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Q&A: David Boeri On The Shot Street Worker Case

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WBUR's David Boeri, center, with city street worker William Harvey Jr., to his left, SEIU Local 888 President Bruce Boccardy, to his right, and other street workers at Boston City Hall on Wednesday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
WBUR's David Boeri, center, with city street worker William Harvey Jr., to his left, SEIU Local 888 President Bruce Boccardy, to his right, and other street workers at Boston City Hall on Wednesday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

William Harvey Jr., a city of Boston outreach worker, was shot in the head in the line of duty last summer. Unable to return to his duties, he went on worker's comp and found himself too broke to pay his rent, his college loans or help support his mother. On top of that, he hadn't heard from the city, the black ministers who make up the TenPoint Coalition or his union. And he had gotten no trauma counseling. He was hospitalized for an anxiety attack.

After WBUR's David Boeri told his story, Harvey is closer to getting the recognition and help that many say he deserves. On Wednesday, the City Council honored Harvey, and his union has come up with a grant to help cover his debts. The case has also led to a call for added protections to city street workers. Boeri answers some questions about the changes his reporting helped to bring about.


Why was Harvey at City Hall on Wednesday?

City councilors were recognizing the plight of Harvey, and the sacrifice he made. As if being shot wasn't bad enough, he then experienced a financial crisis because there weren't sufficient protections for him as a city employee.

He had fallen through the cracks, but finally Harvey's plight was on everyone's mind Wednesday at Boston City Hall.

What are the city councilors considering?

Councilor Felix Arroyo and City Council President Mike Ross are talking about creating the same protections for street workers that are there for police officers and firefighters. If a police officer was shot on the job, he would get 100 percent of his salary tax free while he was recovering. Same for firefighters.

The idea is to keep the change very tightly focused. It would only affect street workers who are injured by violent acts perpetrated against them. This is not about protecting people who stub their toes. City councilors say if they keep it tightly focused, they can make the change with getting permission from the state Legislature.

What about the $4,000 grant that Harvey is getting?

They came up with the money from a partnership between the local union and the city, known as the Boston Housing Trust. Its board voted unanimously on Tuesday to give Harvey a grant of $4,000.

Has the mayor weighed in yet on the case?

What's strange is that neither the mayor nor apparently any of his representatives were at the council hearing Wednesday honoring Harvey. Neither were Harvey's supervisors from the Boston Center for Youth and Families. I can tell you that absence was noted by the city councilors and the city street workers who were there.

When Harvey addressed the City Council, he thanked you personally, and WBUR, for shedding  light on his story. What drew you to this story?

Having covered stories before of policemen who'd been shot, and seeing all the attention they've gotten, I expected the same would be the case for a street worker — and it wasn't. And remember, police and city officials credit street workers with playing a big role in lowering violence in the city.

This program aired on January 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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