Baker flunks driver’s license test

The Registry of Motor Vehicles, with its interminable waiting time and paperwork, has long been the state bureaucracy bane of drivers’ existence. Now it’s proving to be the same for Charlie Baker’s political standing.

Baker has long eschewed the idea that he must articulate a grand vision, that his stewardship of state government needs to be propelled by soaring rhetoric that captures the hearts and minds of the citizenry.

Instead, he has bet his political chips on the power of “queueing theory.” That’s the fancy management modeling term for figuring out the fastest way to get people through a waiting line. In late 2015, taking stock of his first year in office, it was an idea that got Baker animated in an interview in the smaller working office where he does most of his State House business, the ornate formal governor’s office being far too stuffy for his hands-on style.

Baker was talking about early work his administration did to reduce waiting times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but it served as a prime example of his approach to the job overall.

“People are getting in and out of these places in 10 minutes,” he said. “Maybe most people would say that’s not very aspirational. If you’re the person who gets paid by the hour and loses half a day, you probably think that’s pretty cool.”

Baker looked like the perfect antidote to Deval Patrick’s final term, marred by a number of management failings. His aim, Baker said, was “to get stuff done and focus on the work.”

The problem now is that the work product looks decidedly shaky.

Revelations that ten of thousands of out-of-state notifications of driving infractions by Massachusetts-licensed drivers went unprocessed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles are basically the opposite of the can-do management approach Baker promised voters. At least 540 of those drivers should have had their licenses suspended, including the 23-year-old West Springfield truck driver now charged with plowing into a group of motorcyclists last month in New Hampshire, killing seven of them.

The truck driver, and hundreds of others, were allowed to keep driving “essentially because no one bothered to open the mail,” writes the Globe’s Adrian Walker.

His offering is part of a one-two-three punch to Baker delivered this morning by the paper’s columnists, with Kevin Cullen and Shirley Leung joining in the gubernatorial pummeling. That’s all on top of the expected sharp shiv wielded by Howie Carr.

RMV chief Erin Deveney was out the door as soon as the story broke, but Walker wonders why Baker’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, isn’t gone as well. A Herald editorial says she should be. Leung suggests the administration had its priorities at the Registry backwards. “Public safety shouldn’t be a tradeoff for shorter lines,” she writes.

Baker addressed that issue yesterday, saying the Registry work has been focused more on customer-facing “front of the house” improvements, while acknowledging the work now needed on “back on the house” systems.

The Registry problems come after weeks of focus on the dilapidated state of the MBTA, spurred by the June 11 derailment of a Red Line train in Dorchester. Red Line riders have been told they’ll face delays at least through Labor Day as the signal system controlling train movements is rebuilt.

It’s all enough to prompt questions about whether Baker has officially entered the well-worn danger zone marked by the “second-term blues,” a particularly challenging patch for a governor who recently acknowledged that he hasn’t ruled out running for a third term.

For a guy whose political calling card has been that he will, literally as well as figuratively, make the trains run on time, it could be a long, hot summer.

MICHAEL JONAS  

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker, taking heat for his oversight of the T since the June 11 Red Line derailment, heads for the South Coast where he is hailed for committing to bringing commuter rail to the area. (CommonWealth)

How to rein in pharmaceutical costs appears to be the major stumbling block to finishing up the fiscal 2020 budget. (CommonWealth)

Baker is taking responsibility for the RMV breakdown on out-of-state violations, but in a way that reminds people of past progress at the agency. He says the RMV failed to do “part of its job.” (CommonWealth) Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, who is the House chairwoman of the veteran affairs committee, wants an oversight hearing into what happened at the RMV and how it will be fixed. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

About 1,000 Jewish activists and other protesters shut down rush hour traffic in Boston yesterday evening as they marched from the New England Holocaust Memorial to the Suffolk County House of Correction where the demonstrated against the facility holding detainees for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. (Boston Globe)

Billerica Town Manager John Curran writes that through a quarter century of public life he had not been mocked for his facial abnormality, but he noticed that in 2017 that changed and since then he has been “overtly, personally and publicly” attacked. (Lowell Sun)

Following two shark attacks on the Cape last year, towns and the National Seashore are on alert, with new safety precautions in place. (Cape Cod Times) 

The State 911 Department is taking over a regional emergency center serving five North Shore communities that had been beset by financial problems and complaints dating back to its 2013 launch. (Salem News)

Local veterans gathered at Fall River’s Veterans Memorial Bicentennial Park to break ground on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. (Herald News) 

New Bedford is expanding children’s access to free healthy meals this summer. In addition to lunch five days a week, New Bedford Parks, Recreation, and Beaches is piloting a dinner program twice a week through Aug. 20. (Standard Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Trump administration dropped plans to ask about citizenship on the 2020 Census after the Supreme Court ruled that the rationale for the question appeared to be “contrived.” (Washington Post)

For former Lesley University and Suffolk University president Margaret McKenna, release by the Providence diocese of a list of nearly 50 priests accused of child molestation is raising anew horrid memories of being assaulted by a Central Falls priest as a girl — and of the inaction by various authorities to whom she reported the incident. (Boston Globe)

A report by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security describes overcrowded, squalid conditions at detention centers the department runs at the US-Mexican border. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Wayfair was not alone. Records indicate a number of Massachusetts businesses have done business with the US Customs and Border Patrol agency. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

A report by the Pioneer Institute backs Gov. Charlie Baker’s education funding bill, which includes new funding and new accountability measures for schools. (Boston Globe)

Neema Avashia, who teaches civics, describes chafing against the “bounds of professionalism,” as she mounted a campaign to save the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester from closure. (WBUR)

ARTS/CULTURE

Frank Phillips, husband to the late documentary filmmaker Jenny Phillips, is working with her longtime collaborator, director and editor Andy Kukura, to complete The Angola Project, a documentary about a prison program designed to reduce recidivism. (WBUR)

Northampton and the nonprofit community music center work out a deal for space that is mutually beneficial to both parties. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Arielle Gray explains why as a black American cognizant of the Founding Father’s embrace of slavery, Independence Day “remains a hollow statement, a shallow symbol of a freedom that is only a mirage for many.” (WBUR)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Referrals by the Environmental Protection Agency for prosecution of violating environmental laws have dropped sharply, according to a report by an advocacy group. (Boston Globe)

A Quincy sea wall project is floundering. Mayor Thomas Koch has requested $14.3 million from the city council to replace 8,000 linear feet of sea wall intended to protect a neighborhood. But in a letter sent to residents last month, Koch and City Councilor David McCarthy said the funding wouldn’t be up for approval until the fall. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal lawsuit alleges that Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque lied about overtime, and a top lieutenant stole money that had been seized in drug investigations. Mayor Dan Rivera said he supports the police brass but won’t comment on the suit. (Eagle-Tribune)

Federal prosecutors claim Brianna Duffy stole morphine and diluted patients’ supply of the painkiller while working as a nurse at Maplewood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Amesbury and Hunt Nursing and Rehab in Danvers. Another Maplewood nurse was charged with similar crimes in March. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy writes about The Muzzle Awards, which call attention to “outrages against free speech and the press.” This year’s round-up covers a wide range of offenders — including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, which Kennedy says slapped a gag order on the state ornithologist. (WGBH)

PASSINGS

Lee Iacocca, an icon of the US auto industry who led by Chrysler and Ford, died at age 94. (New York Times)