Patrick's latest train wreck

Plus, an Israeli diplomat does the right thing
By EDITORIAL  |  August 12, 2009


There is no doubt that Governor Deval Patrick had — and has — much better ideas about reforming and restructuring the state's transportation infrastructure — including the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority — than the legislature.

Taxpayers and patrons of public transportation would have been better served if Patrick's lead had been followed. As is so often the case, the legislature shunned tough — but in the long run sensible — choices and decided upon a less-efficient, patronage-friendly course of action.

Still, like so many others, we are scratching our head trying to make sense of the forced $327,000 buyout of former MBTA chief Dan Grabauskas.

If a Republican governor had forced out a Democratic appointee, holy hell would ensue. Grabauskas was one of Mitt Romney's better hires. That may not be saying much, but it should give independent voters and citizens who favor a non-political approach to delivering vital services some pause. Even Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, an establishment Democrat if ever there was one, has criticized the ouster of Grabauskas.

The brains behind this expensive maneuver was Transportation Secretary James Aloisi.

The reason was that Grabauskas favored delaying transit fare hikes that the Patrick administration wanted to push forward. Now, however, the Patrick crowd has changed its mind.

More or less plagiarizing a page from the Grabauskas play book, the administration says that increased revenue from the sales-tax hike and from federal stimulus dollars will bridge a deteriorating financial situation at the T until a sorely needed review of operations is completed.

The Patrick administration says it had no faith that Grabauskas could conduct such a review or implement reforms. That would be easier to believe if they had played things straight from the get go.

Further complicating an already hard-to-comprehend situation was Patrick's call to suspend the ongoing public hearings on fare hikes, which — what a surprise — have revealed that the public is displeased at the prospect.

All things considered, this is the political equivalent of driving a trolley while texting.

Patrick needs to do two things: one, explain to the public what in blazes he's trying to do and why he is doing it. Two, ask himself if Aloisi is part of a solution or part of the problem.

An inconvenient truth
Any Bostonian who has had a chance to meet Nadav Tamir, Israel's local consul general, knows that his charm is only surpassed by his intelligence, and that his brains are only trumped by his tough-mindedness.

Tamir has ignited a furor in Israel by telling his government something that almost any alert undergraduate government major already knows: that tension between the administrations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama threatens Israel's strategic position.

Tamir's memo was leaked to the Israeli media by an unknown party. The public — in Israel or the United States — will probably never find out who did it. But in trying to discern motives it is often helpful to ask: "Who is helped by such a leak? And who is hurt?" In this case, it would certainly appear that a diplomat urging a course of action that is likely to be greeted with suspicion — if not hostility — would only be hurt by publicizing his views.

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