We have seen President Obama deal with various storms, hurricanes, floods and a BP oil spill and voters can make a fairly accurate judgment about his ability to handle natural disasters. But what do we know about Mitt Romney when it comes to natural disasters? Every storm is different, but you can tell a great deal about Romney by how he handled the Mother’s Day storms in Massachusetts in 2006. He tried, the results are mixed, and I don’t think there’s anyone in America who would say his inclement weather resume is Bush/Katrina bad, nor Corey Booker/Snowstorm good.
No matter what you do as a governor there will always be people who end up suffering, losing homes or being without power in the face of a big storm. There will always be people who are unhappy with your response. The goal is (politically if not morally) to at least appear that you are doing everything in your power to help people in your state even in the face of something that no one has any control over. (Translation: Don’t get caught hanging out in Disneyland with your family when the storm of the century hits your state) So when we look at Mitt Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007 does he pass the minimum decent governor’s test? The answer would have to be an unmitigated “Maybe” depending on which aspect of good governorship you chose to focus on.
The biggest weather event during Romney’s time as governor was serious flooding on Mother’s Day in 2006 that affected large parts of New England. The reactions of local elected leaders in the state to Romney’s gubernatorial response tilt slightly to the positive side. According to a recent news story out of Salem Massachusetts on local officials reflections on Romney’s governorship his response to the floods of 06’ were adequate but nothing note-worthy.
(Brian) Hill (Republican from Ipswich MA) said that “within a week” of the infamous Mother’s Day Flood in 2006, Romney’s administration had secured funding to rebuild three bridges in Ipswich that were damaged in the flood.
“Gov. Romney stepped to the plate for us,” he said.
Bonfanti, who was the Peabody mayor during Romney’s tenure, had a different experience with Romney after the floods came. The governor vetoed $6 million in flood-prevention funding for Peabody in 2004; then, after the devastating 2006 flood, promised to help but came up short.
“He showed up for the pictures and told me he would provide assistance. He didn’t,” Bonfanti said, speaking of the aftermath of flooding that left downtown Peabody under 5 feet of water. “It makes me wonder what he would do if he was in charge of New Orleans.”
Romney the governor seemed to do a decent job, but what about Romney the businessman governor? The flooding in 2006 exposed a long simmering financial issue in the state that landed squarely in Romney’s lap. Way back in 1957 the state of New Hampshire had agreed to build flood dams on valuable real estate in order to help Massachusetts with potential floods. New Hampshire agreed to this deal so long as the Bay state agreed to pay back 70% of the lost tax revenue of the property. By the time Romney got into office Massachusetts hadn’t made a full payment in over a decade and the bill was up to a whopping 3.2 million. Governor John Lynch was so incensed by the continued stalling that he wrote an open letter to Romney in 2006 threatening to sue the state if the bill wasn’t paid. Romney eventually forked over about $600,000 (he had some change in his pocket) but never made the full payments. As it stands New Hampshire is still leaving angry voicemails for Deval Patrick to pay off bill that was run up by 70 previous governors.
In the end, what do we know about Romney the weather crisis manager? He would do the absolute basics when it comes to handling a disaster, and would probably do it as cheaply as possible. He would cut FEMA as a federal program and leave it to states or private organizations. It would probably be safe to assume that he’d stiff some agencies on the bill if he didn’t think he should pay either. In other words he’d meet the minimum standard, although that may not be very comforting.