Fred Kalisz got hammered when he closed two police stations during his administration. Kalisz proved on paper that in today's computerized society with highly sophisticated communications, police officers could be dispatched from a single central location or the road and be just as effective.

But Kalisz failed to understand the human element in all of this, the perception that the north and south ends of town would be less safe with the station closings. We all know that perception is reality for many.

Kalisz made a huge political blunder by closing neighborhood police stations and Jon Mitchell may be repeating that mistake by closing Fire Station 11. Fire Chief Paul Coderre says closing the station will be more cost-effective than the rolling blackouts that have been policy for a number of years now and would not make the peninsula any less safe. A lot of people seem to disagree, and again, perception is reality for some residents of the South End.

During his weekly appearance on my program on Wednesday, Mitchell seemed a bit uncertain about the policy, often saying "Chief Coderre says" or "Chief Coderre believes" rather than offering a full-throated endorsement of the idea by saying "I believe" the closure is best.

Like Kalisz, Mitchell is attempting to negotiate a contract with the firefighters union and the union is exploiting the closure issue to win the upper hand in the public relations war. It certainly helps the union when members of the city council appear at their rallies.

I don't know whether closing Station 11 makes more sense than rolling blackouts or if it saves the city more money. Chief Coderre says it does, the union disagrees. I am not an expert in this area but I do know this highly-charged debate has been politicized and that's never a good thing.

Perception is reality for some and the perception of many folks in the South End is that they will be less safe should Station 11 close next month as scheduled. Perhaps Mitchell should leave things as they are pending the opening of the new public safety center next year.

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 barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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