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Governor meets with constituents in Holyoke

Date: 9/27/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – Although the conversations between Gov. Deval Patrick and about 15 Latino business people, educators and members of nonprofits over a lunch meeting at Fernandez Family Restaurant were classified as “off the record,” afterward Patrick said such discussions are important to the creation of policy.

Speaking to reporters after the lunch, Patrick said, “Good government and good policy largely comes from listening to people not just from Beacon Hill but in the community. We’ve got staff down gathering suggestions and ideas to process.”

Among those who attended the meeting were state Rep. Aaron Vega, Ivette Cruz, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Springfield and New England Farm Council Workers President Heriberto Flores, among others.

Former Massachusetts Democratic party Chairman John Walsh, who is now the head of Patrick’s political action committee, also attended.

Although Patrick said the meeting was not part of any campaign – he is not running for a third term – he said with a smile that he is still governing.

Patrick said the goal of the meeting was to call attention to Hispanic Heritage Month and to meet with Hispanic leaders whom he called “important partners.”

In the discussions, Patrick said he learned more to aid him in his effort to involve more people into civic engagement. He said he listened to how the various organizations represented today are “reaching out to members of the community.”

When asked about problems with the online system of filing for state unemployment benefits, Patrick was quick to defend the system and point out that it is successful “97 percent successful.”

He said that for the people who have had problems “that is concerning for them and for me.”

Patrick added, “The contractor is working out those so-called ‘bugs’ and frankly I hate when they are described as ‘bugs’ because if you’re on the receiving end it feels like more than a ‘bug.’”