Mayor Bill Finch and the City Council, to their credit, scheduled a one hour public hearing Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., prior to the start of the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting, on the city’s blizzard response.
And Finch made sure five of his public facilities/emergency response staff were seated right in front of the audience to take some of the heat he’s had to deal with for the past week as the public face of the snow cleanup.
Read about what they had to say here.
Things ran fairly smoothly until 6:30 p.m. when Finch’s staff correctly but unwisely advised the audience their time was up and the regular public comment period that kicks off council meetings had to begin.
By my estimation there were around 90 people in the audience. Many – not all – were angry and wanted more time to voice their opinions.
And while complaint forms were available and written responses from the administration promised, you didn’t have to be a political science major or mayoral adviser to figure the crowd was not going to be happy about being told to go home.
At that point Finch tried to reason with the room.
“This is not my meeting,” Finch told the audience. Then he added, “It’s not yours, either. It’s the City Council’s meeting.”
As you may have guessed his choice of words didn’t exactly go over well since the Council works for the taxpayers.
Finch salvaged the situation when he indicated he was willing and able to extend the blizzard discussion.
“You’re my boss. I listen to you,” he said.
Then Council President Tom McCarthy, D-133, offered some vague explanation about having to start the council meeting soon to comply with the state Freedom of Information Act but offered the blizzard folks another half hour to speak.
Never mind that seeking any information in Bridgeport through the Freedom of Information Act is, by design, a painfully tedious and combative process that only those of us who get paid to pursue such questions have the time and patience for. On Tuesday night compliance was important.
So the audience got its 30 minutes.