New Bedford health officials wasted little time attempting to slam a curfew on the Whaling City Festival over COVID concerns but appear to be AWOL on the city's growing human waste crisis. Several members of the city council and members of the business community have sounded the alarm about vagrants who relieve themselves in public in the downtown area. Their concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.

At-Large Councilors Brian Gomes and Ian Abreu, both of whom work downtown, have repeatedly tried to draw attention to the vagrants who urinate and defecate in alleys and vacant storefronts. They say open drug use, fights, and vagrancy are rampant in the heart of the city's center. Ward 2's Maria Giesta and others have called on the Mitchell Administration to confront similar issues, including open and lewd sex acts that occur in their districts.

Where is the leadership from Mayor Jon Mitchell on these issues? Surely the thought of vagrants urinating and defecating in our streets must raise public health concerns. Where is the New Bedford Board of Health? Oh yeah, in Dartmouth.

Open and lewd sex acts and intravenous drug use have got to be at least as concerning to the BoH as the Whaling City Festival operating past 6 p.m. Yet all we hear from the administration is silence.

One downtown businessman tells me, "Downtown is like skid row again." And still nothing from City Hall.

Vagrants pooping and peeing in our streets and openly using intravenous drugs seemingly without concern is a massive public health crisis. It's a crisis because no one in the administration appears to care or has a plan to deal with it.

Mayor Mitchell, I challenge you to appear on my radio program to tell the people of New Bedford what your administration is doing to address this growing crisis. Your plan for downtown includes closing the police station, but how will that help the health crisis that appears to be getting worse by the day? And what about the neighborhoods?

Mayor Mitchell, what is your plan?

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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