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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

Mayor Michelle Wu is calling the reinstatement of a police officer who was accused of calling a group of Roxbury Prep students racial slurs “unacceptable” but said her hands are tied by union contract language that prevents her from intervening.

“It’s unacceptable that this officer was brought back on after the actions that were taken and that the city’s department took as well. An important part of how we are looking to contract negotiations for public safety will involve changes in policy here,” Wu told a Herald reporter, following an unrelated event at City Hall on Monday.

The Herald first reported on Friday that Officer Joseph Lynch is in the process of being reinstated following a decision in September, per a November memo from the city’s legal department obtained by the newspaper.

An arbitrator ruled that the Boston Police Department must reinstate Lynch, saying that the officer was just giving a “truthful accurate report” to school staff at the time of the alleged incident in the summer of 2019, per the memo from legal adviser Anthony Rizzo.

Lynch was fired following a BPD investigation for conduct unbecoming a department employee, unreasonable judgment, and the use of racial epithets, but the arbitrator ruled the department “did not have just cause to terminate.”

Boston Police union contracts expired in June 2020 and remain unfinished business. For the newly sworn-in Wu administration, negotiations represent an opportunity to inject unprecedented levels of police accountability and transparency in a department rife with scandal.

Wu said current contract language prevents her “from stepping in on situations where an arbitrator has made a decision.”

Union officials did not respond to questions.

The last year has exposed a police overtime abuse, covering up of allegations of child rape by former Boston Police Patrolman Association’s former president Patrick Rose and buried reports of domestic abuse by former Police Commissioner Dennis White, who was quickly appointed by former mayor Martin Walsh on his way out the door to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary in Washington.

Lawmakers in Boston and on Beacon Hill have taken steps in the past year to bring greater accountability and consequence to police forces long protected by powerful unions and the contracts they procure.

A state-run Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission will begin certifying police officers next year and decertifying those with serious disciplinary allegations deemed credible. In Boston, a Civilian Review Board charged with reviewing and recommending action on complaints will be up and running “soon,” according to Wu.

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Bubble watch: Mortgage rates are soaring despite promises of mild uptick

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Bubble watch: Mortgage rates are soaring despite promises of mild uptick

“Bubble Watch” digs into trends that may indicate economic and/or housing market troubles ahead.

Buzz: Despite promises of a smooth increase in home financing costs from the Federal Reserve — a prediction reinforced by so-called industry “experts” — we’ve just witnessed one of the largest hits to a house shopper’s buying power in history.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet’s analysis of Freddie Mac’s weekly report on average 30-year mortgage rates with a history going back a half-century. That history includes the insane double-digit rates of the early 1980s.

The Trend

Remember how cheap mortgage rates boost home “affordability” in the pandemic era?

Last week, that all-but ended. The average mortgage rate rose to 3.45% from 3.22% — a 0.23-percentage-point jump in seven days. That’s the highest rate since March 2020, just as the pandemic was icing the economy and the central bankers at the Fed began their bailout of the housing market.

But look what just a week’s increase did to a house hunter’s buying power.

Image you can afford a $2,500 monthly mortgage payment. Two weeks ago, you’d be lent $576,619 for that check. Last week, it’s down to $560,214. Or a 2.85% cut in buying power.

Sound small? Nope! It’s the 23rd largest percentage drop since 1971, bigger than 99% of all one-week periods.

House shoppers will have to borrow less or dig deeper into their household budgets for house payments. And sellers (and industry cheerleaders) should note this change.

The Dissection

Over the past year, the Fed assured financial markets (and anybody with a life tied to market gyrations, such as house shoppers) plenty of warning would be provided before they acted to increase the rates they control. Between cutting key rates — and acquiring a $1 trillion in home loans — the Fed had an active role in pushing mortgage to historic lows in the pandemic era — the Freddie Mac average hit .266% at the start of 2021.

Well, it seems that at least mortgage markets aren’t waiting for the Fed to act. Too many people fear rising inflation — biggest jump in the Consumer Price Index since the early 1980 — will quickly push all interest rates higher,

It’s not just one week. Over three weeks, this upsurge bumped mortgage rates up 0.4 percentage points from 2.95%. The $2,500-a-month mortgage payment way back 21 days ago got a borrower $589,198 — nearly $29,000 more than last week. So buying power is down 4.9% just since the last weeks of 2021 — the No. 35 largest drop since 1971, or bigger than 99% of all three-week periods.

And please take a long term-view. Over the past 52 weeks, rates are up 0.66 points from 2.79%. That means house hunters have 8% less to spend. Saying it’s the 451st largest drop in a 12-month period in the past half-century isn’t that impressive. Bit it’s bigger than 83% of all year-long periods.

Another view

For all you young kids out there — or those with failing financial memories — let me remind you of early 1980 when the Fed began squashing the economy with soaring rates to cool another rough patch of inflation.

Ponder a house hunter’s worst week in the last 50 years, in terms of buyer power: In the seven days ending March 14,1980, buying power was cut 8.6% as the average mortgage rate went to 15.4% from 14%.

Worst year? The 12 months ended April 4 and April 11 of 1980 when rates surged to 16.35% from 10.48% — cutting buying power by 33%. No typos, I said 16.35% rates and one-third less money lent!

How bubbly?

On a scale of zero bubbles (no bubble here) to five bubbles (five-alarm warning) … FOUR BUBBLES!

Yes, roughly speaking, a quarter-point rate bump on a mortgage to three-and-a-half percent doesn’t sound so bad. And, yes, on the historical scale 3.45% is still relative bargain rate.

Yet a large part of the arguments for decent 2022 for homeownership was that inflation would moderate and that mortgage rates would rise deliberately and modestly. And, remember, inflation is usually the byproduct of too much spending — an economic positive, in an odd way.

But what we’ve gotten in early 2022 is a huge reminder that while the Fed is a financial market powerhouse, it does not have absolute say in what interest rates do.

With mortgages rates, the mindset of bond traders are a big factor. If they don’t want mortgage-backed bonds — or can find better deals in other fixed-income niches — home-loan rates will likely rise.

Also, there’s how much a lender wants to make on a loan. If they’re focused on their mortgage-making volumes, borrowers benefit from price competition. If profit margins are more the key, rate bargains can become scarce.

OK, maybe the past three weeks were just a hiccup — an overly anxious reaction of mortgage forces to bad cost-of-living news. But when was the last time the national inflation rate — 7% in December — was above mortgage rates? (And inflation has topped mortgage rates since April.)

Oh, yes, that same 1980.

PS: California home prices rose 15% that year and 9% the next year before falling 5% in 1982. But if you factor in that era’s sky high cost-of-living surges, 1980 was a 1.5% price gain when inflation ran 13.5%; homes fell 1.5% in value in 1981 after 10.5% inflation; and fell another 11% in 1982 as inflation “dipped” to 6%.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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Colorado secretary of state sues to stop Mesa County clerk from overseeing 2022 election

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Colorado secretary of state sues to stop Mesa County clerk from overseeing 2022 election

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is once again suing to stop Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing the election, this time for 2022.

Last week, Griswold, a Democrat, said Peters, a Republican, could return to her duties only if she agreed to certify documents with new election security protocols that would have restricted her authority and required her to repudiate a statement she made about getting “those machines so that they are transparent to the people and they are not able to do what they’re designed to do.”

But Peters refused, her legal defense fund calling the protocols a “gag order,” and instead announced her intent to run for re-election. Griswold filed the lawsuit on Tuesday morning.

Voters in Mesa County will be deciding on local and state ballot issues and races in the 2022 midterm elections, including for governor, attorney general and U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The primary election is scheduled for June 28 and the general election on Nov. 8.

A judge previously barred Peters from involvement in the 2021 election after Griswold sued in August alleging that Peters had allowed someone access to an authorized elections area during a Dominion Voting Systems software update, and passwords for the equipment were later posted online. Peters is also the subject of multiple complaints and is facing a grand jury investigation into allegations of a security breach. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission is set to review on Tuesday morning a complaint filed against her.

“Every eligible Coloradan – Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike – has the right to make their voice heard in safe and secure elections,” Griswold said in a statement. “As Clerk Peters is unwilling to commit to following election security protocols, I am taking action to ensure that Mesa County voters have the elections they deserve.”

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Colorado one of the 10 worst states to drive in, study finds

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Colorado one of the 10 worst states to drive in, study finds

One of the best parts about driving in Colorado is that even a ride on the interstate can come with scenic views.

Intestate 70’s mountain corridor was evaluated more for its traffic than its views in a study that ranked Colorado as the seventh worse state to drive in across the United States.

Wallethub’s study looked at a variety of factors from average gas prices to rush-hour traffic congestion to road quality. But what really took Colorado down towards the bottom was having the nation’s highest car theft rate.

The 44th ranking for 2022 comes as the personal-finance website compared the 50 states across 31 key metrics to find the best and worst states to drive in.

Here’s how Colorado ranked:

  • 33rd in share of rush-hour traffic congestion
  • 22nd in traffic fatality rate
  • 50th in car theft rate
  • 19th in auto-repair shops per capita
  • 37th in average gas prices
  • 35th in auto-maintenance costs
  • 33rd in road quality
  • 32nd in car dealerships per capita

The study found that traffic congestion cost U.S. drivers an average of 36 hours and $564 during 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an average of 63 hours less per person spent in congestion a year.

The World Economic Forum placed the United States at 17 of 141 countries for road quality. The nation is also home to four out of the world’s 25 worst cities for traffic and 19 of the worst 25 in North America.

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