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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It was the Epoxy, in the Boardroom, with the Candlestick....

This photo of the usually unflappable Gov. Romney is from a year ago today, after inspecting the damage from the catastrophic collapse in the I-90 tunnel. A friend of Porcupine’s sent it with the caption, “Don’t make me angry, Mr. Amorello. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’

It appears that Romney had plenty to be mad about. The long awaited National Transportation Safety board report was released yesterday on the anniversary of the tunnel collapse which killed Milena Del Valle. The only blessing in the event was that it happened late at night, or literally hundreds would also have been killed, which is scant comfort for her family.

The new Secretary of Transportation, Bernard Cohen, talked about the report last night on Greater Boston. According to Secretary Cohen, a change was made in the type of epoxy used during a design shift sometime in 2003. Cost does not seem to have been a factor, as the quick set and long drying epoxies are similar in price, but a desire to hurry may have been a factor. Criminal charges are still being considered against the various engineers and firms involved by Atty. Gen. Coakley, so the Secretary was not as forthcoming as he may be in days to come.

Now for the weird part.

Porcupine had never read Mitt Romney’s book, ‘Turnaround’, because…well…he just isn’t that interested in the Olympic Games. His impression was that it was a tale of corruption crushed, etc., rah rah. However, he got a copy included when he bought the new Hugh Hewitt book about Romney on Amazon, and eventually, he read it. When Porcupine got to page 160, his jaw fell open.

Romney writes about the single biggest disaster that befell the Olympics other than the bribery scandal – the enormous dome built for the ice skating events had its ceiling collapse. It was made of…cement panels held in place with the wrong epoxy. He talks about the Herculean effort to get the dome rebuilt in time for the games, and notes that it was a blessing that it happened at night, or the practicing competitors would have been killed. The entire event is just an eerie coincidence.

Porcupine remembers that Mitt Romney first tried to take control of the Mass. Turnpike Authority in 2003 – and the Legislature struck it out of the budget. Every year, Romney tried to get information and control over the tunnels, but he was fought off by Matt Amorello, a Swift appointee who had his own grudges against Romney and who certainly wasn’t going to cede information or control to him. It even went so far that Romney asked the Supreme Judicial court for a ruling as to how he could compel Amorello to turn over finances and specs – after all, Jordan Levy and Christy Mihos had just been successful in a lawsuit when then-Gov. Jane Swift tried to fire them. The SJC replied that there was no emergency situation to justify such a compulsion of an independent authority, and that in the ‘fullness of time’ Romney would be able to appoint his own representatives as terms expired, and perhaps THEN he could get the information he wanted. Even that became dicey, as the 2006 budget contained a clause – inserted by Amorello’s good friend Sen. Diane Wilkerson – that would have so packed the board that Romney still wouldn’t have been able to get control.

Of course, then the tunnel collapsed. Quickly, Romney was handed control on a silver platter by the Legislature, after it was too late.

At the time, Porcupine thought as others did – that Romney was after the grotesque fiscal improprieties of the Turnpike Authority, and indeed, probably he was. But as he wrote, “I learned a great deal very quickly from the best engineers in the world about this type of construction, and what was needed for it to be safe.”

Imagine if the arrogant, partisan, corrupt and uninvolved Massachusetts Legislature had granted Romney the access he requested (which they are giving now to Cohen, now that a Democrat’s in charge and all those toll-taker jobs will be safe). The money and waste would still have happened – but a family might have had its mother as well.

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