Mihos sets the record straight

A bad memory makes for an even worse governor
Big City media is trying to pick your next Governor for you

By Christy Mihos

Charlie Baker seems to have peculiar tunnel vision

The Standard-Times
By Jack Spilane ~ February 14, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has an interesting view of his role overseeing the Big Dig.
   Whether that view has anything to do with the facts is another question.
Baker, in a Standard-Times interview this week, said that when he was the Weld/Cellucci Secretary of Administration and Finance he wasn't connected to the billions of dollars in cost overruns at the Big Dig.
   "I don't think it had anything to do with me. I mean the Turnpike Authority was running it at that point in time," he said.
Baker, by the way, hasn't just been making Big Dig innocence claims to this newspaper.
Two weeks ago, in an interview with Fox 25 television in Boston, he contended that the Big Dig costs didn't increase at all while he was Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci's chief financial officer.
   "Eleven billion dollars when I became A & F Secretary. Eleven billion dollars when I left," he told Fox's unquestioning anchor, Gene Lavanchy.
   Here's what the facts show, however, about one Charles D. Baker Jr., and the nearly unfathomable bill he helped stick Massachusetts taxpayers with for the out-of-control spending at the Big Dig.
   And here's what the facts show about the way Baker designed a decade-long plan to divert federal highway dollars meant for the whole state to Boston's Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel project.
   That decade, by the way, will not end until 2014, in case you're wondering about the real reasons why Route 18's reconstruction has been delayed a decade, and why the Interstate 195 bridge over Route 140 in New Bedford is literally taking years to complete.
   Charlie Baker says he'd rather that the SouthCoast grow its own economy than have the state rebuild its commuter rail connection to Boston. That's an astounding position given how Baker himself helped hatch a plan to take away this region's transporation money for a Boston project that makes the $1.4 billion commuter rail actually look small by comparison.
   Here's what the state Inspector General's 2001 report said about what the Weld Administration and Finance department (led by Baker) - and which anyone can find online - knew about projected Big Dig costs in 1994. That was the first year that the guy who now wants to be governor served in the A&F job.
   Keep in mind that this was more than a decade before the Big Dig was finished, and arguably in plenty of time to scale it back.
"Records show that B/PB (Bechtel/Parsons-Brinkerhoff) presented Big Dig officials with an excruciatingly detailed total cost forecast of $13.79 billion in November 1994, a figure close to the $13.8 billion revised estimate announced by Big Dig officials in October 2000."
   The project eventually ended up costing $15 billion.
   That's not counting, of course, the nearly $7 billion in interest payments that will be paid before the installment payments are all completed.
   And in case, you think that these figures were only being presented to the Turnpike Authority, as Mr. Baker seemed to imply in his Standard-Times interview, read again from the 2001 Inspector General's report.
"Records and testimony also indicate that Bechtel Corporation's president and a key senior partner flew to Boston for a December 1, 1994 meeting to ensure that the Governor (Weld) and his advisors 'were hearing the real numbers that B/PB had forecast.'
   "According to an interview with B/PB's former Project Manager who briefed the Bechtel officials at the Boston Harbor Hotel immediately before their meeting with the governor, B/PB's forecast then exceeded $14 billion."
   Charlie Baker, as secretary of Administration and Finance, was Weld's most influential financial adviser on the Big Dig. He was also Lt. Gov. Cellucci's, (and then Gov. Cellucci's) chief adviser. Cellucci, the IG reported, also likely knew about the cost overrun projections. He had been appointed the head of the governor's Big Dig oversight task force in 1992.
During his Standard-Times interview, Baker pointed out that the A&F department did not gain authority over the independent turnpike agency until last year's transportation reform bill.
   You know that bill, it's the one proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick and passed by the Democratic Legislature.
Baker, however, points to it as his exoneration.
   "My point being, that until that law got passed, the Executive Branch, and A&F in particular, had no statutory authority to actually review and approve and sign off on Turnpike Authority spending," he said.
And Charlie Baker is absolutely right about that. He did not have legal authority over the Turnpike Authority.
   But why, The Standard-Times asked him, when he became aware that Big Dig costs were out-of-control, didn't he go public? Why didn't he use his bully pulpit to reign in the Turnpike Authority, and the project, in the court of public opinion.
It was all because the state didn't know how much the federal government would give to the project, he said:
   "And the mechanism for dealing with it (paying for the Big Dig) became the metropolitan highway system, which was the legislation that was signed off on by the Legislature, signed off on by the feds, signed off on by the inspector general, signed off on by just about everybody."
   The mechanism for dealing with it?
Signed off on by the Legislature?
But who proposed the mechanism for dealing with it?
   Why it was the Weld/Cellucci administration and their A&F secretary, Charlie Baker!
   Here's how a July 17, 2009 Boston Globe story described their plan.
   "When the Big Dig was short on cash in the mid-1990s, state officials made a decision that is still affecting the quality of roads, bridges, and highway finances today.
   "In exchange for $1.5 billion upfront, the state pledged to surrender to bondholders more than a quarter of its federal highway grants from 2006 through 2015, about $150 million per year.
   "Governor Paul Cellucci's top financial adviser when the program was conceived and passed into law was Charles D. Baker (Jr.), who announced last week that he is running for governor," the Globe wrote.
   Exasperated by Baker's campaign claims that he wants to return the state to fiscal stability, not to mention his assertions of innocence on the Big Dig spending, the Patrick/Murray administration has begun to fight back.
   Lt. Gov. Tim Murray has publicly called out Baker in recent weeks. Here's what he told The Standard-Times on Thursday.
"It's amazing the lengths that Charlie Baker will go to, to avoid his responsibilities in the Big Dig, his management of the Big Dig, and the financing scheme they put together to deprive regions of the state from immediate infrastructure investment," he said.
   "Bill Weld said there was no more influential person in his administration than Charlie Baker."
   Now to be fair to Mr. Baker, both Democrats and Republicans deserve blame for the financial boondoggle that became the Big Dig.
   It was conceived in the administration of former Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis at a supposed cost of $2.5 billion.
  It was an ambitious plan to solve the crippling traffic problems of Boston's Central Artery, a highway that cut through the center of the city, but that couldn't easily be expanded because it was elevated on steel girders.
   But the highway was mostly built during the administrations of a succession of Republican governors, and half-way through the project, as costs escalated sharply, and the project became politicized, the federal government refused to provide further funding.
   The Big Dig was the kind of highway infrastructure rebuilding that had to be undertaken - although it certainly could have been accomplished in a logistically less-expensive way than it was.
   There's plenty of blame to go around, and it's not all Charlie Baker's, Weld's and Cellucci's.
The Democratic Legislature, as Baker pointed out, signed off on the project.
But Baker didn't move to put a stop to it, revamp it, or even to be candid with the public about its cost while he was in office.
Here's what former Gov. Weld, after he had moved to New York, said in a 2000 Boston Magazine about his administration's honesty with the public.
   "When Cellucci and I were out on the hustings in central and western Massachusetts, we didn't want to tell the town fathers and town mothers that we were going to take all their statewide road and bridge money, and use it to pay for the Central Artery," he said.
   Lt. Gov. Murray correctly points out that there were other people who did speak out about the skyrocketing costs in the 1990s.
   "There were a number of people, Democrats, Republicans, at the State House, as well as outside third parties, that warned throughout that period of time, from 1994 to '98, that they weren't being honest about the cost, and transparent about the cost," he said.
   The Weld/Cellucci administration's decision to go forward with the Big Dig plan is one of the big reasons why the state transportation system's debt is as high as it is today, Murray said.
   "So for him (Baker) not to be honest about his role, and the cost that that has resulted to taxpayers, and the deferred maintenance across the state, it's just not believable," he said.

To this day Christy's buys all of its Gas and Diesel from our long-term provider Noonan Brothers.

This is a business disagreement which happens each and every day.

Yet, when one can not be found, the courts are the only place to take these. This issue has absolutely nothing to do with the political campaign.

In the political process of a Governor's race, people will try to leverage this type of situation to go negative on a candidate. That's part of the ugliness of a political fight.

I can say that in my 40 years as a full-timer, officer and owner of both Christy's Market, INC, and Christy's of Cape Cod, LLC this is the first time an issue like this has ever gone to Court. Yet, you can't back down on these issues because of a concern that a reporter may write a story that is not a positive story.

Sneak attacks will backfire

As far as the stories that we did not pay former consultants to the Campaign, that is just not true.

All were paid. We have offered the Boston Globe reporter, 1099s, cancelled checks, resignation e-mails, and a trail of e-mails to disclose all the facts.

There are still great newspapers like the Standard-Times which try to set the record straight, see the sidebar on right.

We even met with the reporter and gave him all the documentation to prove the allegations false. To this day, the facts have not been printed.

Coy ploy used by bad reporters

The questions to these issues come mostly on Friday afternoons between the hours of 4 PM and 5:30. the stories had already been written.

We had asked for a delay to get the facts, and documents to the reporter and no time was afforded to get the information to the reporter. no chance to get our side of the story out.

Casey Ross of the Globe is now writing on the campaign.

We have given Casey all the information that we gave to the former reporter. we'll see if he prints the facts.

 

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