- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

Boston police and firefighters are planning to make this summer’s Democratic National Convention a pain for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, but have promised not to disrupt the business of the convention itself.

Still, the labor dispute — the police are entering their third year without a contract, and the firefighters their second — has already caused a blowup between Mr. Menino, a Democrat, and Sen. John Kerry, the hometown Democrat who is expected to receive his party’s nomination for president on July 29, the last day of the convention.

Last week, Mr. Kerry refused to cross a picket line to speak to a mayors convention in Boston, embarrassing Mr. Menino, who in turn called Mr. Kerry’s campaign “small-minded” and incompetent in an interview with the Boston Herald.

Mr. Kerry’s campaign has responded by playing down Mr. Menino’s outburst and not responding in kind.

But with the convention already plagued by reported cost overruns and Mr. Kerry having toyed with the idea of not accepting the nomination at the convention to be able to continue raising funds, Democrats have found themselves fending off questions about their organizational abilities rather than showcasing their candidate.

The unions have said they won’t target the convention, but will picket any event the mayor is involved in, including the 29 welcoming parties scheduled for July 25, the day before the convention formally begins.

“We’re urging the delegates not to attend any of these welcome parties. They’re hosted by Thomas Menino, our mayor here, and we’re asking them to boycott those,” said Jim Barry, a spokesman for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.

Mr. Barry said they are also asking delegates to walk out of Mr. Menino’s expected convention welcome speech.

“It may be uncomfortable for some of the delegates, but we’re not disrupting the convention in terms of the acceptance of the nomination or the business that needs to be done at the convention,” he said.

Republicans saw irony in the Democrats’ situation.

“It’s man bites dog,” said one party strategist. “You expect Republicans to have problems with unions, but unions picketing a Democratic convention is priceless.”

Mr. Barry said the union did a small mailing recently to about 300 delegates, urging them not to attend events Mr. Menino attends.

Some people responded by asking for more information about the dispute, but Mr. Barry said overall, the response has been “phenomenal.”

The Boston Globe, in an article Friday, talked with delegates to the convention who said they won’t cross picket lines. Union members in particular, who make up a large share of Democratic activists, will find it difficult to attend parties where police are protesting outside.

By not picketing the convention when it’s doing business, the union has helped Mr. Kerry avoid a difficult situation.

Last week, after police said they would picket the mayors conference and Mr. Kerry canceled his speech, he told reporters, “I don’t cross picket lines. I never have.”

As for Mr. Menino’s charge that the Kerry campaign is incompetent, a number of Democratic strategists said that may be true, depending on the day and issue, but they said Mr. Menino’s criticisms can be chalked up to the pressure he faces over the convention and his never having been a big fan of Mr. Kerry.

“Mayor Menino wants to make it the most successful convention possible, and do all he can to make sure that happens —but to be honest, he couldn’t care less whether Kerry is there,” said one Democratic strategist with Massachusetts ties, who requested anonymity. “This is classic Boston politics.”

Mr. Menino’s press office didn’t return a call for comment, but David Wade, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, said his boss believes both sides are working through the issues honestly.

“He’s said he has faith that there are good people working on both sides to resolve this. He knows they are redoubling their efforts to come to a resolution as soon as possible,” he said.

As for the mayor’s stinging comments, Mr. Wade said: “We’ve always said the mayor is doing a great job at juggling both the demands of leading the city, as well as putting on the best convention our party’s ever known. And he’s done a terrific job in both of those roles and responsibilities.”

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