During my time in politics – as a campaign manager, a public official, and speaking in public hearings – I’ve come to learn that there are essentially two types of people that work in local government.

The overwhelming majority answer the call to public service and govern with a genuine desire to improve the lives of their constituents and protect our most vulnerable populations.

Then there are the few that govern as if they carved out their own corner of the universe to lord over and are only interested in their own power and ability to use that power spitefully.

Earlier this week, in a New Bedford Traffic Commission hearing, I spoke on behalf of a friend who was petitioning for a handicapped parking space to be designated on the street in front of the walkway to their home. I explained to the commission that the petitioner has had several surgeries in the past two years which resulted in metal screws being installed in their extremities, a rod in their midsection as well as screws in their spine and neck, substantially limiting their mobility.

I explained that though there is a driveway on the property, the space in front of the walkway that leads to the door would be the fewest steps from the petitioner's vehicle to an entrance of the home and offers the safest means of ingress and egress for the petitioner given their limited mobility. The petitioner has a handicapped placard for their vehicle at the recommendation of their healthcare provider. 

After I made my argument, discussed the various injuries the petitioner has sustained, and their need for the handicapped parking space, there was a snort of derision that can be heard from a woman in the audience. 

Four members of the commission voted in favor of the petition, one voted against, and one abstained; thus the petition failed, as it was 4-1 in favor and five votes in favor are needed for these petitions to pass. For what it's worth, the one traffic commissioner who voted against the measure, Manny Silva, I found to be rude and dismissive of the petitioner's need for this spot, seeming as though he had already made up his mind before the hearing. He said he's "gone by" the property and decided the petitioner's disability was undeserving of a space by his naked eye measurement.

I’ve conducted and participated in many public hearings; I understand that sometimes things don’t go the way you’d like. But I’d be writing this even if it were a unanimous vote in favor of my friend because it isn't about this particular petition. It's about the unsettling comments of a New Bedford City Councilor who was not a voting member of the commission but still took the time to make an objection on the record.

Councilor-at-Large Linda Morad took a hardline stance against individuals with disabilities who are requesting modest accommodation by the City. She seemed angry, dismissive of the petitioner's need for this accommodation, and in no uncertain terms said "dislikes" the handicap spaces across the city. Councilor Morad's comments start at about 20:11 of the video below:

“I would just ask the commissioners to take into consideration whether this accommodation really does need to be made or whether the property owner needs to make accommodations on their own property for safe access,” Morad said. “I dislike the millions of handicapped spaces we have across the city. I commend the traffic commission for holding these types of hearings and asking the petitioners that actually do have driveways why it’s necessary that handicapped spots be placed on the city streets, and I also commend you for rescinding them when no longer needed.”

“This petitioner should be making accommodations on their own property for the problems that the petitioner has, or whether something has to be done on a city street to accommodate them,” Morad continued. “It just seems to me that this petition is out of order.”

I was jarred to hear an elected official use “dislike" when discussing modest accommodations for individuals with disabilities. But what was even more jarring is that she said that the petitioner and similar residents with disabilities should make accommodations on their property "for the problems that the petitioner has" and called the disabled petitioner's request "out of order."

To be clear: Councilor Morad took the time in a public hearing to question the sincerity of a disabled constituent's need for accommodation and said that she “dislikes" handicapped spaces being reserved for individuals with disabilities in the city. And due to her expressed dislike for handicapped parking, she expects residents who are dealing with a disability in the midst of a public health and economic crisis to incur untenable personal expenses to deal with their "problems" before the City makes a modest accommodation to make their life easier. We don't know definitively where that snort of derision came from after I discussed the petitioner's disability, but I think we can make an educated guess.

As a sibling of an individual with ASD and someone with personal and professional experience advocating for individuals with disabilities, it is deeply disheartening to see a public official act so contemptuously toward a disabled constituent.

As I’ve said before, most elected officials govern dutifully, but some govern punitively. When those elected officials reveal their philosophy of governance, the public should take notice.

Marcus Ferro is the host of The Marcus Ferro Show airing Saturdays on 1420 WBSM from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact him at marcusferrolaw@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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