Sunday, August 3, 2014
For Mike Lake, education tops platform for lieutenant gov

FITCHBURG -- Mike Lake, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor, said he could work with any of the party's three candidates for governors if elected.

"Look at their platforms," said Lake in a sit-down interview Wednesday with the Sentinel & Enterprise. "Steve Grossman's got job growth, Martha Coakley has mental-health services, Don Berwick has single-payer health care. Put them all together and you get me."

Lake, 36, grew up in Melrose and has worked as an associate bank examiner for the Federal Reserve and a policy research analyst for the Republic of Ireland. He was a special assistant for White House Operations during the Clinton years, and his campaign website is plastered with photos of him and Bill Clinton, including campaign Twitter and Facebook profile pictures of the two together.

He is now president and CEO of Leading Cities, a nonprofit that brings together international cities to share information about municipal challenges and job growth. Lake said last year the organization helped a German company set up a window-manufacturing plant in Chicopee that paired with a local school to train workers.

Providing more education to Massachusetts residents is a central plank in his campaign, and Lake said bringing private businesses and chambers of commerce to the table for help is an overlooked alternative to public funding, although he does want to see more money go toward public education. He said it's an important investment that pays or saves money.

For example, he said the state spends $13,000 to educate a third-grader, but if that education fails and the student grows up to be someone who commits crimes, the state can expect to pay $48,000 each year to house them as a maximum-security inmate.

"We have to be tackling the challenges at the root cause of the problem; we can't just keep throwing money at the symptoms," he said.

He said Massachusetts must do a better job keeping young people from leaving the state after they graduate from college.

"We don't have an attraction issue; we have a retention issue," said Lake.

He said it's a myth that young people leave because of the cost of living and climate, because a large number move to New York City, which has a higher cost of living and a similar climate. Instead, he said the departure is about expectations of finding a job.

His solution is to work with business leaders to develop an apprentice model with young workers, which he said will help anchor them in place.

He also wants to introduce a "wheel and spokes" model to the Massachusetts economy, where Boston is the wheel and transportation acts as the spokes. He wants high-speed rail to connect to New York City and Washington, D.C.

"All of that strengthens the economy across Massachusetts, it doesn't just concentrate it in Boston," he said.

Creation of high-paying jobs is the top issue in his platform, and he said it's an issue for the entire commonwealth, not just Greater Boston.

He said Boston is already a leader in biotechnology and needs to hold onto that industry and sees the growing video-game creation market as something the state could grab.

He opposes lifting the state's cap on charter schools, calling them parasites that take funding from traditional public schools. He said charter schools should be funded through a separate line item in the state budget.

He supports a repeal of the casino bill.

Lake said drug addiction is a problem that is prevalent in all communities, rich and poor, and wants to see more focus on treatment and less on punishment.

His plan has three parts: Preventing and recognizing the problem, increasing the number of drug courts in the commonwealth and establishing more treatment facilities and making sure the ones the state has are working properly.

Lake said the lieutenant-governor position is flexible and while the governor has to concentrate on the state as a whole, the lieutenant governor can concentrate on smaller communities and make sure their needs are met to create a well-educated workforce.

"All we need to provide is a little bit of capital, and a lot of hope," he said.