Our opinion: 3 examples of good governance

05.26.2015

This originally ran in The Patriot Ledger

By The Patriot Ledger Editorial Board

Though the American public can be forgiven for its cynicism regarding public officials, there are good ones who are doing their best to do right by the people.

This week we bring you three stories of leaders whose recent actions exemplify good governance. It’s our fervent hope they continue to serve their constituencies so well.

No. 1: Massachusetts’ veterans service officers

The great unsung heroes of good government are the commonwealth’s veterans service officers. They are the men and women who help our retired veterans and their families collect benefits by guiding them through bureaucratic and often unknown systems.

Massachusetts is especially fortunate in that the Legislature has required each town to have a veterans agent. In other states, agents oversee entire counties. These men and women assist in filling out cumbersome paperwork to help veterans file disability claims and pension claims through the Veterans Administration. They even help veterans discover state benefits. They do the same for veterans’ widows and widowers.

As is often the case when dealing with various levels of government, simply filling out the paperwork accurately can be an obstacle, and veterans agents are there to help so claims aren’t delayed. Sometimes, oftentimes, the work they do is more personal. They listen.

On this Memorial Day, we salute the efforts of the good veterans service agents who serve so well those who served America.

No. 2: The Massachusetts Senate

Last week saw the Massachusetts Senate usher in a new level of collegiality and transparency, the likes of which we’ve not seen in government in some time.

As part of the the budget debate, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, promised to make all amendments available to the public. He aired it live on the app Periscope, provided constant and transparent updates via social media and allowed for open and honest debate among both parties – as it should be.

Even though he expressed skepticism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to put the MBTA under the management of a fiscal control board, a vote was taken and the Senate voted in favor of it. Previous – and some might say current – legislative leaders would never have allowed for such autonomy among their members, though such autocratic machinations are antithetical to a proper democracy.

While we may not agree with all of the provisions in the Senate budget, we do appreciate how the legislators arrived at it.

Friday on Twitter, Weymouth Republican Sen. Bob Hedlund wrote to Rosenberg, “Congrats to Sen. Stan on 1st #SenBudget #MaSenate A transparent, deliberative fair process.”

We agree.

No. 3: Attorney General Maura Healey

A good leader listens more than she speaks, and Attorney General Maura Healey has proven herself a good leader.

Last week, after listening to business leaders across the state, Healey announced an artful compromise: she’ll ease the transition of the recently passed earned sick time initiative to those employers that already give paid time off to their employees.

Healey said she came to this decision after meeting with and listening to small-business owners who are already trying to do right by their employees but need more time to adjust their operating systems before the July 1 deadline to implement the law. Now those businesses have until Jan. 1 to formalize a sick time policy.

Of course this provision doesn’t come at the expense of workers. Healey said this isn’t a delay; they’ll still earn time off and have access to their existing paid time off. And for those 1 million employees who aren’t already provided paid time off, they’ll start earning theirs July 1. Make no mistake, Healey intends to protect the rights of all workers, especially the most vulnerable.

What’s equally encouraging is that she sees her role in ensuring compliance with the new law as less about enforcement and more about education. As such, she’s been hosting forums for the business community to educate them about all aspects of the law.

It isn’t often public officials find compassionate compromises based on a nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by opposing sides, so we salute Healey for doing just that


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