Rep. Birmingham opposed taking power away from the Boston City Council to grant permits, during a Jan. 22 hearing of the Legislative Committee on Legal Affairs (Boston Globe, Jan 23, 1929, p. 1, 8).
The committee was considering two bills that would take the power to grant permits for Sunday professional sports away from the City Council.
One bill, sponsored by Rep. A. B. Casson, would give the power for issuing permits to the mayor, Boston Police Commissioner, and the Chief Justice of the Municipal Court. The other bill, sponsored by Rep. George Gilman, would give the power to Boston Licensing Board with approval of the Police Commissioner.
Sen. Robert E. Bigney of South Boston spoke in opposition to the bills and commented on the so-called Sunday baseball scandal. “The chairman of the Boston Finance Commission deserves a vote of public censure for announcing the names of 12 men without any evidence to back up the charges. Such announcement branded them in the eyes of the public,” said Bigney.
Birmingham testified that he was opposed in principle to taking power from elected officials.
City Councilor Israel Ruby said: “The people, when they voted in favor of the measure, showed they desired to have the City Council make rules and regulations governing Sunday sports. It is not fair for the legislature to take away what they did not see fit to give the people at the last session. Why should Boston be discriminated against in this manner? There was no hue and cry when other communities failed to accept the act. We accepted the act,” he said.
Councilor John F. Dowd of Roxbury added that the people who voted for the referendum knew the council would issue the permits. “But now the legislature wants to step in and take away what little power is left.”
Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of holding a preliminary primary to select candidates to run for mayor of Boston, during a Feb. 18 hearing of the House committee on cities, the Boston Globe reported (Feb. 18, 1930, p. 1, 21).
The committee was considering two bills, one to hold party primaries or preferential primaries in Boston elections and the other to give the Boston mayor the power to appoint the Police Commissioner instead of the governor.
“Party responsibility should be forced on the majority party. The Democrats of Boston are willing to shoulder the responsibility. I am willing to compromise on the preferential primary, but I speak in favor of the party system. We should have had a preliminary primary last year to learn the qualities of the candidates. There was a case where we had a man campaigning four years for the office and another comes in four weeks before election. If we had a preliminary primary system there would be not more candidates and an opportunity to select the best men,” Birmingham said.
The discussion turned to whether the Police Commissioner should be appointed by the Boston mayor instead of the governor. The debate reflected the broader issue of home rule for Boston.
“I honestly believe there is as much corruption in the Police Commissioner’s office as there is in any office in this State. I’m firmly persuaded to that extent,” said Birmingham.
“Place the Commissioner under the Mayor of Boston and we have a Finance Commission to investigate him. I question what will be accomplished by an investigation conducted by the Attorney General of the Garrett case. He is a Republican. This is an election year. The Republican party is not anxious to expose too much and, of course, to my mind, when one mentions the Garrett case it really means an investigation of Commissioner Wilson. If you want any State supervision over the Police Commissioner of Boston let the Civil Service Commissioner approve him, but let the Mayor appoint him,” said Birmingham.
Rep. Birmingham supported a measure, introduced by Rep. Henry L. Shattuck of Boston as an amendment to legislation setting a tax limit for Boston of $16 per one year, to give Boston home rule on tax issues, the Boston Herald reported (March 7, 1930, p. 16).
The Shattuck amendment was also supported by Rep. Luke Mullen of Charlestown and Rep. James J. Twohig of South Boston.
In advocating for his bill, Shattuck said that current approach of the House setting the tax rate limit for Boston was actually an invitation for the city to spend money rather than a limit. He argued that the current practice of fixing the tax limit for Boston had done nothing to keep tax rates down.
Opposition came from Rep. John Higgins of the West End, who was regarded as the House spokesman for Martin Lomasney. Higgins argued that the tax limit bill should not be used as a vehicle to obtain home rule for Boston. Higgins was not opposed to home rule, but thought that the selection of a police commissioner or a preferential primary would be a better home rule vehicle.
The House municipal finance committee recommended the tax limit bill without the home rule provisions. The committee was supported by Rep. Eliot Wadsworth, Rep. Martin Hays, and Rep. George P. Anderson, all of Boston. Anderson argued that the tax limit was liberal toward the city while retaining the legislature’s authority over Boston’s tax policy.
The Shattuck amendment was rejected by the House by a vote of 123 to 69.