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^ the candidate of caution : Martha Coakley

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We applaud the two Governor candidates or having, and publishing, their plans for Massachusetts governance. I shall examine both plans in some detail and connect each to the candidate’s capability of accomplishing them. Today I look at Martha Coakley’s plan.

Coakley’s plan has several headings : Jobs and the economy; Education; Health care; Civil Rights; Energy and the Environment; Public Safety and Gun Control; transportation; Women; Housing; immigration; Worker’s’ Rights; and Veterans. All good, all much to be talked of and worked upon. I did not see any section on reforming the Criminal justice and prison system, or on rebuilding the Department of Families and Children ; but perhaps these are covered in the full-length explications that she has appended to her Plan’s sections as displayed at her website.

Unfortunately, the brief statement of principle attached to each heading in Coakley’s plan reads maddeningly vague. For example, this is what Coakley states as her principle for providing health care :

“Massachusetts has long been a national leader in providing high-quality, affordable health coverage to our citizens; the Commonwealth is home to some of the best hospitals in the world, and our companies are on the cutting edge of medical innovation. Our goal today must be to balance that world-class level of access and quality with affordability, and to recognize the importance of caring for those with behavioral health issues with the same commitment with which we care for those facing challenges to their physical health.”

Nobody could possibly disagree. But neither can anyone learn much about what steps Coakley would take to do the job she has outlined here. Even in a statement of principle, one ought to set orth at least some policy priority, or specific initiative. Much was made, by other Governor candidates during the Primary season, of allocating more state resources and administration to community clinics, and less to the huge mega-hospitals that former governor Mike Dukakis, for example, openly complained of at a Candidate Forum on Health care. It was well argued, by Don berwick especially, that community clinics provide better health care targeted to specific patients, at significantly lower cost. Of this debate one reads not a word in Coakley’s Health care statement of principle.

That said, I applaud Coakley for making Worker’s Rights a separate, specific priority. She is certainly on point to highlight the situation of workers enduring pay that is inadequate, wage theft, abuse of overtime, and reclassification as a temporary so the employer can avoid providing health insurance and benefits. She has the endorsement of many unions representing workers in situations like these ; but of what she will do to improve their lot, we read nothing in her Worker’s Rights statement of principle.

I also applaud Coakley for making very clear, in her Civil Rights statement, that her administration will protect and advance the rights of all, including everyone in the LBGTQ community. Time has long since passed for everyone to be protected and respected in the life that he or she lives. That Coakley has added “Q” to the usual “LGBT” also shows that she understands, and accepts, the “queer” or “gender fluidity” community, that has only recently come to politicians’ attention, as well as the more traditional lifestyle variants. Here she is on firm ground. It was her attorney general office that fought and won the landmark 2004 case that established marriage equality rights in Massachusetts six years before President Obama himself embraced them.

Still, civil rights is an easy cause to go all in on. Almost everyone in Massachusetts supports it. On the more difficult issues, Coakley embraces only the concept,l not any specifics. for example, this is what she has to say about Public Safety and Gun Control :

“Martha has spent her entire career in public service working to make the people of Massachusetts safer. Martha has sat with numerous families impacted by violent crimes, and prosecuted hundreds of dangerous criminals, including cases involving gun violence. She knows what works, and knows how to tackle the public safety challenges we still face; she is proud to have received the endorsement of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, Massachusetts Police Association.”

In that statement is not one word about gun control legislation now pending in, or planned to be presented to, the legislature.

Nor has Coakley much to say, in her immigration statement, about immigrants’ major legislative goals : drivers’ licenses for undocumented people, in-state tuition, the Trust act (which many cities have adopted, but which governor patrick has finessed). At Candidate Forums Coakley refused to express support for any of these. Steve Grossman passionately endorsed all three (and was as specific as anyone could be on a whole host of other major issues that coakley skims).

One gets the impression that these priorities aren’t really priorities for Coakley; that she will gladly go all in on goals that everyone agrees with but not take on anything controversial. Conclusion: Coakley will work these more controversial matters only bif citizen protest forces her hand.

One specific that Coakley has embraced is to establish universal pre-kindergartyen public education. it’s a worthy goal, f8irst because kids benefit from the social connectedness that they get in a school setting as oppose to the isolation, from other kids, at home; and second, because if kids as young as three or four years old are in school and thus supervised, it saves parents the h8uge costs of child care otherwise incurred because they have to work. And yes, universal pre-kindergarten schooling means more teacher jobs (and custodial services), and these will require taxpayer dollars; but i think the trade-off is well worth it to parents and thus to the community as a whole. Of course, the universal pre-kindergarten initiative is hardly controversial. all the candidates at Forums that I attended support it.

Lastly, there is nothing in Coakley’s plan about reforming state administration or upgrading the state’s technology. Nor is there one word in it about local aid commitments. Granted that these are Charlie Baker’s core issues ; but they matter a lot, and to all of us, not only to Baker people, both in terms of money waste and, grievously, for state government’s many failures to carry out its own commitments. To raise these issues, of course, Coakley would have to criticize the Patrick administration ; which at candidate Forums she was careful never to do, unlike both Steve Grossman and Don Berwick, who voiced criticisms aplenty and all maddeningly accurate.

Thus the Coakley plan, like her entire campaign as i have covered it all year long, avoids anything the least bit controversial, shrinks from boldness, rings eloquent about ideals almost all of us agree upon but falls silent when difficulty portends. If caution is what you want from our Governor, Coakley offers you all the caution you could possibly want. Her Plan amounts to “continue doing everything we are now doing.” Many voters will agree with that.

NOTE : I shall discuss various parts of the Coakley ;plan separately and in further detail as the campaign continues.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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