GOVERNOR BAKER : THE TRANSITION TEAMS AND WHAT THEY TELL US

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^ transition team member (Health Team) Jack Kelly of Charlestown with LtGov Karyn Polito (l) and the Governor (r). To his right, Rebecca Love

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He hasn’t been sworn in yet — that date is January 8th — but Charlie Baker’s 170-plus transition teams tells us a lot about how he will govern as well as who he will call upon to deliver his goods.

The first task is to read the list of names, so here it is, in a link to the news story in which it was announced : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/12/11/advice-charlie-baker-wants-lots-names-many-transition-committees/WkDAsvFlXN6aKvMSS1bm3K/story.html

There are five teams mentioned in the media story : Schools; Better Government ; Jobs and the Economy; Health; and Community. This list by itself tells us what Baker’s agenda priorities will be. None is a surprise. His entire campiagn focused on these five areas of concern, of purpose, and of his personal expertise.

The difficulty arises with the specific names chosen, or, should I say, with who, or what kinds of people, were not chosen. Because politics is so bound up with the personal – it is through people, after all, that things get done — it matters when entire interests get left out, or when other interests are over-represented. In this regard, many activists will take issue with who Baker has chosen and not chosen.

Most likely to generate controversy are the members of his Jobs and the Economy committee and the Community Committee. More about that later. First, his Schools team.

The composition of this team will not please opponents of lifting the charter school cap. It’s weighted almost entirely in favor of school innovation, including charters, and having former MFT (Massachusetts Federation of Teachers) head Paul Toner aboard seems almost a declaration of war with the current MFT head, a teacher union firebrand who ousted Toner from his much more flexible approach to the State’s education decisions. That said, it’s a big plus to see Chelsea Public schools superintendent Mary Bourque named as well as legendary Boston Latin School headmaster (emeritus) Michael Contompasis. Good, too, that almost everyone on this team is a city person. it’s in the cities that the “achievement gap” resides and in the cities that it must be solved. I am betting that this team will advocate transformations of education as radical as those proposed last year by Boston mayoral candidate John Connolly, who, even though not named to the schools team (probably a mutual choice), has to be quite pleased with its orientation.

As for the Community Team, why are so many real estate people on it ? Is this not really a Housing and development team more than a “Community” team ? Housing is definitely a public policy priority; but for “Community,” an even higher priority is personal clout and credibility. It seems to me that a Governor would want his “Community” committee to feature the people who campaigned most effectively for him and who are now looked to by the voters who listened. Yet the only people on this committee who fit that description, so far as I can tell, are Paul Treseler of west Roxbury, Robert Lewis and Chris Jones of Roxbury, Marc Laplante of Lawrence, Kevin Mullen of St Brendan’s Dorchester, and Bing Broderick of Haley House. All are terrific choices : but why are Meghan Haggerty of Dorchester, John Sepulveda of East Boston, Phil Frattaroli of the North End, Kristen Phelan of Downtown not named ? Why not Marty Keogh of Hyde Park and West Roxbury ? Why no Haitian or Cape Verdean ? No Viet Namese ? Why no major Hispanic leader ? Why no one from South Boston, Fall River, Lynn, Pittsfield ?

and why so many advocacy group spokespeople ? I thought the object was to go directly to the voters, not to them via opinion brokerages, as it were.

Perhaps Baker’s thinking that every political person he might name has as many enemies as followers, because that’s how it is when you are a precinct-level campaigner. The more effective you are, the more neighbors you have defeated. Yet activists are not fools. They expect their winning neighbors to have the Governor’s ear, and most of them want that to happen, because the entire neighborhood benefits from it.

I think that Baker has missed an opportunity by not making his “Community” team less about housing and more about outreach and input.

Baker’s Jobs and the Economy team also puzzles. How can the Governor seek advice on jobs and the economy but not include at least a couple of labor leaders ? Yes, almost every labor union in the Boston area passionately opposed Baker — and were quite foolish to do so. Yet much of their opposition had to do with control of the Democratic party looking to the 2016 presidential nomination. Every union leader with half a brain understands that the Governor, especially a building-boom man like Baker, has plenty to offer to union rank and file. Obviously you do not ask advice from a stubborn oppositionist like Robert Haynes, or open doors for the AFL-CIO’s negative-campaign stink bombers. But it was, i think, a bad decision not to have at least one leader from Local 26 Hotel and Hospitality workers on the Jobs and Economy team, or someone from SEIU. These unions are not irrevocable enemies of the Baker agenda, not at all.

Perhaps these reasonable unionists preferred to stay outside the inner circle, and perhaps they and Baker agreed thereby. If so, good enough. As it is unionists do have one strong transition team advocate in Chelsea City manager Jay Ash, who is a co-chair of the Jobs and Economy committee, and another good advocate in building trades leader Mark Erlich, of the Council of Carpenters.

To sum up : Baker clearly intends to govern through institutions, agencies, and bureaucracies first of all. I would have preferred a more informal, people orientation, but bureaucracy and agency are how our state is organized these days. Badly organized, too.

It takes agency minds to reform agency cultures and procedures. Baker is himself an agency mind. He promised to make bureacracies and agencies work better. Whatever his economic and education biases — and these are quite clear — at least the stuff that he wants will get done and the services he wants will be delivered, to those who need them most.

—- 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.

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