Obama on the call; gets an earful

By Eileen FitzGerald

Connecticut’s municipal leaders have been holding a daily conference call, often with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on the line, to talk about their problems with superstorm Sandy. On Thursday, the first selectmen and emergency operations directors got a fresh ear to hear their complaints: President Obama.

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker put Obama on his speaker phone this afternoon. The usual back-and-forth cacophony that makes any teleconference an ordeal was somewhat muted as officials listened to the president.

“We are here to make sure the bureaucracy does not get in the way of rapid recovery,’’ Obama said. “If you are in need of anything you can ask.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a Democrat, said he hoped the Obama administration realized that cities are taking a heavy hit from the costs of providing shelters, extra police protection and cleanup operations. Malloy then suggested some of the Republican town leaders might want to speak up, too. Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra did just that, saying she wasn’t happy with the pace of the cleanup.

Obama urged the town leaders to publice the 1-800 621-FEMA phone line and www.disasterassisstance.gov. so property owners can register for federal aid.