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Gov. Patrick Goes to Ballet and Snubs JetBlue CEO

Thursday, August 23, 2012

 

Governor Deval Patrick

While JetBlue CEO David Barger was in Worcester discussing the possibility of bringing a commercial airline back to the Commonwealth's second largest city, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was 50 miles away touring the Boston Ballet.

Instead, Lt. Governor Tim Murray took the lead in Worcester as Barger met with state and local officials, along with representatives from Massport, about JetBlue potentially flying out of the now empty Worcester Regional Airport. With Murray in Worcester, Patrick chaired a meeting of the Governor's Council, usually Murray's responsibility, back at the state house at noon, before touring the ballet at 1 pm.

Patrick's Deputy Press Secretary Bonnie McGilpin says the choice was made because of Lt. Governor Murray's involvement in transportation issues, and his deep ties to the City of Worcester.

"The meetings the Lieutenant Governor (had Wednesday) with JetBlue leadership are part of an important effort to attract commercial airline service to Worcester Regional Airport," McGilpin said. "As a former mayor of Worcester, the Lieutenant Governor works closely with the Commonwealth’s municipalities and Gateway Cities to support initiatives that create jobs, economic development, and is the lead on many efforts to bolster our transportation network. The Governor receives regular updates from the Lieutenant Governor and the rest of his team on the progress of these projects and is looking forward to a strong partnership with JetBlue as they consider expanding in Worcester."

Konnie Lukes, who succeeded Murray as Mayor of Worcester and currently serves on the City Council, says she knew Murray would be in Worcester for the luncheon regardless. She also views the Governor's absence as a sign that he wants more than a luncheon when he comes to Central Massachusetts.

"Murray is a Worcester guy and he wants to keep his support in the area," Lukes said. "To me, the question is, should it have been Murray and Governor Patrick here? With him in Boston, that clearly indicates that the Governor is not coming for a love-fest, he's waiting for a deal to get done."

Barger did claim to be very impressed with Worcester on his visit, saying it topped the list of cities attempting to woo his young airline. The CEO's comments, along with the comments of City Manager Michael O'Brien at yesterday's press conference seem to indicate that it is a matter of when, and not if, a deal will be finalized between Massport and JetBlue.

Still, local Republican leaders saw Patrick's absence as a sign that the Governor will soon be leaving the Commonwealth for Washington. Patrick has been campaigning for President Obama's reelection as recently as Tuesday night, and Chris Pinto of the Worcester Republican City Committee thinks Patrick is more concerned about positioning himself for a cabinet position than serving the needs of Massachusetts.

JetBlue CEO David Barger speaking at Worcester's Beechwood Hotel yesterday.

"Is touring the Boston Ballet more important than locking up a commercial airline for the state's second largest city?" Pinto asked. "The governor not showing up doesn't surprise me, he's been absentee leadership lately, and it seems he's already thinking about a position in Washington."

While the meaning of Patrick's absence can be debated, Murray did intimate that the Governor has been involved with the Worcester Regional Airport. In fact, he says it was a question from the Governor five years ago that started the process of bringing JetBlue to Worcester.

"Back in 2007, as we began having a conversation about transportation reform, Governor Patrick asked me about Worcester Airport," Murray said. "I shared with him the fact that the City of Worcester and Massport had a partnership… Two years ago we were able to complete a deal and the city transferred the airport to Massport for $15 million. And Massport began aggressively making investments in the airport and reaching out to the people they have the pleasure of doing business with every day now. First and foremost, JetBlue." 

 

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