BOSTON - Today's column by Peter Lucas praises Governor Baker as a "workhorse, not a show horse," and lauds his approach to governing: "He shows up for work, says what he means and means what he says. And he won't raise taxes. So what's not to like?"
By Peter Lucas
Here is why veteran Statehouse observers are high on Charlie Baker: No politician in modern Massachusetts history has come to the governor's office better prepared or more qualified than Charlie Baker.
And it is beginning to show, not only because he has scored high in the public-opinion polls -- polls are fleeting -- but because, even as a Republican in a sea of Democrats, he has had an exceptionally successful beginning.
There are few governors of Massachusetts you can say that about.
"I think he has gotten off to a terrific start," veteran Democrat House Speaker Robert DeLeo said. "He has reached out to us, and he is willing to listen and to work with us."
"He's had the strongest start that I can remember," said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a Democrat from Amherst, who has seen governors come and go during his 30-plus years at the Statehouse.
Recall how his predecessor, Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick, stumbled around for months when he was first elected.
A terrific campaigner, Patrick had never held any state office but came from the corporate boards of Coca-Cola and Texaco. He had zero Statehouse experience and was too proud, or arrogant, to admit it.
Legislators felt he did not respect them. He thought the Legislature worked for him, and he would hardly give them the time of day.
When Patrick arrived at the governor's office, he ordered $27,000 in new drapes and furniture, and leased a Cadillac. When he left, he left behind a refurbished governor's suite that cost taxpayers $11 million. Baker, by contrast, has shunned use of that office, except for ceremonial purposes, and works out of a small, modest office down the hall.
Initial impressions tend to linger a long time.
Politics is not brain surgery. If you treat people with dignity and respect, you tend to get dignity and respect in return.
That seems to be Charlie Baker's basic approach to the governor's job. It may be part of his character or something he learned along the way.
"His government and private-sector experience is absolutely invaluable," Weld said of his protégé. "He knows what he thinks. He knows what he's doing. He's comfortable in his own skin."
Weld said he admires the way Baker took on the MBTA winter shutdown crisis and the need for MBTA reform. In some ways, the crisis was similar to the one Weld faced in 1991, when, upon becoming governor, he was faced with a $2 billion deficit left by outgoing Democrat Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Like Weld, Baker immediately established a smooth working relationship with the Democratic legislative leadership. Baker gets along with both better than Rosenberg and DeLeo get along with each other.
Without much fuss or fanfare, Baker closed the $760 million budget deficit that Patrick left him and then dealt deftly with the state's annual $38 billion budget. Baker signed legislation sending $200 million to the cities and towns for road repairs, and got both legislative leaders to set up a five-member MBTA control board. He established a hiring freeze and a program for early retirement for 5,000 state employees, launched a program to deal with family homelessness, and has promised to take on the state's opiate crisis.
He smartly has taken a thoughtful wait-and-see attitude toward the Boston 2024 Olympics, and has halted the questionable expansion of the convention center in South Boston.
He works the job well. He does not look down with disdain on reporters, the way Patrick did, and is open and available. He is a workhorse, not a show horse.
He has changed the atmosphere at the Statehouse for the better.
He shows up for work, says what he means and means what he says. And he won't raise taxes. So what's not to like?
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