Deval Patrick Starred in Role of Governor as Buddha, Only It Was No Act

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A few years back, a friend of mine left his office in downtown Boston one evening and walked to the Liberty Hotel, where he was to meet a client at Clink, the hotel’s restaurant.  (Clink refers to the original building on the site, the Charles Street Jail.)

The maĆ®tre d escorted my friend to a table where he would await the client’s arrival.  Once seated, he looked to his right to find Governor Deval Patrick and his wife, Diane, at the next table.  The first couple was enjoying a light meal.
“Governor! Good to see you,” my friend said.

“It’s good to see you, too,” said a beaming Patrick, although he clearly had no idea who my friend was.
My friend stood, approached their table, and shook the hands of the Governor and Mrs. Patrick.

“I hope you had a good day today,” my friend said.
“Every day you are Governor of Massachusetts is a good day,” Patrick said.

One could not closely observe Patrick these past eight years and not come to the conclusion that the man, while modest in height, is an exceptionally large person.  Therein lies the key to his enduring popularity, I believe. 
It’s why he was able to get elected governor in the first place when he’d never held an elective office before, not even selectman.  And it’s why his problems, which sometimes came coated with superglue -- Hello, Annie Dookhan! -- never stuck to him for long.

In private there may be a Small Deval, a guy who feels sorry for himself, loses his temper, remembers slights, and nurses grudges.  But I doubt it.  What you see, I believe, is what is really there: the Big Deval.
Big Deval always sees the good in unpromising people and situations.  He’s got his eyes fixed on the big picture, the long view.  He hasn’t much aptitude for following the advice of the great Florentine, Niccolo Machiavelli, who counseled the prince to punish his enemies without hesitation or remorse.

For Big Deval, it was not a question of taking on the good guy role and playing it to the hilt every day.  Rather, he was simply being himself: the Governor as Buddha. Patrick seemed never to be grinding through the myriad duties of his office as much as guiding our Commonwealth from an invisible seat in a Zen zone of impeccable inner balance.
The Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment after years of journeying and of struggling to grasp the meaning of life.  One suspects that Patrick, similarly, had to overcome many obstacles, doubts and setbacks before reaching a point where his worldview came into perfect focus.  Once settled on that point, he was ready to launch a campaign for high elective office.  He was ready at last to present himself, compellingly so, as a man with answers -- a Leader.

On November 25, the Public Broadcasting System aired the first show of Year 2 of a program called “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates.”  The show featured, among other subjects, Deval Patrick.
One of the stories Patrick told Professor Gates about his upbringing in Chicago concerned the day his late father, Laurdine “Pat” Patrick, left his mother for good.  The future governor was four years old at the time.

His mother and father had often argued before that day, Patrick said, but there was something different about this particular argument.  When his father stormed out of the house at the end of it, Patrick sensed his father would not ever be returning.
Upset and alarmed, Patrick followed his father out the door and down the street.  He called to his father; his father turned and told him to go home.  He kept calling.  His father kept telling him to go home.  When he would not relinquish his pursuit, Patrick said his father turned again in exasperation and struck him, knocking him to the ground.  “I still remember the scrapes on my hands where I hit the sidewalk,” he said.

I’ve heard it said that Deval Patrick is the “Teflon Governor.” It was not the Teflon on the outside, I say, that preserved his high standing with the electorate through nearly 3,000 days in office.  It was the gold inside.


Start Calling Gov His Excellency Again and See How Conversation Changes

Friday, December 19, 2014

Article One of the Massachusetts Constitution states: “There shall be a supreme executive magistrate, who shall be styled, The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and whose title shall be – His Excellency.”

I stumbled across Article One last week when doing a little research on gubernatorial pardons.  Immediately, I was intrigued.
How come we don’t we use titles like that these days?

Yes, they’re old fashioned and stilted.  And yes, it would sound ridiculous if the denizens of the State House suddenly started talking like the cast of Downton Abbey.
But maybe, just maybe, a little more formality would go a long way toward reminding us and our elected officials that they play very serious and consequential roles in our society, and that the words they use with one another in transacting the people’s business do matter. 

Words can elevate the human spirit or run it down with equal effectiveness.  They can inspire generosity as easily as anger.  They can create good or bad memories that each endure with remarkable persistence.
Toying with my hypothesis that a more formalized language could change life within the State House for the better, I decided to spin out two scenarios.  Each is based on an imaginary, chance encounter between the Governor of Massachusetts and the House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on one of the Capitol’s magnificent marble staircases.

In Scenario 1, the language is common, like what most of us hear every day.  In Scenario 2, the language is what it could be if our leaders today somehow willed themselves back to the time when our state constitution was written and adopted.
I must emphasize that I definitely was not envisaging or projecting any individual who has actually been the governor or the judiciary co-chair into either scenario.  I’ve put these words into the mouths of completely fictional human beings.  This is a thought experiment only.

Scenario 1
Chairman: “May I have a word with you?”

Governor:  “Depends.  What word are you thinking of?”
“Whiffer Williams.”

“Oh, your friend, the aspiring justice.  Middlesex County’s gift to the bar.”
“He’d make a wonderful judge.”

“Every friend of every burnt-out lawyer says something to that effect.”
“You wound me.”

“Not hard to do.  Your veins are close to the surface, Mr. Chairman.”
“Whiffer is a good man, and a good friend.  When will you place his name in nomination before the Executive Council?”

“May I ask you a question.”
“Yes.  Unlike you, I’m not afraid to give an answer.”

“When is your committee going to release my court reform bill?”
“Hard to say.”

“Only if one wants to make it hard.”
“It is not I who is making it hard.”

“Who then?”
“The people I work for.”

“Your fundraising committee?”
“The voters of my district, of course.”

“Name me one constituent who has spoken to you against court reform.”
Chairman (smiling): “I never break a voter’s confidence.”

“But you don’t mind breaking Whiffer’s heart.”
“Look, Governor, there are so many things I can do for your administration.  And this is such a small matter.  Such an easy matter!”

“Let’s talk about easy when that bill comes out with a favorable report.”
“The Globe would not like to hear of such horse-trading.”

“Only a horse’s ass plays games in the dark with the Globe.”
“Speaking of asses, how’s your legislative director doing, the Little Professor?”

“Any time you need to buff up your office operation, I’ll be glad to lend him to you.”
“Go to hell!”

“You’ll be there first.  Your career’s already dead.”

Scenario 2
Chairman: “Ah, Excellency.  Good day!”

Governor: “Representative!  As I live and breathe, it is the Honorable House Chairman of Judiciary.  Good day to you, Sir.”
“Excellency, may I have a word?”

“Approach, Your Honorableness.  What is on that marvelous mind of yours?”
“Excellency, I speak now on behalf of a dear friend -- a barrister of renown throughout the Commonwealth: the Honorable Wilfred Williams.”

“Ah, yes, the gentleman who aspires to the bench in the District Court of Eastern Middlesex.”
“Nothing would please me more, Excellency, than to see his nomination advance forthwith.”

“Yes, I see. Yes. Yes.”
“Then may I convey to The Gentleman your wish to submit his nomination?"

“Oh, such eagerness.  How endearing!  Like a young racehorse, you are:  always bolting toward the prize.”
“Is that hesitation I hear? Some hidden doubt, perhaps?”

“Honorable Representative, this is not the time or place to explore such complexities.”
“How then shall we ‘explore’ them, Excellency?”

“I shall dispatch my legislative director to your office next week.  You may speak with him in total confidence.  And I trust he may do the same with you.”
“On my word of honor, Sir.  We shall speak as gentlemen and scholars.  He, like all Harvard men, is uncommonly mature for his years.”

“Good Day, Sir.”
“Good Day, Excellency.”

Governor (turning back, smiling): "One more thing, Mr. Chairman! The young scholar will be bringing a copy of my court reform bill to the meeting."








Barring New Info and Victim Comments, Gov. Baker Should Pardon Mark Wahlberg

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In a petition submitted to Governor Deval Patrick on November 26, Mark Wahlberg, a Dorchester product and a Hollywood darling, provided both “the easiest answer” and “the more complex answer” to why he wants to be pardoned for his teenage crimes.

“The easiest answer is that my past convictions still legally impact me to this day,” he wrote, “…my prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire’s license in California and elsewhere.”  (Wahlberg is in the restaurant business with a brother.)
In addition, he wrote, “I have become close with many members of the local law enforcement community in Boston and Los Angeles, including as a member of the board of directors of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, which is dedicated to helping at-risk youth.  But, given my prior record, Massachusetts and California law prohibit me from actually obtaining positions in law enforcement.  If I were fortunate enough to receive a pardon, I would have the ability to become more active in law enforcement activities, including those that assist at-risk individuals.”

Then Wahlberg got to the heart of the matter.
“The more complex answer is that receiving a pardon would be a formal recognition that I am not the same person that I was on the night of April 8, 1988,” his petition states.  “It would be a formal recognition that someone like me can receive official public redemption if he devotes himself to personal improvement and a life of good works.  My hope is that, if I receive a pardon, troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around and be formally accepted back into society.  It would also be an important capstone to the lessons that I try to teach my own children on a daily basis.”

As a 16-year-old, Wahlberg was the protagonist in a very ugly incident on Dorchester Avenue on that April night more than 26 years ago. According to police reports at the time, Wahlberg came upon a man, an immigrant from Vietnam, who had just purchased two cases of beer.  He proceeded to beat the man with a stick, demean him with racially tinged insults, and take the beer.  Wahlberg was arrested as he tried to run off but not before he assaulted another Vietnamese immigrant who had apparently come to the aid of the first man or just got in the way somehow.
Wahlberg was found guilty of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and possession of a Class D controlled substance, marijuana.  He received a three-month jail sentence but got out after serving half of it, 45 days.

In his petition for a pardon, Wahlberg, now 43, wrote that he was “deeply sorry” for his actions that night and “for any lasting damage that I may have caused the victims.”

He added, “Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.”  (Wahlberg and his wife are the parents of four children.)
Given Wahlberg’s status as a movie star and celebrity, and given the aspect of racial bias in the case, it is not surprising that his attempt at a pardon has generated a ton of news coverage and commentary.  Nor is it surprising that many people have reacted negatively to the idea of pardoning a wealthy big shot for such objectionable crimes, even if they did occur almost three decades ago when he was a street punk under the influence of illegal narcotics.  (Wahlberg was said to have been a user of cocaine at that time.)

The TPM web site offered a good sample of the anti-pardon sentiment in an opinion piece by Fitchburg State University professor Ben Railton, which was posted this past Monday, Dec. 8: “Mark Wahlberg’s Ill-Timed Pardon Bid Is the Epitome of White Privilege.”  See
“For so many Americans,” Railton wrote, “especially Asian-Americans, Latinos, black women, and most of all, black men, a criminal record permanently impacts their professional and personal futures.  A criminal conviction – indeed, even a simple arrest – can reduce their options in every part of their lives, from employment to travel to child custody to voting.  Wahlberg claims his record has denied him certain recent opportunities.  Maybe so.  But his record clearly didn’t stop him from making millions and becoming famous.”

Railton also wrote: “Many Americans might prefer to erase the histories of white crime and violence from our collective memories, just as Wahlberg now requests that his own history of violence towards people of color be legally erased.  This ability – to write history the way we choose, regardless of the facts – is a frightening example of white privilege.  Until we make these histories a fuller part of our understanding of our shared American identity, our sense of ourselves will be as partial as a bio of Wahlberg without his teenage crimes.”
Gubernatorial pardons are as rare in Massachusetts as a July 4th weekend with light traffic on the Sagamore Bridge.  The last one was granted in 2002 by then Acting Governor Jane Swift.

Pardon requests move slowly through the system, guaranteeing that Charlie Baker and not Deval Patrick will be the one with the final say on Wahlberg’s petition.  The other day, Baker answered a query on Wahlberg from the State House News Service by saying, “He should go through the process just like everybody else and on the facts of the case.  If it’s up to me to make a decision, I’ll make it at the time.”
At some distant point in 2015, after the process has run its course and the public has witnessed every step of it, I hope Baker will pardon Wahlberg.

I say that because Wahlberg has owned up to his responsibility for his crimes and has repeatedly offered apologies to the victims and expressed sorrow for his shameful actions.  I also say that because Wahlberg has donated millions of his hard-earned dollars to charities and supports worthy causes left and right.
But mainly I say it because:

One, Wahlberg had the courage and decency to seek a pardon knowing full well that request would attract world-wide attention -- and knowing it would serve to inform millions of his fans of his crimes, persons who would not otherwise have ever taken note of those crimes; and
Two, Forgiveness has to become a bigger part of our justice system.

Human beings do change and reform themselves.  They do turn their lives around. 
Isn’t that, ultimately, what we want our justice system to produce: reformed human beings?

Pardons from a governor recognize successful reformation projects.  Thereby, pardons help to encourage those who truly aspire to reform themselves, and who stay reformed.
I mean no disrespect for Deval Patrick when I express the hope that Charlie Baker will not be as stingy with pardons as Patrick has been.



Ex-Worcester Rep Steps Back on Stage to Define His Story of Political Demise

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Worcester state rep John Fresolo was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee when he resigned on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.  He waited almost a year and a half to offer the public an account of the events that led to his resignation, which he did in a guest column published on Thursday, November 6, in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

I quote now from that column, adding italics to make his words stand out from mine:
The investigation was started when my aide approached House leadership with a request to be transferred to work in a different office.  I knew about this request as she was interested in a full-time position, which would include maternity leave, something that she didn’t receive as a legislative aide.

What I didn’t know at the time was that to reinforce her need to transfer she told the legal office in the Statehouse that she had discovered a photo on an email.  She had found it while looking at sent messages while searching for some information relevant to a constituent issue.  Her discovery of the image was accidental and its existence in the Statehouse electronic file system was unknown to me at the time.
The image had been taken on my personal cell phone at my home, by the woman I was seeing at the time, and she texted it to her own personal phone.  It was a bit of foolishness between the two of us, but it was a private image that she took and sent to herself.

Neither of us thought much of it at the time, and it didn’t occur to us that as a result of my personal cell phone being linked to my Statehouse computer, it was stored in a computer.
When my aide was doing some research of sent messages, and opened this file, she was startled – as you might well expect – to see the picture.  She closed the file and for months said nothing to myself or anyone, except some personal friends with whom she worked at the Statehouse.

As her pursuit of a transfer continued, and she was asked why she wanted to be transferred, she made the claim that inappropriate material had appeared on a Statehouse computer and she felt she needed to work somewhere else.
She had no way to know that the image had been a private picture, sent accidentally through a system that parked the image on the Statehouse computer.  But, having raised the tantalizing prospect that I was engaging in inappropriate behavior with Statehouse property, those in leadership who have made no secret to a dislike for me saw the opportunity to embarrass me – or worse.

As it turned out, in order to defend myself I would have had to drag the woman I was seeing and others into a sordid investigation process, most likely filled with graphic depictions of the image and our personal foolishness.
My defense rested upon the possible humiliation of many people, not just me.  I did not want to have to go through that process.  My female friend had no intention of showing this to anyone else.  My aide had no intention of seeing the texted image, but was understandably shaken by seeing it, not knowing how it came to be there.

Her consultation with friends about it would mean they would have to testify, and my enemies in leadership would have the chance to unload any other vitriol they wanted to, while I was left with little to defend myself.
It was a lose-lose-lose proposition.  Thus, I decided to let it drop with my resignation.

At the time of his resignation, John Fresolo was 48.  He’d been in the House for 15 years and was serving his eighth consecutive term.  Politics and public service were his life. 
The departure had to have been doubly traumatic, first because he was leaving a way of life he loved, second because he was going away on a downward path, a way made slick by vague and “tantalizing” ethical questions.

The House Ethics Committee was not required to issue a report on its investigation of Fresolo. 
Unless a matter the committee is investigating is brought before the full House, for example, to gain the approval of the House for a committee-proposed sanction on a representative, House rules stipulate that the subject and content of an Ethics Committee proceeding be kept secret.

With the matter permanently sealed, Fresolo decided to fill in some of the blanks, using as his sketch pad the pages of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  The question is, why now?
Was he hoping to remove the cloud over his head just to facilitate entry into a new field?  He’s still a fairly young man, with many years of earning potentially before him.    

Or was he hoping, more boldly, to lay the groundwork for a political comeback?
In either case, his narrative of personal “foolishness,” as opposed to violations of ethical and legal strictures, and of resigning to spare many people from “possible humiliation," is potentially quite useful.

Perhaps it’s best simply to view the narrative as a trial balloon. 
A lot of time has passed since Fresolo resigned.  Memories have faded, emotions cooled.  People have moved on.  No longer is he serving as a human lightning rod.

So he puts out the best possible version of his story and holds his breath. 
If no one close to the case shoots holes in the story -- and, so far, no one has publicly -- he will have taken a step successfully toward vindication and regeneration. 

If things remain quiet, the next step would be for Fresolo to have friends spread a story, say late in 2015, that he’s going to be a candidate for the legislature in 2016.  (Watch out, Dan Donahue.)
If the press was unable at that point to elicit facts and comments contrary to Fresolo’s narrative -- if the woman who took that compromising photo and the woman who found it declined invitations from newshounds to revisit the case -- Fresolo could convince himself the time is ripe to regain his life on Beacon Hill.