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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, November 13, 2008

And the band played on

There's a certain surreal quality to what's happening on Beacon Hill these days.

The governor is talking about eliminating the Turnpike Authority and jacking up tolls to pay for the Big Dig -- by putting the extra burden on people who don't use it daily.

The state is starting to feel the impact of the recession gripping the nation, with slashed budgets a reality and service cuts soon to be.

But are our legislators focusing like a laser beam on these problems? Nope. They're talking about Sal and Dianne (and Jim).

Dianne Wilkerson was caught on tape stuffing money in her bra. After first flirting with the idea of continuing her sore loser sticker campaign for her Senate seat, she promises to do the honorable thing as quickly as humanly possible.

I'd hate to see her version of slow.

Actually, that may be what is playing out in the House, where Speaker Sal DiMasi finds himself squeezed between the Ethics Commission on one side and his erstwhile loyal lieutenants on the other.

So the Legislature works on the state's yawning fiscal problems behind closed doors, because to come back into formal session and take a comprehensive stab at the problems we face would risk also shining the light on the internecine battle taking place to unseat the one-time King Sal.

And you wonder why people have a low opinion of government.

Deval Patrick, when he's not swatting off rumors that he's going to bolt for Barack, is trying to deal with the issues facing the Commonwealth. But he can't -- and shouldn't -- do it alone.

For starters, there is a big flaw in his Turnpike rescue plan, something I have flogged at endlessly. The current toll structure -- which he would leave in place for awhile -- places an unequal burden of the cost of the I-93-Ted Williams Tunnel project on the people who use the tunnel and the Mass. Pike.

The folks who use the Zakim Bridge, the O'Neill Tunnel and the rest of the new road are literally getting a free ride on the backs of those who live in MetroWest. That will not change in the Patrick -- and change it must.

That's where the Legislature comes in, to take Patrick's proposal and make it better.

But that's not happening because DiMasi is fighting a two-front war with Ethics Commission would-be loyalists Robert DeLeo, the Ways and Means chair, and John Rogers, the majority leader. They're the two guys who want to replace DiMasi -- sooner or later.

So the House remains caught up in palace intrigue -- silly rumors like DiMasi has actually been targeted by casino interests -- unable and unwilling to do what the state Constitution requires that it does, which is to initiate budget and revenue measures.

At least we know there is one issue where lawmakers will be able to drop their feuds and fights and come together. It's another Patrick initiative, designed to clean up some of the ethics mess.

The governor has charged a special group to present an ethics reform package to him in January. The concept has won the praise of the Globe editorial board, although a Metro columnist thinks the idea is stuck in the slow lane without a transponder.

Both miss a crucial piece of the puzzle though. For any reform to take effect, it will need approval of the very same Legislature at which it is aimed. And which is too busy with its own problems to worry about the broader ones facing us all.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chris Rich said...

The Jailbirds to be on Beacon Hill, (Tramontaine?)have always been more interested in logrolling.

Now the Gov's Turnpike plan makes sense when you consider traffic loads.

Tolls should be higher to offset the amount of infrastructure damage done by the huge vehicle loads. I imagine that simple element weighed heavily in the decision.

Maybe an offset to that cost would be to beef up bus and other public transit options, especially buses as they are cheaper and more flexible than trains and subways.

Eastern Mass has this demented quest to forever get something for nothing and that is the snake oil peddled by everyone from Cellucci to Mittens.

You want to not pay tolls? Stop driving so much. I've never owned a car in 53 years of life. I hate the stinkpots.

We are getting ever closer to a time when the entire system made of cars and suburbs will be toast. Oil costs have dropped because of demand destruction from planetary recession but they will rise again as soon as some version of boom returns.

Why not take this reprieve as the gift that it is and go nuts making cars less essential. The new improved post Bush fed is keenly interested in this sort of thing.

I am flatly astonished at how all the toll cost whiners are seemingly oblivious to how much damage is done by huge traffic loads and how that impacts infrastructure costs in a place where everyone seems to think their work is far more valuable and precious than it really is.

People constantly try to overpay me for dumb handyman labor because they are used to getting cheated.

I just charge 15 bucks an hour when they have been getting mushed for 25 and the work quality is sub par. I end up fixing bad 25 buck work for 15.. weird.

At the end of the day it is hard to escape the impression that this is a predatory cannibalistic culture driven by greed, sloth and an utter absence of ethics.

It isn't the Commonwealth I remember from 20 years ago before I went to a more honest west in Seattle. But maybe I just didn't notice. I sure do now.

The years of rule by grubby neocon GOP shills and crooked Dem machine pols have essentially destroyed the fiber of the culture and turned it into a giant mess of lazy crooked entitled slobs from hell.

November 13, 2008 12:23 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I completely agree that tolls -- as user fees -- should be proportional to use. That's why I have a hard time accepting the reality -- and likely future -- that MetroWest drivers bear the burden for a road that benefits North-South drivers.

And a higher gas tax would address some of the inequities you and I raise.

November 14, 2008 5:36 AM  
Blogger Chris Rich said...

Of course there should be modest gas tax hikes, that's a given. Then there should be toll stations at core high traffic borders with New Hampshire at 93, 3 and 95 to get our dime from all the dodgers who live there and work here.

The same should be considered at high road load borders at Rhode Island and elsewhere.

Those are the sticks but carrots are needed as well.

The Commonwealth form of Government is not a luxury the State can any longer afford. The home rule set up creates 350 something nurseries for corruption and waste where economies of scale in pensions and other entitlements are lost to Stonehams need for a different screwy benefits package from Medfords.

This is ridiculous and has been going on waay too long. Mass has a weird situation where people care more about their ridiculous little cities and towns than they do about the state.

"I'm from Malden"... "Yeah'.. I'm from Medford" is the sort of nonsense I've known forever here.

And the excessive weight given to the stupid 'Hub', Boston, is ridiculous as it's economy is all about paper shuffling in the insurance and Financial sectors while very little is actually made there.

All the important manufacturing tech stuff tends to be scattered around the region within 495 and most of the people live there and many of them don't work in Boston.

The Boston bias has made a public transportation mess where it's easy to take a commuter rail run to Boston but it is impossible to get a bus from Sudbury to Burlington and so on. We want to make it easier for people to ditch cars.

Buses are cheaper and highly flexible to route but there seems to be a disdain for them in a city excited by Subways.

Seattle, by contrast, has an amazing and highly efficient bus system that covers the entire King County area and enjoys high user participation while paying for itself. It also has more honest unions.

So the elimination of the sloppy and sleazy MBTA in favor of a statewide transit authority that really fits the patterns of where people live and where they work is another essential to get us out of the boob age.

And let's please please get rid of paying cops 40+ bucks an hour to direct traffic. I was a traffic flagger in Seattle for a complex condo excavation at a fairly busy street with strange intersections. I did it for 10 bucks an hour and it was easy money. You just learn to look in all directions constantly while wearing your orange vest and manning your stop sign on a pole.

I had to shepherd cab rank strings of 10 large dump trucks and concrete trucks later while also maintaining their loading bays and occasionally helping the excavator operators eyeball approach angles.

I had no training or 'certification' but was anxious to make sure no one got hurt and in 6 months of it, no one did. Common sense often trumps pretend expertise.

They also make heavy use of HOV lanes to discourage the idiot practice of lone driver commutes. It is as liberal as Cambridge without the sleaze of the region.

Example: Sociologists did an experiment where they left 10 wallets laying around the city with money and valuable stuff in them and 7 or 8 were returned intact. Try doing that in Boston.

November 14, 2008 6:37 PM  

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