OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Fall River, Not Trump, Dropped the Ball
Philips Lighting is moving its plant to Mexico, and Fall River is losing 160 jobs. Some are trying to blame President Trump, but they did nothing for Fall River.
The economic development situation in Fall River, MA has been a well-publicized disaster for more than a year. Mayor Jasiel Correia II cancelled funding for the Fall River Office of Economic Development because he doesn't get along with or trust the longtime head of the FROED, Ken Fiola. Mr. Fiola and his team at FROED had been handling economic development in the city for decades before Correia was elected mayor.
Part of the problem stems from a federal investigation into Correia launched by the Obama administration. The offices of FROED were visited by the FBI and investigators from the Office of Housing and Urban Development. The Fall River Herald News has been a bulldog on this story and all of its twists and turns. Correia didn't like that word had leaked about the team of federal investigators visiting FROED, and he acted against Fiola and the organization.
Correia was constantly denying any investigation was going on into his actions, and having Ken Fiola and the respected members of the board of directors of FROED confirming the visit by the Obama Justice Department was a problem for him politically.
Long after witnesses had confirmed that they had testified to a federal grand jury in Boston, the mayor of Fall River was denying the existence of the grand jury. His own college roommates had appeared at the inquiry, yet the mayor continued to deny he was the subject of an investigation.
Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III took to Twitter to blame the Trump tax changes for the loss of jobs. What did you do to help keep the jobs in his district? Remember, he staged his rebuttal to the president's State of the Union in the city of Fall River. What did Congressman Kennedy know about the jobs leaving his district, and what did he do to try to help the workers?
According to the Herald News, the man who Correia has placed in charge of economic development since he dropped FROED was blindsided by the plant closing.
"Michael Dion, head of the Community Development Agency, who has picked up most of the economic development slack for the administration, said he had no idea the company was moving jobs out of the country."
The local paper of record also reported the President of City Council Cliff Ponte's assessment on the situation in his city.
“It’s so frustrating, I got no phone call, no communication from the administration’s staff,” Ponte said. “I intend to indicate my frustration. Now is the time for action and that’s the purpose of getting everyone together. And I have a question, could this have been avoided if we had someone designated to economic development?”
The mayor of Fall River has been distracted for a while, talking to his lawyers and trying to figure out how to pay his lawyers. He has exhausted his campaign account funding his lawyers, and recently opened a special legal defense fund with his mother as his treasurer.
Philips Lighting has been planning to split for Mexico, and maybe the mayor is sympathetic to such an idea at this time, too.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.