Mitchell to Lang: Zip It [OPINION]
It has to be difficult for former officeholders to refrain from commenting publically about the job their successor is doing or refrain from offering unsolicited advice. Even those of us who have never served in public office think we have all of the answers and are quick to offer our expert opinion.
The City of New Bedford is facing some complicated budgeting decisions at the moment due in large part to the unanticipated COVID-19 crisis. Before the crisis even began, Mayor Jon Mitchell told me that there would need to be some belt-tightening for the fiscal year that began on July 1. With COVID, all bets are off.
Since the Baker Administration and the leadership of the Massachusetts Legislature have been unable to determine the full extent of the Commonwealth's revenue shortfall, it becomes difficult to say how much state aid cities like New Bedford will receive. When that state aid is necessary to balance the municipal budget, local officials have to scramble to figure out the way forward.
Mayor Jon Mitchell's administration has announced plans to decommission Engine 8 and to close the police sub-station downtown. Vacant positions will go unfilled, and desk officers will be reassigned to street duty. Mitchell said the COVID pandemic has created a multi-year financial situation that requires spending reductions rather than the use of one-time money to plug holes.
Former Mayor Scott Lang told the local newspaper he disagrees with Mitchell's approach.
"I think it's premature to make those types of cuts," he told the Standard-Times.
Lang said he would not make any fundamental changes to the budget until he knew just how much state and federal aid might be available. He said he would rely on the rainy day fund to fill gaps rather than make deep cuts at this point.
Mitchell resents Lang's interference, and he has a right to. He told me even during a pandemic Scott Lang is "sniping from the sidelines." Lang has offered his unsolicited opinion from time to time, and while he is certainly within his rights to do so, it is not always helpful. Mitchell told me he wishes Lang would butt out and that the former mayor's comments are not always appreciated.
Lang is a great guy. He served New Bedford well, but he chose to retire. He is no longer mayor and should refrain from interfering with the current administration. Former mayors, like former presidents, should leave the stage gracefully when their time is through and resist the temptation to be a buttinsky.
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.