By Peter Shanley
Bob Massie is an author, activist, and former leader of several nonprofits who has overcome many challenges in life, including a battle with hemophilia. He is taking on Jay Gonzalez for the Democratic nomination for governor. The two candidates will face-off in the primary on Sept. 4. The Gazette recently conducted a question-and-answer session with Massie about the campaign and about the issues facing state. For more information about him, visit bobmassie2018.com. (The session has been edited.)
Q.: Why are you running to be governor of Massachusetts?
A.: I am a lifelong progressive committed to action on economic, racial, and gender justice for more than 35 years. I believe that our economy is upside down, working only for the top 1 percent, but not working for the 99 percent that represent the backbone of this country. Our economy draws wealth and prosperity out of communities and transfers it to Wall Street where it gets gambled away. I have fought successfully for structural change at the national and international level and I intend as governor to fight for “liberty and justice for all,” meaning that every resident of Massachusetts has access to a good home, good school, good doctor, and good job. I am fed up with explanations and excuses that say we cannot have these things. We can. And as governor, I will work to make that happen.
Q.: What makes you a better candidate than your opponent to be the Democratic nominee for governor?
A.: Like Charlie Baker, Jay Gonzalez is a former health care CEO. Like Charlie Baker, Jay Gonzalez is a former Secretary of Administration and Finance. And like Charlie Baker, Jay does not seem to have a clear idea of how to move the state forward. Jay talks about “aiming higher,” but I don’t think he has convinced the greater public that he actually has a path forward to advance any of the elements of the agenda that we share. Jay talks about government experience, but that experience proved that as point person for the governor in the legislature, that Jay could not get the job done. He could not fix education funding. He could not put an end to wasteful police details, and he could not fix transportation funding. My experience, while gathered outside of state government, demonstrates an ability to deal effectively with powerful adversaries and even occasionally turn them into allies to make change happen. This is the time to make progress, to advance renewable energy, to protect the state from Trump’s actions, and to stand proudly with women, immigrants, and others. If you want the status quo, vote for Charlie or Jay. I want to be the people’s governor and bring lasting structural change to our economy.
Q.: What do you view as the most pressing issues for our state and what will you do to help fix them?
A.: As governor I will reorient state policy to a just and sustainable economy that creates prosperity for everyone. “Sustainability” is a driving concept around the world for governments and businesses and speaks to the need to balance of social, economic, and environmental goals. Massachusetts is at least a decade behind the global community in thinking about these things. As part of implementing that vision, I will:
-Lead education funding reform, including revising and fully funding the Foundation Budget; providing funding for full day kindergarten and Pre-K programs; shifting away from high stakes testing, and making it possible to attend public colleges and graduate debt-free;
-Redirect the state’s DPU to an aggressive 100 percent renewable agenda, including major changes in utility regulation
-Clean up the state’s contracting and payroll functions to eliminate waste and abuse
-Build a 21st Century Electrified Transportation System, including the North South Rail Link, fully funded RTAs, with 90 mph service to Springfield, and fix the MBTA in the process, with improved planning, operations and capital project execution.
-Pursue Medicare for All, which absent the federal government will still adhere to an efficient and fair single-payer healthcare model
-Lead a major public effort to confront institutionalized racism and sexism, and advance women’s rights and leadership
-Address the affordable housing crisis, by adjusting rental assistance to account for inflation and current housing costs; and incentivize and push for the development of affordable multi-family units rather than luxury condominiums like 1 Dalton Place.
Q.: What are your thoughts on the scandals plaguing the State Police agency and what solutions do you propose?
A.: Gov. Baker would like us to think he had reason to be surprised by the scandals in the State Police Agency. Really? Do I need to remind you that Gov. Baker ran on a platform asserting that he had an impeccable reputation as a good manager? Yet, the payroll and contracting processes for the state are not what they should be and Baker would have seen that when he served as Secretary of Administration and Finance 20 years earlier. There is no point feigning surprise. A good manager would have addressed this years ago. Now that the cows are out of the barn (in this case, our taxpayers’ money), he is implementing reforms. Our State Police and other agencies will be held to the highest standards in maintaining the public trust.
Our state’s process of contracting for goods and services also does not get us the best results. That’s in part why the Big Dig had problems. It is also why the Baker Administration was able to fund a sham study of the NSRL and waste $2 million dollars proving only that a study can be designed to prove the wrong answer if you try really hard. No big capital projects in a Massie Administration will go forward without first fixing these problems.
Q.: The MBTA, as everyone knows, has many problems. Do you think Gov. Charlie Baker is doing enough to address those problems and what would you do differently?
A.: No. Apart from some baby steps to address snow response and wrongheaded efforts to outsource assorted T functions, what do we have? Gov. Baker says the T will be fixed in 15 years. How does that help the residents of Massachusetts get to work today? And by fixed, Gov. Baker appears to mean that what we have today will function more or less correctly in 15 years. It does not acknowledge that our existing T infrastructure does not meet today’s needs and is not anywhere close to a 21st century system. Gov. Baker is telling us that our early to mid 20th century system will function acceptably by the mid 21st century. So he is promising that our system will be 100 years out of date, but otherwise fully functional. That is nowhere near good enough.
We need to be converting to an all battery electric bus fleet that is low maintenance, low energy cost and highly reliable. Instead, Gov. Baker spent time trying to lock in an outsourced bus diesel maintenance contract and build a $65 million facility that will be obsolete before the first shovel goes in the ground. Gov. Baker talks about adding a third commuter rail track to Worcester for flexibility so it can better deal with locomotive failures instead of looking at electrifying the system and dealing with root causes of the failures that will lead to lower overall costs. We need the NSRL. Instead, Gov. Baker seems intent on wasting $2.75 billion on an unnecessary South Station Expansion project that is in fact more expensive than the NSRL when all costs and benefits are considered. We should have 90 and then 110 mph train services to Worcester and Springfield. Instead, Gov. Baker is content with slow train service to Springfield that favors bus companies who don’t pay their fair share of road maintenance. Average train speeds today are slower than they were 100 years ago. Is it any wonder that people choose to ride state-subsidized buses? It is also worth noting that our highly regarded “good” manager governor has failed to establish managerial stability at the T, with three interim managers in less than 4 years.
We should be taking direct control of the commuter rail operation for the first time in the state’s history, which could save us $2 billion. We should have fast reliable train services, substantially cleaner and more modern subway stations rebuilt at a faster pace, fully funded RTA’s operating battery electric buses, bus stops with adequate bus shelters, a NSRL connection and a fully electrified commuter rail network.
Q.: What are your views of Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain?
A.: These are two of the most vibrant and dynamic neighborhoods in the city. I’ve always been an admirer of the culture in JP, which seems to have fostered an independent, artistic and politically active community that places a large emphasis on inclusion and neighborliness. Also, as a big fan of green spaces, I love making my way into the arboretum which might just be one of the most relaxing and reflective areas in the city. As for Mission Hill, it’s mix of incredible food and a strong night life have always been draws, but personally I like it because it’s one of the more diverse parts of the city; oh, and being right next to the MFA doesn’t hurt either.