Grading the governor: Charlie Baker
Charlie Baker answered Globe questions on Deval Patrick and the management of state government.
What has been Deval Patrick's biggest accomplishment as governor?
His handling of the Lawrence public schools. Appointing Jeff Riley to manage the turnaround process was the right call, and it has been an important success.
What has been Deval Patrick's biggest shortcoming as governor?
His inability to ensure that state government works for the taxpayers who fund it, and for the people who need it most. The disappointments with the Health Connector, at DCF, in the medical marijuana licensing process, at the state drug lab, and the compounding pharmacy tragedy are all significant management failures that have happened under his watch.
The Department of Public Health has weathered several controversies in recent years regarding lax oversight of compounding pharmacies, lapses at the state drug lab, and a bumpy rollout of the medical marijuana law. What changes would you make at the Department of Public Health?
As governor, I would work to involve pain management medical professionals in the marijuana dispensary process and feel it was a mistake not to do so. The failures at the drug lab and compounding pharmacies are management failures that were enabled by one-party rule on Beacon Hill, where there is a lack of transparency and accountability. I will bring my experience successfully managing large organizations, both in the Weld and Cellucci administrations and at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and I will demand results, hold people accountable, and require transparency.
Several of the recent controversies revealed weaknesses in the state's record-keeping and technological capabilities. What changes would you make to improve technology throughout state government?
Just steps away from Beacon Hill is MIT and Kendall Square, where a robust innovation industry is making advancements that will change the world, and we should be leveraging those resources to make state government smarter in our use of new technology. As governor, I will make those folks part of my team. We also need to modernize how the state purchases technology, as the current process mirrors how paper clips are procured.
Government should also never forget that its purpose is to serve the people. Unfortunately, the experience of dealing with state government is anything but customer-friendly for many people and organizations. I have proposed utilizing technology and the great innovative and creative talent in our state to develop a bold plan for transforming the experience of dealing with state government, both online and in person.
The DPH controversies also revealed a breakdown in communication among various divisions of the massive agency and a lack of transparency in the way the department operates. How would you address this?
Effective and consistent communication within the executive branch is the key to successfully managing state government. As governor, I'll put together a team of qualified and dedicated managers, and bring the focus necessary to demand and measure communication. I've also called for the creation of a state government dashboard which would have publicly available metrics for each state program and agency, with a regularly updated online "dashboard" so the public can see how the program or agency is performing against those metrics.
The commissioner of the Department of Children and Families resigned earlier this year after the agency lost track of a young boy who was later found dead. What changes need to be made at the Department of Children and Families to better protect vulnerable children?
I made a series of recommendations after it became clear DCF was not doing all it could to protect the children in its care. Included in the plan is performing detailed regional audits to ascertain which DCF offices were failing and why, and intense oversight and new management of the offices that are underperforming. Only after it became clear that the DCF leadership was not in control of the children they were charged with protecting did I recommend new leadership.
The commissioner of the Department of Correction resigned earlier this year after reports surfaced that a patient had died in restraints at Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison for the mentally ill. What must be done to improve psychiatric services within the Department of Correction?
First, we need to ensure that patients with mental illness are receiving the appropriate treatment and are placed in the correct facility for their situations. Not all mentally ill people in the corrections system belong there — some should be in inpatient or outpatient treatment settings. As governor, I will make sure there are sufficient resources for all those with mental illness to receive the treatment they need. Second, I will work with the Department of Correction and all parties involved in providing any necessary additional training to corrections officers on dealing with psychiatric patients.