Auditor Candidate Dempsey: I Will Audit and Ride the MBTA in Office
At a time when systemic deficiencies in the MBTA are derailing morning commutes and putting its riders' safety in jeopardy, Massachusetts State Auditor candidate Chris Dempsey says he will put his experience reforming Mass Transit as both a high-ranking government official and an advocate in the private sector to work and correct the systemic deficiencies in the MBTA to make it a safe and accessible once again.
Dempsey was previously the Commonwealth's Assistant Secretary of Transportation under Governor Deval Patrick. During his tenure, he founded the MassDOT open-data program which launched smart phone apps that tell commuters what time their bus or train will arrive, the first of its kind on the East Coast.
Dempsey also served as Executive Director for Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition of organizations that advocate for much-needed reforms in Massachusetts' transit infrastructure.
Dempsey is probably best known, however, for spearheading the No Boston Olympics campaign, which despite being outspent 1500-1 successfully prevented the 2024 Olympic Games from coming to Boston in a deal that would have left Massachusetts taxpayers to foot 100 percent of the bill to host the games. His efforts to stave off this potential economic disaster earned him "Bostonian of the Year" by Boston Globe Magazine in 2015.
When asked in a recent appearance on SouthCoast Tonight about the problems with the MBTA and how as Auditor he will work to fix them, Dempsey said it's an issue he takes personally.
"My wife Ana commutes by MBTA and I will be the first statewide elected official to commute to Beacon Hill on public transit since Mike Dukakis left office in 1991," Dempsey said. "But this is the first time in my life where I've genuinely questioned my safety getting on an MBTA vehicle."
Dempsey called the current conditions MBTA commuters are enduring "completely unacceptable" and said that as Auditor he will implement a multi-point plan that coordinates federal and state oversight to reform the beleaguered transportation service.
"The first is that we're going to follow the recommendations of the Federal Transit Administration and make sure that the MBTA is actually implementing those recommendations." Dempsey said. "The second is that we're going to oversee the Department of Public Utilities, which actually has responsibility for accessing safety at the MBTA and has note done that properly in recent years. Then the third point is that I'm going to make a special request at the legislature for a $2 million budget line item to hire a special team that I will call the Auditor's Office for MBTA Accountability."
Dempsey said that this new office will be staffed by experts in transit operations, engineering, and safety procurements and policies.
Dempsey was on the front lines of advocacy for expanded rail service via projects such as SouthCoast Rail, but said when it finally arrives, it needs to arrive with improvements.
"I'm so excited to have the MBTA arriving in the SouthCoast in the coming years," he said. "That's been hard-fought battle. The SouthCoast deserves that kind of access, but you want to make sure when that access occurs, that it's safe and that it's affordable. We don't have that today, and as State Auditor I can help fix that."
The Auditor's office has made headlines as of late due to the recently-rediscovered 1986 law that could see $3 billion in tax revenue returned to the people of the Commonwealth. The law states that if tax revenue exceeds the rate in which people's income grows, then the difference is rebated to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. That number must be certified by the State Auditor.
Dempsey said that certifying this number isn't a matter of opinion, but what the numbers will say.
"This is why we need an auditor that has actual training in finance and accounting," Dempsey said. "I am the only candidate in this race with a degree that is relevant to finance and auditing. I hold an MBA and I worked in financial management and consulting before."
"This is not about what my opinion might be. It's about can whether I can do the calculation with my team and verify these numbers," he said. "We expect numbers will show that the Commonwealth will have taken in more tax revenue above what this cap is, and that those dollars will be returned to taxpayers. That's the law. That's what should happen."
Dempsey also touted the endorsements he has from leadership on Beacon Hill to include Senate President Karen Spilka, many legislators on Beacon Hill, and current State Auditor Suzanne Bumps. Dempsey said his recent endorsement from the Boston Globe editorial board was particularly important to his campaign, which he characterized as "driven by the facts and the data."
"This is the endorsement of the Boston Globe which has that same mission of following the facts and the data and being independent," Dempsey said. "They said that I'm the right fit for this job. That I have right experience. That they're excited for the vision and plans and that we've put forward for an office that, I admit, is a bit sleepy sometimes – but it has immense potential to make our state government work better for everybody. That's why I'm running."
Listen to Chris Dempsey's full interview with Marcus on SouthCoast Tonight: