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Lame duck Charlie Baker takes brunt of beating for MBTA problems


Democratic lawmakers who for decades have controlled Beacon Hill are now trying to pin the blame for the MBTA’s safety crisis directly on the feathered butt of lame duck Gov. Charlie Baker.

That much was clear from the first of a series of politically motivated public hearings focusing on a rash of crashes, runaway trains, derailments, explosions, and deadly door malfunctions that have plagued the T the past few years.

It’s a predictable strategy in a year when the entire Legislature is on the ballot, but it’s not going to do anything to fix the T.

Baker does deserve a good chunk of blame for the problems on the T, which he wrestled control of early in his first term and promised to make safer and more efficient.

Grandstanding legislators on Monday outlined the governor’s attempts to minimize the problems — calling an explosion a “battery failure” — and pressuring the T to delay reporting serious malfunctions to the public.

“I don’t view it as political interference,” General Manager Steve Poftak told legislators on Monday.

But the T has been dysfunctional and nontransparent for decades, long before Baker arrived in the Corner Office.

In some years Democrats have controlled not just the Legislature but the governor’s office as well, and yet now they manage to absolve themselves of any blame.

It’s only now, in an election year, that lawmakers have decided to act — and by act I mean calling for useless hearings from which nothing will come.

It’s so bad that even federal lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren and Stephen Lynch have leapt into the fray — giving them something to do besides blame Donald Trump for everything.

But even state lawmakers have refused to do the obvious — which is call for a total housecleaning and the replacement of the T’s top managers.

“Well the calendar is going to provide a new governor will be sworn in in January,” was all state Rep. William Straus, co-chair of the Transportation Committee, could muster.

Sure, Maura Healey will solve everything, right?

How Poftak has been allowed to keep his job is mystifying.

The system needs a new reform-minded manager and a complete house cleaning.

“It’s a big battleship to turn around. We’re not going to turn it around in a month, in a day, a month, a year,” Poftak told lawmakers on Monday. “The system is safe, we can and will do better.”

Yet Poftak now says the T needs another $300 million to make the T safe, which includes handing out huge bonuses to attract more dispatchers.

Does anyone really believe giving them another $300 million is going to fix all the problems?

Yet it’s not Poftak or Baker or any of the lawmakers involved in these charade public hearings who will be paying the ultimate price.

It’s the passengers who rely on the MBTA to get to work on time every day.


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