|By G. Michael Dobbs|
An open letter to Governor Patrick:
I just received an e-mail stating that you are going to appear in Springield on April 11 for a regional "town hall" style meeting. It will be conducted from 6 to 8 p.m. at Scibelli Hall on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College.
This is good news, because you know that some folks out here are saying about you: you have already forgotten Western Massachusetts.
I know that a governor's first 100 days in office is supposed to be a honeymoon. The Legislature should be in courtship mode, trying to get to know you and form a good working relationship.
The press should also be wearing kid gloves. Everyone who reports politics knows the importance of an honest, open relationship. Holding off on using the 10-pound sledgehammer is probably a good move.
The public is, of course, hopeful that you will come into your office with guns a blazing, taking aim at fulfilling the promises you made during the campaign. Everyone wants their issue dealt with first, though, and the unrealisitic anticipation is you will be able to cure the ills created over years in a matter of days.
These are expressions of conventional wisdom. Here's another conventional wisdom: candidates will tell Western Massachusetts voters that they will not forget them, but as soon as they are elected we become an after-thought.
Now there are some media outlets I won't name (but we can call them "The Republican") which seem determined to foster this last rule. A recent front-page article noted your perceived lack of attention to us as well as an unsigned editorial.
I'm sort of a direct guy governor. I like you. I voted for you. You've got one hell of a life story and career and I still think you were the right choice for the state.
I'm more than willing to give you time to make things happen.
You've got to get certain things under control, though. The public relations gaffes give morons such as Howie Carr fodder to bash you. You're suffering a death of a thousand paper cuts. Please understand that people elected you as a reformer and they don't want to hear about business as usual abuses.
So, if you're willing to take some advice from a working class guy from Springfield, these are a few things I think you need to do if you want to counter the "he's forgotten us" line being spun by some folks:
Open up the Western Massachusetts Governor's Office. Appoint a good person with many local ties and connections who can help you service your constituents.
Tell us your agenda for Western Massachusetts and what we need to do to help you get it done. Letters to state reps and senators? Petitions?
Got a message for us? You have to campaign. Use the local media. Develop relations with us.
Focus on what our mayors are saying and hone in on a few things with which people can identify. For instance, the formula for Additional Assistance, the local aid so many communities need, has to be revised so it is fair to all of the municipalities in the Commonwealth.
Listen I know you probably already have dinner plans, but I would be happy to show you some Western Massachusetts hospitality. What's you choice? Italian? Cajun? Asian? Barbeque? Just let me know.
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