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Tom Finneran: Blocking and Tackling the Worcester Way

Friday, December 07, 2012


We abound in candidates with flash, sizzle and strut, producing hot air, unending pomposity, and cliché upon cliché, with most if not all of it ending in consistent voter disappointment. Then there are the doers, the blockers and the tacklers. They carry no pretensions about them. They leave the speech-making to others, recognizing that there’s more than enough hot air in the world.

The blockers and tacklers want to actually do something rather than merely be something. They seek no fancy titles. They are the workers of the world. I like their company and I like their determination. And if they hail from Worcester, there’s something particularly appealing about the blockers and tacklers. Perhaps it’s the blue-collar underdog attitude, that against the odds/we try harder effort. Whatever it is, we need more of it.

Meet Tim Murray, blocker and tackler.

I met him several years ago. At the time he was the Mayor of Worcester, having been elected by the citizens of the city and then chosen by his colleagues on the Worcester City Council to serve as Mayor. He had a pleasant manner about him, both engaging and engaged, in focused pursuit of jobs and economic growth for his city. He gave me an education on tax increment financing as a useful tool for bringing better quality of life opportunities to cities across the Commonwealth.

He may have been the first public official I knew who recognized that “24/7” activity—that is housing and restaurants, theaters and businesses—could and should co-exist in the same city blocks…………..that city blocks which empty out at 5:00 PM, quickly become city blocks with metal security gates and that the post-work activities of city residents brought security, energy, and economic vitality to people who hoped for a better standard of living. The Mayor recognized that busy streets and sidewalks are indicators of a healthy and confident city and that empty sidewalks were ominous in many baleful ways.

In 2006, Tim Murray was elected as the Lieutenant Governor, joining the Patrick Administration and bringing a sensible Central Massachusetts outlook and his own urban experience to his duties. He’s made a few mistakes along the way---who here wishes to cast the first stone?—and I sense that the scar tissue of those mistakes will make him an even better leader. At one time or another, every public officer in every land has been taken in by the blarney of self-promoters. The best public officials are the ones who acknowledge the error and learn from it. Tim Murray, already a darn good local leader, has been chastened and improved by the hard experience of finding out that some people dissemble and exaggerate and take advantage of others’ faith in honest public service.

I’m aware of two areas of public policy that the Lt. Governor has focused upon and the outcomes he has achieved in these areas speak to his natural abilities. Those areas are veterans’ affairs and transportation.                                                                          

Regarding our veterans, it is a lamentable fact that the real “we are the 99%” issue in America today is that ninety-nine percent of us are totally oblivious to the sacrifices made by the 1% who serve in the armed forces. Veterans today often serve multiple deployments. When they return home they face medical issues, job issues, housing issues, and family issues of enormous complexity. While we, the 99%, might express our gratitude to the soldier we see in the airport or on the street, our expression is often mere lip service of the moment.

Tim Murray, a blocker and tackler, doesn’t do lip service. He does deeds instead. And he does those deeds with energy and with results. Massachusetts might be the best state in the nation with regard to our veterans and yet we have miles to go before we sleep. Tim Murray has not slept in his fight for veterans. He knows the programs which help make a difference in the lives of those who have served and, in his own very effective way, he has become the fighter, the blocker and tackler, for the families of all our fighters.

Regarding transportation, many have spoken and few have succeeded here in Massachusetts. Twenty years hence, Tim Murray’s name will probably be enshrined in some transportation hall of fame for the thoughtful and highly beneficial bargain he brokered with CSX Rail. He has capped years of steady focused effort, yes, blocking and tackling, by concluding an arrangement which will help the cities of Boston and Worcester and virtually every suburban commuter in Eastern Massachusetts.

The benefits of this arrangement are multiple. It helps address and improve environmental and transportation issues. Commuters’ twice-daily rides, whether in their cars or on commuter trains, will be considerably eased. Housing opportunities for young couples will be multiplied. Economic development and job opportunities will be created, transportation shipping costs will be reduced. In short, he has engineered a series of major improvements in areas which are vital to Massachusetts’ future.

Where I come from, that’s leadership. Where I come from, that’s blocking and tackling. And where I come from, we applaud it when we see it.


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