For all the talk of sweeping change at the national level, Tuesday was a relatively uneventful day for Massachusetts incumbents.
With the exception of a handful of state legislative races, voters returned their elected officials to office, regardless of political party. While the rest of the country obsessed over red and blue, Massachusetts was equally effusive about its popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, and nationally prominent U.S. senator, Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Attorney General Maura Healey, thought to be a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, led a slate of Democrats returned to statewide office, all by a wide margin.
It was a lovefest. But it doesn't mean there isn't still work do to:
-- Baker and the state Legislature must become true partners in addressing the crumbling MBTA. When he first took office four years ago, Baker was met with a historic series of snowstorms -- and an equally historic failure on the part of the state's public rail system. Things have improved since then -- to a point. The MBTA's finances are more stable, and there hasn't been a repeat of the disastrous winter of 2015. But there is still a long way to go before the commuter rail system can call itself a reliable and affordable alternative to to the automobile.
-- Housing costs are still much too high in Massachusetts, thanks to a variety of factors, not the least of which is a thicket of zoning laws that makes it difficult if not impossible to build new homes. The result is a squeeze on middle-class families, and low-income residents find it almost impossible to earn enough money to improve their lot. Baker last year pushed a bill that would have loosened many of those zoning restrictions and encouraged building near public transportation hubs. The bill never made it past the House. It's time to revisit the issue.
-- Baker and his counterparts in the Legislature deserve credit for taking the opioid epidemic seriously, and working together to address it. A bill passed last year approached the issue from a variety of angles, most importantly taking on the issue of how best to treat incarcerated addicts.
Despite the progress of the past few years, more than 2,000 Massachusetts citizens died of an opioid overdose in 2017. In the coming months, lawmakers must find ways to expand access to treatment for all those suffering the pains of addiction.
There is cause for optimism in the apparent willingness of Baker and his Democratic counterparts to work together. That optimism, however, is sure to fade if the next four years don't bring results.