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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Appearance counts

To the policy wonks out there, the Globe's stories about the Patrick administration's use of federal stimulus cash to build a footbridge at Gillette Stadium and plans to reduce funding for the homeless are unrelated -- separate caches of cash to be used for different reasons.

But it's that political blindspot which has dogged Deval Patrick for three years and is about to create another major headache for a man who has allowed some significant accomplishments to be lost in a stream of unthought-through screw-ups.

The issue certainly wasn't lost on the Globe headline writer who labeled the footbridge a "golden gateway" between Patriot Place and a potential major commercial-industrial development on the other side of Route 1.

Nor will it be lost on advocates who will be appalled at the thought of the homeless being forced to live on the streets full-time because of budget cuts that will reduce beds, food and clothing assistance.

No one will take comfort in the cold words of an administration functionary who told the Globe:
“The administration has held homeless programs harmless in four rounds of budget cuts. The administration has made it a priority to end homelessness, but with the serious revenue shortfall that the state is facing, these cuts are necessary.’’
The administration wonks will plead the dollars going to Robert Kraft and the Route 1 footbridge are federal transportation stimulus dollars and can't be used for other purposes. But the rest of us will remember Kraft's threats to pull the Patriots out of Massachusetts and then House Speaker Tom Finneran's reference to the Patriots' boss as a "whiny millionaire."

Maybe a few Super Bowl trophies will melt the public's annoyance about taxpayer dollars going to finish a major stadium and commercial project Kraft launched with private financing.

But it certainly won't rebound to Patrick's favor as television crews do regular stories about the men and women wandering Boston streets in the soon-approaching winter cold because the administration could no longer "hold them harmless."

In policy and financial terms, the two situations might be light years apart. But to the public, they will be inextricably linked and that is why Deval Patrick has screwed up mightily. Again.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what precisely would you suggest the administration do differently? You yourself acknowledge that the pots of money are different; it's not like they could legally use the stimulus infrastructure money to help the homeless. Should the footbridge not be built simply because it will benefit the Patriots? That doesn't seem to me like a sound basis for policy choices.

Folks make a lot of hay about the administration's supposed "tin ear" to how things sound, but some of us appreciate the idea of putting policy before spin. I *want* a government that pays attention to the "wonkish" details, not one that caters to the headlines.

You seem to think the solution to ignorance among citizens is for government to pander to it. I'd much rather government do its best to explain what's really going on than pretend that, for example, the stimulus was just a blank check sent out to the states.

November 07, 2009 1:31 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I must be doing something right when I get public comments on being too hard on Patrick at the same time I get private e-mails suggesting I'm cutting him way too much slack.

I have consistently backed Patrick's solid policy efforts over fumbled politics. But the harsh reality is you can't do one without the other, and Patrick is in deep trouble before he has often failed to pay attention to how things look.

What would I suggest? The administration should NOT have chosen an "associate director of the division of housing stabilization at the state Department of Housing and Community Development" as its spokesman.

How about the secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development? Or better yet, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, since homelessness is supposed to be a human service priority.

Making it appear like you actually care is as important as the wonkish details.

November 08, 2009 9:02 AM  
Blogger Judy Meredith said...

Wonderful series of letters in the Globe today (11/10/09)

You were the first person to point out the sad contrast between the two headlines, and maybe the first to write about it, so thanks. Comment from the Guv yet?

November 10, 2009 10:44 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Judy, check out some comments from Doug Rubin under "Anyone minding the store?"

November 11, 2009 5:14 AM  
Blogger RockAngel said...

The 'I will do you a favor, if you do me a favor' "policy" making is in full swing - another day in Mass politics another life lost!

I say we direct our homeless community up to the State House to huddle for warmth right where Deval gets out of his car every morning after his nice warm shower and breakfast. He will then be welcomed to work by HUMAN BEINGS who are doing the best that they can with what they have = no support. To my homeless friends - spark up your make-shift survival materials, drag out your old blankets and sore bodies so you can put your faces right out their to define your unfortunate 'title' - "the homeless". If Deval can / will actually look into desperate eyes of over 6000 homeless men, women and children and SEE their immense need for support, direction, affordable housing and essential programs and then give Kraft his money well then - we bring our homeless community to Gillette so they can create a mansion under the footbridge. Handshakers with blinders on make me ILL! You all know who you are so get back to your dirty, useless work so you can keep disappointing the State of Mass! That's right - WE ALL are horrified at your blubbering speeches and promises for a greater Commonwealth. The wealth continues to slip into the hands of the WEALTHY! Your next life will for sure be that of a run-down Homeless person. Good luck because you won't have cash lining your pockets to save your soul!

November 13, 2009 9:35 AM  

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