Monday, March 9, 2009

Swatting a gadfly

Jim Aloisi, the state transportation secretary, is on record referring to Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton as "a distraction" and "a gadfly" in today's Globe. Well known for her outspokenness, Connaughton is the only rank-and-file board member who is regularly quoted in the media.

Aloisi, as a result of his cabinet office, is the chairman of the Pike board. He said of Connaughton:

"Respect is a two-way street," Aloisi said, a few days after cutting Connaughton off repeatedly during the Feb. 24 meeting and removing her from a spot on the authority's audit committee, where she had freer access to agency documents. "And I wasn't treated with respect and I haven't been treated with respect by her since the first day I took this job."

"She's a distraction," he continued. "She's a gadfly. And I have more important things to do."


Anonymous said...

Aloisi's remarks were ignorant and direspectful, not just to her,but every taxpayer.
Next year all we have to do to remove this annoying hack is to fire his boss Deval--throw him out of office,and you get rid of Aloisi too.If we vote--together we can!!!!

Mary Berninger said...

I, too, found Mr. Aloisi's comments distasteful and disrespectful. It's been said that he is a close friend and protege (of sorts) of Bob Travaglini. Never have I witnessed Trav making such remarks in public. In private, who knows, but in public he always managed to remain polite and restrained, even in the face of opponents and in the face of controversy. Mr. Aloisi could stand to take a page out of Trav's play book, since this all about the game of politics and Mr. Aloisi is alleged to enjoy political favor with the Governor. Wasn't Mr. Aloisi supposed to be the point person who would go to the Legislature and convince the members to vote in favor of the Governor's transportation initiatives? Perhaps, it's time for the Governor to tutor Mr. Aloisi in the fine points of finesse and simple politeness. Otherwise, Mr. Aloisi's acerbic tongue won't gain him many friends and allies in the State House.

Anonymous said...

Aloisi reminds me of another arrogant, rude individual who was also connected to the Big Dig - James Kerasiotis. He was a bully and intolerant of those who dare disagree with him. We all know how his tenure turned out. Who doesn't remember the billion dollar shortfall in the Big Dig budget after Kerasiotis and his boss Paul Cellucci swore up and down that the 'Dig' was 'on time and on budget'. Of course, that didn't come out until after the election.

N.starluna said...

I'm not exactly sure what he said. Granted, I don't know Aloisi, and the tone in which something is said matters. But nothing reported in the article strikes me as distasteful. He's obviously annoyed but not having been in that meeting, the article does not really give me any sense of whether Connaughton was trying to make a relevant point when she was "repeatedly" cut off (which is itself not well described - twice, 10 times, how many times was she cut off?) or was she simply making noise and deserved to be cut off. We've all been to meetings where there are people who just like the sound of their voice. Not knowing either of these individuals, I can't say that the article provided any evidence to support any judgment on either of them in this regard.

I get the feeling there is more to this story than is being reported. I respect what Connaughton thinks she might be doing. But the reporter gave no indication what her counter-proposals were or what she does with the "loads" of reports she requests, other than go on to local TV and radio. There is no way to gauge whether she made reasonable proposals, or is just trying to get media attention. Has anyone here met her? Does she strike you as someone who actually is trying to make the system better?

After some of the conversations I've had with legislators in Central and Western Mass, I am skeptical of anyone from the western suburbs (especially those outside of 128) who claim to be a representative of tollpayers. All too often, they are solely interested in removing the tolls all the way through the Brighton toll plaza, but are indifferent about the tunnel tolls. We should all keep in mind that one of the reasons for the Turnpike debt is that the tolls collected from drivers west of 128 do not cover the maintenance costs of the Pike. So Eastern Mass tollpayers have for years been paying for the Central and Western Mass pike maintenance. Does anyone know if Connaughton's proposals deal with any of this at all? I don't know Connaugton but if her interests are similar to those of others in her part of Massachusetts, I'm skeptical that she has the interests of the toll payers from Eastie or points north in mind.

JohnW said...

Now that you mention it I have to say that the whole argument about the tolls west of 128 not paying for the maintenance of that stretch of the Pike or discussion of the western part of the state bearing the burden of the Big Dig which "they don't even use", etc... is a stupid argument. I don't do a lot of driving in the western part of the state but I do expect the State roads out there to be properly maintained. I don't have kids in school but I do expect the schools not to be crap and am willing to have my taxes go to ensure that.

By that reasoning shouldn't I pay the full fare for going through the Ted Williams every morning on the way to work like everyone else? No, because East Boston is bearing the burden of living at an airport that provides a benefit to the rest of the State/region. Highways and educational systems are providing benefits for us all as a society while some parts of our infrastructure provide disamenities (like air pollution, noise and loss of residential and open space) that is not spread out around the State. (Granted some of the amenities like good schools are definitely not equally distributed around the state either.)

Might be sliding off-topic here, but damnit, Aloisi better strike out that bit about rescinding the Eastie/Chelsea/North End/Charlestown resident discounts or he'll be hearing some seriously disrespectful interruptions.

N.starluna said...

I agree with JohnW on the whole. The reason why the tolls collected west of 128 do not pay for the maintenance of the Pike is relevant is because, under the law, the tolls collected west of 128 are not allowed to be used for the maintenance of the Pike east of 128. So, even if we all agree that we should contribute to the larger goal of maintaining the roadways, the fact that tollpayers on a specific stretch of the Pike have restricted the use of the tolls paid makes their argument that they shouldn't have to pay any tolls while remaining silent on the tolls paid by tollpayers coming through the tunnels disingenuous at best, selfish at worst. If any of the proposals to eliminate the tolls West of 128 are passed, the tunnel tolls will effectively be carrying the maintenance burden of the entire Pike, in addition to the Big Dig debt burden.

Anonymous said...

Today's Boston Globe had an editorial in support of the gas tax increase, chastising anyone who dares oppose it. They link failure of a tax increase directly to a toll hike. What they failed to mention was the fact that, according to figures from the governor's office printed in the Globe, only 4 cents of the 19 cent increase would be needed to make any toll increase unnecessary. The rest of the increase is for other initiatives. If the Globe wants to use the excuse of preventing the toll increase as the reason for the gas tax increase, then support a 4 cent increase and open the other money up for debate.

I think the whole issue of the Turnpike toll increase, especially the levels threatened in the harbor tunnels was designed to generate the greatest anger amongst drivers, hopefully pushing them into being accepting of the gas tax increase as proposed by the administration. When the anger at the level of the tax increase was much greater than expected, they brought out the 'stick' of the toll increase again with the Turnpike board vote to increase tolls, thus upping the pressure. This isn't the Turnpike operating on its own, it's the governor's office playing tag team with them against all of us.

N.starluna said...

The tolls are not the only thing that the state (and we) need to think about. There have been at least two decades of "deferred maintenance" of our roadways and public transportation system. Instead of doing basic, preventive maintenance, the state has only been doing emergency repairs. We are getting to a point where bridges, roads, and the public transportation infrastructure are going to start falling apart. This is the reason why the gas tax makes sense. Most of the increase is going to fix the problems that have been created and to putting in a working system of ongoing maintenance for all of the state's roadways so that, hopefully, these kinds of problems are prevented.

While there is a possibility that the Turnpike and the Governor's office is collaborating on creating a crisis to push the gas tax, I doubt this is the case. The Governor's preferred solution is to get rid of the Turnpike Authority altogether. I don't imagine that the Turnpike board or staff are interested in hastening their own demise.

Jimbo said...

When the price of gas bottomed out a few months ago around $1.60 the state should have passed a tax that would have raised the price five or ten cents a gallon immediately and then one cent a month until reaching the desired level. Such an increase would be virtually imperceptible.

Anonymous said...

Yes, maintenance and upkeep have been deferred for the past 20 years, and we should be paying into working at that backlog. It's also true that the easiest time to have instituted the gas tax increase was at the bottom of the recent gas price drop, but that's all water under the bridge. However, I would feel much better if the governor and his administration (Aloisi) didn't preach to me, lecture me, and otherwise condescend to me during this time. If they want to raise revenues to effect these changes, then explain what the corrections will be to fix the transportation system in the state and how the added money would be used in that plan. Also, don't try to sell this whole thing as necessary to prevent a gas tax increase. The toll increase/gas tax connection is a small part, some 21% of the increase. Spend more time explaining that, and less threatened us as a way to get the whole tax increase. It's the way it's being done, rather than the the numbers that bother me.