Locals named to serve on Patrick’s working groups

December 15, 2006
By

LOU MANCINELLI

JP voters fell hard for Deval Patrick’s “Together We Can” campaign in November’s election, giving him 85 percent of the vote.

That campaign promised increased community outreach and a more cohesive approach to meaningful discussion between elected officials and constituents.

Now, Patrick is trying to execute a political triumph by converting his campaign rhetoric into administrative policy, with 15 transition working groups composed of Massachusetts citizens in a system where each group is dedicated to one
issue.

And he is tapping into JP resources for help to accomplish his goal. Several JP residents were chosen to serve on the groups. They include: Margaret Blood, Mark Erlich, Carlos Ferre, Katherine Sloan, Gail Snowden and Melissa Shannon.

According to Patrick’s transition web site, “the role of the Deval Patrick and Tim Murray Transition Committee is to help educate Deval and Tim about the current status of the government, as well as assist them with filling the positions of the government under their charge.”

For at least a three-week period residents have the opportunity they have been demanding for from their government—a chance to be heard.

Representatives from groups ranging from the environment to workforce development and training will listen to and transcribe testimonies from citizens at community meetings in the “lame-duck” period between Patrick and Murray’s election victory and installation in office.

Members of the transition groups plan to prepare a detailed report summarizing community concerns and wishes for Patrick and Murray by today.

An analysis of that report by the transition committee will highlight issues and use the findings as a foundation and starting point for the upcoming term.

“I’m delighted I was asked to help,” said Snowden, vice president for finance and operations at the Boston Foundation. Snowden is co-chair of the Civic Engagement Working Group. “This is really about participation of people in the governmental process. It’s about learning how the government works and how to raise issues with the appropriate leaders. He’d [Patrick] like to know how to rebuild communities.”

“I consider it an honor to have been selected. The expectations are high,” said Erlich, executive secretary and treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. Erlich serves on the Housing Working Group. “In a sense they [the Patrick/Murray administration] are trying to run the transition the same way they ran the campaign—with a lot of input from people all over the state.

“The general wish is to see a more progressive, far reaching-out policy. I’m trying to bring the perspective of someone who lives in Boston and is familiar with the day to day workings of the construction industry,” he said.

Erlich had participated in one meeting when the Gazette spoke to him. He said issues of more state funding for affordable housing and wage enforcement restrictions dominated the discussion.

“I’m amazed at the outpouring of people about how they want government to work for them…particularly by high-school students…that’s exciting,” said Blood, president and campaign director for Early Education for All. Blood serves on the pre-K-12 Education Working Group. “We want to make sure we provide the governor-elect and lt. governor-elect with a clear vision and direction.”

Blood had also been to one meeting so far and said one of the major issues raised by community members concerning education was a desire to depend less on the property tax-based system that currently funds public education. She said it is not an adequate way to fund a thorough education and cited Michigan as an example state.

Another issue was addressing weaknesses in the state’s educational assessment system, a test known as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

The importance of universal access to education from birth through high school was also stressed. “It was a great cross-section of issues,” she said.

Though the entire transition working group system will last less than a month, those involved are optimistic that the information will be beneficial, and say there is more work to be done.

“I’m amazed at how passionate people are, at how much they care and want to get involved,” said Snowden.

“This is just a beginning point for the administration. It’s not the be-all-end-all,” said Blood. “If testimony is as strong as it was last night [referring to a meeting Dec. 5, at Middlebury High School, attended by close to 100, including testimony from over 30 citizens], I think we’ll have a lot of good information for strong recommendations.”

Carlos Ferre, principal of Melton Ferre LLC serves as a member of the Civic Engagement Working Group; Katherine Sloan, president of Massachusetts College of Art, serves on the Creative Economy Working Group; and Melissa Shannon, policy coordinator for Health Care for All, serves on the Healthcare Working Group.

A controversy has surfaced about a confidentiality agreement Working Group members were asked to sign at the first meeting. The agreement asked workers not to disclose sensitive or confidential information to anyone outside of the transition committee.

Patrick’s aides said the agreements were designed to protect sensitive information about applicants seeking to work on the upcoming Patrick administration team that could jeopardize their current job.

But in Tuesday’s Boston Globe, Brian Dodge, executive director at Massachusetts Republican party called the move an example of Patrick establishing a trend of backtracking.

According to the Globe, some members were unsure what the agreement was really about but felt it was OK because the information is not going to be made public until after the review period anyway.

For more information about the transition working groups, the Patrick/Murray
transition project, and specific meeting dates visit their web site at www.patrickmurraytransition.org/index.cfm.

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