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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Talk softly and carry a big stick

Now we know why Deval Patrick seemed to be holding out a carrot to the Legislature during Thursday night's State of the State address. He was about the bash them with a big stick.

Patrick, with an assist from the Spotlight Team, is ready to force a closer look at one of the more patronage-infested areas of state government: the court system. In particular, the aim is a probation system characterized as "the fastest-growing but most secretive state agencies."

It's one of the worst-kept secrets in the budget process: stashing former lawmakers and their aides in the system as court clerks, assistant court clerks and assistant to the assistant clerk. Toss in the probation system and you have a system steeped in politically connected employees with varying interest in showing up for work.

Not to mention the fact the system appears to be run in such slipshod way that a low level clerk can allegedly embezzle $2 million without anyone noticing.

For a governor running for re-election in a bad budget year on a promise to level fund education and local aid funding, it's a slam dunk move, proposing to consolidate probation and parole into one unit at a cost saving of $40 million.

But, as the Globe notes, Patrick is taking aim at a sacred cow of another kind -- a system whose patrons include House Speaker pro tempore Thomas Petrolati and Senate Transportation Chairman Steven Baddour, a persistent gubernatorial critic.

Toss in a challenge to Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Chief Justice of Administration and Management Robert Mulligan -- vocal critics of previous court system budget cuts -- and you have a three-ring donnybrook (subscription required).

Just the prescription for a candidate setting himself up as still outside the system despite three years at the helm.

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Blogger Readwriteblue said...

How many years has Mr. Patrick been Governor? And only now (after the defeat of Martha Coackley) has he noticed that there is corruption and patronage? Cue Claude Raines. This is now appearing in encyclopedias all over the world as the definition of “death bed conversions.” Our Governor may try to pull some tricks out of his hat but he is seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

It is self evident that there is way too much corruption in state and local government. In these tough economic times when most people are insecure in their jobs and homes it is essential that clean elections and good governance are embraced by those whom wish to lead us. Neither the left nor the right has ownership of that truth.

January 24, 2010 11:31 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Read, the problem faced by Patrick (and Romney and Swift and Cellucci and Weld and Dukakis) is a legislature that gets it way.

Hardly a death bed conversion from this governor either. He has attempted to tackle the transportation system, ethics and pension problems and managed to drag lawmakers along, kicking and screaming.

He deserves credit, not recriminations, for the effort.

January 24, 2010 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Charley on the MTA said...

Yes, surely Patrick ought to have solved everything and made me the most delicious chocolate-chip cookies by now.

January 24, 2010 11:47 AM  
Blogger Readwriteblue said...

I have no patients with those that would turn a blind eye those that beak our laws because they are trying to achieve a more laudable goal. It is just another way of saying that the ends justify the means. Do you truly believe that it is better for the Governor to spend time and money on his Mass Engage project and not working to weed out corruption and malfeasance in the government he leads? And wouldn't running against a corrupt legislature be a good way to secure reelection?

January 24, 2010 12:48 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Forgive me -- but isn't aiming at waste and abuse exactly what Patrick is doing with his budget proposal?

And as if I written countless times, I think it's a wise move for him to run against the Legislature -- with this being a prime example.

I'm apparently not as big a devotee of all things Deval as you are since I'm not aware of Mass Engage and couldn't find anything on his website. But I would respectfully suggest leaders are capable of doing more than one thing at a time.

January 24, 2010 1:00 PM  
Blogger Mark B. said...

Marian Walsh.

I rest my case.

January 24, 2010 1:44 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Weak case Mark B. Yes, Walsh was a screw-up but ethics and pension reforms were passed by dragging lawmakers kicking and screaming.

January 24, 2010 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Term limits will clean out the closets once in a while. They can't become so entrenched that all their constituents are on the payroll.

January 29, 2010 12:05 PM  

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