^ Governor Baker, senate President Rosenberg, Speaker DeLeo : The T’s new managers, serving, hopefully, an Olympics constituency of money and political clout, can get T reform done. Maybe.
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There’s a $ 375,000 job available to all who qualify. We’re not talking small beer. This is a salary the Seaport District’s million-dollar condos understand and also its $ 75-a-meal bistros.
Do I have any takers ?
Now that T manager Beverly Scott has resigned, essentially saying two bleepable words to those who govern our state, some seem tempted to say that it’s all Governor Baker’s fault. That’s how it is in today’s political world. One’s opponents never let up. Whatever moves you try to make, to solve the state’s problems, they decry, obstruct, denigrate. Today my twitter feed is full of this crap. Scott’s in-your-face resignation had that sort of taste to it also. She gave the Governor no warning, no courtesy. So be it.
I am tempted to say to Scott, OK, if that’s how you want it, good riddance. But no. The better response is simply to move ahead with the vast reforms the “T” needs badly if it’s to be a boon, not a barrier, to Boston’s booming economy.
Which reform first ? As I see it, we have to begiun by recogniz ing that the “T: serves, mostly, those on the lower end of the pay scale. CEOs and corporate bigwigs do not use the T. (If they did, Boston’s “T” would be limousine and champagne quality.) The “T” serves what Mayor Ray Flynn used to call the “5 AM people” : the office cleaners, hospital laundry workers, day laborers, cooks, health aides, and other minimum-wage people whom the rest of us never see, because most of them work behind the scenes when they aren’t commuting to a job at hours that for most of us are family time.
Sit at the Haymarket bus station at 4.4 AM on a Saturday morning — as i have done many many times waiting for the 450 bus back home after journo-ing an all-night DJ gig — and you’ll see the 117 bus arrive, from Maverick Square, packed standing room only, almost all of brown-skin people — many of whom the nativists decry and want to deport; people rushing to smelly low-pay jobs in hospital basements or to office janitor work that has to be finished before the Important people — the $ 200,000 people — arrive to do their mega-deals or lawyer-up a corporate stock offering in a gleaming-spiffy mega-office.
That’s a huge part of the “T” ridership and a big reason why nothing gets done.
Bad spending by the “T” has been cited by Governor Baker, who seems to think that the “T”‘s difficulties are managerial. I disagree. The bad decisions he cites — a $ 114 million dollar Berkshire track purchase, $ 25 million for a passenger spur to Gillette Stadium — amount to nothing compared to the many, many billions of dollars needed to repair and upgrade the T’s tracks, signals, trains, stations, and buses.
To me it seems that it was easier for the T to get political OK for capital purchases in the $ 150 million dollar range than to look for tax dollars by the billions to make sure that what they already have actually works.
It is also said that General Manager Scott took expensive junkets. This was bad form, but can anyone contend rationally that her junket costs matter in the face of billions of dollars of upgrade and reform ?
What is wrong with the T is NOT how it’s managed. The T’s problems ae two : ( 1 ) financial, and ( 2 ) a complete lack of constituency power.
Because the 2024 Olympics cannot come to Boston unless we radically reconfigure the T, and because the entire business community — and most of the political community — support bringing the Games to Boston, the T now finds its two big problems solved. It has a power constituency at hand; and that means that it will have the money it needs to rebuild.
A lot of that money will be tax revenue dedicated to the purpose. It is now up to Governor Baker. He has said ‘no new taxes.’ but that was then, in the context of our stare doing business as usual. The T’s Olympic games challenge is not business as usual, any more than the T’s current state can be allowed to continue as usual.
it’s also up to Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. Governor Baker would be foolish to propose new T taxes without the two legislative leaders on board with his proposal from the git-go.
Will it happen ? I think it will. The powers that be will insist. Thank goodness that they’re aboard.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere