Brian McGrory

The taxi’s waitin’

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / January 5, 2011

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It was with great relief that I saw the headline on yesterday that our excellent governor, Deval Patrick, said he would be getting out of the State House and traveling more in his second term.

This couldn’t be better. Lawrence continues to teeter on the edge. New Bedford, Fall River, and Springfield have unemployment rates of 13 percent or higher. People from Pittsfield to Provincetown are fearful of rising taxes and jettisoned government services. And seeing the governor constantly in their communities, especially this soothing and thoughtful governor, will go a long way toward rallying the citizenry toward better things.

And then — gulp — I kept reading. Ends up, he’s not talking about traveling around the state. He’s talking about traveling out of state, even out of the country, on economic trade missions, presidential campaign trips, and to promote his upcoming book.

In retrospect — and with a nod to Peter, Paul and Mary — maybe Patrick should have made his campaign slogan: “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go.’’

Even better, picture a rally with the state parole board singing, “There’s so many times I’ve let you down.’’ Then Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray offers: “Hold me like you’ll never let me go.’’

All together now: “I’m a leavin’ on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh babe, I hate to go.’’

This is degenerating into something far less than we hoped, this reelection, a slippage not born of the inexperience that Patrick had four years ago, but of a seeming arrogance that is profoundly misplaced. Some trusted adviser should call Patrick every morning with a reminder that more than half the electorate voted against him on Election Day.

Already, the governor has spent the bulk of November either on understandable vacations or holiday trips. Before and after, though, his public schedule has been noticeably absent of the kinds of public events that were a staple during his yearlong campaign.

And now, to casually say that you’re going to take to the skies — presumably at the expense of the streets — to help your state, something has gone wrong. Couple this with his refusal to release the names of the people and entities that are funding Thursday’s inaugural celebrations until after it’s over, and those sounds you’re hearing are alarms.

Patrick’s book, “A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life,’’ is going to be no small source of friction (I said friction, not fiction) when it’s published in April. Broadway Books doesn’t pay $1.35 million for a memoir and not expect the author to do a full-out tour and media campaign.

You can already see it, the jobless rates still hovering in the 12 to 13 percent range in the industrial cities, the murder tally in Boston heading for another year over 70, and our governor live from New York with Meredith Vieira on the Today show or signing at a Barnes & Noble in Chicago. Remember us, the voters?

The governor’s advisers do what they often do when anyone dares question him. They act shocked that we can’t understand the critical work he performs by recruiting businesses that will save the Massachusetts economy.

The big problem is, we’ve never needed Patrick more at home. Beacon Hill is an unholy mess. The state budget is facing major shortfalls. Services that have already been slashed will be cut yet again.

Patrick should be wrangling more from public employee unions. He should be reforming the unwieldy human service agencies. He should be further streamlining business regulations. And he should be constantly checking in with the businesses we already have, seeing what it is that they need to prosper and grow.

He wants to take the occasional trip to China or Brazil or a Vegas trade show — sure. But please, governor, not an endless itinerary of book promotions, presidential campaign stops, and trade missions.

The rest of us will be singing, “Already I’m so lonesome I could die.’’

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at