Beyond the Rhetoric of Reform: How to turn Good Intentions into Effective Public Policy

Led by Kerry Healey

As Lieutenant Governor under Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Kerry Healey enjoyed a broad portfolio, including the responsibility for crafting and leading reforms in municipal finance, criminal justice, homelessness, substance abuse, healthcare and housing. This Study Group will explore effective strategies for state-level reforms, and will introduce students to key individuals who were critical to the success of the reform process.

Session 1: February 12
“Show me a Reformer and I’ll show you someone who won’t be around long…” (Dictum attributed to former MA Senate President Speaker William Bulger)
Discussion led by Kerry Healey.

Topics: How to prove the cynics wrong; establishing credibility across the aisle; creating and prioritizing a reform “wish list”; finding allies in unusual places; harnessing the power of community activists; using the media to advance your cause; bold strokes and beginner’s mistakes; and the power (and limits) of political naiveté.

February 19
Presidents’ Day: NO STUDY GROUP
IOP Study Group: Healey, p. 2

Session 2:February 26
Changing a Venerable Social Service Paradigm: Can We End Homelessness Instead of Facilitating It?

Guest speakers: Philip Mangano, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
John Wagner, Director, Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance

Topics: Rethinking homeless motels, challenging shelter providers to shrink, redefining the goals of a reform by force—greater efficiency vs. expansion of services, teaching activists to count and calculate, not just emote.

Session 3: March 5
Healthcare Reform: How to Rethink an Entire System

Guest speaker: Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts, 2003-2007
Tim Murphy, former MA Secretary of Health and Human Services, and key advisor to the Governor on the design and implementation of the Massachusetts healthcare reforms.

Topics: Tackling an intractable problem, crafting a “big idea”, building coalitions of support, sharing credit, carrots and sticks, and working with Washington to leverage federal incentives.

Session 4: March 12 The Power of the Media to Spark Reform

Guest speakers: Soledad O’Brien, CNN morning news anchor (invited)
Jim Braude, NECN news anchor

Topics: Does the media have a reform agenda? Do media scandals advance the public good? Is tabloid media more effective at motivating reform than traditional journalism? How do the media respond to claims of bias? How should politicians cultivate journalists and media pundits who share their desire for reform?

April 2: IOP Study Group: Healey, p. 3
Session 5: Overcoming Special Interests--the Fight for Melanie’s Law

Guest Speaker: Ron Bersani, anti-drunk driving activist (grandfather of Melanie Powell, victim of a drunk driving homicide.)

Topics: The invisible hand of unpopular but powerful special interests, the power of the bully pulpit, the importance of “putting a face” on tragedy, key alliances between politicians and activists.

Session 6: April 9
Taking Successful State Reforms National: Changing the Way We Handle Sex Offenders in Court and in Society

Guest speakers: George Pataki, former Governor of the State of New York
Andrea Cassanova, founder of the ALLY Foundation (in memory of her daughter, Alexandra Zapp, murdered by a sex offender.)

Topics: Starting a grassroots reform movement; the story of ALLY’s Law; finding allies and sponsors both locally and nationally; expanding your base beyond one state to create a national presence; cultivating federal funding; and creating a positive media image for an emotionally charged issue.

Session 7: April 16
Bipartisan Reform: Creating a Statewide Witness Protection Program to Combat Gang Violence

Guest Speakers:
Phyllis Lopes, anti-gang violence activist (grandmother of drive by shooting victim, and founder of the Cecil Lopes Foundation.)
Senator Jarrett Barrios, MA Legislature, co-author of gang-reform legislation

Topics: Finding common ground, using each side’s strengths and admitting weaknesses, building trust between natural antagonists, using the press and community activism to keep things moving.

IOP Study Group: Healey, p. 4

Session 8: April 23
The Ones that Got Away

Discussion led by Kerry Healey

Topics: More reforms fail than succeed. What can we learn from things that never happened or didn’t quite turn out as planned?

Failed reforms: pension reform, abolishing civil service, merit pay for teachers, medical malpractice reforms, and lowering taxes. Imperfect reforms: Billy Bulger and the University of Massachusetts; Matt Amorello and the Big Dig.

In conclusion, students will be asked to apply their observations about successful reforms to suggest ways imperfect or failed reforms could have been managed to success.

N.B. The order of study group sessions 3, 4, 5 and 7 may be changed to accommodate guest speakers’ scheduling needs. Please check updated IOP calendar at for the most current schedule.