Friday, December 15, 2006

Little Bobby Stamps His Foot

Scholars of Boston politics, and those who just consider it entertainment, revel in Bobby Travaglini's schoolyard fit yesterday. It says much about him and what passes for civics on Beacon Hill and at City Hall.

The public here voted by a huge margin for change. The stagnant government of old-politics legislature and a do-nothing, propose-nothing combination of executive and lawmaking branches didn't cut it and hadn't for over a decade. So, if the sketchy lead in today's Boston Globe is accurate, Travaglini is too dull witted to see the obvious.

Instead of stepping up to pledge to fix what's broken in Massachusetts, he apparently threatened Governor Elect Deval Patrick. If the big man doesn't bow at his feet, Travaglini will try to prevent the reforms the public demanded last month.

For some years, we've called our Senate President Robert E. (Don't Call Me Bobby Anymore) Travaglini. We knew him first as a muttering and not overly bright City Councilor out of East Boston. After 10 years in City Hall, he has been in the state senate since 1993 and speaker since 2003.

At loggerheads with cliché spouting Republican governors and a General Court with too many DINOs, Travaglini has let the ship of state drift. The old politics of projects for the home folk at the expense of the commonwealth were the order of the decade, even before he became majority whip in 1999.

When the tough calls came, like enacting a marriage-equality law after the 2003 Supreme Judicial Court mandate, Bobby must have been out having a pastry. He didn't get it done...and still hasn't. We are in the mess we are with anti-marriage-equality amendments because of him, much as our economy founders from lack of leadership.

The Globe based its lead on an unattributed quote:
According to the notes of one audience member, Travaglini said: "I told the governor-elect, if you're willing to share and you care and you prepare and are ready to deliver, then everything will work out. If not, I have senators across the state who share my vision and my approach and if forced to choose, I'm comfortable with whom they'll choose."
This came from an address to a couple hundred folk at a meeting of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties yesterday.

Given the overwhelming calls for change in the November election, a kindergartner should be able make the connection to what's next. You run the Senate, and you pledge to work with the charismatic and popular Patrick to make Massachusetts work for all of us. (Cue angelic chorus.)

Instead, the old Eastie guy reveals his nature and that of Boston politics. Insist the other guy come to you, make nice, and ask very politely for anything.

Wait, you say. Isn't the Governor more important than the Senate President? Didn't the people make it plain the legislature had failed and they wanted big changes? Didn't the voters endorse en masse the agenda Patrick so clearly set forward to them?

Yes, yes and yes, but that's beside the point in Beantown. You can take Bobby out of City Hall, but you can't take the City Council out of Bobby. He has fallen back on the rules that got him to what he called in his 2003 inaugural address "the personal and professional pinnacle of my life."

Ironically, his threat yesterday aimed at a true reform leader contrasts to his pledge to incoming Governor Willard Mitt Romney in that same 2003 address -- "The Governor-Elect will have our cooperation as he lays out his program for improving Massachusetts. The Senate stands ready to work with him and our colleagues in the House to put aside our egos, personalities, and party affiliations and focus upon the people's business."

When he was still Bobby, he watched Kevin White and other old pols play the same ego games. On paper, Boston's mayor is the real power, but the City Councilors do not acknowledge that. They have enough budget authority to push, push, push. Traditionally as a result, the mayor comes to the council chamber to address them. It is, like they might say in some gangster movie, a sign of respect.

When Ray Flynn moved from Council into the mayor's suite, he learned that. As Councilor, he had played the same schoolyard game. Yet, as Mayor Flynn, he suddenly expected the Councilors to come to his office and ask for what they wanted. He somehow didn't understand how to play the same game from the other side one floor up. That didn't work and he had to adapt to the rules he had played by before.

Now Bobby wants to bring City Council around the corner and up Beacon Street. Patrick is supposed to come hat in hand.

We're betting it won't work. If that outrageous threat is accurately quoted and really the way Bobby is thinking, he's due for a shock. If there is a choice, he's going to be standing with his back to the crowd who are listening to Patrick.

Instead, Patrick has made it clear:
  1. The public is due an active government that will fix what's broken
  2. The executive branch will do more than its part, first providing the agenda and then helping make it happen
  3. The changes will come about when for the first time in over a decade, lawmakers and the governor work together
So, if Bobby wants to play East Boston thug, he's watched the river of change flow rapidly by him. Get with the program!

Bobby Listens (To Someone Else): Trav apparently got the word quickly. See his re-evaluation.

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1 comment:

Craig said...

Me thinks that "Bobby" won't be needing his Viagra dose in the near future. Sounds like he's found other avenues to "excite" himself.

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