Friday, July 8, 2011

On muni health and national union bosses, Speaker DeLeo flips the bird

Speaker to the press (rhetorically, of course)
Back in June when the conviction of Sal DiMasi focused rare public attention on Beacon Hill corruption, DiMasi's successor and current Speaker Robert DeLeo took umbrage at the suggestion that the DiMasi scandal represented "business as usual," and defended the House with these words:
Our efforts over the past couple of years have been focused on government reforms that make our work and our decisions more transparent and ensure that we can be held accountable for what we do on behalf of the taxpaying public.
Flash forward to today, not even a month later, and it seems transparency is off the Speaker's agenda.  From a State House News bulletin on the ongoing, secret (as if there were another kind) negotiations over municipal health reform:
Patrick administration officials confirmed to the News Service Friday afternoon that national labor union officials have taken an interest in the muni-health reform proposal, which Democrats in the House and Senate last week claimed struck the proper balance between worker rights and needed cost savings...

DeLeo, approached as he left the State House early Friday afternoon and asked about the progress of negotiations over municipal health insurance reforms, said, "We're talking.” Asked if he had met with labor officials about the issue, DeLeo waved to a reporter and wished him a nice weekend. A union coalition official also declined to say whether labor leaders had met with DeLeo.
I try to avoid words like "outrageous" in my day-to-day criticisms - words that are over-used in politics to so great an extent that they are rendered nearly meaningless.  But this really is outrageous.  Asked a perfectly rational, reasonable question by a reporter, pertaining to a matter of extreme public interest, the Speaker may not have literally flipped the bird - but would his message have been any different if DeLeo had popped that middle digit into the air?

And what exactly is the big deal?  Patrick officials already confirmed that "national labor union officials" have taken an active interest in the Commonwealth's collective bargaining dispute.  It would be passing strange if those "officials" neglected to touch base with arguably the most powerful pol on Beacon Hill.  DeLeo's non-denial all but guarantees the meeting has in fact happened.  Why be cagey?

Or look at it this way.  If Speaker DeLeo thinks it is perfectly legitimate for national labor officials to weigh in (in private)  to highly important budget negotiations at the 11th hour, then presumably he could simply answer the reporter's straightforward question.  If on the other hand he thinks there is something unseemly about such a meeting, then either he should have refused to hold one - and then answered the reporter with a "no" - or...  well... or the Speaker is doing something that he knows is unseemly, and flipping the figurative bird to the press - and by extension the public - when asked about it.


What? It's just a tree.
Ironically, this textbook display of arrogant dismissiveness comes on the very day that the Globe ran a front page article titled, "Legislators' vital work veiled from public's eye."   Apparently the Speaker mistook that criticism for instruction.

By the way, are these arm-twisting "national labor union officials" registered to lobby in Massachusetts?  Just askin'.  After all, that's how we supposedly "ensure that we can be held accountable for what we do on behalf of the taxpaying public," in the quickly-outdated words of a certain Speaker of the House.


  1. He didn't answer a question about who he met with but you'd like to portray it as an elected official treating a reporter with disrespect - politics by outrage.

    Neil Sagan

  2. Neil,
    What would you call it, if not disrespect? Arrogance? Haughty dismissiveness? Is it your position that the Speaker of the House - or any politician - ought to be free to conduct all of the people's business in secret, and to brush off public queries at his option? That's a legit position to hold, I guess... but it isn't consistent with current law (even here in MA, where hardly anything the legislature does is subject to the open meetings law).


No spamming, flaming, cursing, or other such nonsense tolerated. Thanks for engaging on those terms - Greg