New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell will present his budget for the new fiscal year this week. Given the pandemic, the public demand to restore public safety cuts, and the ever-increasing cost of fixed expenses such as employee health care, it ought to be an interesting budget address for FY22 on Wednesday night.

To complicate things even further for Mitchell's administration, the city's chief bean counter Ari Sky's last day on the job is Friday. He will be sorely missed. We don't know yet who the new chief financial officer will be.

Once the budget is delivered this week, the New Bedford City Council's Finance Committee will begin the process of reviewing the documents and considering reductions that might be proposed by committee members.

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Ward 3 City Councilor Hugh Dunn needs to recuse himself from the budget process, at least as it pertains to the police department's budget. Council President Joe Lopes should have already insisted that Dunn recuse himself. But like Dunn, Lopes has been mighty quiet these days.

It's time to show leadership on the Dunn controversy, President Lopes. Leadership means more than holding a gavel and conducting meetings. Leaders need to be heard and not just seen.

Councilor Dunn was involved in a multi-vehicle crash in a downtown parking lot just more than a week ago. The incident and the resulting police investigation were so questionable they have drawn the attention of Acting Police Chief Paul Oliveira, Mayor Mitchell, District Attorney Thomas Quinn, and the Massachusetts State Police. But not Lopes, whose only public comment to date has been, "The matter is between the NBPD and Mr. Hugh Dunn."

Under the circumstance, Councilor Dunn should have no role in reviewing the police department's budget. That would indeed be a conflict. Dunn has lost his voice since the crash occurred. Lopes needs to find his voice and call on Dunn to recuse himself from discussions concerning police funding. President Lopes' loyalty must be to the people of New Bedford and not a fellow councilor.

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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