If a clean slate is a time for optimism, then Day One of the New Year should be a time to anticipate the coming year with a sense of the glass more than half full. On the political scene, Governor-elect Charlie Baker seems to be making all the right moves. His cabinet appointees are a solid bipartisan mix of people with intelligence and experience, and, while the incoming governor faces what could be a $750 million to a whopping $1 billion deficit, it’s a challenge he faced years ago in state government, and he’s best suited to tackle it today.
Given the time Baker has spent dealing with health care, both as Human Services Secretary and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, he is well positioned to make the state’s Health Connector work properly. I’d also like to see him advance the transportation projects that are the underpinning of the state’s economy. There’s plenty for him to do in education and mental health as well. But, on this first day of the year, I’m optimistic.
I’m also encouraged by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s performance in his first year and think he’ll be even stronger in 2015. Speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last month, he ticked off some of his “urban mechanic” accomplishments, 18,000 potholes fixed, $4 billion in new construction projects started, a record-breaking 3859 new housing starts, removing 1500 guns from the streets, all metrics that he tracks in real time on a “dashboard” in his office. He stood up to the City Council on an unwarranted pay raise issue, and, as the year was counting down. He managed to negotiate with the teachers union for a modest increase in the length of the school day, and he is pledged that there will be universal free pre-K education for all four-year-olds by 2018. He has reached out with police officials to connect with the community and strengthen the foundation of trust. He seems to have a bolder vision for architecture in Boston while embracing and building on Menino’s commitment to sustainability. Long-time residents are still withholding judgment on the Mayor, but I firmly believe he is the real deal and am optimistic about his future.
Here’s something I didn’t think I’d be saying, especially since the Republicans control both houses of Congress. I feel that President Obama has regained some of his initial energy, sense of purpose and testicular fortitude. It’s reflected in his poll numbers, which, while still less than half favorable, are back up to the high 40’s, where he hasn’t been for a couple of years. Perhaps he won’t be as much of a lame duck as originally feared.
I’ve actually become optimistic about the state of local journalism. Under John Henry’s new ownership, The Boston Globe is investing in new initiatives, like Crux, Capital, Address, Business and, just announced, a new Living section to replace G. We seen a return to long-form pieces and series, all of which is unusual in today’s journalism. The Boston Herald, for its part, is innovative in multi-platform journalism, including the creation of its own online radio station. Boston is amazingly lucky to have two daily newspapers.
While the Patriots’ performance in their last two games was less than stellar, I still see them beating their AFC playoff opponents and going to the Super Bowl. Statistician Nate Silver , who has a sterling record for prognostication, gives them only a 22 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, with the Seattle Seahawks heavily favored to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. I’m still hopeful however. That outcome will be made clear a lot sooner than we will know for sure about Charlie Baker’s success, Marty Walsh’s or Barack Obama’s for that matter.
I’m optimistic about the economy at home for all of the obvious metrics, but I’m concerned about market volatility and the impact of looming problems abroad on our well-being. I’m feeling more positive than ever before about the ability of this nation to achieve energy independence, though much more remains to be done about greenhouse gases. Foreign crises, of course, move us deeper into the glass half empty way of thinking, especially in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Russia, and elsewhere. But, as I said, this is January 1. And there’s much that I feel good about. How are you feeling?
I welcome your comments in the section below.