Deval Patrick

Patrick would have been stronger candidate than Warren

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

So former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has decided not to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. As a fine speaker (to me better than Obama) and retail politician with two successful terms as the state’s CEO, he could have been a formidable candidate for the nomination, if not in the general election.

His decision opens the door wider for fellow Bay State Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who, if she decides to run, could draw on some of the financial and other campaign resources that Patrick would have gotten and certainly has an enthusiastic following of progressives. But it’s hard to see how the senator could get elected president.

James P. Freeman: Charlie Baker restores good government to Mass.


“The Baker-Polito Administration Year in Review – 2016,” released nearly a year after Massachusetts Gov. Charles (but almost always called Charlie) Baker assumed the corner office is, in many respects, a blistering indictment of Deval Patrick’s eight years as governor.

It begins a section entitled “Fixes and Reforms,” which lists as goals and objectives: “fixing a broken transportation system,” “reforming a broken Department of Children and Families,” “fixing the RMV,” “fixing a broken Health Connector,” and “fixing a broken Medical Marijuana dispensary system.” In short, the document lays out the charges of years of progressive malfeasance in Massachusetts.

In a wide ranging telephone interview, Baker sounded calm and confident about the noble work his team is diligently implementing to restore and repair a dysfunctional state government.

Asked if he would characterize one of the themes of his administration as “restoration,” Baker pondered for a moment, and responded, simply: “That is a perfectly fine word” to describe it.

Baker said the biggest disappointment of his first year was not addressing the problems at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority “earlier.” The contrasts between Patrick and Baker, in style and substance, are evident. Patrick embodied the incurable progressive urge: if you can’t fix it, expand it. Instead of simply fixing the “T” he sought its expansion, with a billion-dollar transportation “network.” Patrick was a dreamer. Baker is a reformer.

Baker’s approach is not sleight of hand or sledgehammer, rather, it is realistic assessment. When asked the biggest hurdle the Commonwealth faces, his answer is surprising: “energy.”

Despite the comfort of low natural-gas prices and the false sense of security it brings, the Commonwealth is due to lose 10,000 megawatts of power off the grid in the next four to five years. Residents already pay the second highest energy rates in the country. Unless it is addressed soon, Baker fears brownouts and blackouts are possible. He believes Canadian hydropower is the best alternative and “I hope there is a big debate in 2016” with the legislature about obtaining the approvals to move forward. Securing energy, like good government, is overly complicated today.

With regard to building a better economy, Baker eschews the grandiosity of the previous administration’s billion-dollar grab bags (see Life Sciences Initiative). His programs resemble economic, in which smaller, more manageable initiatives come into sharper focus from a distance, where a comprehensive image emerges. He seeks to “simplify” and “modernize” local and state government and reduce its complexity. He is also intent on seeing that western Massachusetts take part in Boston’s booming economy by developing what he calls “skill building.”

A few weeks ago, the governor held a private screening of the shattering HBO documentary Heroin: Cape Cod, USA. It is an antiseptic look at a group of young people who have succumb to the grip of opiate addiction and shreds the idyllic image of Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod.” He told invited guests that while the film takes place in Massachusetts it “could be anyplace in America.” Every day four people die in the Commonwealth of opioid overdose. It would not be surprising if he looks to reforming how prescriptions for opioid pain medications are written, with such medications being drivers of unintended addictions.

Baker may in fact be the rightful heir to another quiet, serene and unassuming leader of the Commonwealth from nearly a century ago, Gov. Calvin Coolidge. They share the same sentiments and sensibilities about what government does and how it should do it, its vices and virtues.

Coolidge wrote long ago, but with particular relevance today, “There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living in your means.”

Given the level of massive liabilities — unfunded pensions, perennial out-of-balance budgets, public debt obligations – that approach $130 billion (or $19,493 per capita), Massachusetts has been living beyond its means for decades. These matters will surely need attention too.

The process of restoration is untidy and, in many respects, the major political battles have yet begun but are looming. One wonders if Baker will proactively flush out unpopular and even painful measures early in a first term or slowly unravel the carnival of carnage as it continues coming his way. Either way is fraught with political risks for a man enjoying 70 percent approval ratings today.

After a long lineage of progressive posturing and grisly governance, however, an exhausted and bloodied Commonwealth should continue to enthusiastically accept Baker’s brand of competence, caution and sensible government.

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and a former Cape Cod Times columnist. This piece originated at The New Boston Post.


James P. Freeman: Patrick's contradictory progressivism

  “The man who is swimming

against the stream knows the strength of it”

                        --from “The New Freedom,” Woodrow Wilson, 1913


“…if I walked on water,

the headline splash would be: ‘Patrick Can’t Swim’”

--from an address at  Harvard's Kennedy School, Deval Patrick, 2009


To a degree, every election is a referendum on activity since the preceding election. It is astonishing, therefore, given two terms, how little  Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s record--and the diminished potency of progressivism--played in the gubernatorial race.


No sober Democrat candidate channeled his style, but instead checkmated his substance (note the absence too of President Obama—Patrick’s political kindred spirit—on the national stage this past election). Association with Patrick was problematic; he is no longer a sensible reference point.


Thoughtful progressives must now consider Patrick a promiscuous progressive, a kind of flirtatious political poseur. Eight years of folly augur a sour legacy. And this may portend that faux popularity coupled with meager achievement will not translate into electoral victory for any future office.


The carnival of carnage under his administration would have dismantled the career of any other public servant in a state not controlled by a single party; in Massachusetts it’s a prerequisite for reelection, not recall.


Patrick acted with contempt for managing the more mundane, if not untidy, aspects of governance. He was a disengaged observer--not leader or manager--of a large, blameless bureaucracy and a corrupt system of institutional patronage.


He was all too willing, in the presence of this monolithic government, to act as its emotional proxy, not trailblazing reformer. He therefore substituted feeling for function. A favorite phrase, honed for maximum impact but of no consequential effect: “We must turn to one another not on one another.”


Justina Pelletier’s family turned to the courts after a lengthy battle with  the state Department of Children and Families (DCF), an agency of such severe managerial incompetence it should be shuttered. The Boston Globe reported last Feb. 2 that the death rate among children under DCF supervision averages 9-10 per year. Just two weeks later the governor praised the then-commissioner, as having “done a terrific job.” Since 2007, funding has been cut to DCF by over $100 million. Dysfunctional and overwhelmed, DCF would have been tasked to assist 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children under his plan this past summer.


The New England Compounding Center, the state-regulated specialty pharmacy, was responsible for 64 deaths and 750 infections nationwide. The Hinton State Laboratory Institute malfeasance may have tainted tens of thousands of criminal convictions. The non-functioning health Connector Web site affected hundreds of thousands of residents and untold cost in dollars and anxiety.


His eloquent, elegant speech, affirming soaring ideals, was a form of distraction from poor executive oversight. Much of it was mixed with rhetorical nonsense. A recent trip to Israel was an “innovation mission.” His attendance at the swearing in of Panama’s president last June was “a great honor for the commonwealth.” And “if we get clean energy right, the whole world will be our customer.”


A self-described “pro-growth progressive,” Patrick embodied the new incurable progressive urge: if you can’t fix it, expand it. Instead of simply addressing chronic structural and financial problems at the  Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority he sought extension of regional transportation networks.


Evidence of pro-growth progressivism: One in seven residents receives assistance from Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA); the number of households receiving Food Stamps increased 57 percent from 2009-2012. State expenditures have increased by 24 percent (over $1 billion a year) during the same period, far outpacing the rate of inflation. Unfunded pension liabilities increased from $11.7 billion in fiscal 2007 to over $21 billion in fiscal 2012. Since 2009 property taxes have increased by 25 percent. From 2009 to 2013 child poverty rates rose. (Rates are dropping nationally). The state unemployment rate, now 6percent, is still higher today than in January 2007, his first inaugural, when it was 4.6 percent.


If his form of progressivism is confusing it is also contradictory. Patrick called for a “progressive income tax” in 2010, supported a reduction in sales tax (the tax deemed too “regressive”) but signed into law a gasoline tax in 2013, which actually is regressive.


With spectacularly scant mention--by a largely fawning  media--during 2012’s senatorial and presidential elections, Patrick swiftly settled a lawsuit (brought by an advocacy group led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s daughter, represented by the law firm where Patrick's wife is a senior partner) against DTA, which claimed federal voter-registration violations. Nothing, suggests, however, he settled the massive waste, fraud and abuse that besieged the DTA (1,160 dead recipients of aid; 30,000 missing EBT cards).


President Wilson would now sue for trademark infringement on a brand he helped create over a century ago as progressivism’s godfather. He was a serious student of the philosophy, wrote extensively about it and embraced its tenants. Another forefather, former Gov. Michael Dukakis, at least talked about competence.


Patrick was never consubstantial with the commonwealth or the creed.

James P. Freeman is a Cape Cod-based writer.

Carolyn Morwick: Mass. session boosts transport, higher ed

This is one of a series of reviews of  2014 New England legislative sessions by Carolyn Morwick, writing for the New England Board of Higher Education (


In 2013, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was often at loggerheads with legislators on big-ticket items, including education funding and transportation. In 2014, the atmosphere was more cordial. Just prior to the close of the 2013-14 legislative session, lawmakers sent a $36.5 billion  fiscal 2015 budget to the governor.

The governor and legislators agreed on a spending plan with no new taxes, despite a limited revenue stream. They generally agreed to make investments in the state’s transportation system, restore cuts to the higher education system and reform the system that pays for human services providers.

Patrick vetoed $16 million in line items, all but one of which legislators overrode. The governor also asked lawmakers for authority to make unilateral spending cuts if necessary. But lawmakers would not go beyond the current “9C powers” that allow a governor to make cuts in the budget without the approval of the Legislature if it’s determined that state revenues are not sufficient to support spending in the budget that's been approved.

Included in the 2015 budget:

  • a $34 million increase in early education and care programs, much of it targeting Income Eligible Child Care, which has a substantial wait lists for families
  • $1 million for the K-1 Classroom Grant program that will fund new pre-K classrooms with an emphasis on "Gateway Cities"
  • a 2.7% increase in funding for K-12 with total funding for K-12 at $155 million (still nearly $75 million below pre-recession levels)
  • a 2.3% increase in Chapter 70 education aid to cities and towns or approximately $99 million
  • a $70 million increase for public higher education
  • $4.7 billion for MassHealth Managed Care
  • $3.2 billion for MassHealth Senior Care
  • $88 million for children’s mental health services
  • $436 million for adult mental health services—a 4% increase over FY14
  • $184 million for mental health facilities—a 5% increase over FY14
  • $112 million for substance abuse and addiction services
  • an increase of $125 million over FY14 for the state’s transportation system
  • an increase of $3.6 million for library programs (even with the increase, funding for libraries fell by 46% because of $3 billion in tax cuts dating back to FY 2001
  • a provision for a Tax Amnesty Program expected to raise $35 million
  • a delay in implementing the FAS 109, a special deduction included in legislation to lower the corporate tax which was enacted in 2013. The delay postpones the loss of nearly $46 million in corporate income tax revenue.
  • an increase in salary for the state’s 11 district attorneys from $148,843 to $171, 561.

Higher Education                                                                       

The FY15 budget continues reinvestment for a third year in the public higher education system. Spending for higher education is approximately $70 million above FY14, but still 21% below the FY 2001 level.

The total amount for public higher education for FY15, is $998 million including $519 million for the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts, almost $230 million for the nine state universities and $249 million for the 15 Community Colleges.

For the second year in a row, funding in the budget for UMass will allow for freezing tuition and fees. However, the same 50/50 formula designed to split the cost between state appropriations and student tuitions was not applied to the state universities and community colleges, where officials warn that student bills will go up by several hundred dollars.

The State Scholarship Program got a $3 million increase in the FY15 budget, while the High Demand Scholarship program to encourage degree completion in disciplines that are deemed to be critical shortage was level-funded at $1 million.

The budget also funds the STEM Starter Academy at $4.7 million for community colleges, $3.2 million for the Performance Management Set Aside Incentive Grant Program to allow the Department of Higher Education to continue with grants to promote operational efficiencies at community colleges, the state universities and UMass in meeting the goals of the Vision Project.

The budget establishes a Foundation Budget Review Commission to review the state’s methodology for determining school district foundation budgets. The current foundation budget was designed more than 20 years ago and is out-of-date. The budget calls for the new commission to conduct four public hearings in different parts of the state and report back to the Legislature by June 30, 2015.

Other Legislation Passed

The Legislature continued to increase funding for the state transportation system and capital improvements on the  Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Regional Transit Authorities, while working to end the practice of borrowing money to pay for the MBTA.

Near the close of the session, legislation was passed which strengthened gun laws. The new law gives police chiefs the authority to turn down a resident’s request to purchase a rifle or shotgun if they have reason to believe the person may be a danger. It also makes Massachusetts part of the National Instant Background Check System to provide a rapid response about whether a person is suitable to possess a license for a gun. Another provision of the new law requires that data be collected on all guns used in crimes or that cause injuries.

In response to the Supreme Court overturning the Massachusetts “buffer zone” law for access to reproductive health clinics—and at the urging of Atty.  Gen.  Martha Coakley—lawmakers passed legislation giving public safety officials the power to clear access to the clinics. The prior law provided a 35-foot buffer zone, which the court rejected; the new law restricts protesters to 25 feet.

An Act Establishing the Childhood Vaccine Program

Creates a stable financing framework enabling Massachusetts to guarantee that all children up to age 18 receive all the vaccines recommended by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The legislation will allow access to all recommended vaccines for children and fund the Massachusetts Immunization Registry, which assists providers in keeping immunizations up-to-date.

An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms

Gradually raises the minimum wage to $11 over three years, lowers unemployment insurance (UI) costs for employers across the state, strengthens safety protections for workers and makes permanent the multi-agency task force charged with combating the underground economy where tens of thousands of workers, many of them undocumented, are paid under the table, thereby avoiding payment of taxes.

An Act Establishing a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Extends basic work standards and labor protections to approximately 67,000 nannies, housekeepers, caregivers and other home workers in the Commonwealth.

An Act to Promote Economic Growth in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Provides for increased job growth and economic stability by investing in advanced manufacturing, IT workforce training and “Big Data” innovation. It will provide $15 million for a Gateway Cities Transformative Development Fund for economic revitalization and $10 million is slated for the reuse of brownfields in economically distressed areas. The legislation creates an advisory council to boost the financial services industry in Massachusetts.

An Act Relative to the Broadband Institute

Allows the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to use a $50 million bond for expanding broadband infrastructure.

An Act Relative to the Expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

Approves borrowing $1.1 billion to accommodate a 1.3 million square foot addition to the center, which would allow Boston to be host to larger conventions.

An Act to Foster Economic Independence

Provides a pathway for low-income families to become self-sufficient, especially those who are receiving “cash assistance.” The pathway will include job readiness, the development of life skills and English-as-a-second language. Over $15 million in aggregate funding improvements to the Department of Transitional Assistance for additional caseworkers and the Department of Higher Education for program evaluations and scholarships. Additional legislation introduces a “full employment program” and more effectively identifies welfare fraud as part of a companion bill.

Carolyn Morwick handles government and community relations at the New England Board of Higher Education and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.