In the “Talking Politics” column “Mass betrayal,” you attribute our state’s long, sad history of corrupt politicians to the culture of the State House. You’re probably right. Whether there is a broad culture of corruption or a culture of not rocking the boat, or of looking the other way, or of taking care of your friends, it is still the culture. Why is it that it takes federal investigators to discover bribery among our state officials? Why is it that it takes the Boston Globe to point out long-standing corrupt public-pension practices? Every organization has formal policies and rules that are supposed to promote constructive behavior, but it is the informal and unwritten rules that guide what really happens.
The question is, what can be done about it? Organizational cultures can be changed. Companies do it when they have to. But it takes leadership from the top to start the process. And it is a process that reaches deep into the organization, fights through resistance, involves everyone, and persists until it generates real results. Who in the State House has both the clout and the will to do that? It is not going to be young “reformers.” It has to be the core of the power structure. Do those people really want change? An outside commission could perhaps make it happen — if it didn’t get corrupted at the outset by the kind of people appointed to it, and it found some sympathetic insiders to work with. But who has the authority to set it up? We’re back to the power structure.
I’m afraid there is little reason to be optimistic.
I’m so pleased that Sam Yoon has come around! Mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea has been recommending the elimination of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), and its replacement by a city-planning department, since 2005, when he and Yoon were running for City Council. When I asked Yoon in 2005 if he’d support Councilor Felix Arroyo’s home-rule petition to do this, he told me he would not, because he figured it wouldn’t pass and he didn’t want to waste his political capital on it. Now, he has filed Arroyo’s petition. I hope it will indeed be passed.
The next step, as I suggested to Yoon last year, is for him to file to reverse that foolish Council vote of 2004, which perpetuated the BRA’s Urban Renewal Plans and stripped the Council of its oversight powers. Since the BRA has failed to comply with the vote’s reporting requirements, the vote should be rescinded, and the Urban Renewal Plans should terminate. Those plans and the powers they give the BRA (e.g., eminent domain) have to end in order for the BRA to be entirely eliminated. Will you do it, Sam?
The June 19 “Don’t Quote Me” article “Weakened Watchdogs” said Boston Herald editorial-pages editor Rachelle Cohen worked at the State House for the Herald, United Press International, and the Associated Press. She did not work for UPI.