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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The gangs that couldn't shoot straight

After the latest round of follies over Massachusetts transportation policy, it's a relief to think (and hope) some grown-ups may be about to sit at the table.

The 60-or-so day cooling off period represented by the top-to-bottom review of the MBTA would be a good time for Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leaders to sit down, speak calmly and bury the hatchet -- preferably somewhere other than in each others skulls.

There have been so many mistakes here it's hard to keep count: the e-mails between Transportation Secretary James Aloisi and former T general manager Dan Grabauskas are only the latest in a long line.

And not all the screw-ups have come from the Corner Office, as Grabauskas' supporters love to repeat in an effort to deflect attention from the safety, construction and overall mess issues that he created.

The Great and General Court is up to its eyeballs and sinking deeper in the muck as it practices politics instead of policy because of its pique that voters actually chose a Democrat for the Corner Office.

This mess has its origins in the poor decisions of lawmakers and the Weld administration in financing transportation a decade ago. The Turnpike Authority was saddled with increased debt as part of the Big Dig fiasco. Lawmakers also saddled the T with increased debt and earmarked a penny on the sales tax to help it pay for it.

We know how all those decisions worked out.

Patrick has managed to make a bad situation worse with some poor personnel decisions, starting with the ineffective Bernard Cohen and now Aloisi.

The only mistake he made in ousting Grabauskas is not doing it sooner. The damaging of Old South Church by a delayed and overbudget Copley Station renovation comes to find as an appropriate fed-up point.

Nevertheless, these are the cards we've been dealt and we need to live with them.

I would also encourage Patrick to reach out to two of the better transportation experts in the nation for guidance. They live right here. One teaches at Northeastern, the other at MIT.

In addition to the expertise he would get by bringing in Michael Dukakis and Fred Salvucci as consultants, Patrick would also be getting another target for the Republican vitriol. Democrats, after all, have their man in the form of Charlie Baker, who was the Weld administration pointman when this mess was being birthed.

But the best part is there would be some adults at the table along with the children from the Patrick administration and the Legislature..

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