Protests this morning on I-93 north and south—where demonstrators chained to concrete barrels blocked traffic during the morning rush hour in support of the "Black Lives Matter" movement—were "disruptive" and "a bad idea," said Governor Charlie Baker.
"I'm a big believer in the right to protest, and I think peaceful protest is a big part of who we are as a country," Baker said on Boston Public Radio during his first monthly "Ask the Gov" segment with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. "But I think tying up traffic and putting cement barrels down in the middle of the highway in the height of rush hour on two of the most important arteries in the city of Boston is a bad idea."
Baker characterized the protests as excessively disruptive, especially for emergency response vehicles.
"I know of at least one ambulance that had to be diverted and find a different way into Boston as a result of the protest," he said. "I think that sort of disruption is sort of above and beyond."
Twenty-nine protestors were arrested, according to State police.
"The folks, I believe, were appropriately arrested, and that was the right thing to do," Baker said.
Addressing the State's Opiate Issue
Baker also addressed his administration's first steps on tackling the problem of opiate addiction in Massachusetts, saying he would assemble a task force to collect information before moving forward with policy proposals.
"I think what you're likely to see us do...is to put together a small group of people who have been involved in this issue, and then have them engaged in a broader public discussion to collect input, and thoughts and ideas and observations," he said.
"My guess is we'll probably have a task force announced sometime soon," Baker predicted.
Free Community College For All?
Thursday evening, President Obama announced a new plan to make community college free to students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average. The federal government would cover 75% of the program's costs, while states opting in to the program would contribute the remaining 25%.
When asked about how his administration would respond to the plan, Baker was apprehensive.
"I'd certainly take a look at it, but obviously the devil is really in the details on that sort of thing," he said.
Baker expressed skepticism that states would only shoulder a quarter of the burden, citing the roll-out of the health connector as an example of a federal initiative gone awry. "Supposedly 90% of the increase in coverage was going to be paid for by the Feds, yet somehow we have a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars associated with implementing that here in Massachusetts," he said.
Details aside, Baker seemed perplexed at the proposal in general.
"I continue to not understand this issue," he said. "I have a lot of friends and a lot of colleagues who work in the community college space, and almost to a person they say the Pell Grant program covers the cost of a community college program."
"I'm missing something here with respect to what the President is looking to do," Baker continued.
To hear more from Governor Charlie Baker on "Ask the Gov," tune in to the full segment from Boston Public Radio above.