Values, innovation, and transparency
By Steve Grossman
To get an idea of what candidates might be like if elected, it is probably a good idea to see what they've done before they came asking for your vote. That as true for me and my campaign for State Treasurer as for everyone else.
A hundred years ago, my grandfather Max Grossman who had immigrated with his parents to Boston from Russia, founded what is now Grossman Marketing Group, our Somerville-based family owned business. I ran the company for 35 years and was proud to turn over its management to my sons, David and Ben, when I launched my political campaign.
To survive for a century, a company must be both true to its core values and sufficiently innovative to keep up with changing conditions in a highly competitive business. In 2009, both requirements were sorely tested. While we have done well, no one in Washington will list us as "too big to fail." We were hit hard by the recession and were struggling to the point where layoffs were an option.
Under our contract with our union employees, we can cut jobs on the basis of seniority. That would have been the easy thing to do, but not the smart one. Our production workforce has an average tenure of more than 25 years, and we cannot afford to lose that talent and expertise. So I went to my union and salaried colleagues and asked them to develop a plan that we could implement to save money. I told them whatever they agreed to, we would adopt.
The result was that their plans allowed us to return to financial health - without layoffs. I am proud of what we did and how we did it. We innovated. And we were true to our values.
That is the kind of approach I intend to bring to public office.
We have had too much squabbling and not enough solutions in politics and in government. We need to find common sense solutions to the problems Massachusetts faces at a time of grave economic uncertainty. We need to restore the public's faith in its institutions, including government. We need to restore civility and work together. We need to listen.
As my father, Edgar Grossman, used to counsel me: "You were born with two ears and one mouth. Try to use them in roughly that proportion."
One place to start to rebuild public confidence is by opening up the Treasurer's office - both by increasing disclosure and transparency and by expanding the ranks of those who do business with the office.
We should put the Commonwealth's checkbook online so that citizens can see how their money is being spent. Texas already does this. Surely a high-tech communications powerhouse such as Massachusetts can do the same.
The Treasurer's office can also advance transparency by using the Internet to fully disclose the identities of everyone who does business with the Treasury, the terms of contracts awarded, and the details of competitive bidding processes. The press or public should not have to dig through dusty filing cabinets on Beacon Hill; they should be able to access this data at their computers.
I am not waiting for the election to practice transparency. For example, when I read in The Boston Globe that there have been long delays in obtaining candidate financial disclosures from the State Ethics Commission, I posted mine online. (www.stevegrossman.com/financialdisclosure) Similarly, my campaign has had one of the top compliance levels of any Massachusetts candidacy in fully identifying the business ties of our contributors. The law says you can settle for just sending the contributor a letter asking for missing information. We don't settle. We follow up.
I want the Treasury's business to be open to anyone who wants to compete for it - regardless of whether they have ever made campaign contributions to anyone and regardless of their past relationships with the state. There will be no closed doors and closed processes if I am Treasurer. That extends to the possible expansion of gaming. I will not support any measure that does not provide competitive bidding for all licenses.
Open competition and bidding is not just good political reform, it is good for state finances.
Other states such as Maryland have actively recruited emerging managers, including women- and minority-owned firms, to invest state pension funds and other state financial holdings. The result: the emerging firms typically outperform the bigger, established Wall Street financial institutions. The state and the taxpayers benefit from innovation and fresh thinking.
Values. Innovation. Transparency. Those have been guiding principles for me throughout my professional life. They will be how I conduct business as State Treasurer.