Council Needs to Step It Up [OPINION]
On Friday's program, I was caught off guard by a caller who informed me of what he believed was a methadone clinic being planned for Brigham Street in the city's West End. I hadn't heard a peep about this and therefore was not able to provide him with answers to his questions about the proposal.
This call occurred at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Friday. Being confined to a live studio, I suggested that listeners contact Ward 5 City Councilor Scott Lima to find out what, if anything, he knew about it. Another caller informed us that there were public hearings scheduled on the matter and in fact that a public meeting organized by Lima would be held the very next morning. Awesome, we're getting somewhere. Why weren't we told about this?
Within minutes of the first call, an angry Lima arrived at the studio having received what he stated were numerous text messages from "councilors," including former Councilor Denis Lawrence, suggesting that Lima was under attack on "open line." I gave Lima the final three minutes of the hour to explain what he could about the proposed project but he chose instead to defend himself against what he believed were personal attacks on him. A waste of constituents' time.
No one attacked Lima in any way. We were simply trying to find out what was happening and were grateful to see Lima come to the studio. Unfortunately, he came prepared to defend himself rather than provide the information we sought because while he was not listening to the program. Lawrence and at least one other old hen were more interested in spreading gossip than being helpful. How New Bedford-like.
Prior to all of this happening on Friday, Lima had hand-delivered letters to residents in the general area of Brigham Street. The letter explained that there would be a public meeting and potentially two public hearings on the project in the coming weeks. Lima had done his job. Almost.
Lima's big mistake was assuming with no good reason that he was being attacked by me and members of my audience. He refused to accept that he had not been attacked and chose to go on the air in a defensive rather than informative posture, which benefited no one. How unfortunate for everyone.
To his credit, a much more relaxed Lima called in the following hour to brief us on what he knew about the project and how people could learn more about it. Much more productive use of all of our time.
Councilor Lima and others in city government need to do a better job of keeping citizens and taxpayers in the loop on matters important to them. It is not enough to issue a letter to those immediately impacted by a proposal or development. The entire city needs to be alerted so that there is no confusion or rumors or gossip about what may or may not be planned.
It would have taken literally seconds for Lima to email that letter to the radio station to make us aware of what is going on so that we can tell the listening audience. And this goes for all members of the city council: just because you are elected to represent a ward, your constituency includes the entire city.
As for the old biddies who love to gossip just to stir the pot, mind your business. I believe former Councilor Lawrence and others could have been considerably more helpful had they texted me with what he knew about the Brigham Street project rather than spreading rumors.
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.