Patrick addresses state jobs, Soldiers' Home at Springfield house party
Date: 1/25/2010 Jan. 25, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Although one local television reporter introduced Gov. Deval Patrick's State of the Commonwealth speech with the prediction he would address the "meltdown of the Democratic Party" -- following the senatorial victory of Scott Brown -- there was little evidence of a "meltdown" at an enthusiastic house party supporting Patrick's re-election bid in Springfield Thursday night.
Over 50 people from around the area gathered at the home of Edward Casey Thursday night to watch the speech and then await a visit by Patrick who chose to make an appearance at the gathering. Although there were 25 house parties around the state, Patrick selected the one in Springfield to underscore his commitment to Western Massachusetts.
When asked about a supposed Democratic meltdown, Patrick said, unlike some people, he believes in the idea of belonging to a political party and he is proud of being a Democratic.
As he heads into his re-election effort, though he made it clear that he is running to be the governor for all of the state's citizens.
"I think what we have to be about is offering a positive, forward looking vision of the future. My own is we have to be about hanging in there together, that we all have a stake in each other. Part of this campaign and governing through this crisis is seeing the stake each of us has in each other and making policy accordingly," he said.
Referring to the Brown victory, Patrick said, "I was teasing Scott about this today because we were on the phone. In some respects they learned their campaign from ours in 2006. It was very much a grassroots campaign. That's important. The voters are smart and they respond to a personal ask. I just don't believe and I don't want to run a campaign that's just about raising a lot of money and getting endorsements from important people and building the relationship with the voters in 30-second ads in the last few weeks of the campaign. It's not a comment on anything I've seen. It's not who I am. It is now what I want to do. We have to be out. We have to be talking to people and, most importantly, we have to be listening."
Making government personal was a re-occurring theme of Patrick's speech in which specific Massachusetts citizens and organizations were cited and "getting personal" was certainly the theme of the house party appearance. The governor warmly greeted many of the people gathered there by name, making sure he shook hands with everyone.
Holyoke City Councilor Aaron Vega attended the party, as did Springfield City Councilors John Lysak, Michael Fenton and Keith Wright.
Rory Casey of Holyoke, the host of the party, found out only that day that Patrick had selected his event to attend.
"I think it's just amazing," he said.
Commenting on the State of the Commonwealth speech, Casey noted he particularly liked the reference Patrick made to the anger in the state and how those emotions should be channeled into positive action.
After greeting everyone Patrick spoke briefly and then answered questions. He criticized the press for characterizing his relationship with the Legislature as confrontational and said he has been able to have about 90 percent of his initiatives passed by the General Court.
Making a reference to the Legislature, Patrick said, "People are not bad, but they have habits that are deep and entrenched and they are willing to fight for them."
During the question period, Vega asked Patrick if he would support a different approach to legalized gambling the state. Instead of several large destination casinos, Vega asked about granting licenses to existing businesses for specific games -- not unlike liquor licenses.
Patrick said he opposes that approach because research indicated, "the human costs are greater the more convenient the gaming is." He added the state would receive less income from gambling under such an arrangement.
Speaking about the perception his administration has hired over 1,000 state workers at a time when many local governments in the state are forced to make sacrifices, Patrick said to great laughter, "I don't know what it is about Democrats, but we are the first ones to believe the Republican talking points."
"Get informed. Get informed," he continued. "There are 2,200 people already [laid off]. Here's another phenomenon. It bugs me, When a factory lays off 1,000 people everybody says what a tragedy. When government lays off 1,000 people, people say good. It's wrong."
He said one of the blessings of the current economic crisis has been to force the state to look for efficiencies and better ways of conducting business.
Susan Boyle Glidden of Holyoke asked about the status of Holyoke Soldiers' Home and noted that it would be easier for people to campaign for Patrick in this area if "you could tell them the Soldiers' Home would be there for a while."
"There was no danger of the Soldiers' Home going away -- never any danger," Patrick responded.
Patrick then referred to "a game that I'm not going to talk about on the record" -- an obvious reference to a behind-the-scenes political event involving the Soldiers' Home.
He noted the Soldiers' Home funding has risen 14 percent since he has been in office, which was his decision. He said while looking for possible efficiencies his administration was advised by someone he declined to identify the outpatient clinic services could be taken over by other medical facilities.
He said the funding has been restored and it will be in his next budget and added the outrage about the cuts at the Soldiers' Home have been matched by many other cuts in other programs across the state .
When told of the efforts made by Holyoke Veterans Agent Kris Lecca in acquiring financial records of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home to see how money is being spent there, Patrick said, "I think transparency is always good, particularly in public institutions."