A casual and telling get-together with Governor Deval Patrick

February 3, 2010
By

Planned for 11,000 inhabitants, the Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side of Chicago housed over 27,000 residents at its peak and of those residents 95 percent of the housing development’s inhabitants were unemployed and listed as public assistance as their only income source, and 40 percent of the households were single-parent, female-headed households earning less than $5,000 per year.

The 28 drab, 16-story concrete high-rises, many blackened with the scars of arson fire, sat in a narrow two-block by 2.5-mile stretch of slum. The city’s neglect was evident in littered streets, poorly enforced building codes, and scant commercial or civic amenities.

This is where Governor Deval Patrick grew up. This was his environment before entering Milton Academy on a scholarship when he was a young boy living in a single parent household. He was the statistic but rose above the trend.

So you think he gets peeved when pundits say he or the Democratic party are not connecting with the struggling working class resident here in East Boston or the rest of the state during the country’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression?

You bet.

There’s a movement away from social liberalism in this state and toward a more deliberate focus on the economy here and abroad. Senator Scott Brown’s recent victory in the U.S. Senate race proved there’s an urgency among voters to see government do something more quickly to fix the economic crisis in the state and country.

At a casual lunch with political leaders at Rino’s Place in East Boston, Patrick shared his frustrations about the economy, the pain of cutting programs and the vision he has to curb spending, invest in the future and keep the Commonwealth on the path to fiscal recovery.

“It’s tough,” he said. “You know if you take a little money from one place it might mean eliminating a bed at a homeless shelter, like the one here in East Boston but you try your best to keep vital social programs that matter to struggling families funded and take from somewhere else.”

And that’s were the critics come in–ready to pen a story or editorial about ‘more Patrick cuts’ or ‘more state layoffs’ but never really give the governor the credit he deserves on some state spending.

In the race to keep his hold on the corner office against well-financed businessman Charlie Baker and State Treasure Tim Cahill, Patrick is striving to recreate the magic that catapulted him into the Massachusetts governorship in the first place.

Some would say his campaign ads will have to connect with people on the same level they did in 2006, or his stump speeches will have to be more polished and prove he’s done more than his opponents and that he will have to be less cynical or sarcastic towards the press.

“Sure I get mad,” he said, “But there’s a lot to be mad about in this state, in this country and in this economy but I’m by no means a mad guy.”

And he isn’t.

In fact he’s cool, calm, relaxed, intelligent and an all around down to earth guy.

He showed up to the lunch with no entourage, talked off the cuff, tried everything that came out of the small Italian kitchen (he said the chicken parmesan was his favorite) and impressed everyone at the table.

This is the Deval Patrick that has to re-emerge and campaign hard.

Also, Patrick should get the word out that his economic plans and spending in the state are indeed working as Massachusetts is crawling out of the economic crisis quicker than other state’s in the Union.

Massachusetts is in the top ten in the country for percentage of announced funds (across all funding categories) spent at 68 percent. In addition, Patrick and his team have met or exceeded all deadlines set by the federal government in recovery spending.

“Our administration has made economic recovery personal,” he said.

Stimulus funds in Lowell helped Tim Roussell keep his job as a police officer. Stimulus funds for low-income housing weatherization are helping Mary Reynolds and her grandchildren in Gloucester stay warm. And stimulus funds to upgrade the Fitchburg Commuter Rail line gave Jim Galvin “a whole second chance on life.”

Also, right in East Boston, Patrick backed the $12 million in stimulus money to build a brand new, state-of-the-art Health Center facility in Maverick Square that will create 175 construction jobs for two years and 50 permanent jobs in the health care industry.

“This is the work we are dedicated to continuing in East Boston and the state,” said Patrick.

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