By Izak Shapiro
The Board of Aldermen met in the Aldermanic Chambers Tuesday, Feb. 18. The meeting—jovial and efficient for the majority of its session—began with sadness. Alderman at Large John M. Connolly requested a moment of silence for Thomas M. Sullivan, a longtime Somerville resident, World War II veteran and lover of recreational sports who passed away earlier this month at the age of 96.
A few Somerville residents sat in the audience section of the chambers. One of the residents, labor union organizer Rand Wilson, represented the resolution of raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour. In November, the Massachusetts Senate passed the vote to raise the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour, a rate that would give state residents the highest minimum wage in the country. However, some fear the bill, if passed through the Senate, would be accompanied with a cut to unemployment benefits.
“We want a clean bill, or no bill at all,” Wilson said in reference to the potential accompaniment of the wage raise with cuts to unemployment benefits. “We’ll just go to the ballot.”
The Board of Aldermen unanimously echoed Wilson’s passion. They adopted the resolution and hoped the bill would not be forced to a vote on the ballot in order to avoid any cuts to other benefits. They will inform the Senate of their full approval of the bill. If the bill officially passes, the minimum wage will rise to $9 on July 1, $10 next July and $11 the following July.
Jerry Bowser, also known as the “Boston Brawler” from his professional wrestling days, was another member of the audience. After suffering a stroke following a wrestling victory at Madison Square Garden in 2001, he was told he would be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Bowser trained himself beyond just being able to move again. He proposed to the Board his idea: He wants to carry, in a wheelbarrow, 2,350 pounds across Ball Square in order to raise money for two friends of his who each lost a leg during last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. It will cost each man $1.4 million to get and maintain prosthetic leg through the age of 70.
“We don’t ever want to inconvenience the city,” Bowser said in his subtlety gruff voice. “We just want to bring something good to the city.”
Bowser did something similar in Washington, D.C., for American soldiers. He carried 800 pounds for 15 miles in seven hours. He broke a hand in the process. The board approved Bowser’s proposal. He will push the 2,350 pounds in a wheelbarrow across Ball Square starting at 1 p.m. April 19.
The board, amidst their long list of items and orders, focused on a couple of other key topics. They decided, unanimously, to investigate the process for residents who need to obtain permits and contracts after experiencing a home fire or another form of domestic disaster. After several recent incidents, the city found residents often suffer unjust economic loss in the post-disaster process due to the amount of contracts and permits necessary to repair the home.