Deval Patrick: He’s the Devil in Your Details

1218035834Sniff. Sniff. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t get emotional, but we’re just so proud of Gov. Deval Patrick. Late last year, it seemed like “yes we can” was shorthand for “yes, we can run roughshod over the governor” as House Speaker Sal DiMasi ruthlessly killed Patrick’s casino legislation.

But today, we’re prouder than parents watching their baby take his first steps. Patrick is playing hardball with the police unions, and it looks like he might have them beat.

Local police unions had quietly started negotiating with cities and towns to exploit a loophole in the governor’s plan that would have allowed police officers to remain on low-speed, low-traffic construction sites if their contract or local ordinances required it. Once the governor got wind of this, he decided to eliminate the provision.

The move was so ballsy, it caught union officials completely off guard.

“You’re kidding me,” Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, said yesterday when told of the regulations. “This is a complete surprise to us.”

If the governor isn’t closing the damask drapes in his office and doing a spirited victory dance to “We Are the Champions,” he should be. Many governors that came before him have failed to end the detail practice. While it may cost him valuable union support should he run in 2010, Patrick’s newfound willingness to tighten spending may make voters less likely to repeal the income tax in November.

The move also sends a valuable message to Patrick’s would-be foes. As Freddie Mercury once said, “I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through.” And this time, the governor has.

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