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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 20, 2010

Frankly Charlie, I still don't think you get it

Listening to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Murphy talk about Ware Report on the probation department reminds me of an ill-fated conversation Mike Dukakis had with Ted Koppel in 1988:
"I still don't think you get it."
Faced with a report showing a department out of control, run by a dictatorial leader who spent much of his time rewarding friends and punishing foes, Murphy chose to dance on a head of a pin and talk about what was not included in the 337-page laceration of the agency controlled by the Legislature.
“Is there any evidence to suggest that jobs are for sale?’’ said Murphy. “Did Paul Ware say in his report that any legislator got money for jobs? The answer is no. He didn’t. It is not there. He says there is a statistical probability of something like that, a chance. That’s not evidence. And he was very clear to state that.’’
To call the response defensive would be a mild understatement. To call it clueless comes closer to the mark.

The outrage over the probation department stems from its overall sheltered status. It serves the judicial branch but it is controlled by the Legislature. The Executive branch, which should have a role, does not -- and Murphy makes clear that Gov. Deval Patrick should not count on getting his hands on the mess any time soon.
“It’s 337 pages, and we’re going to take our time to go through it,’’ Murphy told reporters outside the office of [House Speaker Robert] DeLeo, who has not spoken publicly about the scandal. “We’re not going to make rash judgments.’’
There is no need for rash judgments. Things are crystal clear. The office was run in a manner so out of touch with basic management skills, awarding convicted felons with jobs and banishing those who opposed it, that it needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

And that rebuilding process must include removal of the political component injected into it when former House Speaker Tom Finneran pushed through a change in the law in 2001 to give soon-to-be-ex-commissioner John J. O'Brien the keys to the candy store.

More than anything else in recent history, the probation department scandal represents everything the public finds wrong with government. When Murphy tries to parse sentences and insist this is not a Statehouse problem, as he did on one radio interview, he only reinforces the image of a politician who speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

Murphy's committee is charged with finding solutions to a likely $2 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July. He and House leadership should read quickly and have a plan ready the day the new Legislature is sworn in, one that would cede control of the agency to either the executive or judicial branches.

They have a lot more important work to do that defend the indefensible.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie thinks is a fiefdom and a squabble over political spoils. It isn't. It's a clear as day violation of the public trust.

November 20, 2010 7:24 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Yet people keep reelecting the same shady bunch of legislators over and over. When the only alternative to the comlacent and potentially corrupt democrats are those dubious candidates perennially offered up by the party of corrupt corporations and fringe pseudo-libertarians, we've got a real dilemma.

November 22, 2010 5:45 AM  

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