Though it cannot be argued that Mayor Coogan is a reasonably nice guy, running a $300M corporation like our city of 89000 people, does not require nice. It does require strategic planning, solid decision making, and a little backbone. Every now and again, perhaps a discussion with all department heads and the city council for their appropriate input, would be the right thing to do. A view from the outside however, shows that our current mayor isn’t able to check any of those boxes. As we approach an important election in our city, we should take this opportunity to move the city forward in a positive way.
After watching the debate, seeing him in the neighborhoods, speaking with him on several occasions and reading his basic strategy, I believe that Cliff Ponte is just what this city needs at this critical time.
As witness to the last several years of disjointed government, it’s time to take a hard look at what we have, and what might be possible. The empirical bias with which the Mayor makes every effort to be photographed in the general vicinity of any city improvement project currently underway, while convenient to his campaign, is also conveniently omitting the real issues that our city faces, and should be cause for concern. It should also be noted that the vast majority of these street and park “facelifts” had been in the planning stages far longer than he’s been on the 6th floor.
While it’s great that we might just see something/anything be made of the years of study, debate, false starts, inaction and waste at the infamous city pier, I doubt that it should be a priority right now. For the record, it should be an insult to the intelligence of any city property and/or business owner that only now, the summer of election year, we’re seeing so many projects, now in process, being claimed under his administration’s ”full time leadership”. That he and his handlers think the public can be hoodwinked into believing that this is all him, is appalling. It does however, fit in with his government by ambush history.
The city is understaffed in every critical department, and while the police department is using vehicles and equipment, in some cases, far beyond its safe or useful lifespan, the chief takes a $50K SUV home every night, why? Though the fire department has been the recent recipient of several millions in S.A.F.E.R. Grants, allowing for much of their equipment upgrades and is in better shape than most, that department is also understaffed and in need of a top to bottom realistic review and assessment. There’s a trash contract pending, and a DCM physical plant that is also quickly approaching critical mass, as well as other major municipal contracts coming due. These contracts should be scrutinized closely, and updated to reflect the realities of the 21st century. It’s high time that some of the perks utilized in the 80’s & 90’s to augment take home pay, (when there was no money), such as comp time and group 7 scheduling, be seen for the budget busting liabilities that they are. There’s little doubt that chronic understaffing and the resulting overtime, along with overall mis-management, are the primary culprits for the out-of-control overtime and other related expenses. Perhaps a businessman like Cliff Ponte, who has experience with a budget and strategic long term planning, would be a good choice over Mr. Coogan and his back room politics. Should he prevail in the final election, Mr Ponte should also be held accountable if, during his first hundred days, (or so), he fails to deliver something/anything, to get the city on the right track.
These are but a few of the very real challenges facing our next chief executive, and government by ambush is precisely what we don’t need. Good old boy back room politics, trickery while dealing with the city council, and the inability to act in the position of de facto school committee chair, is clear evidence of ineffective management. Failing to act in several recent embarrassing situations in the school, fire, and police departments, clearly shows Mr. Coogans lack of a clear mission and his inability to make a decision. This, in my opinion, doesn’t make Mr Coogan a bad Chief Executive, just an incredibly ineffective one.
I would implore all Fall Riverites to take a good look at our choices coming up in this months primary election on September 21, and general election on November 2. We will then have an opportunity to put someone other than the same old politicos in both the sixth floor, as well as the council chambers. Again, based on several factors, Cliff Ponte would be a wise choice for the 6th floor, and purging the council of longtime politicos who stay pretty well hidden, (save for election cycle) for a couple of new faces, would be the way to go.
Fall River, MA