Tag Archives: politicians

MBTA and Debt Avoidance

The MBTA has proposed two plans, both containing drastic fare increases and service cuts, to help balance its budget. On February 1, a hearing was held at the Hennigan Community Center in Jamaica Plain for residents to comment on the plans. Of the sixty-plus people who spoke, not a single person chose one plan over the other. Except for a Northeastern University journalist who longed for an interview with T officials and thus maintained neutrality, all declared both plans unacceptable.

A packed Hennigan Community Center
A packed Hennigan Community Center
The MBTA (T) has found itself in this situation for two reasons. In 2000, the State Legislature forced the T to fund itself and granted it 20% of sales tax receipts. Those receipts have not met projections. The Legislature also saddled the T with $3.6 billion in debt, which has since ballooned to $5.2 billion, payments on which consume 30% of its annual operating budget.

MBTA officials know that simply meeting this year’s budget will not do much for the long term. Even if all proposed cuts are made and all fares increased, budget shortfalls will continue. Repeated service cuts and fare increases will lead to system failure.

A speaker holds up a map of bus routes eliminated under the second scenario
A speaker holds up a map of bus routes eliminated under the second scenario
Rather than appealing directly and publicly to state officials to forgive the debt or provide more funding, T officials have instead chosen to scare riders into doing their job for them.

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Occupy Boston and Police Overtime

Five security cameras overlooking Occupy Boston
Security cameras on the service building overlooking the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square

Mayor Menino has said that the Occupy Boston protests are costing the city too much money in police overtime.  City Council President Stephen Murphy went so far as to peg that cost at $2 million a month, a number he made up.  But why is the city spending so much money on police in the first place?

Four or five officers are assigned to stand duty in Dewey Square around the clock.  But for what?  Unless the protesters are marching, there have been no security issues which necessitate such a presence.  One of the officers even admitted to getting a little bored. If problems arise, the 911 emergency system can function in Dewey Square and its surroundings just as it functions in the rest of the city.

Besides, the encampment is surrounded by more than a dozen security cameras, cameras which the police have said they will use:

Police will employ the use of video-cameras in areas surrounding the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The video will be used to capture the images of individuals who are engaging in disorder. Those images will then be used to lodge criminal complaints in a follow-up investigation conducted by Boston Police detectives.
Boston Police Media Relations

So why the overtime?  I guess it is to protect the city from peddlers of a few dollars worth of prescription drugs.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money have not been spent in vain.

Update (Feb. 10, 2012): Total spending on the Occupy Boston encampment came to $1.4 million.

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