C'mon Governor Patrick, Let's See You Get Out There and Lead!

C'mon Governor Patrick, Let's See You Get Out There and Lead!

© David Burton 2009


     Herewith is my message to Deval Patrick, the current governor of Massachusetts. Our state has been languishing without effective guidance since before the current recession. Governor, it's time for you to show your management skills and to take the point position in order to make Massachusetts a leader in the post-recession economy and to make it an affordable state in which to live and to do business.

Make all roads, bridges and tunnels in the state toll-free.

     In order to obtain voter approval and funding to build the Massachusetts Turnpike, “Turnpike officials promised drivers that tolls would disappear once the system was paid for. More than 40 years later, however, the charges have simply continued to fund an inefficient toll-collection bureaucracy whose booth-bound employees can earn $70,000 a year or more. … According to a study by the Reason Foundation, the Massachusetts Turnpike’s operating and management costs are twice as high per dollar collected than the average for 35 other toll authorities around the world.” (Ref. 2) On the 150 mile long Massachusetts Turnpike. "About 25 percent of toll revenue goes to collecting the tolls.” (Ref. 1) Doing away with tolls will eliminate the need for drivers to stop and pay tolls and it would get rid of the lines at toll booths during peak travel periods. This action would finally honor the promises made decades ago by the state’s politicians to eliminate the tolls at the Mystic-Tobin Bridge and the Massachusetts Turnpike once the construction bonds were paid off.

     “A surge in electronic toll use on the Massachusetts Turnpike combined with sky-high transponder requests has some (Turnpike Authority) board members foreseeing heavy backups at Fast Lane toll booths and potentially more Pike crashes as a result.” (Ref. 3)

     Following a chain-reaction crash at a Massachusetts Turnpike toll plaza, Mary Connaughton, a Turnpike board member said that toll booths should be eliminated altogether because they’re a hazard. (Ref. 4) Inefficient toll-taking and extra heavy traffic combined to create a “nightmarish Easter gridlock” (Ref. 5) on the Mass. Pike, followed a week later by a similar traffic backup on Marathon Monday. Why do we have to keep putting up with these avoidable traffic disasters?

     Increase the state’s gasoline tax to make up for lost toll revenue. This would spread the costs of the Big Dig and all other highway costs equitably over all motorists in the state. Such moves would provide the following benefits:

  • Elimination of toll takers and their associated benefits - sick leave, vacation, retirement pension, etc.
  • Elimination of the costs associated with toll collection - toll machines, toll booths, transponders, maintenance, etc.
  • Elimination of toll booth collection - speed up flow of traffic, eliminate toll booth accidents, etc.
  • Reduction in fuel consumption by elimination of congestion and start-stop driving at toll booths
  • Elimination of the administrative functions and costs associated with toll collection
  • Elimination of double taxation produced by both a gasoline tax and tolls
  • Greater energy conservation and reduction in pollution through discouragement of unnecessary driving by increasing the cost of gasoline.
     Of course, the teamster union that represents the toll takers is opposed to replacing toll takers with machines. After all, this is Massachusetts where liberal Democratic politicians that rule this state are beholden to the unions for their elected positions. Governor Patrick, be bold! Let’s see you lead instead of following the dictates of the state’s labor unions. Get rid of all the toll booths in the state and replace toll revenues with an increase in the gasoline tax.

Eliminate the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes on Massachusetts highways.

     Heading south from Boston on I-93 at rush hour, we are faced with a parking lot on a “high-speed” interstate highway. On this same highway lies a strip of empty concrete known as the HOV lane, which is noteworthy for the few low occupancy vehicles using it.

     ”The theory behind HOV lanes, (valid some 30 years ago during the Arab oil embargo when there was a shortage of gasoline), promoted by (very outdated) federal transportation laws, is that commuters will change their behavior (which they may have done with a fuel shortage, but are not doing with high fuel costs) - driving alone - if offered relief from traffic congestion. ... It hasn’t worked out that way.” (Ref. 6)

     ”Today, there is no major gasoline shortage. There are no lines at gas pumps, and most importantly today, HOV lanes do not encourage ride sharing! Gasoline prices have certainly risen, but I don’t see the number of cars on the road decreasing. I also don’t see any increase in car pooling during the commuter rush hours. I challenge anyone to name one person who leaves their car at home in order to be able to ride in a ‘high speed’ lane. There is a reason why the number of automobile occupants has been reduced to 2 to qualify for high occupancy status. The reason is that people don’t join commuter pools simply to ride in the HOV lane.
     "During commuter rush hour, the HOV lane is unavailable to the majority of commuters, resulting in fewer lanes to carry the increased commuter traffic. This causes commuters to crawl along in rush hour traffic, burning additional fuel and slowing down their commutes to work or to home while the HOV lane is virtually empty. When a breakdown occurs in the HOV lane, traffic in the HOV lane must come to a halt since there is no way to exit the HOV lane, again resulting in additional fuel consumption and more delays for HOV lane drivers. When a breakdown occurs in the non-HOV lanes, traffic must slow down or halt there, since there is no way to use the HOV lane, again resulting in additional fuel consumption and more delays. People join commuter car pools whether or not they can drive in the HOV lane. The availability of the HOV lane is totally irrelevant today.
     “What the HOV lane currently does is to increase gasoline consumption, inconvenience the majority of commuters and increase atmospheric pollution.” (Ref. 7)

     ”Instead of sticking to responses to a problem that existed 30 years ago, it would behoove Massachusetts bureaucrats to bring their thinking and planning into the 21st century. If they don’t think conditions in 2005 are different from those in 1972, let them conduct a quick study or review to determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of HOV lanes. They just might find that it makes much greater sense to take the HOV lanes and add them to the other non-HOV travel lanes.” (Ref. 7)

     Governor, get rid of those state employees who refuse to attack today's problems and simply keep on doing what's been done for the past few decades without using their brains to determine what makes sense in today's environment. Make them justify their actions or inactions on a regular basis. The state doesn't need hacks who are simply sitting at their desks until it's time to retire. If they won't earn their pay by eliminating the outdated HOV lanes, replace them with people who will!

Let’s Get Efficient in Using What’s Given to us.

     “Gov. Deval Patrick announced … that the $1.9 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money he’s spent … has ‘created or retained’ 23,533 jobs. ... That’s $80,737 per job over just seven months. ... in fact, only 8,792 full-time equivalent jobs have been saved. That’s $216,105 per full-time job. Most workers would probably have rather gotten the check. ... According to the state Department of Workforce and Labor development figures, a total of 39,000 Massachusetts residents have actually lost their jobs since the beginning of March.” (Ref. 8)

     Governor, instead of making excuses for inaction and bureaucratic ineptitude, how about being proactive and taking the lead in getting the job done and done right the first time? If the federal government provides stimulus funding, make the most efficient and timely use of it.

Be Prepared!

     “A tense exchange of letters between a leading Democrat in Congress and Gov. Deval Patrick has revealed that the Bay State ranks 49th among the states for federal stimulus spending on highway work (part of the $787 billion federal stimulus money). ... So much for ‘shovel-ready.' ... Patrick fired back that his team has taken a balanced approach – favoring projects that carry short and longer-term jobs potential, instead of concentrating on quick fixes like road-paving. Smart on paper, but cold comfort when so many people are looking for jobs now.” (Ref. 9)

     Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Governor, cut the BS. Fire whoever isn’t competent enough to get the job done and appoint someone who will take immediate action to relieve the economic crisis facing the state and the nearly 10% who are jobless - now, not tomorrow.

Hey Governor, Stop Sending Massachusetts Dollars to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine!

     “Despite the worst recession in a generation, Massachusetts residents made more than 7 million visits to Connecticut’s resort casinos along with Rhode Island and Maine’s slot parlors last year, according to ‘Playing the Odds II,’ a survey of New England residents’ gambling behavior.” (Ref. 10)

     It’s unbelievable. Massachusetts has been bleeding jobs and revenue while sending both money and jobs out of state because our governor and our legislature have waffled for well over a year on the issue of legalizing casino gambling in the Bay State. When the issue resurfaced recently, you indicated that now you were in favor of casino gambling here, but now the legislature says it can’t find the time to vote on the legislation. You and they have to be kidding! You’re laying off state employees because of a lack of revenue while you and the legislature can’t find the time to start the process of retaining Massachusetts citizens’ gambling and resort money here in our state. How is it that you and the legislature immediately found the time to change the state’s temporary succession law after Senator Ted Kennedy’s death when pressed by the President and the Democratic Party leadership?

     Governor, how about showing some backbone? Get the legislature to immediately legalize casino gambling in our state, sign it into law, and start the process of developing the casinos, creating jobs, raking in our share of the casinos' profits, and keeping all that gambling money here in Massachusetts.

Let’s Show Common Sense

     “At the bidding of public employee unions and some car insurance providers, the (Democratic) party is doing its best to kill a pilot program that allows thousands of Massachusetts motorists to renew licenses and car registrations without waiting in endless Registry lines. ... The Registry of Motor Vehicles has … (closed) seven branches since July doubling wait times – but has been operating a pilot program that allowed members of the American Automobile Association to conduct routine business at (selected) AAA offices. ... Maine and Rhode Island have a similar arrangement, and the RMV had hoped to expand (the program).” (Ref. 11)

     But, “the unions have pressured their legislative allies to kill the program." The Democratic controlled Massachusetts legislature “spiked a Republican effort that would have made” the arrangement with AAA “permanent.” (Ref. 11)

     Governor, stand up for us little guys! Buck the unions and the special interest groups. Fight to have the arrangement with AAA restored and made permanent. If the RMV doesn’t have the funds to serve Massachusetts motorists, let AAA do it at no cost to Massachusetts taxpayers.

Stop Kow-towing to the Unions

     When the Hyatt hotel chain fired 100 housekeepers in Boston and replaced them with lower-wage replacements, Governor Deval Patrick threatened “a state government boycott of Hyatt hotels until the workers are rehired. ... for the state’s chief executive to order a boycott that threatens the livelihoods of his constituents who are still employed by the hotel chain is simply irresponsible.” (Ref. 12)

     Massachusetts recently established a 7-member sheet-metal licensing board, with the governor appointing 5 of these members. “All five of Gov. Deval Patrick’s board appointees are union affiliated. Non-union sheet-metal installers say that most sheet-metal jobs in Massachusetts are done by non-union shops, but they have no representation on the state board.” (Ref. 13)

     Governor, stop being subservient to the labor unions in this state. I know that you and your Democratic associates are beholden to the labor unions for their money and their votes, but let’s remember that you represent all the citizens, not just the few that are union members. Let’s show some intestinal fortitude and do what’s right, not just what’s politically expedient.

It’s Time to Allow More Charter Schools in Massachusetts

     “New MCAS results showed charter (schools) again outperforming the (public schools) in the districts from which their students come on every subject at every grade level. ... According to a 2006 Massachusetts Department of Education study, the vast majority of students in charter public schools here score significantly higher on MCAS than district students from the same districts.” In spite of these facts, the state teachers’ union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association or MTA, vigorously opposes the creation of more charter schools. Why? They do so in order to perpetuate their antiquated feather-bedding control over public schools where teaching jobs are for life even if the teacher is incompetent. “Charter schools can pay teachers for performance, and are not limited by rigid union contracts. This flexibility allows charter schools to hire the best teachers … Are teachers unions ‘ready’ to accept ‘pay for performance’?” The number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts is capped by law. In view of the obvious success in providing improved education to all students enrolled in the program, the cap needs to be raised so more students can benefit. In addition, “Failure to raise the cap may mean leaving $300 million in federal funds on the table, since the Obama administration has made lifting the charter caps a criterion for its Race to the Top grants.” (Ref’s. 14 & 15)

     Governor Patrick, for the sake of the families of the 23,000 students on the charter school waiting lists, you need to lead the charge to raise the cap on the number of charter schools in this state and this needs to be done now. Our children deserve it. “At the K-12 level, (you) should increase the number of charter schools or, better yet, introduce vouchers. This would enhance choice, variety and innovation in publicly funded education. Vouchers and charter schools reduce expenditures by hiring non-unionized and alternative certification teachers. With an expanded pool of qualified teachers, Massachusetts can spend less while improving the quality of teaching.” (Ref. 16) The state would also avoid the possibility of losing some badly needed $300 million in federal funds.

We Need to Get On with the Cape Wind Project

     “In the United States, the wind-energy industry has risen an average of 32 percent per year during the last five years. But despite efficiency improvements and other technology developments, the country still lags behind European and Asian nations in harvesting wind – particularly offshore wind - for electricity.” (Ref. 17)

     “Massachusetts is blowing nothing but hot air unless it finds a better way to site new wind-energy projects, a new report says. ... The report, conducted for the state by private environmental consultants, says Massachusetts has fallen ‘way behind’ other regions of the country in developing wind energy. ... The state is suffering from lack of a ‘one stop’ regulatory agency for small renewable-energy projects, said the report. (Ref. 18)

     Here in Massachusetts, we have seen the Cape Wind project languish for years because of selfish politics. It’s time to stop the bickering and stalling and get on with the project. We here in New England need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce energy costs, and cut down on pollution.

     Governor, step out on this issue and put on a concerted effort to cut through all the red tape and obfuscations and get the Cape Wind project moving – the sooner the better.

Governor, YOU Need to Reduce the Cost of Living and Doing Business in Massachusetts

     Massachusetts is known as Taxachusetts for valid reasons. Businesses move out of this state and new businesses decline to move into Massachusetts because of the high cost of doing business here, the inability to attract qualified workers because they can’t afford the cost of living here and the not necessarily undeserved reputation of Massachusetts legislators favoring organized labor over business. For the fiscal year 2007, Massachusetts had the third highest state individual income taxes collected per capita at $1,770, ranking only below Connecticut ($1,811) and New York. ($1,793) (Ref. 19) “Massachusetts has the highest energy costs in the nation. Our roads are expensive (only New Jersey spends more per state road mile).” (Ref. 20) Massachusetts businesses “pay more than other states in unemployment taxes.” (Ref. 21) ”According to Moody’s Economy.com, Massachusetts’ total business costs are the second highest in the nation. Massachusetts had the second highest rate of job loss in the recession of 2001 - 2004 and has badly trailed the rest of the nation in the economic recovery. Only Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio have worse job creation records over the past four years.” (Ref. 22) “Medical care in Massachusetts is the most expensive in the country - $7,075 per resident every year, compared to the national average of $5,313.” (Ref. 23) “. . . the cost of housing {in Massachusetts} . . . consumes about 25 percent more of our income here than the national average , . . . our utilities are more expensive than just about anywhere else.” (Ref. 24)

     Governor Patrick, It’s up to YOU to take the lead in reversing all of these adverse trends. YOU need to start the process of reducing the astronomical costs of doing business in Massachusetts. YOU need to start the process of making living costs more affordable for our citizens. YOU need to wean yourself and your political party from slavish subservience to the teachers unions and other labor unions. What’s it going to be Governor? Will you be bold and lead or will you be meek and be gone? C'mon Governor - govern!
  1. ’Just words’ no solution, Michael Graham, Boston herald, Page 19, February 26, 2008.
  2. Tax Revolt - Massachusetts, National Taxpayers Union Foundation, Page 5, July/August 2009.
  3. FAST LANE SLOWDOWN EN ROUTE?, Hillary Chabot, Boston Herald, Page 5, June 23, 2009.
  4. Toll booths eyed as safety hazard, Edward Mason, Boston Herald, Page 4, October 27, 2009.
  5. ALL JAMMED UP AGAIN … Marathon waits on Pike, Hillary Chabot, Boston Herald, Page 7, April 12, 2009.
  6. HOV lanes drive us commuters crazy, Cornelius Chapman, Boston Herald, Page 29, February 23, 2008.
  7. Outdated and thoughtless traffic planning, David Burton, www.sonofeliyahu.com, November 1, 2005
  8. Stimulus success? State pegs jobs at $216G apiece,Frank Quaratiello, Hillary Chabot and Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald, Page25, October 29, 2009.
  9. Delayed recovery, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 14, October 6, 2009.
  10. Hard times? Bay Staters go gambling, Thomas Grillo, Boston Herald, Page 24, October 28, 2009.
  11. Dems’ license to kill, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 20, October 26, 2009.
  12. Candidate Deval Checks in, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 20, September 25, 2009.
  13. Sheet-metal board OKs new rules, Christine McConville, Boston Herald, Page 23, September 15, 2009.
  14. Charter success foreign to State House, Charles Chiepo, Boston Herald, Page 21, September 22, 2009.
  15. Promote the charters, R. Kingman Webster, Boston Herald, Page 21, September 4, 2009.
  16. Belts yet to tighten, Jeffrey A. Miron, Boston Herald, Page 19, May 6, 2009.
  17. Offshore Wind: An Untapped Energy Source, Grace V. Jean, National Defense, Page 16, May 2009.
  18. Report: Bay State behind on wind energy, Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald, Page 24, April 17, 2009.
  19. Your AARP – State News, AARP Bulletin, Page 30, October 2009.
  20. Just ONE thing in mind: Taxes, Michael Graham, Boston Herald, Page 19, October 27, 2009.
  21. Tax proposals hard to swallow, Michael Graham, Boston Herald, Page 21, May 14, 2009.
  22. Mass jobs taxed away, Joseph P. Campanelli and Thomas Wroe, Jr., The Boston Herald, pg 21, June 25, 2007.
  23. The Costly side effects to health-care reform, Marylou Buyse, The Boston Herald, pg 19, June 30, 2007.
  24. Under Deval, highway robbery takes its toll , Michael Graham, The Boston Herald, pg 27, June 21, 2006.

  05 November 2009 {Article 60; State_03}    
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