For Mariano, the spotlight isn’t kind
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OFTEN count for a lot, and for Ron Mariano that’s probably not a good thing.
The new House speaker gave an interview to Channel 5 reporter Sharman Sacchetti that was quickly turning heads because of his circumspect answers that seemed dismissive of her queries. Mariano may have shed his signature moustache, but not his reputation for sometimes offering little more than gruff answers to questions.
Sacchetti asked him how he thought the state’s troubled coronavirus vaccine rollout was going. Instead of offering a concise, well-considered opinion, or just resorting to every politician’s fallback of giving the impression of earnestly answering an important question without actually saying much at all, Mariano more acted like he was bantering with a fellow rep in the House members’ lounge.
“I have no idea,” Mariano replied, a candidly bracing answer that seemed to leave Sacchetti taken aback.
“I just got here,” he said.
“Just got here?” writes Globe columnist Adrian Walker. “Sure, he just ascended to the speaker’s job. But he’s been in the State House for nearly 30 years.”
In Mariano’s world, however, there is the inside dynamic of the House, terrain with which he is intimately familiar, and then there is the sudden spotlight of the speaker’s post, with cameras turned in your direction and questions coming at you constantly. He’s a 74-year-old rookie in that role, and that is presumably what he meant.
His comments underscore the sometimes awkward public profile cut by legislative leaders like the House speaker or Senate president. They are major state figures, part of the “Big 3” of state government leadership along with the governor. But unlike the governor, who must appeal to voters across the state to win office, Mariano is only a public-facing man-of-the-people in the Quincy-based House district he has represented for three decades.
The voting constituency he had to win over to land in the speaker’s seat is the other 159 members of the House. And with Mariano’s ascension appearing to be wired from the start, that race played out more like a Soviet election with one candidate on the ballot than a zesty contest among candidates with competing ideas for how to lead the House forward.
Walker is scathing in his take on the veteran insider, pronouncing the best thing about his tenure so far is Marino’s vow not to claim an extended run as speaker.
But after the 12-year reign of Robert DeLeo, who avoided the press at all costs and rarely gave interviews, it would be refreshing if Mariano decided to be more accessible and open. As much as the Channel 5 interview seemed to go sideways, there are plenty of examples of political figures coming back from bombing on a first impression.
In other words, there are lots of second acts in American politics. To help Mariano along, after just a week in the speaker’s post, the curtain rises today on a new session of the Legislature, with the audience eagerly watching the lead performance.
The House and Senate finish action on economic development and transportation bond bills by extending the finish line from Tuesday until 4:30 Wednesday morning. The transportation legislation surprisingly hikes a 20-cent state fee on Uber and Lyft rides to 40 cents for shared rides and $1.20 on non-shared rides, plus an extra 20-cent public transit access fee on rides that begin and end in 14 core MBTA communities.
The Massachusetts Legislature demonstrated in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that deadlines, rules, and even time are malleable on Beacon Hill.
Jeff Riley, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, is backing a lower-stakes MCAS test.
Opinion: Seth Kershner says the May 1 melee at the Bristol County Jail was not unique because of the widespread use of military tactical teams. … Voc-tech schools are thriving despite pandemic strictures, says Tom Birmingham.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Lawmakers pass a bill creating a commission to take a renewed look at the state’s seal and motto, which Native American leaders have called offensive. (MassLive)
Gloucester considers changing its zoning laws to make it easier to build affordable housing. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh extends closure of gyms, movie theaters, and museums for three weeks amid troubling coronavirus numbers. (Boston Herald)
An internet outage in Worcester that temporarily interrupted the schools’ remote learning programs calls renewed attention to the city’s attempts to improve broadband internet service. (Telegram & Gazette)
Protesters are calling on Chicopee City Councilor Lucjan Galecki to resign after he made comments on social media saying women wearing provocative clothing at “sketchy” nightclubs are at fault if they are sexually harassed. (MassLive)
Carlos Rafael, known as “The Codfather” for crimes he committed while he was in charge of a large portion of a fishing fleet, has turned his focus to real estate development in Dartmouth despite still serving time. (Standard-Times)
Northampton Mayor David Narkiewicz is calling it quits. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Massachusetts has distributed 117,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (MassLive)
Dr. Betsy Nabel, the president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will step down after 11 years to pursue for-profit ventures, a move she said was unrelated to controversy that arose last year about her service on the board of biotech company Moderna, which has now developed one of two approved COVID-19 vaccines. (Boston Globe)
STAT News looks at the stunning collapse of Haven, the health care start-up with a gold-plated leadership team.
Cleta Mitchell, a private attorney who advised President Trump during his controversial call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, resigned her partnership at her law firm in Washington. (NPR)
Democrat Raphael Warnock captured one of two Georgia US Senate seats up for grabs in yesterday’s unusual dual runoffs, while Democrat Jon Ossoff held a narrow lead in the other contest, which is still deemed too close to call. An Ossoff win would give Democrats control of the Senate. (Washington Post)
A Democratic win in both races would be the capstone of Stacey Abrams’s 10-year quest to flip the state blue, an effort that gained steam with the voter registration efforts she championed after narrowly losing the 2018 election for governor there. (New York Times)
Vice President Mike Pence, who has been a dutiful lieutenant to an often reckless and unpredictable president, is likely to anger President Trump in his last big moment in the spotlight as he oversees today’s congressional acceptance of electoral votes sealing Joe Biden’s victory. (Washington Post)
The real estate development firm A.W. Perry buys the old Garelick Farms site on the Lynnway from Dean Foods for $9.9 million. (Daily Item)
Cab owners say their revenue has shrunk by as much as 50 percent since the pandemic began. (Herald News)
The North Shore Chamber of Commerce names Karen Andreas, the former publisher of the North of Boston Media Group, as its new CEO. (Gloucester Daily Times)
A handful of shops in Eastham and Wellfleet are awaiting inspections and final approvals from the state and could be open within a few months. (Cape Cod Times)
Salem State’s business school becomes the first state school in Massachusetts to get a prestigious accreditation from a national business education network. (The Salem News)
Immigrants across Massachusetts have resisted getting tested for COVID-19 and getting the vaccine out of fear of deportation, although it would be illegal for medical officials to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (GBH)
A Globe editorial slams the MBTA’s proposed service cuts as ill-considered and calls the “Forging Ahead” plan that lays them out “ironically named.” The T will be furloughing for five days administrative personnel and some union workers to cut costs. (Boston Herald)
Early indications suggest homicides will be up sharply across the country in 2020. (NPR)
Two Newton police officers responding to reports of a man with a knife end up shooting and killing the man. (MetroWest Daily News)MEDIA
The Berkshire Eagle publishes a database of all loans issued in Berkshire County under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. (Berkshire Eagle)