Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Perks for the Political 

Massachusetts Lt. Governor Kerry Healey has apologized for allowing her state trooper driver to utilize the vehicle's blue emergency lights to get through a traffic jam last week. The pair hit the usual Rt. 128 traffic in Burlington while on their way to Newton for a speaking engagement, and the trooper independently opted to pull flash and get moving. The article about the situation also mentioned the time then Lt. Governor Jane Swift found herself in hot water in 1999 for catching a ride on a state police helicopter to get from Boston to her home in the Berkshires for Thanksgiving. That incident was compounded by her requests that aides babysit one of her children.

I understand the criticism of former Gov. (she became acting governor when Paul Cellucci was appointed ambassador to Canada) Swift. She used state resources for personal use, and in the case of the helicopter, pretty pricey state resources at that. Certainly the governor would have been in the right had she used the helicopter to get back to Boston to deal with an emergency of some sort, but not to go home.

Then again, it's all a matter of degree, isn't it? It's common for the State Police to drive the governor and lieutenant governor around in official vehicles. Why? I assume it's for security and efficiency. So if the trooper's job is to safeguard the official and get that official to the destination as efficiently as possible, why not use the lights? Wouldn't the risk to the official be greater if they're sitting in traffic for hours? Otherwise why use a marked cruiser to begin with? I've been in 128 Burlington traffic - she could have been stuck there for quite a while.

The President uses Marine One and Air Force One to get to vacations in Crawford and Camp David all the time. And have you ever seen the Commander in Chief waiting patiently for a traffic jam to thin out? I don't imagine VP Dick Cheney has to spend much time stuck on Dupont Circle. So it's okay for the leaders of the country, but not for the leaders of the Commonwealth? What about a United States Senator? If it's okay for a US Senator, what about a state senator? Mayor of the City of New York? Then what about the Mayor of Northampton? Is there a sliding scale that determines when a perk becomes a necessity due to the political power of the person wielding it?

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:27 AM