While most eyes are on the Legislature as the clock ticks toward the midnight deadline of formal sessions for the year, reformers are also eagerly awaiting the release by the Patrick administration of new regulations governing police details at construction sites. As part of a transportation bond package approved in April, the administration was given 90 days to draft new rules governing construction details, which critics say can often be handled by civilian flagmen, rather than police officers, at great savings to taxpayers. The State House News Service reported on Monday that the administration had "blown past" the 90-day deadline.
The News Service quoted Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen as saying the administration is making sure "we have coordinated with all of the interest groups." Administration officials have evidently been meeting regularly with police union leaders, police chiefs and others to try to reach agreement on changes to the system. One might understand why the administration would do so. But Cohen's matter-of-fact description of that process unintentionally highlights why the public gets so cynical about state government. The administration has unilateral power to make certain changes in the detail system. Average citizens don't want state leaders to "coordinate with all of the interest groups" on the police detail issue; they want state leaders to ignore the interest groups and set policy based on what's best for taxpayers.