BOSTON (CBS) — It has been an eventful 100 days in office for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. But a defining moment in Walsh’s early tenure is at hand – a contract offer to the city’s firefighters.
In a move raising eyebrows around the city, Walsh is refusing to divulge details of an offer he’s made in a contract seen as key to Boston’s financial footing and hopes for reform within the fire department.
Walsh took a modest victory lap as he marked the artificial milestone, claiming he’s brought a breath of fresh populism to city hall.
“It’s not my building, it’s the public’s building,” he said.
But he runs that building in large part, because of a campaign promise he made under fire for his union background.
“I am the right person for this job to be able to negotiate tough contracts,” he said during the campaign.
But as the city’s firefighters prepare to vote on the new contract Walsh is offering them, we wondered just how tough a negotiator he is.
“The firefighters are going to ratify it, once it’s ratified we will be announcing it,” Walsh said, refusing to divulge the price tag.
When asked why the public isn’t privy to the amount of tax dollars the city plans to put toward the contract, Walsh said: “It’s actually not backwards, it’s the way negotiations are supposed to happen.”
Boston budget watchdog Sam Tyler says it’s unusual.
After the 4-percent-plus raises won by the police patrolmen last year, the mayor’s deal with the firefighters will be a bellwether moment for the city’s financial future.
“These contracts are getting too expensive,” Tyler said. “This issue is how do you pay for this?”
For now, Walsh isn’t saying much; deflecting questions about whether the firefighters will get a raise like the patrolmen or what a good contract for firefighters would look like.
“That’s all part of the contract, when that gets out there you’ll see there’s changes in the contract,” he said.
Firefighters are expected to vote on the offer soon. With public employee pay and perks eating up so much of the city budget, plus years of pressure for change in some of the fire department’s antiquated practices, the details of the deal Walsh negotiated with them may well be the biggest story of his first 100 days.