How many Bay State residents do you think are headed off to jail for a year for failing to obey Governor Deval Patrick's edict that they needed to be off the roads by 4 p.m. last Friday?
Just as I was about to pose that question (we can only assume the answer is none), the Union Leader beat me to the punch by saying everything I wanted to say, every single thing that could be said (fade in the ghost of Ed McMahon here, as if he's speaking to Johnny Carson) in today's editorial.
I was off the roads by 4 p.m. and was watching as New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan took to the TV airwaves making a perfectly reasonable plea to people to get off the roads so that plow crews could get the job done once the blizzard passed.
Governor Hassan handled the situation with a certain grace we have come to expect in New Hampshire while Massachusetts Governor Patrick took to his "bunker" and simply couldn't resist playing the Big Brother or Nanny State card by ordering people off the roads under penalty of a year's stint in jail (at a cost of $35,000 or so to taxpayers, a fact he didn't explain).
It's a classic case of what government should be doing (urging people to use their common sense) and what government should not be doing coercing people into doing what they would most likely do without threats.
Having grown up in Vermont in the 60s and having survived the blizzard of 1978 (I was editor of a ski paper in Plymouth at the time); I am convinced that the media tends to hype weather "disasters" much more than necessary today. Since "they" have the technology ranging from new-fangled weather maps to dish hook-ups showing reporters up to their waists in snow at any conceivable location, "they" damn well intend to use the technology.
The old commercial told us, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"; Rahm warned Obama, "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste"; for today's media, the threat of a storm is a terrible thing to waste. Let's go live for eight or ten hours; it may be a boring waste of time, but after all, we DO have the technology. And who could ever tire of that tiny reporter slipping six or seven times in the same patch of snow?
Give me a break!
And what's with this warning to stock up on food? Does anyone actually not have enough food in the house to get through a day or two it might take before the plows to come by? God forbid, we'd ever be forced to open a can or two!
As I presented my interstate speed limit bills in the Transportation Committee today, a question came up about government control of our lives, needless government control that is. Since most of us break the speed limit all the time, is it really the role of government to maintain laws which make no sense? That was the gist of the question (we'll award a thumbs up to Rep. O'Flaherty next week). My answer was that it makes about as much sense as Deval Patrick threatening to jail everyone caught on the road for a year when Governor Hassan had the right approach; use your brain! We don't need government to tell us to get off the road; we don't need government to tell us 65 is the right speed, not when 85 percent of us (including reporter Bill Smith) are going about 72 miles an hour!
Thumbs up as well to the Union Leader....Here's the editorial.
Hassan did fine: The governor's first storm
It can be so tempting to overreact when you are solely responsible for making decisions about public safety that could mean the difference between life and death for total strangers. For a recent example, just look south at Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
With last week's big snowstorm approaching, Patrick first asked the people of Massachusetts to be off the roads by noon on Friday. He later decided more drastic action was needed. He issued an executive order commanding virtually everyone to be off the roads by 4 p.m. The penalty was a fine of up to $500 and up to a year in jail. A year.
For the offense of not getting home by the time the governor decided everyone should be home, it was possible, however unlikely, to have one's entire life ruined. A term of much less than a year in jail can bring job loss, financial ruin and enormous family burdens. The chances of the state actually pursuing such a punishment are less relevant than the fact that Patrick was willing to threaten it - with about three hours' notice. Such is the relationship between citizen and state in the commonwealth whose capital was once the Cradle of Liberty.
Hassan took no such measures. She correctly declared a state of emergency, which sets in motion the mobilization of state emergency management resources. She recommended that people be off the roads by 7 p.m. Friday night. And she kept the people updated as storm conditions warranted without getting in the way of first responders.
If Hassan sticks with the good ole New Hampshire tradition of trusting the people to make important decisions for themselves, she might do OK.