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September 18, 2005

"Throwing a bomb on the table"

A post in which I take the side of the Romney administration...? Would-be gubernatorial candidate and Swampscott selectman Charlie Baker threw down with some Romney aides the other day at a business roundtable, taking them to task for their supposed ignorance on the limits of what towns can do to accomodate the non-super-rich:

Eric Kriss, the governor's wonkish secretary of administration, argued that the state's cities and towns need to find a way to accommodate more growth or look harder at costs. Kriss's point: Building multifamily and affordable single-family homes makes economic sense for communities. Places like Cambridge are succeeding at growing revenues and building housing. Why not others?

That's when Harvard Pilgrim chief executive Charlie Baker spoke up -- and things got heated, say those who were there.

Baker, who had Kriss's job in the Weld administration and is now a Swampscott selectman, said municipal officials he knows don't believe building modestly priced housing makes fiscal sense, because of the added pressure on schools and other services. He pointed directly at Romney and Kriss, calling them two ''very smart guys," but said the ''mythology" of what is good for communities is very different than what they were describing. And he differed with Kriss's numbers.

''The governor was not too happy about it," says one executive.

It was like throwing a bomb on the table, said those in attendance.

Note to Charlie Baker: You want "added pressure"? Try paying for the median family house in Swampscott on a median family income. Or paying the property taxes when you've lived there for 30 years and didn't imagine the all-time real estate bubble would make you paper-rich and cash-poor.

That's not mythology. That's the reality that's making young families leave Massachusetts in droves. The pull-up-the-drawbridge mentality of many communities in our Commonwealth isn't helping them stick around.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 11:10 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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I believe Baker's point is more practacal Charley.
No one has come up with a plan that will satisfy the burbs. It is expensive to house,educate, and protect people not making much money. And suburbs don't want to invite these p[roblems to their towns.
Is that unreasonable? And what is your suggestion?

Posted by: The troll | Sep 18, 2005 3:47:25 PM

also Charley, you just identify a problem that everyone, including Baker, no about. And people are concerned.
But what is your answer?

Posted by: The troll | Sep 18, 2005 3:48:47 PM

ah, that's know about, charley. sorry

Posted by: The troll | Sep 18, 2005 3:49:20 PM

I love this story - vintage Charlie Baker, who is not afraid to tell anyone that he thinks they're wrong, and usually in very plainspoken, "earthy" (get my point?) language. I can't tell from the Globe report what Baker was actually arguing for or against - not enough detail - so I have no comment on the merits. However, I seriously doubt that Baker is insensitive to the problem of affordable housing - he actually does get these issues. He may just believe that whatever Romney and Kriss were floating didn't make sense.

What a shame that he's not running for Governor. It sure would have been fun to watch.

Posted by: David | Sep 18, 2005 4:44:38 PM

I agree with you David. Chaley Baker is a dick (my words not yours). But me being the fair minded contrarian agreed with himn here. He's just such a pompous a-hole though.

Posted by: The troll | Sep 18, 2005 4:54:45 PM

Baker would mop up Tom Reilly in a debate

Posted by: The troll | Sep 18, 2005 4:55:52 PM

The account is very short on some detail that would have been interesting. The author (or those telling him the story) was more interested in the "Baker in Romney's FACE!" angle. Whatever.

People whom I respect say that Baker is a smart guy with good ideas. He should share them with the rest of us, not just a business roundtable. I stick by my point that the drawbridge mentality is what is making people leave the state.

Maybe we should interview him about exactly that...

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Sep 18, 2005 5:51:35 PM

Baker is indeed a smart guy, and many in the lefty health care community like him a lot because he listens, and when he's presented with a convincing argument, he changes his mind (it happened more than once during the Welducci administration). One of the signs of a good thinker.

As for sharing his ideas with the rest of us, he undoubtedly would have done that if he had decided to run. Since he didn't, though, it's hard to blame him for not going too public with this stuff.

Posted by: David | Sep 18, 2005 6:06:57 PM

Not blaming him -- I'd really like to know. That sounded snarkier than I meant it.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Sep 18, 2005 7:27:55 PM

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