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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, January 10, 2013

Storm front

Deval Patrick is about to pick a fight that will reflect just how much juice the lame duck governor has in his final two years.

Patrick is expected to announce an overhaul of the state's public housing boards, a large and unseen layer of bureaucracy that often works quietly behind the scenes to make affordable housing options available in local communities.

And sometime they do not. In a big way.

The consolidation of 240 local boards into six regional ones is sure to raise a hue and cry over the targeting local autonomy in the management of housing for more than 300,000 Massachusetts residents.

And it will set off even more squawking among the more than 1,000 politically appointed commissioners who serve on these boards.

The steps come a little more than a year after former Chelsea Housing Authority Executive Director Michael McLaughlin was forced out after the Globe revealed he was paid $360,000, the highest such salary in the nation, to do relatively little with even less oversight. Similar if not as egregious cases have turned up in other cities and towns.

Adding fuel to the mix was McLaughlin's close political ties with Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.

While the thousand or so local commissioners may not have connections to the executive branch, they do have access to the legislative one, which is likely to have its phones ringing with the announcement.

And lawmakers, still smarting from the probation patronage scandal -- and the loss of potential plum appointments for supporters -- are probably going to be listening carefully.

The Legislature was dragged kicking and screaming into ethics reform, largely because of misconduct within its own ranks. Their appetite for overhauling the housing authorities is likely to be only slighter larger than that for the Patrick transportation package -- and the need for billions in new revenue -- that will face them in this session.

The timing is also interesting in the larger political context as Murray, Patrick's apparently valued No. 2, is beginning to flex his own muscles in what is expected to be a gubernatorial run of his own in 2014.

A public fight over housing authorities -- and a steady reminder of his ties to McLaughlin -- are not likely to do Murray much good.

Patrick clearly is looking at his own legacy when he walks down the Statehouse steps in just about two years. And that appears to trump both personal loyalty or smooth legislative relations.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the right, I applaud his effort. Ethical reform and now more efficient government, if he runs for national office I might consider supporting him. Kudos. Even if it dies in committee shining the light in the dark corners makes the cockroaches run.

January 10, 2013 6:15 AM  

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