Mayor Jon Mitchell says that his city has to work harder than other larger cities to succeed. He has accomplishments to be proud of. But the lumber...

Ken Pittman, a private investigator and a host on 1420 WBSM, has uncovered a serious problem in the city of New Bedford. The problem of the missing lumber is more than just an isolated incident. The matter has the potential of blowing a hole in the reputation of the city of New Bedford and that impact will be felt for decades.

The history of New Bedford is a priceless asset and a key component of its future. The city is known because of Moby Dick, and people come from around the world to see the Whaling Museum and experience the rich history.

When Mayor Scott W. Lang arranged for the lumber from the historic Fairhaven Mills building to be donated to the Ernestina ship, it was a marriage of the history and the future of the city. The building's lumber was from the same era as the ship and it would live on with the boat, even as modern commercial business replaced the old building. The Ernestina relies on private donations and tax dollars to survive, and the rare lumber was a tremendous financial gift from the people of New Bedford.

But that gift disappeared. It was stored at the New Bedford Water Works complex during the Lang Administration in a secure building. The whole complex is secured by the standards developed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The security standards are for the drinking water of over 100,000 people, so it was a safe bet to store the lumber out there.

At some point, the lumber was moved into the woods during the Mitchell Administration and then it disappeared. Tons of wood need trucks and a crane and a few men to be moved. It was a serious effort to move it to the woods and then another serious effort to make it disappear.

The loss of reputation and trust could be bigger than the loss of valuable and historic lumber for the city. New Bedford is in a fight over the expansion of charter school seats and the state funding that follows the students. The folks in the Baker Administration and the ideological activists who support the expansion of charter schools have been handed a heavy wooden club to beat the city with, if they choose to use it.

As New Bedford goes, so goes the region. We can't afford to have this—well, whatever it is that actually happened to the historic timber—serve as the example of what happens in our community.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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