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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A work horse or a show horse?

Is Deval Patrick squandering a valuable opportunity to seize the public stage and imagination? Or is he simply working every day to know what he's facing before coming out of the box?

Count me as among the believers in the work horse model.

Patrick has been, for the most part, working quietly behind the scenes since his election in November -- a low-key introduction of cabinet secretaries and key people. The biggest splash came during the multiple day inaugural ceremonies -- for which he was roundly criticized.

His policy decisions to date have also been low-volume but hardly insignificant -- overturning Mitt Romney's 9C budget cuts, the idiotic campaign stunt call for eliminating most Mass. Pike tolls and the standoffish, go-it-alone approach to regional environmental protection.

He's also signed his first bills and offered his first proposal for government reorganization, earning a dart from the Boston Phoenix for offering that plan late on a Friday afternoon -- time when reporters generally have checked out for the weekend.

Politically, Patrick has found himself enmeshed in a short-lived controversy with Senate President Robert Travaglini about who really has the power on Beacon Hill. And his suggestion that he might horse trade legislative leadership stipend increases for authority to rein in semi-independent agencies also generated howls for a day or two.

Boring? No. Of long-term significance? Yes.

Patrick and his team appear to be hard at work at assessing the state of the Commonwealth's finances -- whether there really will be a $1 billion gap between revenues and wish lists. It is not the stuff of headlines, but is is what voters elected him to do.

When Patrick's first budget is unveiled at the end of the month it will provide a road map to what he would like to do and what is possible. That, by it's very nature, means this interim period is not the time for flashy displays of commitment to this or that cause.

But Patrick has not be invisible. He launched a weekly podcast (I admit I am not among the downloaders) and he ventured onto talk radio to field calls from voters. Venture over to Blue Mass. Group and you will find some earnest discussions about civic engagement.

What he has not done is stage a variety of high profile events in Room 157, giving the Statehouse press corps a chance to question him about this or that topic of concern to them -- a stance that apparently continues to miff.

Patrick used his inaugural -- especially taking it on the road to other parts of the state -- to define what type of governor he hopes to be. Following on the heels of the style over substance Romney administration, it was a wise course.

And when the budget is released in two weeks, the games will begin in earnest.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on. It is refreshing to have a governor who thinks before he expounds.

But take this a step further. It is no surprise that Frank Phillips writes this story. It is so much easier to cover government-by-press-release (like Romney's) than a government that is engaged in thoughtful planning and deliberation. Why do the Globe editors prominently publish a "news" item out of a nothing story? As a column, I could see it, maybe, but this is news?

And, speaking of columns, can you please comment on Eileen McNamara's criticism of Harry Spence? Spence is the most dedicated person in the last 2 decades of state and local government. He always takes on the impossible jobs, never complains, tells the unvarnished truth, and works his tail off. DSS has been underfunded for years, and Ms. McNamara decides that it is his fault?

February 11, 2007 12:46 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Well, an argument can be made that Spence didn't work hard enough to get the governors and legislators to get DSS the funds it needed.

The Haleigh Poutre fiasco was Spence's mulligan. There's a need for accountability -- and yes a scapegoat. Spence is the most convenient target, at least until the Board of Registration in Medicine weighs in on the doctor.

February 11, 2007 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try being a commissioner some time, especially for a spread out agency like DSS. You think you have time to lobby the legislature all the time? You think you have any pull? Spence is not naive; he knows the risks of these jobs. But to blame him is just not right. Don't you see the why this makes it hard to get good people to take these jobs? We are LUCKY to get people like him.

February 11, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on now, Spence could have done nothing but lobby the Legislature and Governor and it would have accomplished nothing, much like if the Globe weren't slamming patrick for not appearing in public, they'd be slamming him for too any public appearances and not enough work. DSS is not going to be a top priority regardless, it's the nature of life in our times and that's certainly not his fault. So every underfunded necessity is the fault of lazy agency workers and not indifferent politicians?

I have to give the Pheonix credit for having the chutzpah to try and make a moral issue out of the Governor's lack of openness--releasing information on a schedule that interfere's with the media's preferred four day weekends is the same as not releasing it at all.

February 12, 2007 2:29 AM  

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