FOR REFORM FROM BOTH DIRECTIONS : CHARLIE BAKER & MAURA HEALEY

Baker and Local 26

photo (15)

^ top : Charlie baker with leaders of Local 26 Hotel and Hospitality Workers Union

(bottom) Maura Healey with Charlestown State Rep Dan Ryan and (behind him) Chris Remmes, who was a Ryan opponent in the recent special St rep election

A few days ago i made up my mind whom I wanted to be our state’s net Attorney General. I chose Maura Healey. I had already chosen Charlie Baker to be our next Governor; so I put stickers for both on my car’s bumper, and I posted a picture of my Baker/Healey “ticket.”

To me, Healey and Baker were, respectively, the best candidates, of those on offer, for the offices at issue, and at that time I thought no further.

Tonight, however, after journo-ing Maura Healey’s meet and greet event at the Ironside Grille in Charlestown — more about this event later — I realized that there is a far more profound purpose than I had realized, in selecting Baker and Healey rather than any of their rivals.

That purpose is reform. “Reform from both directions,” i call it.

Baker brings a radical change vision to state administration, changes he is well gifted to accomplish and which are sorely needed : vastly improved data management; transparency; user-friendly online access, coherence, and hugely more effective dollar deployment. Waste, incompetence, obscurity, DCF failure, shady managerial hires (remember Sheila Burgess ?), health care connector collapse, legislative confusion : you name it, state administration during the past four years has fallen from grace.

Baker passes all the prerequisite policy tests — of women’s health rights, marriage equality, transgender rights, support for fair wages, even an ability to work with the state’s major private sector unions. On these scores, he supports what most voters in Massachusetts support. Thus putting him in charge of reforming state administration does not, at the same time, risk losing our progressive momentum on the issues.

At the same time, Baker, politically, cannot do things that Maura Healey can; just as Healey cannot, as attorney general, undertake reforms that Baker as governor can. Healey as attorney general can use the power of law enforcement and oversight to advance women’s rights, the rights of small people against the big banks and bureaucratic systems, the rights of transgender people, matters of public safety and gun regulation. She talks about these tasks all the time, and does so with passion and in detail.

Healey has the voice of a stump speech reformer; Baker has it too. The culture of Beacon Hill badly needs to hear both of these voices.

Yes, she and he are, otherwise very different. One is a Democrat, the other a Republican. One is managerial, the other a crusader. They complement one another marvelously.

Together, they have the power, and will have sufficient public attention, to force Speaker DeLeo to listen. DeLeo, like many Speakers before him, has used his complete control of the House to pass only the legislation that he wants, in the shape that he wants it, and to see off legislation that he does not want — even bills offered by the (Democratic) Governor have gone nowhere without DeLeo aboard. Martha Coakley, as attorney general, has made no moves — none that i am aware of — to use the force of office to bolster any of Governor Patrick’s initiatives. I suspect that Maura Healey will not be so shy; and on matters where she and Baker can agree, I suspect that their joint efforts will force Speaker DeLeo to change his priorities more than once.

In Charlestown tonight, in the neighborhood where she lives (and, indeed, was given her first job, so she told us) Healey showed her strength on the ground. The event was hosted by Chris Remmes, a classic city progressive who ran for State Representative in a special election this year and drew only about 550 votes. But midway through the event, the man who defeated him, State Representative Dan Ryan, showed up, as did quite a number of Ryan’s Teamster supporters. When Healey began her speech, the Ironside was packed, close to 100 people.

This of itself was news; unions form the base of support for Healey’s primary opponent, Warren Tolman. It was pointed out to me that Teamsters Local 25 supports Healey’s current boss, Martha Coakley, for Governor. Fair enough; but support for one doesn’t require support for the other. Perhaps the Teamsters Local 25 leadership has recognized that the guarantee of unionism’s newly improved political power in Massachusetts is to ally, at ;least in the Attorney General race, with the state’s progressives and reformers.

In that, i think the Teamster leadership has it right. There is, for a smart union, no further advantage in remaining faithful to old arrangements. The smart union is the one that sees the new coalition forming and moves to join it. This the Teamsters of Local 25 hae now done in the matter of Maura Healey versus Warren Tolman.

By making that choice, the Teamsters — and, so it seems, Dan Ryan — have probably assured that Maura Healey will win the hotly contested primary that she is in and will thereafter fairly easily beat her November opponent, a skilled lawyer to be sure but, politically, of unsympathetic instincts and scant imagination.

I wish the Teamsters would also choose Baker and not Coakley. Baker’s mentor, Bill Weld, enjoyed widespread union support when he was Governor, and for good and tangible reasons. The same can be true of a Baker administration, and he is making moves to demonstrate that to major unions in the state. The reforms of state administration which he voices are no less significant to labor than to anyone else, because all of us suffer from state incompetence.

If Baker can pass the issues tests — as Healey has done in her own way — he can bring other smart unions, if not this time the Teamsters, to his side, as she has.

Were that to happen, there’ll be a very, very different state leadership than we have seen these past eight years. All to the good.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s