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Romney to create bureau to replace MDC
By Jennifer Peter, Associated Press, 2/19/03
BOSTON -- Gov. Mitt Romney on Wednesday released a plan for a new government bureau that will replace the Metropolitan District Commission, long criticized as a patronage haven.
The new Division of Conservation and Recreation will combine the functions of the MDC and the Department of Environmental Management in an attempt to eliminate duplication between the agencies.
"Massachusetts has world-class parks and recreational facilities and we will now have world-class parks and recreation management," Romney said in a press release.
A bureau of the new division, the Metro Parks Bureau, will oversee urban parks and recreation centers. Parkway maintenance will be handled by a Parkways Bureau within the Transportation Department.
Legislative leaders had expressed concern that eliminating the MDC would reduce access to parks and waterways for thousands of urban residents, but administration officials said that won't happen.
An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there would be no cuts to pools, rinks, parks or public beaches. Instead the savings will come from elimination of administrative overhead and duplication.
The $49 million MDC, criticized for patronage hires and lavish spending, has been unsuccessfully targeted for elimination in the past. Romney, who campaigned as an outsider willing to reduce patronage, fired MDC commissioner David Balfour last month.
Romney said he'll form an Implementation Advisory Group made up of local officials and community representatives to assist in developing the new bureaus. He said he also plans to institutionalize community involvement, volunteer support and public-private partnerships within the parks system.
The new division will fall under the Executive Office for Commonwealth Development.
Romney is expected to propose several other government restructuring plans next week when he unveils his budget proposal for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Romney's plan will include ways to bridge an estimated $3 billion budget deficit next year.