Council Meeting Devolves into Chaos [OPINION]
Ward Two City Councilor Maria Giesta's relentless personal tirade against her colleague Brian Gomes was enough to bring last night's New Bedford City Council meeting to an early and abrupt conclusion after only 45 minutes.
Gomes' motion to restrict parking at the former Phillips Avenue School lot was the focus of Giesta attack. Giesta helped to defeat a proposal to convert the decaying brick building into housing units that would have placed the property on the tax rolls for the first time. Giesta and a handful of residents are demanding the property be converted to a neighborhood center with overnight parking for area residents.
There are no other developers interested in the property, and with the Cruz Management proposal now off the table, Gomes and others are concerned about liability issues should debris from the crumbling structure damage a vehicle parked in the lot or worse, result in personal injury.
Public parking at the Phillips Avenue School should have been restricted a long time ago but we can't go back and redo those decisions. Every day the public is allowed access to that lot, the risk of damage or injury increases. Failure to act to protect the public creates a huge liability issue for the City.
The Mitchell Administration estimates it would cost a minimum of $1 million to demolish the former school. That is money the City clearly does not have to spend. The idea that somehow there are funds to convert the building into a neighborhood center is pure fantasy. Councilor Giesta should know better, since a primary function of her responsibility is to review and approve an operating budget for the City.
For Giesta to behave in such a disruptive manner while disrespecting a colleague on the Council floor is unprofessional and childish. Giesta needs to put her personal issues aside and focus on what's best for the people of New Bedford.
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.