Jay Fitzgerald of the excellent MASSterList (“an ensemble of news and commentary about the Legislature, Politics, Media, and Judiciary of Massachusetts from major news organizations as well as specialized publications”) rejects Charley’s withering criticism yesterday of the do-nothing position of the powers that be Baker and DeLeo on the Commonwealth’s deteriorating infrastructure. Charley’s conclusion: “[Y]our commute is going to suck, forever.”
The leaders are just representing the people, Fitzgerald says:
Plenty of blame to go around for the state’s infrastructure woes
Blue Mass Group isn’t happy about the new A Better City report, which warns how Greater Boston’s rickety infrastructure can’t handle the region’s expected population growth and needs in coming years, and tears into Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo for not doing enough to prepare the state for the future. “To be blunt: There is absolutely no ambition, no intention, no vision, no proposal, no agenda, from either our Governor or Speaker, for providing the necessities of our region going forward. None. They’re just not going to do it.”
But to be equally blunt: Most lawmakers on Beacon Hill, overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, don’t want to give the MBTA a dime more until its dysfunctional management and operational practices are overhauled (see items below, btw). Meanwhile, former Gov. Deval Patrick not so long ago proposed a large gasoline tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements. Guess what? The Democratic-controlled legislature balked and passed a more modest plan. Then voters, in a statewide referendum, rejected tying future gas-tax increases to the inflation rate. Blame Baker and DeLeo? Please.
Both are right, but Charley’s criticism is more constructive. Without infrastructure improvements, the Commonwealth, and especially the greater Boston area, will strangle. Imagine Boston without the T, or with just one harbor tunnel: far less prosperous; far less liveable. “Route 128″ means “Massachusetts high technology industry” in common parlance. If our subway was as good as Hong Kong’s you’d be home in half the time. If our rail system was as good as China’s, it would take just over an hour to get to New York by train. If our Internet was as fast as Korea’s, people in Western Massachusetts would read this article twice as quickly for a fraction of the price. One reason there are fewer good jobs in America than there were is because much of the world has caught up to our infrastructure, and many countries have passed us. Result: jobs go there.
On the other hand, pouring good money after bad is just a waste. It’s obvious the T needs structural reform — quasi-public listed corporation or some other similarly fundamental reorganization — if it is to reverse its current decline and once again become the world-class system it was a century ago. Voters did indeed reject an increased gasoline tax: there are alternatives.
If we stay still, however, we lose because we are part of a dynamic, constantly changing national and world economy, many parts of which are surging past us. Walls won’t save us. Also, nature degrades all existing systems: we have to keep investing just to stay in place. The job of leaders is, in part, to educate people about these hard realities. To the degree they don’t, we’ll all fail — our commutes will, indeed, suck forever — and Baker and DeLeo will go down in history as the ones who watched.