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We have to help Deval keep his promises

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Let's step into the Way Back Machine and I'll ask Mr. Peabody to set the dial for Jan. 2, 2003 and Boston as the place. We'll make sure to get there early in the morning so we can get a good spot to listen to W. Mitt Romney's inaugural address.

The Mittster's speech ran some 20 minutes and here's an interesting segment of it:

"Surely, historians will look back to Sept. 11, 2001 as a pivotal inflection point. Like us, they will be moved by the human tragedy of that day and by the redefinition of heroism. They may also see Sept. 11th as a symbol marking the emergence of a fundamental change in human endeavors. Perhaps the most obvious of these changes is the reassessment of military strategy. Massive battle groups and warheads capable of destroying the entire planet were frustrated by a handful of murderous fanatics with box cutters. The large, slow, impregnable force gave way to the nimble, stealthy and inventive.

"This realignment toward the nimble and inventive is also being experienced in other dimensions of our lives. In commerce, the seemingly impregnable corporate behemoths are increasingly outmaneuvered by nimble, fast moving upstarts. As United Airlines files for bankruptcy, Southwest and Jet Blue thrive. One sees the same dynamics in industries like software, pharmaceuticals, publishing, broadcasting, retailing, steel and textiles. To survive, the largest corporations adopt the qualities that characterize their most nimble and inventive attackers. It's not terminal to be large. It is only terminal to be slow, unresponsive, arrogant, isolated, bureaucratic, or unwilling to change.

"These same dynamics also confront what we do in the public sector. Slow, bureaucratic, and disconnected are becoming untenable."

Seth Gitell, writing on the web site for the "Boston Phoenix," noted that Romney implied the citizens of the Commonwealth should have qualities exhibited by Al Quadea terrorists a statement that might bite Romney on the backside on the campaign trail.

What interests me is not the obvious goofy metaphor Romney or his speechwriters made, but instead thinking about what Romney has done in his four years as governor and whether or not he has helped the Commonwealth to be more nimble and intuitive.

The answer is that he didn't play any such role or have that kind of success.

The Commonwealth elected him because he was a businessman and outsider. His supporters believed Romney would use his election mandate to make positive changes and to beat and tease the Legislature into making decisions that would benefit the state as a whole.

Instead, once Romney discovered the state could not be run like a corporation, he seemed to lose interest in his job and started prepping for a new one.

Looking at the last four years, the role of the executive branch of our state government has been squandered. With people leaving Massachusetts because of high living costs and shrinking opportunities we can not waste another minute.

As I admitted in this column I voted for Mitt Romney and he failed us all. I will also tell you I voted for Deval Patrick and he can not be allowed to fail. The stakes for all of us are too high.

Here's an excerpt from his inaugural address:

"Quick fixes, gimmicks and sound bites are not enough. That's not in the spirit of what built this country. That is not what cleared the forest and planted New England's earliest farms. It's not what inspired our great universities and museums. It's not what created the boom in textile manufacturing in its time or a flourishing biotech industry today. It's not what freed the colonies from oppression or the slaves from bondage or women from second class citizenship.

"What has distinguished us at every signature moment of our history is the willingness to look a challenge right in the eye, the instinct to measure it against our ideals, and the sustained dedication to close the gap between the two. That is who we are.

"We will need different tools and different approaches, ones for our times. As your governor, I have broad responsibility for what goes right and what goes wrong, but far less authority than I need to influence the course of either. For that reason, I will reorganize the executive branch, to simplify our systems, to make it more modern and accessible and accountable, to enable our public employees to concentrate on the public service at the core of their assignments, and to enable your governor to advance the agenda you elected me to do.

"I will ask municipalities to enter into a new partnership with state government, so that we can work together to reduce their operating costs, to better plan across regions, and to rebuild city and town centers into stronger economic cores.

"And I will be calling on you, each one of you, to stay engaged, to bring forward your solutions, not just your problems, to suggest a better way, to keep your eye on the higher ground we seek, and to act like this State House is your House. You stood up, and you reached out, from every corner of the Commonwealth, working together in the best example in recent memory of a bedrock democratic principle: that to make any difference in our common realities, we must see our stake in each others' dreams and struggles as well as our own, and act on that.

"My point is that we will be doing some things differently. Moving today's rituals within reach of you is symbolic of that. Change is not always comfortable or convenient or welcome. But it is what we hoped for, what we have worked for, what you voted for, and what you shall have."

Patrick has asked for our interest and participation and we owe it to him and ourselves to give him just that.

And let's make sure he lives up to the promises of his speech.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.