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.