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State House Roundup: Learning To Speak

Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo talked about talking. The governor and Fidelity Investments President Abigail Johnson talked about why they didn't talk sooner. And transportation officials, well, they apparently just don't like to talk at all.

Oh, and don't forget Secretary of State William "Billy" Galvin, who was in such a rush to talk that he had to do it twice to get it right.

Such was the week on Beacon Hill where it appeared that communication was anything but alive and well.

Blindsided while cultivating partnerships in England by news that Fidelity was moving 1,100 jobs to Rhode Island and New Hampshire over the next two years, Patrick hauled Fidelity President Abigail Johnson to the State House for a face-to-face meeting Thursday.

As much about saving face - and hearing it to his face - as it was about jobs, Patrick admitted to having "wounded pride" over the home-grown company's decision to shut down its Marlborough office despite remaining one of the largest Bay State employers with 7,300 jobs in Boston. He said the shifting of jobs was "not reversible."

"A partnership has got to be two-way street which means that we have to have more often, more frequent and more substantive conversations and communications and she expressed her commitment to that as well," Patrick said.

The finality of the decision, however, won't stop a hearing next week organized by Sen. Mark Montigny when Fidelity execs will be back for a grilling by lawmakers about their decision to uproot jobs while taking advantage of tax breaks approved in the mid-1990s that still pay dividends. Just for good measure, Evergreen Solar honchos have been invited to join in after deciding to take their jobs to China despite receiving substantial state subsidies.

On the upside, Johnson told Patrick the employees who will see their jobs moved to Rhode Island and New Hampshire plan to commute to work and remain taxpaying residents of the Commonwealth - no doubt welcome news to those on Beacon Hill who spent parts of this week working on the latest midyear spending bill.

The miscommunication between Patrick and Fidelity, however, paled in comparison to the lack of communication among officials in the Executive Office of Transportation who have seemed to have a different explanation every few days for who knew what when with regard to the failing 110-pound lighting fixture that crashed onto the roadway of a Big Dig tunnel in early February.

After apparently waiting six weeks to tell the public, Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan said he hesitated because he didn't want to cause undue alarm. A few days later, Mullan acknowledged his mistake and also apologized for not telling his boss - Gov. Patrick - until the day before he went public on March 16 with details.

Then came the revelation this week that even Mullan didn't know about the collapse on Feb. 8 until a month later, kept in the dark by his own staff.

While transportation secretaries during the Patrick administration have been ground up nearly as fast as winter devoured the state's roads, Mullan survived. The fall guy, it turned out, wound up being Frank Tramontozzi, MassDOT's chief engineer and acting highway commissioner, who resigned on Friday.

While punishment in the Secretary of State's office is unlikely to be as severe, Secretary William Galvin weathered an equally embarrassing, if less dire, communications gaffe of his own.

Among the last states to receive in the mail their Census data critical to the redistricting process, Galvin was so eager to share Massachusetts's information with the media that he rushed a press conference Tuesday morning and announced that Boston, among other cities, had lost population over the past decade.

Unfortunately, Galvin's revelation came as news to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and legislators in charge of redistricting, who immediately fired the false start gun. Galvin had to call a second press conference that afternoon to explain that Boston had in fact grown by nearly 5 percent in population, and his earlier town-by-town tallies had omitted nearly 87,000 people.

One reopened line of communication was the semi-regular weekly leadership meeting between Patrick, DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray - the first since Patrick returned from his trade mission across the pond.

After the Monday confab between the "Big Three" Democrats, DeLeo told reporters that he and Patrick "talked that we're going to talk" about the possibility of reaching a compromise this year on expanded gambling.

While noted by racetrack owners, it wasn't exactly the détente they were hoping for as they anxiously await a resolution on gaming.

In the meantime, Suffolk Downs and Plainridge are tinkering around the edges, adjusting their schedules and shortening their racing seasons in order preserve the diminished revenue streams they still have and keep horse racing attractive for horsemen in the Bay State.

STORY OF THE WEEK: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

TOGETHER WE CAN TRAVEL: Just back from his trade mission, Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to hit the road again, and these travels will be more than the occasional overnight jaunt to New York City to raise some cash for his newly former Together PAC. With "A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life" due to hit bookshelves on April 12, Patrick will launch a two-week book tour starting with an appearance on The Today Show on Monday April 11, according to his publisher. The travels - which will likely see Patrick bouncing in and out of Logan Airport - will take him from Boston to Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York over the course of 19 days with stops in Massachusetts as well. Critics of the governor's frequent jet hopping for both official and political business will surely be looking to pounce after criticizing the trade mission as a distraction from Patrick's primary duties as governor. Should you miss hearing his voice, however, rest assured the governor will not be far from eye or earshot. Patrick has been booked on the Daily Show (April 12), CNN, NPR, MSNBC, PBS, and HBO. The promotional tour concludes on April 29 with an appearance on HBOs's Real Time with Bill Maher. Then it's off to Wisconsin to help Democrats there in their fight over public employee union issues with Gov. Scott Walker.

This program aired on March 25, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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