An occasional column about city life
Nothing dulls my senses more than a televised press conference. However, recent State House pressers starring Charlie Baker catch my full attention. When the Massachusetts governor talks to reporters about the coronavirus situation, he communicates clearly and speaks well, answering reporters’ questions without attitude or comment.
Baker, generally, can sometimes sound condescending. But during these trying times, any sneer in his voice is gone—even while treading through the political minefield of frustration with the federal government. At one point, he was talking about the on-going need for necessary equipment to deal with the incipient pandemic—ventilators, respirators, protective gear. He says all those vital materials are slow coming out of Washington. He describes conference calls with other governors who regularly speak to Administration officials and of the governors’ collective frustration with the Feds. Baker, a Republican, has previously made no secret of his distaste for the president. In this matter, however, he doesn’t make it personal. He just lays out his annoyance professionally and competently and doesn’t have to say anything more. I am impressed. Charlie for president.
This is a time when true leaders shine. In Boston, Massachusetts, we are so fortunate in a dark moment of our history to be led by the light of two leaders— the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston. We really need these guys. As Governor Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have stepped up to the plate, they have shown everybody else how it’s done. I couldn’t be prouder to live here.
Baker is the Master Mechanic, all crisp efficiency. Sporting the buzz cut he got a few days ago in a charity fundraiser for cancer research, Baker has a handle on the facts and figures as the virus began its assault on Boston. He conveys the really frightening news about the cataclysm of closings, the preparation of hospitals and testing sites. For example, earlier this week, Baker shared the update about all day care centers closing their doors by Monday, March 23. He breaks the bad news without apology, hitting exactly the right note.
Mayor Walsh takes a more personal approach. His warm touch is absolutely brilliant and in keeping with the folksy tenor of Boston mayors from James Michael Curley to Kevin White to Ray Flynn and Tom Menino. He’s Mah-ty from the nah-bah-hood advising you to check (in a socially distant way, of course) on your elderly neighbors to make sure they are getting enough food and help.
In a televised address earlier this week, Walsh singled out the city’s elders for praise:
“I want to say a special word about our seniors. Last week, I called my mother. I said: “ ‘Mum, I want you to be very careful. This is serious. You have to wash your hands all throughout the day, and use hand sanitizer. No hugs or kisses for the nieces and nephews. In fact, they shouldn’t come over for a while. You need to keep your distance from people. If you need anything from the store, I’ll pick it up for you. She’s going to miss the company of friends and family, for now. But they’re going to talk on the phone.’”
Nothing nicer than a politician who remembers his mother, the elderly, and his role as Comforter-in-Chief. Walsh has assuaged other city residents by abandoning the parking rules of street sweeping during the coronavirus crisis. He is on the front lines of shutting down restaurants and bars as well as presiding over the lengthy closure of Boston public schools until April 27. He has a world-class Boston medical community to tap for brain power and I have no doubt he’s working those connections full-tilt during this crisis. He doesn’t seem the type who’s threatened by what he doesn’t know.
As the virus came ashore, official Washington shoveled a lot of fake news about how it was a “Chinese virus” and we’d be fine. Meanwhile, Baker and Walsh stepped up to the podium and warned us the worst was happening here and now. They sent out signals of being confidently in control while steering the ship of state through the unknown waters of a pandemic. They represent different political parties but they work together admirably, even in the best of times.
Before COVID-19, when I would despair the fragmentation of our country, I could always feel proud about my little corner of the world. Right here, in the North End of Boston on the coastline of Massachusetts, things are humane, collegial, compassionate and in hand. Thank you Charlie and Marty. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Monica Collins lives on the Waterfront with husband Ben Alper and dog Dexter.