The Hill and the Hall Week in Review

1206719577Each Friday, Paul McMorrow will take you inside the smoke-filled rooms and darkly-lit corridors of government to bring you the hottest and juiciest political tidbits. This Week: Therese Murray slips into a power vacuum, the Mashpee won’t give up the ghost, canoodling at City Council, and sartorial help for Mike Ross.

We may be watching the balance of power tip on Beacon Hill. While Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Sal DiMasi go back and forth about casinos and taxes—and whether or not they’re going back and forth at all—Senate President Therese Murray is showing herself to be both smart enough to recognize the power vacuum brought on by the bickering, and strong enough to fill that vacuum with substantive policy proposals.

The death of the governor’s casino bill should shine a spotlight on Murray’s health care reform-reform bill. That’s for the best since it does what magical slots leprechauns doesn’t, that is address the real reason cities and towns are going broke. Murray should also get serious credit for leading the effort to implement the now one-year-old Transportation Finance Commission report, especially by harpooning politically thorny MBTA health care benefits and police details.

These are weighty and decidedly un-flashy issues, but it’s going to take heavy lifting on boring issues to raise the state out of the hellward fiscal death-spiral it’s currently locked in. Interesting that it’s Murray, who just celebrated a year on the job, and not her two counterparts, who is leading the way.

A side note: This is the second time in recent months Murray has refused to leak a major policy proposal to the press before formally unveiling it. At least one major paper (blind item!) responded to this tactic by boycotting her Worcester health care presser. It was good to see everybody on board – and on a level playing field – this time around.

Ralph Martin isn’t running for mayor. Attention now turns to his maybe I will dance partner. Mike Flaherty‘s got the campaign slogan: “Change is in your hands,” but does he have a campaign to match?

Well, which is it? On the same day that Patrick spiced up his “Together We Can” attitude by telling the New York Times that DiMasi’s leadership style is “part of what we ran against, and it needs to be called out,” the governor told the State House News Service, “There’s a bigger record, a vastly bigger record than the difference over casinos, and the sooner that the people and the media appreciate that, the better off we will all be.” Huh?

Idle, totally unfounded speculation: What are the chances that John Hynes’s massive, $3 billion Seaport Square development, combined with the possibly-successful mixed-use redevelopment of Fort Point, will wind up killing the Silver Line?

For anyone who has anywhere to be, at any time, the branch is a disaster. Can you imagine how slow those shiny buses masquerading as subway cars will run when there are actual people living in the neighborhood who’ll need to get around on the things?

And more to the point, can you really imagine all those international CEOs Hynes wants to bring to the neighborhood actually riding it when the T could just slap down light rail tracks and make the whole thing run three times as efficiently?

The casino game may have limped to a bloody stalemate on Beacon Hill, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can rid ourselves of these awesome slots-r-iffic good times. They’re just shifting south, where the Mashpee Wampanoag are making the long slog towards taking their land into trust.

The feds held a couple hearings on the Mashpee’s Middleboro land grab this week. They were notable for a few reasons.

First, the Mashpee appear to be either wicked hardball players with an already-in fix nobody knows about, or they’re Cubs-fan-level delusional.

The Cape Cod Times noted that the first phase of the not-yet in existence Middleboro casino would include a “600,000-square-foot casino building on two levels, with 4,000 slot machines and 200 table games, restaurants, retail shops, and an event center.” Which is hilarious (or, alternately, terrifying), because neither slots nor table games are legal in Massachusetts yet. Nor, in the aftermath of last week’s vote, do they look to be legal any time soon.

Are the Mashpee just pushing ahead and blowing all their investors’ money for whatev’s sake, or do they know something none of the rest of us do?

Second, reservation shopping will absolutely be a prime factor in whether or not the tribe gets to do anything with that pricey piece of land they’re sitting on. Consider the comments the Massachuseuk lobbed at the Mashpee this week: “There were several groups of native people that were in Middleboro, but none of them were Mashpee. It is disturbing that the Mashpee would come to the Massachuseuk territory and try to establish this as their homeland, which it is not, it has never been and, if we have something to say, it never will be.”

This one will be fun.

One other casinorama loose end to tie up: It looks like the Patrick administration handled something right during this month’s gambling debacle. The Globe recently dropped a quiet bombshell when it reported that in the run-up to last week’s vote, the Mashpee tried to cut a deal that would’ve given them a federally-recognized casino in Middleboro in exchange for 20 percent of the casino’s slot machine revenue. That deal is the same kind of stinker that Connecticut has been laboring under for decades, and the administration’s decision to say no to it shows the kind of clear, rational thinking they’ve rarely displayed during this whole saga. So, cheers!

Most people wouldn’t normally associate the City Council chamber’s glaring fluorescent lights with mood lighting. But that didn’t stop one mystery couple from whispering to each other, giggling, and canoodling through the entirety of this week’s council meeting. Flabbergasted pols’ reactions ranged from “Who are they?” to, “What are they doing?”

Backhanded comment of the week: Charles Yancey, in the most gracious terms possible, rising to “Thank the administration for providing us with the information that’s required by law.”

And a close runner-up: A councilor complimenting Mike Ross’s decision to pair a blazer and tie with a charcoal sweater with, “You look like a modern-day Mr. Rogers. Tell Mr. McFeely I say hello!”