AS WE APPROACH a critical election, Massachusetts is at a crossroads, and the break with the past we need is to put a Democrat in the governors office.
After 16 years of Republican governors, Massachusetts is in serious trouble. We have the third-worst state economy in the country. The median property tax is up 42 percent in five years. The states transportation system is falling apart. Rusting bridges and potholed highways are everywhere. Service on the MBTA is deteriorating.
Massachusetts is the only state in the country that has lost population two years in a row because our kids cant afford to live here. When I was governor we were building 6,000 to 7,000 units of affordable housing a year. Today we are producing a tiny fraction of thatand as a result we are losing our best and our brightest to other regions of the country.
Health insurance premiums are going up in double digits for the seventh year in a row. The budgets of our state colleges and state university have been severely cut, even as more and more of our students depend on them for the educational opportunity they need and deserve. Violent crime is up again, and thanks to cuts in municipal assistance, our cities and towns cant hire the police officers they need to deal with it.
But how does the Republican nominee, in the dirtiest gubernatorial campaign in my memory, define whats at stake in the upcoming election? The threat supposedly posed by criminal defense lawyers, phantom taxes, and, most shameful of all, foreign immigrants.
Yes, Deval Patrick represented defendants in criminal cases. So did I. So did Paul Cellucci. So did Bill Weld. I dont remember anybody suggesting that, as a result, we were unfit for public office.
Kerry Healeys no tax pledge is laughable. Deval Patrick hasnt proposed any new taxes, but she and Mitt Romney asked the Legislature for nearly a billion dollars in taxes and fees soon after they took office. I dont blame them. After three previous Republican administrations, the state was broke. But please dont tell us that you are a no-taxer, especially when you support an MBTA fare increasea commuter tax if there ever was onethat will take twice as much out of our pockets as you want to give us back in the form of a tax cut.
The Healey campaigns attacks on immigrants are particularly offensive. My dad came here at the age of 15. He didnt have a nickel in his pocket and couldnt speak English. Twelve years later that young Greek immigrant was graduating from the Harvard Medical School and was a family doctor for more than 50 years. My mother came here when she was 9. She was the first Greek-American young woman ever to go away to college and became a schoolteacher. Without people like them, this country wouldnt be half the place it is today.
What this state needs in the governors office is bold vision; new ideas; fresh energy; competent public officials who can build tunnels that dont kill us; and a governor who can unite us, not divide us.
That is what we will get from Deval Patrick.
Former governor Michael Dukakis is distinguished professor of political science at Northeastern University.