Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Notes From "Where Do We Go From Here?" Forum

Last night I attended a public forum sponsored by the Cambridge Democratic City Committee entitled "The Deval Patrick Administration: Where Do We Go From Here?" The forum was moderated by former state Senator and Friend of the Blog, George Bachrach. The panel included Mass. Democratic Superwoman Kate Donaghue, MassINC co-founder Tripp Jones, and Mass. Council of Human Service Providers President Michael Weekes.

Bachrach, who now teaches journalism at Boston University, opened the event with a scathing rebuke of the local media, so much so that Tripp Jones later jokingly suggested that Bachrach be appointed media watchdog for the Patrick administration. He pointed out the latest silliness where the leaked report of the cost of Patrick's inauguration, an event that would be over in the first week of January, on the front page while the announcement that Leslie Kirwan would be the Secretary of Administration and Finance and be responsible for the budget for the next four years was relegated to page 28 (or thereabouts).

The question and answer session covered a variety of topics. There were a couple of themes that came up. First was that there were a lot of unmet needs after four years of neglect under outgoing Governor Mitt Romney. As such, a lot of people are being set up for disappointment that their particular interest may not be the new governor's highest priority. That said, the consensus was that Deval Patrick really means it when he says he wants input from everyone, and wants to include the citizens of Massachusetts in the decision-making process.

The final question of the evening came from Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge) who was in the audience for the entire meeting. She asked whether ecouraging participation would lead to those who were engaged having "realistic expectations" regarding what the Patrick administration could actually accomplish. Weekes had what I thought was one of the best lines of the night in response: "Democracy doesn't mean we all get what we want at the same time." Of course, that's a small comfort for those who find their pet issue at the bottom of the pile. Jones made a point then that I think nicely intersects with my post from yesterday, but on a macro level. He noted that to accomplish goals, Patrick would have to broaden the vision of how the state tackles problems. We need to take a hard look at what state government can actually do and see how we can leverage the thriving private sector -- both for-profit and not-for-profit -- in Massachusetts. How can we best encourage the private sector to be good corporate citizens and help address the commonwealth's unmet needs? Patrick himself is almost uniquely suited to do this given his knack for bringing people with diverse interests together.

In all, it was a fantastic forum. My thanks go out to the participants and to the Cambridge DCC for organizing it.