Alan Chartock: Gov. Patrick in a class all by himself

Gov. Deval Patrick exemplifies the difference between the professional politician class and the public servant who is policy-oriented and, frankly, just tries to do what is right.

OK, I’m prejudiced. I’ve been around a long time and have interviewed hundreds, maybe thousands, of politicians. The line of BS coming from most of them is enough to make you call Jason to bring the basin. They remind me of the old prison story where the inmates have heard all the jokes so many times, somebody yells out, “No. 38,” and everybody laughs.

But Deval Patrick, who came from the South Side of Chicago and bootstrapped himself to the Massachusetts Statehouse, says that this is the only job in politics that he’s ever had and the only one he has ever wanted. I’ve asked him whether he would agree to serve as U.S. attorney general if the president were to ask him and he affirmed that he would say no and that “the president and I have already had that conversation.”

A recent poll by Pew Research Center reports that a vast majority of Americans don’t trust their politicians.

“I’m from the government, I’m here to help you” is often referred to as one of the three great lies. (At least one of the other two cannot be printed in a family newspaper.) So when Deval Patrick says he wants every child to have a first-rate education, he knows whereof he speaks and has proven that he understands the value of education.

He thinks everyone is entitled to a fair shake.

We want to define America as a place where there is “equality of opportunity,” but we all know that when some kids get pre-K and others do not, that “equality of opportunity” becomes a farce.

Study after study has proven that pre-K works and the governor knows it. But how do we pay for it and who picks up the tab?

Because this governor has limited his time in office, he has proposed a bold plan that answers both questions. His idea is to increase the progressive income tax that we pay and decrease the regressive sales tax that harms the poor and stifles business.

To some, this would be political suicide but not to Deval Patrick. He need not worry about retribution at the polls because he won’t be running again. He is just doing what he thinks is right and I agree with him. He will be remembered as a man who cares deeply about the children of the state, especially those who could easily be doomed to prison if they didn’t get the education they need and deserve.

In addition, Gov. Patrick knows that there is a failing infrastructure. Our roads and bridges are falling into disrepair and that puts us in a very dangerous position.

Back in the ‘80s in New York, a Thruway bridge over the Schoharie Creek collapsed and 10 motorists were killed. We all remember the Big Dig and the subsequent collapse of a section of the tunnel.

Like FDR, Patrick believes that we should all pay a little more and make sure that we are not the next victims of the failing infrastructure.

Deval Patrick’s wife, Diane, is a remarkable woman. She shows courage seldom seen in a public figure. Her work advocating on behalf of those who have suffered domestic abuse and depression should be text book for all partners of political decision makers. The fact that Diane Patrick was a teacher and intends to go back to education following her very successful career as an attorney may give us a hint as to why the governor has such keen insights into education.

All I know is that these people are phenomenal and we are very lucky to have them both.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 3/18/13

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