Sitting inside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Gov. Charlie Baker ruled out following in the footsteps of the building's namesake.
"No, I'm never running for president," Baker said, as he sat across from Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory in a Tuesday night interview about his first 100 days in the Corner Office. "I had enough trouble running for governor."
Baker, a Swampscott Republican, eagerly avoided talk of national politics, defended the number of Democrats in his administration and offered potential prescriptions for fixing the embattled MBTA.
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The governor declined to pick a favorite among the Republicans running for president, and said he wasn't elected to "kibitz" about the 2016 election.
Baker's chat with McGrory at the JFK Library came the same day as the chair of the state transportation board agreed to Baker's request for him to resign. Six members, who have now all agreed to resign, had been appointed to the board by Baker's predecessor, Deval Patrick.
Baker said his administration is starting to vet people for him to appoint to the board and he is filing legislation that will be "very consistent" with the recommendations of a task force he appointed to examine the MBTA. The recommendations include creating a temporary finance control board to oversee the agency.
Asked about his plan having a revenue component, Baker said the transit agency has "under-spent" its capital budget by over $2 billion.
He added that there are other ways to generate revenue, pointing to the MBTA owning an "extraordinary" amount of land that could be developed. "It basically just sits fallow," Baker said.
Fare hikes are not something he is looking to do right away, Baker said.
They should take a look at the fare structure, have public hearings and make adjustments "accordingly," Baker said. "But my guess is that's something that takes place over the course of several years."
Baker said he hopes to have the legislation revamping the MBTA back on his desk before lawmakers break for the summer.
Baker also offered a window into his regular private meetings with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, Beacon Hill's top Democrats.
He enjoys a good relationship with them but he expects some pushback at some point in his tenure and hopes that they will be able to "disagree without disagreeable," he said.
When Gov. William Weld or the late Paul Cellucci met with House and Senate leaders on Mondays, there was "nothing you could do to move it," according to Baker.
Nowadays, the meetings usually involve DeLeo, Baker and Rosenberg, their budget chiefs and the House and Senate minority leaders. Whoever hosts the meeting reaches out and puts together a formal agenda.
McGrory asked about the Olympics. "Do you want them?"
Baker jokingly asked the crowd, "Show of hands?"
Baker then said he wanted to see more of a plan for bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston.
Asked if he trusts the leaders of Boston 2024, the organization behind the effort, Baker said, "There's no reason not to. I mean, what I would like to see, though, is a plan."
A question from the audience touched on education. State education officials are weighing whether to sunset the MCAS test and adopt the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) instead.
"My basic objective in the end with regard to this whole question, is if I believe that we will not have the ability to do what makes sense for the people of Massachusetts and the students of Massachusetts, I am probably going to want to give this thing back, okay?" he said.
Baker continued, "If I believe that there's enough latitude inside whatever the PARCC framework is, for Massachusetts to be Massachusetts and to be unique and special and different and, frankly, better than everybody else, then I would be willing to consider playing within that framework."
Baker also expressed nostalgia for previous debates over charter schools, saying it has escalated into a "feud" between traditional public schools and charter schools.
A charter supporter, Baker said he would like to see Massachusetts embrace more charter schools. "But what I'd really like to see Massachusetts embrace at the K through 12 level are models that work, and I don't care if they're charter models or not."
The number of Democrats in his administration was another topic. McGrory pointed to Baker's chief of staff, Steve Kadish, and rattled off the names of Cabinet members like economic development chief Jay Ash and transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack. Baker volunteered the name of Paul Sagan, whom Baker appointed to chair the state board of elementary and secondary education.
For the senior positions, he was trying to find "the best person for the job," Baker said, calling Kadish the "best project manager I have ever been around."
"Elections are competitions and I get that, ok?" Baker said. "And I've been on the right side and the wrong side with respect to that. But governing is about the work and it's about the work of the people."
Baker said the "hardest thing" to get accustomed to as governor is the security detail. He called them "wonderful people," adding, "but I am not somebody who likes an entourage."
"In this role, there's very little you get to sort of do on your own," he said.
McGrory asked if Baker has among his entourage people willing to tell him he is wrong on something.
"Is Buckley here?" Baker asked, looking out in the crowd.
Standing in the back of the room, Tim Buckley, Baker's communications director, with his cell phone in hand, offered a quick wave.
"There he is. Buckley has no problem telling me I'm wrong," Baker said.
Baker also credited his loss in 2010, when he went up against Democrat Deval Patrick, with helping him prepare for the job of governor. "No joke, I think losing in 2010 was probably as important as anything to understanding the nature of the top job," he said.
"You have to figure how to have a different kind of conversation with the public at large than the conversation you can have with your team, your customers, your suppliers, which is what I was more familiar with," said Baker, who worked in the private sector and on Gov. William Weld's team before his 2010 run.
Baker said he learned from watching Patrick in the race. "I definitely took from it that he understood how to have a conversation with the people of the Commonwealth in a way that I didn't," he said.