Where are the Priorities, Massachusetts?

On Jan. 25, I watched and listened to the final State of the Commonwealth address by Governor Charlie Baker. As usual, there was a lot of chest-thumping. There always is with these things, which is why yours truly typically doesn’t watch. This time around, though, I figured, “Ahh, why not?” It was, after all, his last one. 

I could have done without the bromance between him and Marty Walsh — “I miss you man!” — but I’ll give Charlie a little credit. He handled the COVID crisis well, and despite there are a few things he could have done better, I won’t beat a dead horse about that. Still, there are a couple of things that I need to point out.  

As I said, there is a lot of chest-thumping at these things and Charlie was bragging about how he and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito “eliminated the widespread use of hotels and motels for homeless families.” 

But where did those families go, Charlie? 

For that matter what did you and the Lt. Governor do about homelessness besides make sure families don’t stay in hotels? 

As of 2021 there were 18,471 people homeless in Massachusetts. Family homelessness increased in 2020 from 3,766 to an estimated 4,021 individuals. Oh, by the way, that increase was before COVID hit. Where are those families staying Governor? Do you even know? Do you have a clue? Your speech sounded as if you had solved the problem of family homelessness when, in reality, you made it more difficult for them to find a place to go. 

Let’s not forget that you and your buddy Marty Walsh oversaw the closing of Long Island Shelter — which indirectly contributed to the situation on Methadone Mile — as part of Walsh’s attempt to bring the Olympics to Boston even while people were being forced into the street with no real game plan. 

Let’s face it, Charlie: for all that thumping, you have done nothing to solve the problem of homelessness in Massachusetts. I know that’s something that you or the rest of the folks that were patting you and themselves on the back don’t want to hear, but it’s the truth. Finally, after all these years, people on the Mile are being helped. 

Yes, much of the housing where people are being placed is temporary, but it’s a start, and that has been due to the persistence of Mayor Wu, not anything that you or your buddy ever did. All you have to show or brag about is keeping homeless families out of hotels. 

The other point I want to make isn’t really about Baker. He spoke about Domestic Violence and that he and the Lt. Governor had spoken with affected women and had heard the horror stories about spouses who mentally and physically abuse those they claim to love. You could tell that Baker was visibly moved by those conversations. He spoke about how he and the Lt. Governor had filed bills time and time again to strengthen Domestic Violence laws but to no avail. 

Two things. First, as a person who has been on both sides of this issue, it amazes me that a state that loves to constantly claim how much it cares for others simply doesn’t seem to get behind tougher domestic laws. Why is that, Massachusetts? Or, more specifically, why is that, State Legislature? (Is it that our State Legislature, on the whole, is still ruled by mostly white men?)

The second thing is even after that very passionate part of that speech the local media really didn’t even mention it. Instead, many outlets focused on the part that talked about taxes. It’s as if the domestic violence part of the speech had never happened. So, I ask not just Baker, who is not running for reelection, but everyone here in Massachusetts: where exactly are your priorities? Do you care about human beings? Or are you more concerned about your taxes? 

It’s a question that one shouldn’t have to ask.







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