The 'legislative sponsor' system
has a terrific interview
with Gov. Patrick. I guess I'm supposed to be impressed that the governor realistically knows what he's done by tapping Jim Aloisi as head of transportation (i.e. "he knows where the bodies are buried"). Ah, the Mickey-Spillane, tough-guy talk. The street-smart gov's about to get in a bureaucratic street brawl with lawmakers, etc., etc. But here are my problems:
1.) Key legislators like Joe "Reform Redefined" Wagner
are delighted by Aloisi's appointment precisely because Aloisi knows all about "blending policy and politics." Joe's talking in terms of a system in which agencies are run via a "legislative sponsor," as Patrick has now usefully and openly described it for prosperity. Lawmakers like Joe aren't really interested in reform. They're interested in 'reform redefined.' They want to keep a variation of the status quo and their precious power side deals dating back, what, decades? Only in a one-party Legislature.
2.) A governor grasping the true nature of the "legislative sponsor" system is not unique. Mike Dukakis grasped it. Bill Weld grasped it. Each thought they could change it by playing ball with it -- and they failed. Dukakis transformed from Duke I to Duke II to Duke III.
Weld went along with legislative pay raises and ended up playing footsie with Billy Bulger. Now we have Patrick playing the same realpolitik game -- or so he thinks. **
3.) If the governor is truly interested in reform, he'd kindly tell the public which agencies are run by what "legislative sponsor." Transportation? Mass Turnpike? MBTA? Massport? The court system? An injection of transparency sure would be nice, rather than playing with (and thus protecting?) what can now safely be called a shadow legislative government. ... One other point: The governor, by alluding to legislative-sponosorship jobs, is also talking about tolerating a shadow-government patronage system. Is he aware that there's a U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Rutan
) that's declared certain types of patronage jobs unconstitutional? Could he please spell out to the taxpaying public what legislative-sponsored jobs he's learned about?
So, now you can see why I'm not exactly excited that Patrick knows what he's done by appointing Jim Aloisi. Patrick's now playing on legislators' turf and by their rules. It's been done before -- and it's failed before. ...
** Cellucci and Swift were products of the "legislative sponsor" system and were never going to reform. Romney was a true odd-ball outsider to the system and didn't stand a chance of changing it from within. He was also too distracted by his own presidential ambitions.
P.S. -- I'm non-cynically impressed that the governor admits he was "frankly surprised" that there's an opening for larger reforms than originally envisioned. But if his idea of reform is to keep tolls (only to raise them later) and
boost the gas tax, well, that's not reform. That's his progressive desire for more money overcoming his reform instincts.Update
typically gets to the point fast: 'Patrick: Takes a hack to deal with hacks.'