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Monday, February 26, 2007

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Expensive Drapes!

Porcupine has never been a big fan of Deval Patrick's point of view, but he never doubted his intelligence. So, his odd gaffes since beginning office have been puzzling.

First, the helicopter. Next, the high end interior decorating. Then, the infamous Cadillac. Porcupine wryly suspected that those missteps were cover for the real end run - rewarding a political funddraiser with a plum job on the state payroll, helping establish Diane Patrick as a dual political force. But, this most recent episode of having the State Police drive the Coupe DeValle to Washington, D.C. - a city with no parking where Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices take taxis and where Patrick worked for years - for his use at the National Governors Conference made Porcupine wonder what else Governor Patrick was up to; he couldn't possibly be that tone deaf to public opinion!

A little quick research confirmed that Gov. Patrick has been busy indeed while the press remains riveted on financially trivial issues. This has not been much of a trick, as Gov. Patrick has taken to using Friday afternoon 'media dumps' to demonstrate his transparency - sending out important press releases late on Friday, when reporters are less likely to be around and may miss them.

First, there is the Municipal Partnership Bill (a link to the Mass. Municipal Association analysis is provided
HERE). Had Mitt Romney tried to make such sweeping changes, the media would have been shreiking like a steam calliope. Some features:
  • If the cities and towns elect the local option meals tax, a portion will go to the state, along with what they already collect.
  • Newspapers can be bypassed by cities and towns for legal notices in favor of internet postings (now do we have your attention, MSM?)
  • Union stewards will still be able to veto the towns if they want to buy in to the GIC for health insurance
  • 'Underperforming' pension systems will be REQUIRED to fold themselves into the state plan, bypassing local autonomy. There is an appeals mechanism included - but the decision will be made by the pension board.

There is also a great deal about tax collection fees, which seem to be aimed at the City of Springfield, and some seem retroactive.

Gov. Patrick also announced the creation of a new Director of Municipal Affairs position within the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and issued an Executive Order to establish a Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet. He appointed Taunton Mayor Robert Nunes as Director of Municipal Affairs. This Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet will "coordinate the implementation of municipal impact statements on legislation and executive orders, and it will provide analysis of home rule legislation to determine if the particular provision should be applied broadly to all cities and towns, thereby providing permanent local authority." Not that the towns asked for it, mind. The cabinet, chaired by Nunes, will include the State Purchasing Agent, the Chief Information Officer, the Commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (better known as DCAMM and responsible for all state property and land), the director of the Group Insurance Commission, the Personnel Administrator, the chair of the Civil Service Commission, for starters - Administration and Finance can appoint more. The cabinet will also work 'to implement and analyze recommendations from the Local Government Advisory Commission, which meets regularly with the administration'.

Here is a link to the membershipof the Local Government Advisory Commission (HERE).

Mayor Nunes takes over as head of the Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services, which is responsible for all matters pertaining to local taxation, on March 12.

This is an amazing consolidation of power, and it may or may not bode well for the small towns of Massachusetts. What is certain is that it is virtually unreported, as the press remains riveted by the Magical Automobile.

Porcupine decries the ferrying of the Cadillac to D.C., on the basis of gas mileage alone (and WHAT will that do to the mileage at the end of the lease?). But it is to be hoped that these other balls in the air get some watching, before being swept away in the furor of the budget release. Since all these Friday afternoon information releases seem designed to make sure we don't look at them at all.


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