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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, December 04, 2008

Great Expectations

I always took offense when former House Speaker Tim Finneran (D-Felon), labeled our side the "loony left." Today, I'm seeing sad signs that there may be some truth to his tag.

Maybe it's been the fact that we've been subjected to terrible leadership on the state and federal level in recent years and are anxious for change. But can we get a grip please?

Let's start locally. While I am a bit troubled by the slow pace at which things percolate through the Patrick administration (still waiting for that transportation bill and the education readiness plan -- realistic about property tax relief) I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon that declares Deval toast after just half a term.

Maybe because I don't like the options.

But I really have an issue with "process liberals" who clamor for swift action in the most unrealistic ways. Take ethics reform.

Patrick has shown considerable alacrity in putting together a panel to find ways to tighten up ethics laws which are not, with all due respect to current Speaker Sal DiMasi, the toughest in the nation.

A special panel convened yesterday for a public hearing and is expected to make a plan public next month. We hope.

But that's apparently not good enough:

Shirley Kressel, a Boston neighborhood activist, said corruption is rampant and called on the panel to hold its deliberations in public. "I think we should establish it's not a problem of a few rotten apples," she said. "The public perception of the problem is that it is business is usual."

The problem is not with the special panel. It is with the Legislature that will be required to enact legislation. Making the special panel deliberations public will only slow down the process. The time for a public debate is when (and hopefully not if) the Legislature take this up.

On the national level, I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure I was awake when I read this gem:

Bill Richardson, announced yesterday as the nation's next commerce secretary, became the first Latino nominated for President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet.

Hispanic lawmakers are serving notice to Obama that they don't want Richardson to be the last.

Couple that with all the whining on the left about the "return of the moderate Clintonistas" and you have a think Obama has finished his appointments with an all-white conservative male team.

But I leave it to the President-elect to offer the best counterpoint.
"I think people are going to say, 'This is one of the most diverse Cabinets and White House staffs of all time," ... adding "There's no contradiction between diversity and excellence."
The Bush cabinet also offers a great evidence-based argument. Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice will not rank among the top secretaries of state although none of that team will be remembered for its distinction no matter their gender or ethnicity.

In some ways, Patrick is getting a better deal here -- he is being criticized two years into a four-year term. Obama is still 47 days (and counting) away from even taking office.

Some advice to my fellow liberals. Have some spiked egg nog. Do your bit for the economy and buy some presents for friends and loved ones. The difference between an Obama administration and a Bush administration will likely take our breaths away.

We've waited eight years. Let's actually see a full picture before we pass judgment.

Chill out.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me understand, since I was just recently called the "loony right" for recommending a yes on Question 1: am I now the "loony left" for demanding that a committee on transparency, ethics and accountability should not be meeting in secret?? Is the need for transparency and accountability a partisan issue?

How exactly will discussing the public's business in public slow down the work of the panel? We're talking about letting people attend panel meetings, not speaking but observing. The most basic and unintrusive level of transparency.

The claim that they have to meet privately to have candid and frank conversations is exactly what the state legislators claim to exempt themselves from the Open Meeting Law, and the Boston City Council claims to excuse its violations of that Law. Councilor Michael Flaherty actually defended it by saying, "it's kind of a sausage factory."

And if you attended the hearing, you saw that the demands of experienced ethics officials were far more aggressive than this simple request. (If you didn't attend, you can't get copies of the testimony that was presented: Task Force chairman Ben Clements refused to make them publicly available, "until, maybe...after we finish our report...we'll let you know.")

If this panel isn't a lot braver and more serious than it appears to date, we won't see the legislature deliberating either, because it exempts itself from the Open Meeting Law and Public Record Law. The Public Integrity Task Force's claim that they are entitled to hash out their concepts of the public's business behind closed doors will not give them much moral authority to recommend putting the legislature under the transparency laws, which should be the very first remedial action.

Are you saying, by the way, that the problem IS just a few bad apples -- that corruption is not endemic here?

And...that "process" is ...silly? What is democracy, if not process?

Deval may be better than the alternative options, and I worked hard on his campaign, but we can't give him a pass just for that. We have to keep his feet to the fire, or the differential will continue to shrink.

December 04, 2008 11:58 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I completely agree about the need to keep the feet of Deval and everyone to the fire. And I saw over on BMG that Ben Clement initially balked at posting testimony. That would have been inexcusable.

But I've been involved on both sides -- in government and in the media -- and yes, drafting legislation is sausage-making.

But that sausage needs to be sold -- and nothing prevents citizens from "lobbying" by buttonholing legislators or committee members to make it acceptable.

On this panel, I suspect Scott Harshbarger would be an ally.

Not to mention the media. This is an issue that has caught their attention.

I'm all for transparency but drafting legislation is not one of the best places for it. Defending it and approving it is where the public needs to see everything.

And yes, I believe the problem is a few bad apples who take advantage of a system with a lot of opportunities for mischief.

To be honest, the loony left comment was aimed more at the complaints about a seeming lack of diversity in the Obama job-filling process.

But I am also ultra sensitive to the fact the right is waiting to pounce on us for anything -- real or perceived. And I'm afraid we're heading in the direction of giving credence to the loony left tag.

Thanks for sharing your comments.

December 04, 2008 7:18 PM  

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