In the case of the much ballyhooed universal health care law will likely self-destruct this spring and summer because the health insurance plans approved by the Connector Board remain so prohibitvely so expensive for many uninsured working class families and individuals that the intended beneficiaries, under the law’s current punitive prohibitions, will be required to assume the state tax penalty because these state-approved private health insurance plans remain too costly with high deductibles and co-insurance for these vulnerable individuals and families. Has anyone out there seen or heard from the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, JudyAnn Bigby, commenting on this critical matter and the other similar health and human service issues facing the state? Caspar the Ghost has maintained a greater visibility than Secretary Bigby since her appointment over two months ago.
Gov. Patrick’s quick and decisive action in mobilizing the Department of Social Services, seeking a court injunction to prevent the further removal the undocumented New Bedford families from the state, and calling members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to intervene with Homeland Security to address the appalling consequences of the federal immigration action in New Bedford demonstrate he has the ability to respond quickly, decisively, and successfully to an authentic human crisis in the state.
Nevertheless, effective crisis management is only one gauge of how effectively a Governor manages the state administration. Gov. Patrick needs to demand that his gubernatorial policy staff, the professionals at Administration and Finance, and his cabinet secretaries and agency heads to help develop a prioritized policy agenda that includes public events that illustrate the social needs and economic capacities behind his policy initiatives. I challenge anyone out there to articulate the top #5 public policy initiatives of Gov. Patrick, and passing the state budget on-time does not count as a policy initiative.
Gov. Patrick’s management style reminds me of Jimmy Carter’s when he was President. Like former President Carter, he often appears dilatory, indecisive, too reliant on personal “listening tours” of organizations, businessees and agencies around the state during his policy decision-making process. Part of the purposed of the election ccampaign was to allow this admittedly inexperienced but intelligent and articulate man engage in a two-year personal listening tour across the state. Gov. Patrick needs to focus on making some of the difficult policy and management choices he faces in a range of areas and leave the “listening” function of the Governor’s office mostly to his staff, cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and media staffers.
It is instructive to contrast Gov. Patrick’s management style with that of former Governor Weld. While Gov. Weld was roundly crticized by Democrats and the media for his semiweekly afternoon squash games at Harvard and his apparently indolent management style, he developed a personal management style that was personally comfortable AND successfully advanced his policy agenda in a number of critical state government areas.
First, Gov. Weld nunderstood and appreciated the value of having experienced staff, cabinet secrateries, and agency heads and relying on them to do the “heavy lifting” of state government administration. Fair observers of state government during the Weld administration appreciated that Gov. Weld brought to state government some extermely intelligent, politically savvy, professionals with government experience (e.g., David Forsberg, Trudy Coxe, Mark Robinson, and Peter Nessen) who could plan, distill, and synthesize policy options for the Governor, push the Governor, when necessary, to make a timely decision on a pressing state matter, frame the chosen policy option in a manner that the media could digest and the pubic could understand and appreciate, and implement the policy in a timely and successful manner throughout state government. Moreover, if Gov. Weld could successfully manage state government affairs while rarely working a 40 hour work week, Gov. Patrick surely can improve his inferior management performance during the 60-70 hours he reportedly works on state government affairs.
In addition, if Gov. Patrick needs to reach out beyond Massachusetts to learn how to manage effectively an unwiedly state bureaucracy and manage his own staff, he should consider enlisting the support of the National Governors’ Association which has a management consulting team designed to assist new Governors in helping them manage Governors’ offices more efficently and lead and mobilize the state bureaucracy to help him shape and advance his agenda in a timely manner.
If the Governor fails to address his administration’s serious management shortcomings soon, he will find that by November 2010, if not earlier, he will need to place a call to his friends at Ameriquest, Coca-Cola, CitiGroup, and Ropes & Gray to secure his next professional employment endeavor. Such a development would be truly be heartbreaking for the scores of Bay State residents who have invested their authentic aspirations and their limited available time and energies on behalf of a man who articulated such laudable policy objectives and social values during the election campaign.