Will the New Bedford City Council Use Its Power? [OPINION]
The battle over public safety funding in New Bedford is coming to the city council. Mayor Jon Mitchell has a financial plan. It's tough to stop a train with mush.
The municipal budgets of every city and town in America are being impacted by the Chinese virus known as COVID-19. When the economy stops short, so do the tax revenues.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is going to make cuts to his city's budget. The biggest departments are fire, police, and EMS – all the facets of public safety.
The professional firefighters and police officers have been outspoken about their concerns with the cuts. They have been telling the public they serve that the cuts will put life and property in jeopardy. They are saying the cuts will cost lives.
Members of the New Bedford City Council have been outspoken in their opposition to the cuts, too. Councilors have attended rallies with the fire department and pledged to the public and the unions their opposition to Mayor Mitchell's financial plans.
Rallies and pledges are nice; they are also nothing without follow-up.
Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical professionals are doing their jobs. Now they want to see the city councilors who show up to their rallies do their jobs.
The city council has an opportunity to cut the budget. It can make strategic cuts that force the mayor to the negotiation table with the council. When the council cuts the budget, the money can only be released by a vote of the City Council Finance Committee. That committee could cut the budget down to a few dollars per department and then add money at the request of department heads all year long. That is an extreme scenario but it is possible.
Mayor Mitchell is betting there isn't a block of city councilors willing to do the work and come up with the strength to battle him on his cuts. Rallies are fun and easy – and useless if there is no follow-up in the halls of government.
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.