The consolidation of the state highway department, turnpike authority, and MBTA was supposed to herald a new era for transportation policy in Massachusetts, but Governor Patrick violated that spirit with one crucial appointment. Among his five picks for the powerful new Massachusetts Department of Transportation board is union organizer Janice Loux, a 12-year board member of the MBTA who played a key role in Patrick’s struggle to oust former T manager Dan Grabauskas. Loux fired the first public shot against him. She says she was acting on her own initiative, but her appointment to the new agency has the whiff of a reward.
Loux’s union connection is also a problem. While one seat on the MBTA board was reserved for organized labor, the law creating the MassDOT board makes no such provision. The omission was deliberate. The state officials who created the agency believed it should be managed for the benefit of the public - not its employees, whose interests are protected through collective-bargaining. A key challenge for the new board will be to bring health and pension benefits for some transportation workers in line with similar public- and private-sector jobs. Although Loux’s supporters insist she won’t be an automatic vote for unions, Patrick easily could have quelled such doubts by choosing someone else.
Patrick has brushed off criticism of the appointment. “This is new,’’ Patrick told State House News Service. “And anything new draws critics.’’ Actually, governor, it’s the prospect of the same old way of doing business that has people worried.