MORE ON ‘THE INCIDENT AT MAZZEO’s’ … plus … PLANET RECOMMENDS SHERMAN AS NEXT COUNCIL PRESIDENT … and … COUNCIL SHOULD ADOPT A NEW RULE BOOK
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 16, 2011) — For whatever reason, my Right Honorable Good Friends councilors John Krol and Jonathan Lothrop have drawn the ire and the fire of many Dan Bianchi, Melissa Mazzeo, and “Alternate” supporters. It’s an interesting phenomenon to observe, and it appears that these two figures have assumed a symbolic role for those who, generally, have been opposed to the Ruberto Administration, specifically, and the more nebulous (but nonetheless evident) GOB bunch.
“The Incident at Mazzeo’s” involved all of the emotion and drama of that symbolic opposition. Was Melissa Mazzeo’s husband, Tony, was right or wrong to call out Krol, Lothrop, and Barry “I’m Not Talking to You” Clairmont (council at-large-elect and a key man in both Ruberto’s and Krol’s successful bids for office in 2009)? How you answer will say much about your view and philosophy of municipal government in this transition time from one administration to the next.
Some have pointed out that Tony M’s calling out of Krol, Lothrop, and Clairmont was long overdue. They point to the “snarky” attitudes of the two current councilors during meetings and the alleged disrespect shown during meetings to Mellissa. Others have said that Melissa is a grown woman, a “big girl,” and that she should be able to handle these matters on her own. THE PLANET even heard from a woman (former office holder who didn’t want her name used) who said Tony’s action “set back the cause of women” for reinforcing the view that without a “big, strong man,” a woman is helpless.
THE PLANET will not try to resolve this, except to say that council meetings should be rock ’em, sock ’em when necessary, with the debate, deliberation, and discussion as free-handed as possible, pushing collegiality to the bursting point. We don’t read as much into the body language of Krol, Lothrop, or any other councilor as some evidently do (the exception is when Uncle Gerry Lee appears to be in a cross between confusion and a coma).
We say this, because THE PLANET naively still believes that all of the public’s business should be done in open session. We know that is not the case, and it’s one of the things we hope changes with the new council and mayor. Transparency. Dan Bianchi made that a key issue in the campaign. People will hold him to that standard, as well as my Right Honorable Good Friends on the council.
‘The Incident’, Let Us Hope, Proves Cathartic for the new Government
That’s a lot to get through, therefore, realizing the emotions in play during The Incident. THE PLANET has known most of the players involved in The Incident for years. Not having been at the scene to personally witness The Incident, we cannot pronounce definitively on the “right” and “wrong” of it. However, based on what we know of the players, plus eyewitness reports from people we respect such as Kevin Sherman, a Pittsfield cop, and others, the truth likely lies somewhere in between the two most extreme versions.
Tony Mazzeo obviously didn’t have to manufacture the emotion that went into his stance on behalf of his wife. He acted in a genuine fashion, in such a fashion that paint was peeling off the sides of nearby cars when he launched into his “education” session with Krol, Lothrop, and Clairmont. That being said, THE PLANET thought it was classy for “the opposition” to stop by to congratulate Bianchi and Melissa on their victories. That’s not only good politics, it’s good collegiality and sends the right message about how the players in the new government will work together in 2012.
THE PLANET has been around a lot of election nights. We have seen tears of joy and fist fights. Emotions run high, and there is always alcohol involved in victory parties and defeat post mortums. It can be an explosive mix. All in all, The Incident ended the way it should, with Tony Mazzeo buying everyone a round inside the restaurant.
We don’t know Clairmont, but we’ve known Tony, Krol, and Lothrop for years. Tony brings passion into his activities. It’s certainly the way he runs his restaurant. Krol and Lothrop bring more sang froid, and they approach public life in a more distanced fashion. THE PLANET has given these two councilors grief over the years and acknowledged them for their wise actions. We have maintained a working relationship with them and they with us. That’s everything in our line of work. Krol, Lothrop, and reps of their ilk realize what Clairmont has yet to learn: You can’t beat the press, because we get the last say.
A year hence, when we look back at Year 1 of the Bianchi Administration, we shall likely be observing the anniversary of The Incident and noting its cathartic effect on not only the players involved but the city itself. In sum, it’s probably probably good that it happened, that it happened the way it did, that it ended in a collegial fashion, and that the parties (at least as far as we can determine) shook hands with a pledge to put it behind.
All’s well that ends well. For now, at least.
Who Will Make the Next and Best Council President? Kevin Sherman, C’mon Down!
One of the first orders of business for the new council will be the election of a new council president. If Lothrop survives his recount, he will run against Kevin Sherman. Regardless of the outcome of the recount, THE PLANET endorses Sherman as council president, with or without Lothrop as part of the Eleven. Hear us out:
(1) Though there have been many council presidents from the wards (Tom Hickey, Rick Scapin, Gerry Doyle, Joe Ryan, etc)., the position best suits an at-large rep. The president cannot routinely debate items. His or her job is to run productive, effective meetings. An at-large councilor such as Lothrop best serves in direct debate to represent the citizens of two specific precincts, whose needs will be different from any other two precincts. Taking a ward councilor out of the debate short changes the people in that ward. An at -large rep is not limited in that fashion. He or she has a wider representative position, with three at-large colleagues serving city wide.
(2) Sherman will be the most senior at-large member of the council. For the past two years, he has chaired the most important council subcommittee (economic development).
(3) Sherman has a skill set well suited for the president’s role. He has a calm, measured, reasoned approach to deliberation. He’s approachable and friendly. He works well with people. These are the best predictors of fairness, which a council president needs. Hickey did a great job with this, allowing “opposition” views (especially from the floor during open mic) lots of leeway. Gerry Lee, current prez, runs a far-less-than-stellar meeting in this respect. Sherman would be a seven-grade improvement.
(4) Sherman has a solid working relationship with city clerk Linda Tyer. This relationship (president and clerk) tends to be overlooked and underrated, but its value in producing good meetings cannot be overstated.
(5) Sherman has strong institutional knowledge that can provide members and the public with clarity and direction.
(6) Sherman can serve as a mentor to new councilors. This will go a long way to keeping the transition from one government to the other a smooth one (speaking of which, in a conversation THE PLANET had with Mayor Ruberto, Bianchi can count on full cooperation from the administration to bring him up to speed on corner-office business. Ruberto is a man of his word on such matters, and citizens should take comfort in this pledge of cooperation).
(7) Sherman will have the support of at least five colleagues, but, as he has told THE PLANET in the past, he believes “the city is bigger than all of us.” This is our guess, since we don’t know, but we think Sherman would not pursue the presidency if he thought it would lead to a knock-down battle in inauguration day, when the matter will be decided.
(8) Sherman is getting better at taking a shot, although he is human in that regard. THE PLANET feels he has a tough enough bark to take a licking and keep on ticking. We do know he takes criticism well and intelligently, which means he actually listens to opposing points of view. That may, in fact, be the single most important skill for a council president.
(9) Finally, Sherman appears to be decisive enough. The president doesn’t chair meetings to make friends. He or she chairs to run efficient, fair meetings. He must be like a trial judge, allowing both sides to make their case. When he needs to be, though, he must rule. He must not be afraid.
In short, THE PLANET recommends Kevin Sherman as council president because …
He’s ready for the job.
Demeter Out, Roberts In … Please, for the Sake of We The People
With that, THE PLANET makes a pitch for the new council to adopt new rules of order. We recommend they ditch Demeter’s rules in favor of Roberts’ rules. We won’t go through an education session here (though we may soon). Let us simply say that Roberts allows much more participation from the floor. This would give people a better opportunity to participate in meetings other than the current three-minutes of open mic time. Roberts isn’t perfect, but it represents an improvement over Demeter.
THE PLANET recommends that councilors-elect begin a comparison between the two sets of rules. Approached with an open mind, we think they will agree with our view.
PERHAPS MORE LATER, BUT THE CURRENT OF DESTINY FLOWS, AND WE MUST SAY …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.