By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Crowdsourcing the governor

I want to try a crowdsourcing experiment today.

Lisa Wangsness reports in the Boston Globe that law-enforcement officials, community activists and the like are trying to restore $11 million in funding for an antigang program that Gov. Deval Patrick proposes to eliminate so that he can pay for the first 250 of the 1,000 new police officers he promised during his campaign. State Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, whose progressive credentials are unquestioned, discusses the issue on his blog.

So far, this sounds like a classic clash of priorities, with Patrick on what is arguably the wrong side. According to Barrios, the Charles Shannon Community Safety Initiative, as the antigang program is known, helps fund “community-based outreach programs, summer jobs programs, reentry programs, after-school programs and community policing initiatives targeting gangs and youth violence.” Yes, we all want more police officers, but we also know that a comprehensive approach to crime is the only thing that works in the long run.

But wait — this isn’t just a clash of priorities. According to this March 2 Globe story by Andrea Estes and Wangsness, the 250 new police officers are largely being funded by taking other money away from police departments. Here’s what they reported back then:

According to the administration, the money to hire the additional officers would come from a new $30 million account for local police. However, $20 million of that money would be taken from the police grant program, which is traditionally distributed to local police by the Legislature. And some of it is already used for hiring police officers, raising questions about whether the Patrick plan would actually add the number of officers that he asserts.

So what, precisely, is it that I want to try crowdsourcing? I want to know if this is as bad as it looks, or if there is some explanation. What Estes and Wangsness describe sounds like a grotesquely exploitative shell game. There’s got to be more to it than this. Patrick couldn’t be this cynical. Could he?

I’m not going to be chained to my laptop all day, but I’d like to post comments and links as I’m able. I’ll point to the most informative of them right here on the front page. At best, this could be an interesting exercise in group media criticism. At worst — hey, it’s still Friday.

Update: Maybe this is as bad as it looks. One Media Nation reader points to this March 11 Globe story on the $11 million cut. Here’s an excerpt:

“We were shocked,” said Emmett Folgert, describing reaction to Patrick’s elimination of the $11 million in antigang funding. The veteran director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, a Fields Corner outreach program, said the money not only helped Boston, which received $3 million, but began to seed new prevention efforts in New Bedford, Fall River, and other cities dealing with youth violence problems. “To abort these new programs that have already achieved success and community support is unthinkable,” said Folgert.

Another Media Nation reader wonders if Patrick is “desperate” rather than “cynical” — that is, he’s so intent on fulfilling his campaign promise to hire 1,000 new police officers that he’s doing more harm than good. An interesting theory.

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What controversy?


First trooper singular


  1. Man who wished Jill Stein ran for governor

    This is off-topic, but I’d question Barrios’s credentials.Last fall I saw him blathering at an MBTA meeting about the now-implemented fare hikes. I was disgusted by his “don’t blame the Legislature” message that he repeated over and over for about 20 minutes straight.Getting back on topic…Patrick might not be that cynical…but he could be that desperate. There’s an important difference. If Patrick is as “newbie” a politician as he’s been branded in recent months, then he might actually feel a moral obligation to “come through” on his campaign promise to have more police officers.The problem is, he’s now realized how incredibly difficult that will be. So maybe he’s trying a way…ANY way…to deliver more police officers. Even if it ultimately does more harm.If that’s the case, I sort-of respect that. I like a man who believes in following through on his promises. But at the same time, it does beg for more experienced political advisors in the Patrick administration so he doesn’t fleece Suburban Peter to pay Ghetto Paul. A balance has to be struck, ya know?

  2. Peter Porcupine

    If he delivers Community Policing money to Tom Menino to help him keep Curtis Sliwa at bay, he’s toast.Is he foolish enough to think that urban and rural departments don’t stick together?

  3. Neil

    Subtract from the overtime paid to state troopers for dozing er guarding orange cones on state highways, the wage of a worker holding a warning flag instead, like every other state in the union, and you’d free up a nice chunk of change for antigang programs, or more police in the city, where they might actually be of some use.

  4. Jon Garfunkel

    Interesting connection by the Globe. I’m not sure what more “crowdsourcing” can demonstrate. There’s only one source who can answer this– the Governor.I took a look at Barrios’s blog, and compared it to It now becomes clear what the fundamental flaw of the website is (though the concerns over privacy and the contribute button needed airing). It’s simply that key issues like this are distracted by the futile debates about gay marriage which are masquerading as “civic engagement.” What we citizens of Massachusetts want– whether we are supporters of Deval Patrick or not– is a forum for the Governor to directly engage us on issues of the day which are his responsibility.

  5. The Jake

    Yes, this is as bad as it seems. Deval over promised and is under delivering. He’s making Mitt Romney look productive.Three is a crowd, so technically the four responses constitute a quorum, but when does crowd sourcing become merely opinion surveying? Crowd sourcing would be asking for workable alternative solutions not just opinions. Few people have the relevant data, let alone time, to analyze, but it would be for Deval to try. Problem is it would appear like he’s unable to find a solution himself.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    The Jake: You’re right — by crowdsourcing, I mean having people bring information to the table that I might have missed, and that’s not really happening here. But what does that mean? That Patrick’s actions on this are exactly as the Globe reported. Not good.

  7. Jon Garfunkel

    I have a hunch that if you call the Governor’s communications office on Monday, you’ll get the answers, “the budget is just a suggestion” and “the legislature’s had this for a month.” Call it a very educated hunch. But it will behoove me to research every last detail about the Shannon initiative before I make that call.(I also have a hunch that they wll NOT use the answer “things appear in the budget at the pleasure of the Governor…”)Dan– you dropped my point re: the website. any comments to that?

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