New Bedford Councilors: Mitchell Wants It ‘My Way or the Highway’
New Bedford's two freshman city councilors, Councilor at Large Shane Burgo and Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, appeared on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight Friday to separate themselves from comments made by their colleagues in a chaotic city council meeting on Thursday.
In that meeting, several other councilors spent most of their time on the floor disparaging New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and the local media.
The first-term councilors both said that they have no animosity toward the local media, but both expressed some frustrations in working with Mitchell.
Burgo said he has a good working relationship with Mitchell, but did remark that at times the mayor can be difficult to bargain with. Burgo said the city council is flexible, whereas Mitchell is not.
"I feel as though with Mayor Mitchell, it's 'my way or the highway,'" Burgo said
Burgo cited two examples where he felt Mitchell was inflexible and felt Mitchell misled the public on the council's position.
The first was Mitchell's public criticism of the council for approving the waiver of residency for a license to operate Fall River Pawn Brokers on Union Street, which Mitchell thought should have been withheld pending a resolution on whether or not a methadone clinic would be placed on the same site.
Mitchell said the council's decision to approve the waiver was hasty; Burgo said it was made carefully after debate in multiple meetings.
The other example was the vote to approve construction on an MBTA pedestrian bridge, which Burgo and a few other councilors argued Mitchell presented to the council for a vote with little to no time for consultation.
"On one hand, we should be looking at things more," Burgo said. "On the other hand, when he wants it to be rushed, it has to be rushed."
Pereira said that when he's presented the mayor's office with his ideas for solutions to issues he is hearing about from his constituents in the city's South End, the mayor has been dismissive.
Pereira said Mitchell shot down his idea for beach advisory board to advise the city's park board, which is something Pereira said his constituents asked for in a well-attended neighborhood meeting.
Pereira also said his "summer plan of action," which was part of his campaign promise to devise a plan to manage the increased vehicle and foot traffic on the peninsula during beach season, was also rebuffed by Mitchell and his office.
"The meeting was about 30 minutes," Pereira said. "And during that whole meeting, I spent about 25 minutes being lectured to as to why I'm wrong."
"It wasn't about, 'Hey, let's come together. Let's come to some solution.' It was 'your plan is dumb,'" Pereira said. "And that's disappointing because I'm taking feedback from the constituents. I'm taking feedback from the same voters that voted for you and voted for me."
Mayor Mitchell declined a request for comment on this story.
Listen to the full appearance with Councilor Pereira and Councilor Burgo's on the SouthCoast Tonight podcast .