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Officials raise concerns on Pops' concert

Kerry aides push ahead with plans

City officials are raising questions about John F. Kerry's plans for a Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade during the Democratic convention, saying that the event could violate rules prohibiting political events at the Hatch Shell and also stretch police on an especially busy night, a Democrat involved in the preparations said yesterday.

''Some of us are saying, enough already," said the high-level Democrat involved in the convention planning.

The questions could escalate the public spat between Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Menino said he was ''extremely disappointed" last weekend when Kerry decided to forgo a speech at the US Conference of Mayors meeting here, rather than cross a Boston police union picket line.

The Hatch Shell is owned by a state trust, and some convention planners interpret the rules governing the property as prohibiting the use of the shell for political purposes. Kerry aides say the event is a top priority for the hometown nominee, but they insist that the concert is devoid of politics and is instead a celebration of Boston and Massachusetts.

''This will be a free event, open to people of all political stripes or none," said Jack Corrigan, Kerry's convention coordinator. ''There is no fund-raising, no political speech-making, just a celebration of Boston."

The Department of Conservation and Recreation -- which is under the control of Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican -- is weighing the permit requested by Boston 2004, the host committee for the convention. Romney's director of communications was noncommittal when asked about the permit yesterday.

''DCR has not made a decision on whether to issue the permit," said Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom. ''My understanding is that full consideration of the permit application will not take place until next week."

Corrigan also argued that the event would not have broad national distribution, because the broadcast of any Pops concert is limited to three minutes under the labor union contract with the musicians. Any longer than that, the musicians have to be paid extra.

''This is not going to affect electoral votes, because there are restrictions of what can be broadcast," he said.

Suffolk Register of Probate Richard Iannella said he was asked about two weeks ago by convention planners whether it would be legal to host a Kerry event at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. His review concluded that the concert would not violate the terms of the Maria E. Hatch will that created the trust as long as it was free and open to the public.

''If Kerry has a concert and invites delegates from18 swing states, for example, he can't do it," said Iannella. The Hatch will is filed in his office.

There can be no reserved seating for dignitaries or admission fees, he said. ''I told him to be very cautious, that they can't have a strictly political event there per se," said Iannella, adding that the official did not offer any specifics about the planned event.

Iannella suggested that convention planners ask a probate judge to decide if the event would be allowed under the will.

Mary Hatch, an heiress who never married, died in 1926, leaving much of her fortune to blind babies, orphans, and the elderly. But she also set aside $300,000 to satisfy Boston's ''public need for a beauty spot."

The city officials' concerns are the latest episode in the difficult relationship between Kerry and Menino.

Several weeks ago, Kerry floated the possibility that he would not accept the nomination at the convention in order to skirt campaign finance laws. Menino was upset, considering he had been taking heat from commuters and downtown businesses about the road closures and other traffic tie-ups due to the convention.

Then came the US Conference of Mayor's event last weekend. Kerry and his aides anguished for several days about whether to attend and ultimately decided to cancel a long planned speech. Kerry's cancellation embarrassed Menino in front of the nation's mayors, and Menino later called the Kerry campaign ''incompetent" because he suspected Kerry's aides had leaked a story that he had hung up on the nominee during a heated phone conversation. Menino said he did not hang up on Kerry.

And now comes Kerry's plan for a big concert, potentially drawing hundreds of thousands of people, on July 28, the night that the convention is expected to hear his vice presidential selection deliver a speech.

About two weeks ago, Kerry's campaign asked Boston 2004, the host committee, to apply to the state for a permit to hold the July 28th concert.

Corrigan told the Globe for a story published yesterday that Kerry is ''hell-bent" on the event taking place. The campaign raised $1 million from a single donor, whom he declined to identify. The Kerry aide showed no signs last night that the Kerry campaign was backing off.

''John Kerry doesn't buy the negativity of the press," Corrigan said. ''He has wanted to do something positive, fun, and free."

Yvonne Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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