In an important story in the Globe today, Casey Ross notices what may hopefully be a sign of the beginning of the end of the Big Dig Culture. Essentially, the financial dealings of the 20-some quasi-public agencies would be brought under the adminstration's oversight. Yawn, right? No — it may well affects tolls, fares, taxes — the daily dings to our pocketbooks, and the central causes of distrust in our state government.
This will be portrayed by some as a consolidating power grab. It is that. It is also an assumption of accountability and political risk by the administration. As I've said before, the Big Dig Culture is the result of diffuse structures of accountability, where it's not always clear who's in charge, who's got oversight, whose neck is on the line, and where the buck stops.
Now the Governor will get praise or blame, depending on the outcomes of current disputes over the Turnpike debt, MBTA debt, and so on. There may be more public disputes — as we've already seen between the Governor and Treasurer — proportionally more political heat along with greater transparency. It may be protrayed as bickering, but to have it play out in public is good — much better than having a financial crisis sprung on the taxpayers after the fact.
The oversight board will need to be more effective than it has been, as it's failed to provide its required annual reports. But that gets back to the main point: It matters whom you elect, and it matters whom they appoint. Again, the lines of accountability have been brightened: The governor gets either praise or blame — and probably the blame will get more press.
Good luck to the governor and the board; this is one of those things where one could be forgiven for wondering why one wanted the job in the first place.