The late Governor’s Councilor Sonny McDonough used to say, “Lame duck is my favorite dish.”
There’s a reason that old saw is remembered — because it’s true. Sonny was a legendary rogue, and he knew the best time to cut deals at the State House was at the end of a governor’s term, when he was trying to feather his own nest and those of all his sticky-fingered cronies.
Think about it. When do you get the best deals in retail? When there’s a billboard in the parking lot that says, “Everything must go!”
Especially the taxpayers’ money.
Last year the lame duck was being served up at City Hall, but now the feeding frenzy has moved up Beacon Hill. We’ve already told you about the judgeapalooza that’s about to begin, and let’s not forget the clerk-magistrates.
They too are about to lap up huge pay raises. Wouldn’t it be something to see some non-lawyer pols cashing out into clerkships, especially if they’ve been named in the Probation Department indictments?
Next, we come to the Mass. Convention Center Authority (MCCA). Most people have never heard of it, never been there — all the better, as far as the payroll patriots are concerned.
The MCCA is the proprietor of a white elephant called the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. It hemorrhages money, so naturally the hacks want to make it bigger.
The authority is run by a hack’s hack named James Rooney. We always consider the Bulgers the gold standard of the hackerama, but only two Bulgers have ever retired with full pensions from the MBTA at age 43. Rooney’s kiss in the mail started in 1999, when he was 41. He out-Bulgered the Bulgers.
His T pension of $62,541 a year comes on top of his MCCA salary of $283,277. Rooney doesn’t just feed at the trough, he licks the plate.
Now Rooney is pushing for a $1.1-billion bond issue. Bond issues are the absolute best, because the money isn’t repaid until long after you’ve moved to Florida. A bond issue allows a crafty hack like Rooney to take care of all kinds of hangers-on who might someday, say next January, decide to hire a former governor or one of his coat holders.
Then you use the bond money for an “expansion,” which will take care of the trade unions. This one’s for you, Mayor Walsh.
Rooney also wants the MCCA more or less exempted from having to reveal any information about the wheeling and dealing they’re planning to do with their windfall. Secretly taking more risk with public funds — what could possibly go wrong?
Just ask the MBTA pension board, which provides Rooney with his $5,200-a-month kiss in the mail. The T pension board used to have just such an arrangement, which meant they could cover up a $25 million loss they incurred in an insider dodgy deal. Don’t worry, though, there was somebody to make up the missing millions.
You and me, the taxpayers.
By the way, the MCCA now wants to raise its parking rates. Perhaps that headline looked familiar. Massport, the agency the MCCA seems determined to clone itself into, announced three weeks ago that it is raising parking fees at Logan airport.
Another popular feature of lame duck years is the dreaded public-private partnership. Consider the state’s plan to squander $260 million to “straighten out” the curve at the Allston tolls on the Mass Pike.
Until I mentioned it just now, did you ever notice a curve at the Allston tolls? Me neither. But don’t worry, the hacks are going to fix it. You see, it’s “reaching the end of its lifespan.”
That’s another familiar phrase in lame-duck sessions. It usually means, we’ve almost paid off the bonds and if we don’t think of something fast, we’re going to lose our phony-baloney jobs.
Here’s the real lead on the Allston toll project:
“The land where the highway would be located is owned by Harvard.”
In other words, we, the taxpayers are going to pick up the tab for a university that has an endowment of $30 billion, to exponentially increase the value of their riverfront property in Allston by tearing down the six- or eight-lane
highway on top of it.
All this already, and it’s only April. The lame-duck year has barely begun. If the past is prologue, then this is just the prologue. Right, Sonny?
Go to howiecarrshow.com to buy tickets to one of Howie’s “Nights of Crime.”