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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Changing of the guard

Well, the boys won't be meeting weekly with the fate of the state in their hands.

The oldest, stalest secret in state government came into the open yesterday when Robert Travaglini completed his long good-bye and turned over the keys of his ornate office to Therese Murray.

After endless speculation over where where he will land, Trav announced he's going into business with his lawyer, a move that rightly raised eyebrows with Common Cause. Not that it is illegal mind you -- just ask yourself where the last two House Speakers, Charlie Flaherty and Tom Finneran landed -- just that it is one of the unfortunate facts of life in today's public world. At least Trav does have any legal clouds hanging over his head (that we know of).

Travaglini always struck me as an odd fit for the job. He has accomplishments to be sure, but his strength is at convincing people to back a policy crafted by others. Perhaps that indeed makes him the ideal CEO, but I think the new job is a better one for his talents.

Murray's ascension is another historic moment for a state that, up until November, was an exclusive white male preserve. Only Evelyn Murphy and Jane Swift cracked that ceiling -- with Swift an accidental governor.

Now we have an African-American governor and a single mother in two of the three power positions. It's a change that obviously is going to take some getting used to on the part of the last remaining white male.

Murray, in what is the first of what will be many painful by necessary efforts to speak to the public, suggests she's with House Speaker Sal DiMasi in taking the closing of business tax loopholes off the table.

It appears she intends to focus on health care and housing policy (if the cranky Boston.com headline is accurate). It's hard to believe she could focus on anything but the top two issues to quality of life and the survival of the job base here. The proposed solutions will be fascinating.

Unlike Trav, she is a do-er -- she played a major role in crafting the state's welfare reform law and four budgets. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty in the policy shop.

Murray comes in with a cloud of sorts over her head -- although we don't know if it's a passing sprinkle or a thunderstorm. This too could be simply the way business is done in government these days -- not illegal, but certainly unsightly.

Then again, it doesn't involve starting a war under false pretenses and treating the Constitution as Kleenex.

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