“Governor, this is Barack Obama, formerly of Somerville. I've got a few complaints about service in and around the neighborhood, but I've moved down south since that time..."
With that, President Obama caught his friend Deval Patrick off guard Thursday afternoon with a phone call in to the outgoing Massachusetts governor’s final monthly appearance on “Ask the Governor” on WGBH public radio.
At first, Governor Patrick thought he was being punked. But as Mr. Obama spoke, it became clear it was the president. Obama lived in Somerville, Mass., and Cambridge during his time at Harvard Law School, between 1988 and 1991. And apparently he racked up a pile of parking tickets during that time – 17 in Cambridge alone, according to The Boston Globe.
Just before the call ended, host Jim Braude jumped in and asked the president whether he had paid off his parking tickets in Somerville.
“You know, I think I had to before I took office, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to step into the Commonwealth without being arrested,” Obama replied.
In 2007, right after Obama announced his presidential campaign, the Globe looked into the parking tickets, and learned that he had paid off only two to Cambridge while he was a student – and paid them late. The rest were eventually paid, including late fees.
Obama had also previously owed Somerville money for parking in a bus stop and in a street-sweeping zone. Those fines were also paid off early in the campaign.
On Thursday, Obama spent time on the radio praising Patrick’s two terms as governor – and took some razzing from Patrick.
Barack Obama: "I want to find out how it is that you got Massachusetts so strong and moving in the right direction."
Deval Patrick: "Mr. President, you know I love you, but you still have trouble saying Massachusetts. You know that don't you?"
Barack Obama: "You know, there's a little lisp thing that develops when I say Massachusetts. I know how to spell it, though."
Deval Patrick: "Indeed you do. And you know where it is. You've been a great friend to all of us. Thank you.
Obama praised Patrick on health care, education, and clean energy – and the Red Sox’s two championships during his tenure.
“Should I take credit for that, too?” Patrick said.