As Jack Buck once said, "I can't believe what I just saw."
The City Council, during the budget process, moved money from one area to another through free cash and cuts. They can do more than "only cut the budget." Who knew?
In case you missed it, the council used some free cash and a cut or two from some other areas to fund new cruisers for the Police Department. These were the new cruisers that had funding cut under duress in 2006, and never had a chance last year.
This is good news for a couple of different reasons that have nothing to dollars and cents.
First, I feel like I spent the second half of last year howling into the wind that the council's hands were not as tied on budget matters as they claimed. One mayoral candidate in particular tried to wash his hands of all things budget problems while on the trail, leaning on the "the council can only cut" mantra. Then, and now, I argued the council has political power and legislative maneuvering to get stuff done. Ta-da. Look at this week's action.
Second, on some level, this council has some priorities. If they did in the past, it wasn't always clear. There was a feeling of 11-councilors-and-11-cabs no one really tried to refute. Clearly, public safety is a chief concern for this council. They targeted the PD, and are making noises about Fire. Let's see what happens there. Can this council do it again?
All of this is good news for the city. Watching the council over the last 18 months or so has been fairly interesting. You could kind of sense it was trying to figure out last year how to get going, but was so busy squabbling with Dan Mylott that it couldn't quite get there. Now, it's picking priorities and making things happen.
I like a proactive council, and I like what happened this week if only because this council is proving that it can pick a target and hit it. And it's only been together five months, which is also encouraging. The next step: being proactive on something other than budget survival. But I like this first step.
I have some questions on this, purely in the wondering sense. I wonder if this gets done if Marcus DiNatale isn't on the council. By all reports, it sounds like he was the driving force on this. I wonder what kind of signal we should take from this on the council-mayor relationship. She could have told them to stick it (although she said from the outset she'd go along with reasonable changes). You'd have to think everyone is getting along right now.
This isn't good news for everyone. If you're a library supporter, it's pretty clear that the council's general "public safety first" philosophy was more than talk, it was an action plan. While there may be some dollars here and there to shuffle around, clearly moving them toward the library isn't a top priority. And considering the library's big cut, I'm not sure there's enough dollars out there to fill in that hole.
While we're on the topic: the library folks will be out tonight, picketing during First Thursday and protesting the cuts. I'm not sure I'm a fan of that move. On the one hand, public protest is all well and good, but usually those protests are centered around political events, like a council meeting. This is a community event. But a high-visibility one. I can't say I blame them, but I think there's something to be said for keeping the politics with the politics. It certainly didn't hurt trash fee opponents to plan their protest around a council meeting.
If you're tired of the Celtics, stop reading. If not, let's get ready for tonight.
First, here's what I wrote right after Garnett got traded to the Celtics. After, a few thoughts on those first thoughts.
UPDATE (4:55 p.m.) There's a slight change in the Garnett deal from what I have below. Rajon Rondo stays, Bassy Telfair goes. So long, Bassy, we hardly knew ye. That said, the more I think about it, the more I like that trade. A bunch of people have mentioned it to me today, and it's great that the Celts are relevant again. That alone might make it a great trade.
More importantly at this point, the Sox just finished a trade for Eric Gagne. That means in October, you'd better be beating the Sox after six innings, because Okijima, Gagne and Papelbon are waiting after that. Yikes. Sure, Gagne's back my cripple him any day now, but whatever. That bullpen is now ferocious.
I know, I know, you don't want to hear it. If you don't want to read about the Celtics, you're free to go. But....
My first reaction to the megatrade for Kevin Garnett was immediate anger. I didn't want to see Al Jefferson go away. Throw in two serviceable players (Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes), the C's best trade bait (Theo Ratliff's contract) and apparently the starting point guard (Rajon Rondo) -- and a top pick, and that's quite a bounty.
My negativity -- Rick Pitino would be so proud -- was that fact that the Celtics traded away the future we've had to sit through and nurture over the last few years. Coming on the heels of the Ray Allen trade, I was done with Danny Ainge yesterday afternoon.
In the long term, this might not be a good trade for the Celtics. In three years or so, when Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all in their mid-30s, this will be an old team (hello, late 80s/early 90s Celts). There is so much money wrapped up in those three players that there will be little cash to flesh out the roster. By the way, who's the point guard? The team's two "best," Delonte West and Rondo, are gone.
But for the next two or three years, the Celtics suddenly matter. A lot. And for 82 games a year, we get to watch a star (Pierce) and a superstar (Garnett) on the same court for the same team. Cool.
More importantly, for the next two or three years, the Celtics are in fact contenders to at least make the Finals, if not win them. Part of that is because the Eastern Conference stinks. Bad. A Celtics team of its latter-day Big Three, me, and Dan Mylott would make the playoffs (allegedly Mylott is a great spot-up shooter).
Cleveland won the conference this year, and that team was a one-man band. Detroit's on the downside, Chicago is a player short (Allen or Garnett would be huge there, in fact), Miami could be dangerous if Shaq muscles up, but that mystique is fading fast. In short, the Celtics are suddenly in the mix.
So, today, fresh off a mini-vacation, I'm taking the optimistic outlook. Even at best, a fully matured Jefferson with Pierce and other parts would be looking at a two- or three-year window to compete -- in two or three years. That timetable just got moved up, and this team is more solid.
Obviously, it's better to have your teams always competitive and able to just reload through its monster resources (the Red Sox) or its smarts (the Patriots, although they're not my team. I'm a Raiders fan). To think Ainge and Doc Rivers will be able to reload this team is still not a trustworthy situation. So you have a two-year window to sit back and watch three stars try to get the Celtics back to basketball's biggest stage. That would be cool.
I'm still pissed at how far off I was on Gagne. Boy, did he suck. I was so psyched when they got him, though. I'm a silly boy.
Nearly a year later, I'm also pissed I was upset for even 20 seconds about this trade. Hindsight is grand, but I should have been more excited at the time. I'm almost there back then (it was July 31, by the way), but didn't have it figured out then.
I think the one thing that was a big problem then, without an obvious solution, was the rest of the roster. Posey, Eddie House, P.J. Brown, none of those guys were even on the radar at that point. Glen Davis was optimistic potential. Somehow, Ainge pieced it all together. It's one thing to make a couple of good trades, but to fill in the back half of the roster the way Ainge did was a great job -- and probably a tougher one.
As you can see through the update, the rumor mill got the trade wrong at first. Obviously, hanging on to Rondo was gigantic, and probably allowed the Cs to get this far. Would Bassy Telfair have gotten into the Finals? Ugh. Looking back on this year, Rondo's growth has been the one of the best things to see this year. He's not all the way there, but he's significantly better than he was in November. Hell, in February, when Cassell jumped on, there were still questions about Rondo. I think at this point Cs fans are perfectly fine having Rondo on the court for 40 minutes, even when he's not playing his best. If nothing else, he just doesn't turn it over. After wrangling with Billups the last two weeks, he should have a little more freedom this go-around. He'll be a key, as usual.
I still think there's a two- or three-year window, and God knows what happens when Pierce, Allen and Garnett get creaky, but they're taking advantage of the window, and that's all that matters.
So, tonight's the night. For the first time in 21 years there's June basketball in Boston. I can't stinking wait. Let's Go Celtics.
Labels: Budget, Celtics, City Council