Franklin Park Zoo hires a PR firm to issue a press release claiming (falsely, it turns out) that state budget cuts will force the zoo to euthanize some animals, and the immediate reaction is a clamor for an override of the veto cutting the zoo budget from $6.5 m to $2.5 m. Makes sense, right?
Maybe not. The national economic crisis has hit all states hard – Massachusetts is not immune. State revenue is down considerably, and many worthwhile programs are being cut or asked to provide the same services with fewer resources. Governor Patrick has worked hard to manage throught this crisis with a focus on shared responsibility, reforms, and a request for agencies and programs to figure out ways to persevere with less. Like families all across Massachusetts, the Governor has been forced to make tough choices in order to live within our means. Just read through some of the posts on BMG – very important issues like those championed by Amber Paw and others are either being level funded, cut, or eliminated all together in order to close an over $5 billion budget gap.
Why should the zoo be treated any differently? Yes, it is an important resource for our state, a wonderful attraction for families, and has an educational and economic value that should not be overlooked. But the fact that it can attract media attention to its cause through the animals in its care does not make it any more important than the incredbilby worthy programs Amber Paw has writtein about, or the human service programs being forced to serve growing populations with less money, or preservation of health care benefits for Massachusetts residents.
My point is not to criticize the zoo. It is to show that we are in the middle to challenging economic times, and hard choices have to be made based upon competing priorities, shared values, and a long-term outlook that positions us to grow jobs and provide opportunities for the future. This will not be accomplished by blindly responding to each day’s headlines – rather, it takes a calm, sustained vision and a commitment to a long-term plan.
Governor Patrick has provided this kind of leadership. Whether through his sustained effort to pass his reform agenda, or his
commitment to growing the jobs of the future, or his ability to work with the Legislature to deliver a budget that is on-time and balanced, the Governor has focused on a long-term vision for our future. You may disagree with the direction, but it is a vision that is consistent and in-line with his values and priorties.
Over the next few days, there will no doubt be a movement in the legislature to override the zoo veto. There is nothing wrong with this – it deserves a full hearing and an honest debate on the facts. However, let’s make sure that the debate is driven by an honest assessment of our current situation and a long-term vision of where we want to go, and not just today’s headlines. Just because the zoo can generate front-page headlines doesn’t mean it should jump in front of many other worthy programs.