Old ideas for a new year

By EDITORIAL  |  January 16, 2008

Governor: Fix it!
Massachusetts is playing a dangerous and irresponsible game of chicken with public safety. The “playground”: Big Dig tunnels, which — despite what were clearly bogus assertions to the contrary — are still seriously leaking. As of this past month, the downtown tunnels were leaking in 237 spots. For some bizarre reasons, public officials seem to take comfort in the alleged fact that this will not likely present a problem until the tunnels have sustained 25 years’ worth of continuous water damage.

This is an outrage. Governor Deval Patrick must take action to fix this problem and reassure the public. Conceived by a Democratic governor and built during the 16 years that Republicans held the governor’s office, the historic Big Dig project sprawled in a way that obviously defied effective oversight. And the barrels of cash that Big Dig contractors distributed to officeholders and office seekers of both parties kept politicians and public officials from keeping too close an eye on the engineers and bureaucrats in charge of the project. What is done is done. Focus on the future. The governor must step in and fix it.

The Big Dig’s never-ending controversies do more than compromise public safety. They erode public confidence in government, to the extent that any still exists. The tax revolt that began in California 30 years ago and hit Massachusetts in 1980 in the form of “Proposition 2½” was rooted in citizens’ belief that they were not getting value for their tax dollars. The Big Dig, which should be seen as a magnificent example of public works, instead stands — leaking — as a symbol of graft and incompetence. Governor Patrick was elected by pledging to restore a sense of hope to public life, as well as a promise to transcend the pettiness that keeps state government from accomplishing what it should. By fixing the Big Dig, he will be starting at a good place: from the ground up.

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