Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here a Board, There a Board, Everywhere a Control Board...

My apologies to my dear (devoted) readers who have been without some political insight to the Springfield area.

Much has been afoot in Springfield since I've been away. The Gov, Deval Patrick, has announced his new board members and sanctioned action by the old members to sock away the rest of the city's $52 million dollar loan raising the ire of local statehouse officials.

The first piece of news was the use of the remaining $22 million. With Gov. Patrick's blessing the board, in a near unanimous decision, less Kateri Walsh who dissented on legal grounds, moved the left over loan money to an account for economic development. State Senator Stephen Buoniconti and State Rep. Thomas Petrolati called on the state Auditor to investigate the action. Buoniconti maintained that his concern related to the legislature's intent when it issued the city the loan. The intention was, supposedly, to pay for operating, not capital costs. Buoniconti also mentioned that this action makes it more difficult for he and other area legislators to act to extend the city's repayment schedule or even consider partial forgiveness. Ad interim, the story is ongoing.

More recently Patrick has named his own appointment to the Control Board. They are, former candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Chris Gabrielli, Robert Nunes, a former Taunton mayor, and James Morton, President of the Springfield YMCA. This is the first wholesale housecleaning of the gubernatorially-selected (technically the Sec. of Administration & Finance Lesley Kirwan makes selections) members of the board. Other than supporting a local options tax for the city, I do not foresee any major policy shift on the board. This is especially true if Phil Puccia sticks around. The most important thing that the governor can do is lobby for more from the legislature. The control board at this point is largely a vanguard for fiscal prudence.

Oddly enough the area press has not mentioned anything about Gabrielli. Namely, during the campaign, Gabrielli had called for the abolition of the Control Board. Now he will be serving on it. Secondly, Gabrielli had, derisively in my view, referred to Springfield as Massachusetts' Detroit. No offense to Detroit. Former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer and current mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had and have made significant progress to spruce up their city. Nonetheless, Springfield has less poverty, better relations with its suburbs, and frankly, a better economic condition than Detroit. Gabrielli's comparison was uninformed and unnecessary. Frankly, when he came out with this pronouncement I felt it added nothing to the conversation about Springfield. And so local media dropped the ball on that little diddy.

Of course, I must give the new board including Gabrielli their chance, but only time will tell how this new board will work out. Furthermore, we can only see how the board will work out with Puppetmaster Patrick passing down orders that angers the powers that be on Beacon Hill.

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