Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kicking Her When She's Down [revised]

[Sorry for the revision of this post--as a general rule, I don't make significant changes to my posts, but this issue inspired me to write something longer and more complex as a letter to the editor later in the day, and I think it makes sense to post that here. The content of the original post is still here.]

I have noticed with dismay that the Board of Aldermen is frequently sidetracked by petty bickering. When we elect the Aldermen, we do so with the assumption (or perhaps just the hope) that we are electing mature, responsible adults who will behave in a professional manner. Instead, what we have been “treated” to on countless occasions over the past year is the unsightly spectacle of Aldermen behaving like spoiled adolescents who have tantrums and hold grudges that interfere with the business of government. How many times did the Independent Aldermen refuse to participate in subcommittee meetings because Alderman Arthur J. Denze, Sr. was cranky about having been reprimanded off-camera? Was the televising of the publicly-held subcommittee meetings really more important than participating in those meetings, which is what we taxpayers pay them to do?

Most recently, Alderman Frank A. Burgio, Sr., as reported in the Republican-American (March 11, Alderman pleads misfortune), has behaved at a new low. From what I can put together, he took it upon himself to inform the newspaper that Alderman Laurie Singer Russo is late paying her taxes. The amount she owes ($362) is not very significant, and, as Alderman Burgio surely must have known, she has been going through very difficult times lately. As quoted in the article, she has no job and her ex had stopped sending her money before his recent death. When someone is enduring a time of great hardship, the decent and honorable thing to do is to express sympathy and be supportive. Adding to their woes is, at the very least, inappropriate. If Burgio was genuinely concerned that Russo, as an Alderman, has a public responsibility to keep up with her taxes, the correct thing to do was to speak to her and the President of the Board of Alderman in private.

I question the validity of his decision to expose her delinquent tax bill when, at the same time, he and his fellow Independent Aldermen proposed and voted in favor of the city no longer shutting off the water of delinquent bill payers. If Alderman Burgio is comfortable with being extremely lenient towards landlords who each owe the city many hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for their rental properties’ water bills, how can he attack one Alderman who is late with her relatively small tax bill?

The situation as reported in the article is made worse by one sentence: "He said Democrats had roasted him for an overlooked tax bill in the past." In other words, Burgio is bitter about getting into trouble for not paying his taxes and is getting back at the Democrats by attacking Russo. This is the sort of behavior I expect from an adolescent, not from an elected official. It's immature, petty and cruel. If Burgio wants to help the city, he should spend his energy going after the people and businesses who owe thousands of dollars' worth of taxes going back years. Instead, he focused on a personal vendetta and created yet another situation in which the Board of Alderman was sidetracked from good government by squabbling over personal issues.

Waterbury will never achieve its potential greatness if our leaders continue to behave like children.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Each person on the Board should pay their taxes, but Russo has been through some tough times. The article looked like Aldermen were children!

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the "Democrats" who outed Alderman Burgio on his late taxes several years ago. It was former Tax Collector Karen Mulcahy who undertook that on her own.

In 2007, Burgio ran on a slate of candidates with Mulcahy.