New Bedford recently uprooted a traffic island and replaced it with cobblestones that look, and act, like the teeth of Jaws the shark to stop panhandlers.

New Bedford Senator Mark Montigny is a powerful and experienced man in the world of Massachusetts politics. He knows more about the state budget and the levers of real power than almost anybody, and I include his Senate colleagues in this group.

Sen. Montigny also does most of his work quietly. He doesn't need to grandstand, because he has the power and knowledge to get his goals accomplished and to serve his constituents. Think of Teddy Roosevelt and the big stick when you think of Mark Montigny.

So when Montigny breaks form and condemns the actions of the Mayor of New Bedford, you know he is serious about the matter. It also signifies that he is lending support to the three New Bedford City Council members that have shown incredible courage on this issue.

Councillor Hugh Dunn has been leading the way in condemning the  "medieval" cobblestone structure that is designed to deter panhandlers with bodily injury. He has been joined by Ian Abreu and Maria Giesta in this moral battle with the powerful and popular Mayor Jon Mitchell.

Sen. Montigny used Facebook to communicate his passionate disapproval of his city's latest attempt to interfere with panhandlers. He wrote "Medieval. File this under 'really stupid, thoughtless ideas'" when commenting on a WBZ Boston story about the architecture. He went on to elaborate "no matter how you feel about the broader issue, that's a silly way to deal with it."

Mark Montigny was born and raised in New Bedford. He graduated from Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School and went to UMass at Dartmouth when it was still SMU. He worked at the Fall River Chamber of Commerce before his neighbors elected him to the Senate. He knows his city, and the good and the bad. He knows the people like him don't need help until they do and then he steps in with that big stick. With is comments, he reminded us all that "human compassion is more important than any other human trait. Period."

Mark Montigny has been fighting for the needs of the mentally ill, victims of human trafficking, and quality affordable education for people trying to achieve the American dream for decades. He is also a genius lawmaker in the interest of animals. He fights for interests that don't vote and don't make campaign donations. He knows the process, and he is pulling the levers of power long after the reporters and the pretenders to the throne have gone home.

Jackie Gleason played Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, in which he kicks a kid in the ass and then tells the young man, "that was an attention-getter!"

The senator from New Bedford launched an attention-getter tonight.

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 and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.



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