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

Patrick and the politics of symbolism

I’m not quite sure what to say about Casey Ross’ story in today’s Boston Herald reporting that Gov. Deval Patrick has increased spending on his own office by 80 percent. I agree with Ross that new positions such as a “director of grassroots governance” are “questionable,” but what follows from that is I’d like to see someone ask the questions: What is it? How will we benefit? Will we benefit? The governor’s staff tells Ross that we will, but in very non-specific terms.

What’s crystal-clear, though, is that Ross has dug up more evidence, if any were needed, that Patrick is an unusually poor practitioner of the politics of symbolism. And symbolism matters. At a time when the economy is in the tank, gas and oil prices are skyrocketing and cities and towns are straining to make ends meet, Patrick should not be trying to launch non-essential — if desirable — programs that we’ve somehow managed to live without up until now. Civic engagement? Nice. Funding for schools or for his long-promised property-tax relief? Quite a bit nicer.

The drapes. The Caddy. The book-contract signing while his casino bill was going down to defeat. All evidence that Patrick’s got a tin ear.

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  1. Anonymous

    EB3 hereGovernor is using taxpayer money to have an inside campaign director. That’s what a director of grassroots governance does.They think we are all stupid.

  2. Anonymous

    I have to wonder if it’s not a “grass roots” co-ordinator for casinos.

  3. Peter Porcupine

    DK – I have to agree with EB3. I attended and testified at a Civic Engagement hearing, only to be told the minutes weren’t available, due to a glitch with a ‘volunteer’ note taker. Yet – others who attended and testified were approached on a political basis; those of us who had wanted to encourage the new Governor and pitch in even if from across the aisle – were not. Ever.If a Republican had tried to have such a postition – IN ADDITION to the regular External Affairs office – there’d be blood in the marble halls. Patrick doesn’t seem to understand he is a Governmental figure, not a Political one. Perhaps, for him, it is a distinction which doesn’t exist.

  4. BosPhotog

    Why don’t we all way to see if any of this works?? Hmmmm? I mean, let’s say this does work and Patrick’s administration brings in much need big bucks, would that call off the hounds? Sometimes are we a bit too cynical here in good ole Mass?

  5. Outraged Liberal

    Sorry Dan, but I have to disagree. I don’t want to be the last remaining Patrick apologist on the planet, but if anything he’s guilty of trying to come up with fancy names to describe traditional functions.Director of grassroots governance sounds like constituent services by another name.Media and online strategy? That office has always had at least four deputy, assistant or head honcho press secretaries. A 21st century name? And $68,000 is less than half of what Eric Fernhstrom was paid.Plus the reality is his predecessor didn’t spend a lot of money because he didn’t spend a lot of time governing. Or in Massachusetts.Fiscal 2007 was Romney’s last budget. It sounds as if that 80 percent increase includes the fact this governor and lieutenant governor are taking salaries. It’s a fact reported more than a year ago.Tin ear. Yes. Bad on symbols, absolutely. But I saw no evidence in that story that this is money not spent doing the people’s business.Note that all the quotes are from Senate Republicans, who participated in a budget this week that to the best of my knowledge got zero coverage. Reporting on the budget process itself is the correct way for the Statehouse press corps to keep its eye on state spending. Not reporting on GOP talking points.And note that in Casey’s story today, Patrick aides aren’t complaining about a budget provision that would require posting his office organization chart online. It would be helpful if it existed side by side with Romney’s.Then we could tell whether there really is a story or not.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    O.L.: I understand what you’re saying, which is why I’m being relatively mild here. But apparently Patrick made it through the entire 2007-’08 fiscal year with a budget of $5 million. No way does he need a $4 million year-to-year jump at a time of fiscal crisis.I’d like to see a better breakdown of how we get from $5 million to $9 million. A $450,000 Washington office and a few new, somewhat modestly paid positions don’t get us there.

  7. Outraged Liberal

    No disagreement there. Isn’t that reporters are supposed to do, instead of parroting talking points? 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    We realize the meaning of “outraged liberal” but please, enough already with anything from someone to your right being dismissed as a “talking point”. It’s disrespectful and you wouldn’t stand for it if positions were reversed, would you?

  9. Outraged Liberal

    If a story was written offering arguments from only Democrats without any effort to provide Republican responses or the context of what is really involved I would be just as outraged.This story clearly had its origins in a GOP budget talking points strategy. Lazy, sloppy reporting is inexcusable, no matter if the ox being gored is mine or not. And if you check out my blog, you’ll notice I skewer the Globe — not to mention Patrick and Sal DiMasi — pretty regularly.

  10. gloria

    Maybe we can all fault the Governor, but that obscures what the Legislature proposes with pensions. The silence is deafening and we’re talking BILLIONS not millions. The willingness to skewer Patrick misses the bowing to unions in an election year that will cripple municipalities and the state long term. Let’s get our priorities in order.

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