Baker’s approach to T epitomizes his leadership style
Analytical, diligent, cautious, and at times lacking inspiration
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER, Beacon Hill’s Mr. Fix-it, is taking a lot of heat over the Red Line derailment on Tuesday.
A Boston Globe editorial – titled “Going off the rails on Charlie Baker’s train – warns the T is his Achilles heel as he lays plans to seek a third term.
Beacon Hill analyst Michael Widmer notes Baker is thinking about running for a third term to complete the things he’s started, but says at the pace he’s going he may need a fourth term to finish the job at the T.
And the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr suggests Baker’s third term dreams must be a joke. “What’s the T’s new slogan?” Howie asks. “Next time, take the bus.”
Baker’s approach to the T epitomizes his leadership style – analytical, diligent, cautious, and at times lacking inspiration.
After the snowmageddon of 2015, the governor promised to turn the T around. Over the last four years, he has brought stability to the organization, put it on the right path, and set the stage for a turnaround. Progress has been painfully slow but, as Baker insisted this week, “we’re headed in the right direction.”
Even so, there have been a lot of bumps along the way. The hiring of Luis Ramirez (remember him?) as general manager may have been one of the bigger bumps. Hiring in general is a problem: This year the transit authority will hire more people than it loses through attrition for the first time in years. South Coast Rail, a campaign promise of Baker’s, may be good transportation policy, but it’s unclear whether a $1 billion service expansion makes sense when the T’s core service continues to struggle.
Baker is also too cautious. His refusal to even discuss the need for additional revenue makes little sense. He says the T can’t spend the money it has now, which is a fair point. But there is growing consensus that the T will need additional revenues in the future. His own Fiscal and Management Control Board is trying to craft a statement on new revenues, and it will be interesting to see if Baker rejects the advice of the very people he personally selected to help him turn around the T.
Finally, there is his lack of interest in experimenting with new approaches and his unwillingness to even ride the T. He doesn’t need to step on board a train to fix the system, but his refusal to do so shows an unwillingness to connect with T riders on a personal level. (He might take a cue from a certain predecessor who still manages to hop aboard regularly at age 85.)Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who skillfully uses her own personal experiences on transit to connect with riders, suggested the governor’s unwillingness to ride a train leaves him out of touch. “Is there any daily @MBTAcommuter who agrees with @CharlieBakerMA that service is moving in the right direction? Anyone? Has anyone ever seen the Gov taking public transit? Even 1 time?” she asked.
What you see is what you get with Baker. He may be frustrating at times, but this is the same politician who overwhelmingly defeated Democrat Jay Gonzalez in the last election even though Gonzalez repeatedly challenged Baker’s cautious approach on the T and promised huge investments in the transit agency. He’s the same politician who twice won the Globe’s endorsement for governor. And he’s the same politician who 66 percent of voters think should run for a third term even though 60 percent of those same voters think their commute is getting worse.