Published in the January 15, 2016 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
MELROSE — The state is making progress toward improving its working relationship with cities and towns, Governor Charlie Baker said during the city’s inauguration ceremony at Memorial Hall Monday.
Baker was invited to the city’s inauguration ceremony by Mayor Rob Dolan. During Baker’s opening remarks, which shifted between a serious and humorous tone, the governor discussed how his administration’s initiatives over the past year have made a positive impact on local municipalities including Melrose.
The governor began his speech by commending the Melrose High School Band’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner and National Anthem.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have heard bands play the Star Spangled Banner and afterwards I thought good effort,” said Baker. “This band rocked.”
Baker said he was honored to be invited to the inauguration ceremony by Dolan. He said Dolan is a man of “class” and he appreciates the mayor’s even temperament.
“I truly appreciate what (Dolan) has brought to public discourse,” said Baker, which generated a round of applause from the ceremony’s attendees. “You can disagree without being disagreeable and it’s hard to find somebody who embodies those qualities than the extent Mayor Dolan does. He is one of those people in public life who is not looking for somebody to blame, he is looking for a way to solve a problem.”
Baker said he enjoyed returning to historic Memorial Hall, which he noted is almost as old as portions of the MBTA.
“This is truly a special room and it feels great to be back here,” said Baker. “As I was talking with the mayor, I saw a plaque that says Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1913. I just wanted all of you to know there are switches on the Green Line that were installed in 1910. If I were over 100 years old, I would get a little cranky when it gets cold out.”
Baker said he and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito are committed to working with local officials because the governor and lieutenant governor previously served as local officials.
“Since our first day in office, we have made that clear to people,” said Baker.
Baker highlighted several accomplishments of his first year in office. He said his administration released $100 million in Chapter 90 funding that he said was previously “held up.” He said $36 million was allocated to a Pothole Fund to help cities and towns fix roads and bridges that were damaged last winter. He also noted the State Legislature approved his request last spring to appropriate $200 million in Chapter 90 funds that cities and towns used for infrastructure upgrades and repairs.
“From those three initiatives, the city received $1.4 million dollars to repair roads and bridges in this community,” said Baker.
Baker also said his administration increased unrestricted local aid and Chapter 70 funds for education as part of the state’s fiscal year 2016 budget.
The governor said his administration has repeatedly reached out to local officials as part of an ongoing effort to identify ways to help municipal officials do their jobs more effectively. He noted he filed the Municipal Modernization Act last fall, which he said seeks to improve the partnership between state and local governments. He said the purpose of the bill is to make state government more efficient by getting rid of the “goo and gunk that gets in the way of state government helping local government.”
“It’s 200 pages of weed whacking,” said Baker.
Baker recalled a story when he first introduced the Municipal Modernization Act at a press conference that featured 100 local officials including Dolan. He said the local officials who attended the press conference were incredibly enthusiastic about the proposed bill.
“You would have sworn they were at a concert or a football game,” Baker joked.
In enclosing, Baker congratulated Dolan and members of the Board of Aldermen and School Committee before they were sworn in. He also told one final joke before concluding his remarks.
“I told the School Committee members earlier the reason why I ran for Board of Selectmen in Swampscott is because you have to be willing to stay up late to serve on the school committee,” Baker joked.
After Baker concluded his remarks, the governor was given a standing ovation by local officials and the ceremony’s attendees. In addition to giving opening remarks, Baker administrated the Oath of Office to Dolan.
During Dolan’s inaugural address, the mayor thanked Baker for attending the ceremony. He said the governor’s commitment to the people of the commonwealth and his positive approach to public discourse are the main reasons Baker is the most popular governor in the U.S.