Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Opinion

I really don't want to dwell on this, nor do I want to stir up trouble, but I am still upset about the way I was treated, I am upset that there are people in Waterbury whose own experiences in this city lead them to believe that I will be punished by those with power because I dare to complain, and I am upset by the way my neighborhood association was reprimanded for seeking help from the city.

Back on the 5th, I wrote an opinion-based blog post after going through a couple of bad days, venting my frustrations about the terrible condition of the roads in my neighborhood. I criticized the city's policy of not enforcing parking bans during snowstorms, and I criticized comments made by Mayor Jarjura in the Republican-American.

Almost immediately after my blog was posted, I was attacked on a personal level by an anonymous commenter who, based on the comment’s content, may very well be a city official. The comment was written in a tone that made me fear government reprisal. Several people have agreed that the comment contained veiled threats.

At about the same time that Anonymous posted a comment on my blog, Mayoral Aide Steve Gambini posted a somewhat aggressive comment on my Facebook page. He continued to harass me on Facebook throughout the weekend about my complaints, insinuating that I should not have written the blog post, disparaging my knowledge of the situation, falsely accusing me of taking unfair advantage of city services, and otherwise engaging me in a very heated debate in which I found myself defending my right to complain about city government. At no point has he apologized for his harassment or insults.

An appropriate response from the city, had it been deemed necessary to respond at all, would have been something the lines of "Sorry to hear about your car, this is a difficult winter for us, we'll be sure to check on the condition of the streets in your neighborhood as soon as we can." Instead, I was bullied by a government official. 

When I was running for political office, Mr. Gambini engaged me in a similarly aggressive debate over political issues. I have no problem with that. If I am a candidate for political office, there should be a debate in a public forum. But I am not currently a candidate, and Mr. Gambini was not debating political issues with me--as far as I can tell, he was harassing me because I dared to complain.

On Sunday night, Mr. Gambini wrote that his “responses have been appropriate to the tine [sic] and content of your blog. There’s nothing that says we have to happily endure that kind of stuff.”

Well!  What is next? When the Board of Aldermen hold their public speaking and angry citizens yell at them, should the Aldermen start yelling back? If protesters gather outside City Hall, should they be subdued with force?

During the 2009 Democrat Primary campaign, when I was a candidate for the Board of Alderman on Paul Vance’s slate, I heard countless stories of people who were bullied and threatened by Mayor Jarjura’s supporters. Now I have experienced it first-hand.

This is the sort of behavior that makes people give up on their government. This is the sort of bullying that leaves citizens feeling like they will be victimized by the people in power if they let their opinions be known. This is arrogance and pettiness rolled into one. This is inappropriate and unprofessional behavior for a top-level city official. I would not be surprised to learn that a city official harassing a citizen who complains about city services infringes on First Amendment rights, as it seems intended to dissuade all citizens from ever complaining again.

Perhaps worst of all, Mr. Gambini tried to drag the Scovill Homes Association into the fight, criticizing the Association for asking the city for assistance in plowing our back lots, something we can't afford to do ourselves, even though it is necessary for fire safety. We expect to be self-sufficient next winter, but this winter we needed help.

The Scovill Association has a small core group which has been doing everything possible to revive the Association and to make this neighborhood great again. We are struggling with blight, street violence, drug dealers, slum lords, poorly designed intersections, decaying sidewalks and poverty. We cannot succeed on our own. We are dependent upon the city to help us in any way they can. Fortunately, there are several city officials and employees who have been doing a wonderful job helping us. This is a great thing. When the city coordinates with neighborhood organizations to tackle the many problems we all face, we all benefit.

When a top-level city official harangues city residents, we all suffer.

Yes, it is great that the city helped us out by plowing our back lot on one occasion. That does not change the fact that many of the streets in this part of town were not plowed well. It does not change the fact that entire lanes are missing from many major thoroughfares in the North End. It does not change the fact that some streets have been almost impassable and are a massive nightmare for anyone who needs to use them. It does not change my opinion that the city needs to improve the way it handles the enforcement of road laws. Most especially, it does not disqualify me from complaining when I have had a couple bad days in a row, nor does it entitle the Mayor's Aide to harass me when I complain.

I welcome Mr. Gambini to come to the next meeting of the Scovill Homes Association to explain his viewpoints to my neighbors and to discuss ways in which all of us, citizens and government, can work together to solve our problems. I hope that he would refrain from treating my neighbors in the same offensive and unprofessional way he has treated me.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't find your blog where you say that were harassed, but bullying is inexcusable, although it says a lot about the one who does the bullying.
I have always loved the Scoville Houses and have always wished that private money in Waterbury! would redevelop them as has been done in many other cities so that they become a source of pride once again.
I applaud the people that care about where they live, no matter where it is.
I am sure that some residents are working hard to care for and get improvements made to the Scoville Houses and the city does have responsibility to improve the public part, sidewalks, etc. but in the end, it is what we do for ourselves and one another that makes any real, positive, sustainable change.
Maybe it is time to engage the people as in "Friends of the Scoville Houses" or to work with the residents who are willing to join in and help out.
We are here to talk with your Association to see what we can do together. You know who we are.

eldee said...

I'm not surprised. This city is run horribly. Horribly. The Jarjura administration has made it painfully clear it exists primarily for the benefit of city employees and retirees. In the mean time the rest of us suffer crushing property taxes, dilapidated infrastructure, pervasive litter and blight, noise, petty crime, schools that are unable to provide reasonable results despite unsustainable levels of per-student spending, a police force which appears totally unresponsive, oh, and people like Mr. Gambini.

I've had enough.

I really thought I could tough it out in this hovel, hoping that the city would improve. Well it hasn't. Other than areas addressed by citizen's groups -- such as downtown -- the city seems on an inevitable and unstoppable process of decay.

As soon as the housing market recovers sufficiently for us to not lose our shirts, we're leaving. There is no point to staying. Jarjura will get re-elected. I don't know how, but he will. And if by some miracle he doesn't, O'leary will -- and the same corrupt leadership in city hall and the police force will keep their jobs.

I wish we could bring the spirit of Tahrir Square to Grand Street, force ourselves into that beautiful new City Hall, pick up Mike and his cronies, and drop them off at the bus station. Oh wait, we don't have one. No problem. We'll drop them off at a casino. They'll be happy there. And then the citizens can find someone decent to help rebuild this city for its citizens.

It won't happen though. I've just given up. Raechel, I admire you for sticking it out. I think many of us just don't see the point any more.

Anonymous said...

I have gone through the same thing Rachel. These tatics create a situation of Democarcy for a few.

We have to continue to buld up our organization and united we can stand up to bullying tatics, threats and innuendo.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Rachel. Come November, Mr. Gambini along with Jarjura will be out of office. The only one that is respectable in that office is Joe Geary. I heard that they are trying to give Gambini the Tax Collector's job. In any case, please keep up the good work. You are well-respected in the community and we all enjoy your commentary.

Paul Vance said...

Unacceptable.

We need a change and I know you work hard to help bring change!

Anonymous said...

YOU were the one who was advocating aggressive action by the city against your neighbors. You wanted the cars to be towed. The anonymous poster was simply pointing out that in times of emergency it is not practical to strictly enforce the laws related to snowstorms. Just as the city has to be tolerant of folks who simply don't have the means to clear their sidewalks, you need to be tolerant of people who, unlike you with the luxury of a private driveway, simply have no place to park their cars. The call for enforcement action came from you, anonymous was appealing to your sense of compassion to back off of your calls for the tow trucks. It is incredible that you would turn it completely around and characterize it as an attack on you when it was actually YOU who advocated more misery for your neighbors. Your little tour of the city which suggested that the more affluent communities received better plowing than your street completely ignores the fact that all of these streets mostly have houses with private driveways, like you. There were no cars in the way of the plows, hence the wider plowing paths. In the higher density neighborhoods with few driveways, the only way to completely clear the snow would have been to engage in wholesale towing of cars, at the owners' expense. That is what YOU advocated, but that is pretty cruel when you think about the population that would have been affected, many of whom can barely afford to survive as it is. Are you sure you're a Democrat?

Waterbury Girl said...

Wow. Addressing your points probably won't get me anywhere, since you misunderstood completely before, but I can't help responding at least a little, as other people are reading.

"in times of emergency it is not practical to strictly enforce the laws related to snowstorms" -- um, isn't that when the laws banning parking on certain streets during snowstorms are needed the most? when there is a snowstorm?

"luxury of a private driveway" -- I pay extra for having a driveway, and believe me when I tell you that having to do all that extra shoveling is not a luxury! You seem bitter about this point. Also, as I stated before, everyone on my street has access to off-street parking.

"it was actually YOU who advocated more misery for your neighbors" -- um, my neighbors are backing me on this one. Sorry. They are also upset about the inferior plowing this year. It's not just me.

"tour of the city which suggested that the more affluent communities received better plowing" -- Not my fault the streets were better plowed in those parts of town.

"There were no cars in the way of the plows, hence the wider plowing paths." -- what about Wolcott Street, Homer Street, Chase, North Main, where there are never any cars parked? How do you explain the inferior plowing on those streets?

My final question--why are you so angry?

Joe said...

Raechel,
The point about having no cars parked in the street is hard to argue. Cars parked in the street are an obstacle that plows have to go around. Period.

That's exactly what's happening in your neighborhood. The real problem in the North End is that people park in the street on what are already narrow streets. If you're neighbors were "backing you on this one," they wouldn't leave there cars there or else they would confront the individual who did.

Waterbury Girl said...

For what I hope is the last time, because I get really tired of repeating myself:

The parking ban was invented for a good reason. Since the city never enforces the ban, nobody even thinks to move their cars out of the way. Therefore the plows can't do their job as well.

If you don't believe my neighbors agree with me, feel free to ask them yourself what they think.