Madam Mayor Maureen?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 16, 2008

Feeney also called for a special committee to study ways to strengthen the notoriously weak Council’s powers — another idea sure to meet resistance from Menino.

And, in a little-noticed announcement, Feeney proposed to “expand the role of the Council’s post-audit and oversight committee.” That’s a little like congressional Democrats suddenly deciding to flex their presidential-oversight muscle after years of neglect.

The initial focus of that oversight, according to one councilor, will be the city’s finally providing money for items the Council fought to include in this past year’s budget — some of which remain unfunded halfway into the fiscal year, says the councilor.

Altogether, the speech struck observers as an attempt by Feeney to replace her reputation as a city-services deliverer for her district with a more prominent role as a city-wide player, and to shift from a close Menino ally to a voice of opposition.

Not everyone thinks that it necessarily means she’s planning a mayoral candidacy. “I don’t think she wants to be the next mayor,” says one councilor. “But it doesn’t hurt to raise your profile, and to make the most of an opportunity.”

Still, her speech has clearly pushed the 2009 mayoral chess game forward a few moves. It was no coincidence, observers agree, that the Boston Globe ran a story later that week about former district attorney Ralph Martin’s increasing maneuvers toward a possible mayoral run.

Together, can we?
The New Hampshire primary also distracted attention from a flurry of activity at the State House this past week, as Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature sought to accomplish some high-priority goals — including a blockbuster energy bill — before the next state-budget showdown begins later this month.

Reports say that Patrick has already sent his budget proposal to the printer, so we can expect drips and drabs to be strategically revealed between now and its unveiling around January 26. With revenue growth pegged at a relatively low 3.8 percent, the structural deficit is expected to be more than $1 billion. Patrick’s team has already leaked plans to save money by asking some state workers to contribute more of their health-care costs. The big unknown is whether the governor has the chutzpah to include casino-licensing fees — as much as $800 million worth — in his budget, guaranteeing a fight with House Speaker Sal DiMasi.

With the gears likely to grind to a near-halt over the budget, Patrick has been working to close the books on several big projects.

One is reform of the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) laws and regulations, a key goal of Patrick’s and many liberals’ in the legislature. They have long argued that the state’s system makes it too difficult for past offenders to get jobs and housing, inevitably leading them back to a life of crime.

Patrick finally filed his legislation this past week, along with an executive order that seeks to enact some of the changes right away.

The governor also announced his long-anticipated plan to create an Executive Office of Education, which would include a secretary-of-education position. The reorganization, which the legislature must now vote on, would consolidate programs and also increase the governor’s power over the various education boards.

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Related: Menino’s hit list, No side bets, Cash carousel, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Deval Patrick, Salvatore DiMasi, U.S. Government,  More more >
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