New Bedford Firefighters Pass the Boot for MDA [OPINION]
Lots of unnecessary confusion over the weekend as to whether the Mitchell Administration had directed the police to break up a fundraising drive by firefighters near Buttonwood Park.
The firemen were at the intersection of Routes 6 and 140, where they collected donations from motorists as part of their annual fundraising effort on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Firefighters nationwide have raised millions to fight muscular dystrophy over the years. The local Jakes have been a part of that effort for decades.
When the late entertainer Jerry Lewis would host his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, firefighters would present donations from around the nation on live television, always adding tons of money to the tote board.
On Saturday, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro sent several officers to investigate to be sure that the firefighters were collecting in a way that would not impede safety at the busy intersection, considered to be one of the most dangerous in the state. The Whaling City Festival was occurring nearby at Buttonwood Park, drawing even more traffic.
After a brief discussion with the firefighters and a period spent observing their behavior, it was determined by the police that the fundraising was occurring within the confines of the law, and that the effort was not creating a safety issue. Period.
That didn't stop the social media frenzy. It hit Facebook on Saturday morning that the mayor's office had given "the boot" to the collection drive. That was an invitation to anyone and everyone to pile on and spread the "fake news" throughout cyberspace at lightning speed. It got so crazy that by late in the day, the police department issued a statement to set the record straight, but that still wasn't good enough.
With that same lightning speed that we send messages up and down the web, we can reach out and find out truths before jumping to conclusions and reacting to rumors. Was all of that really necessary?
For several years, the community has been besieged by beggars who approach cars at busy intersections, often creating traffic safety concerns. While certainly I do not put our firefighters in that category, the Chief is correct to address the safety concerns people might have about folks, regardless of their intentions, stepping into traffic to collect a donation from a motorist.
Forty years ago, I worked side-by-side with members of the IAFF to collect donations for the MDA. I honor their desire to want to help. We have all since been made aware of the dangers of folks stepping into traffic to approach motor vehicles. Its only natural that concerns about the safety of the firefighters and the motorists would come up at this time.
In the future, what say we try to communicate before jumping to conclusions and hitting the internet with rumors?
Good job, guys.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.