FRAMINGHAM — He is the anti-Chris Christie.
While the bellicose New Jersey governor likes to bark orders during natural disasters, Governor Deval Patrick takes a softer approach, the calm voice of caution in the black fleece vest.
When a Patrick aide said during a storm-related press conference Friday that drivers who violate the state’s 4 p.m. travel ban could face a $500 fine or one year in prison, the governor quickly stepped in to reassure the public.
“The point is not to figure out how to come down hard on people,” the governor said at the state’s emergency management bunker in Framingham. “We are trying to be, and will be, flexible.”
It was classic Patrick, the soft-spoken Democrat elected on a promise, “together we can.“ In the State House, his signature style has been to seek conciliation and avoid conflict, whether he is defusing a showdown with unions over benefit cuts or nudging legislators to accept tax hikes.
Facing snowstorms and hurricanes, his tack is much the same. While Christie famously warned residents who ignored his evacuation orders before Hurricane Irene to “get the hell off the beach,” Patrick urges residents to be neighborly, and check in on elders in their area.
“Make sure they have what they need,” he said Friday.
Every politician, of course, has his or her own way of communicating with the public during major storms. Michael S. Dukakis became famous for his casual sweaters during the blizzard of 1978 while the athletic Mayor Raymond L. Flynn of Boston rode snowplows through the city.
Patrick has made his stamp with an even-keeled demeanor. His tone is serious, but not alarmist. He urges residents to stock up on medication, food, bottled water, and flashlights. When the sun comes out on Saturday, he said, people may want to run outside and play in the snow.
“And I totally understand that,” Patrick said, sounding like a concerned father. “But, please, exercise caution and use common sense. . . . There are hazards under this winter wonderland, and we just want everyone to exercise extreme caution, even once this storm ends.”
Patrick’s fleece vest emblazoned with the silver logo of the state’s Emergency Management Agency has become a familiar part of his storm appearances, so much so that he greeted reporters Friday by declaring: “Hi, everybody. I’m back in my MEMA vest.”
Ending his press conference, he sought to show that not only was he urging the public to stay home, but he was going to do so himself.
He said his plans to see “Jersey Boys “ in Boston Friday night had been canceled, and his wife was stuck in California. So he was headed back to Milton to spend the night with his black Labrador retriever.
“It’s just me and Toby,” he said.
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