One of the best things about my job is I get to see the little power plays and true personalities of public officials. Some people must have a baby toe in every action, while others have a problem watching what they say. Both those things happened here. And some people got mad at me. At least something interesting came out of TS Irene.
High praise for city’s actions during Irene’s visit
IN THE AFTERMATH of Tropical Storm Irene, high praise went to city police, firefighters, highway workers and other staff for their efficient handling of the havoc the storm wrought.
The compliments were particularly plentiful from the aldermen. There was just one problem — communication was lacking.
Leaving an alderman out of the loop has long been a major no-no in Manchester politics. If power is out in a section of a ward or the nearby fire station has to divert an engine across the city for the day, that ward alderman expects to be notified.
So when a call was made to run all storm-related information through the mayor’s office, a debate via email ensued.
Alderman At-Large Dan O’Neil started off an email on Monday with a “great job” and followed with a polite request for better communication on the front-end of the storm, specifically getting the city’s emergency contact number out to the public sooner.
“I would ask in the future that all aldermen be briefed in advance of our plans and be notified by phone (not emails) of meetings and briefings during the event,” wrote O’Neil in an email obtained by the City Hall column.
“If someone wants to change anything, bring it before the board of aldermen,” wrote Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez. “We also know that our department heads have their hands full and they know what to do.
You cannot have 14 people in charge in emergencies but I can tell you everything did work out and if something would have happened the aldermen would have been called.”
He finishes with “Thanks to all GREAT JOB.”
Ward 11 Alderman Russ Ouellette then joined in, saying department heads have more important tasks during an emergency than calling each alderman.
“If aldermen want information the aldermen should contact the mayor’s office or his designee for concerns of wards or any other information,” Ouellette wrote.
“The people of this city look to the mayor and ALL alderman for help and solutions,” O’Neil fired back. “You may not want to know what is going on in the city but I do. I don’t report to the mayor or his designee. I report to the citizens of Manchester.”
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THIS COLUMN REPORTED last week that Mayor Ted Gatsas asked department heads for 2013 budget projections. In response, Manchester firefighters’ union President Ryan Cashin sent out a press release asking Gatsas to fix this year’s budget before moving on to the next.
“The facts are clear. Arson and crime are on the rise in the city of Manchester.
Making sweeping cuts to public safety during these times is not in the best interest of the people of Manchester,” wrote Cashin.
Overall crime is up slightly according to police statistics from 2010. Arsons are up but violent crime in the city is down slightly.
Though Gatsas denied requesting budget numbers this early was part of a campaign strategy, the expected grim numbers will inevitably force candidates to take a stand on spending.
Cashin not-so-subtly criticized Gatsas for the move.
“We cannot focus on election gimmicks at a time when the public safety of the people of Manchester is at risk,” he wrote. “Mayor Gatsas and the Aldermanic Board need to focus on reprioritizing this budget, not the future one. The Mayor needs to put his focus off the upcoming election and onto public safety.” Continue reading