed jobs inside the White House."
Baker, regretting his resemblance to villainous NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, recalled being mistaken for him by Pats fans at the Super Bowl parade.
"The boos start raining down," the governor said. "This is no joke. So I looked out and I said 'Hey, wait a minute. I'm not Roger Goodell. I'm the governor.' And they booed even louder."
Several speakers riffed off of Trump's orders aimed at blocking entrance into the U.S. of foreign nationals from six majority-Muslim countries.
Congressman Stephen Lynch said he was "worried sick" that his Irish mother-in-law, who lives with him, might be deported.
"It would be so easy for the authorities to pick her up any weekday Monday through Friday at 6:07 p.m., when she gets off the bus at – the Number 9 bus, at G and Broadway," Lynch said.
Breaking into song, Lynch spoofed on Walsh's invitation for undocumented immigrants to stay at City Hall. "Got no visa," he sang. "Have some pizza."
To the tune of Beauty and the Beast's "Be Our Guest" he added:
"If you're human,
just join the union
and you'll find a welcome here;
just no cheering for the Jets;
Know the Red Sox starting lineup,
that's our test."
Walsh said he was supposed to visit Ireland this year for St. Patrick's Day.
"I was going to go over and go back to the homeland," he said. "But I had to cancel my trip because I wasn't sure that immigration would let me back in the country."
Healey joked about running for governor against Baker next year and the fact that Baker didn't vote for a presidential candidate.
"I backed Hillary," Healey said. "He was backed into a corner."
Clips of the breakfast are posted on the website of the station that broadcast the event, New England Cable News.
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
People opposed to the payraise bill vetoed on Friday should “make their voices heard” as the House and Senate prepare for override votes this week, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
Massachusetts residents have already been dialing into elected officials to give feedback about the legislation that would cost $18 million to hike the pay of legislative leaders, statewide elected officials, and judges.
“It was the single largest number of calls we've gotten on one day, on Friday,” Baker said during his monthly “Ask the Governor” segment Monday on WGBH Radio. “And we've gotten a lot of calls on a lot of things. I mean, keep in mind, we're the administration that had the MBTA breakdown.”
With a 116-43 vote in the House on Wednesday and a 31-9 vote in the Senate on Thursday, both branches would have enough votes to clear the two-thirds threshold for a veto override if that level of support holds.
Both branches meet in formal sessions on Thursday, giving them an opportunity to pass the payraise bill into law over the governor's objections.
“If it comes over from the House we are planning to take it up on Thursday,” Senate President Stan Rosenberg told the News Service on Monday.
The matter came up when a caller – identified as Ken in Amesbury – thanked the governor for the veto and asked, “Is there anything more that we can do, the taxpayers of Massachusetts, to keep these legislators from overriding your veto?”
All Republicans in the House and Senate voted against the measure, and they were joined by nine Democrats in the House and three Democrats in the Senate. Those hoping to sustain the veto would need to flip either 10 Democrats in the House or five in the Senate.
“People should encourage those who share our views to reach out to and speak to their legislators about it, because that is in fact the best way to bring attention to this and to get it on people's radars,” Baker said. He said, “I think it's important for people to make their voices heard.”
Hull’s state representative is newly-elected Democrat Joan Meschino, who voted in favor of the payraise. State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican, voted against the bill.
The bill (H 58) is the first major legislation to reach the governor's desk this session.
Last week, the Senate president said the legislation would provide needed updates to the compensation of lawmakers, which starts at a base salary of about $62,000.
“We are losing young people every election cycle,” Rosenberg told reporters Thursday, “particularly the younger members, who are trying to start families and start their own career, they cannot live on this."
Baker was scheduled to meet Monday afternoon with legislative leaders, but their meeting was cancelled Monday morning.
To contact Rep. Joan Meschino, call 617 722-2425, or email Joan.Meschino@mahouse.gov.
To contact Sen. Patrick O’Connor, call 617 722-1646, or email Patrick.OConnor@masenate.gov.