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I share the same genuine concerns hundreds of New London taxpayers, business owners, city employees and residents are feeling about the state of the city. In just eight short months, Mayor Daryl Finizio's peculiar actions continue to negatively affect our community. He cannot be trusted. Council President Michael Passero has been quoted as saying, "this is not a trustworthy administration," and, sadly, many agree that these are troubled times in New London.
While many were swayed by his disingenuous demands for transparency and change, there is now proof that Finizio's campaign was based on an over-exaggerated resume and questionable alliances. He was dishonest. When criticized, he routinely resorts to blaming just about anybody who has volunteered in city government over the past 90 years.
How could someone who claimed to have an extensive legal, political and government background make one of his first executive orders an attempt to have police look the other way when they see someone smoking marijuana? To publicly direct the police department to not enforce certain laws is a clear sign of a corrupt administration. One can imagine what the mayor is directing people to do off the record? Thankfully, the state's attorney stepped in and corrected his crucial mistake.
Finizio's political alliance with Police Chief Margaret Ackley led to an unjustified decimation of police leadership and has certainly affected every taxpayer through large, unprecedented retirement settlements and staggering legal fees. In addition to the financial impact, the morale at the police department has been destroyed and many experienced officers have relocated or are in the process of finding a new city to protect. Some of the officers who have stayed and questioned the motives of the chief and mayor face retaliatory measures, like his absurd proposal to eliminate the K-9 program.
The mayor's continued poor judgment led to his budget proposal calling for a ridiculous 20 percent tax increase and his announcement of a $12 million deficit. The chilling effect that this dishonest claim has had will lead to a reduction of potential new homeowners for New London. It will discourage development projects that would generate new tax revenue. And it will force many fixed-income residents to make a choice between basic staples or potentially losing their home to the city.
Rather than the mayor working with the City Council to develop an agreed upon budget, this year's budget process was littered with cover-ups and attempts to redirect the voters' attention through misleading press conferences.
Finizio's latest, unilateral and inexplicable decision to opt out of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments is the most alarming example of fiscal irresponsibility. The $15,000 he refused to pay out of his own budget will likely be rectified by council, but not before further embarrassment to the city. This organization has been a catalyst in providing millions of dollars to New London over the years, with little cost and yet great returns. Why would the mayor intentionally isolate the city from an organization made up of leaders from every municipality in the region?
How long should any community have to wait to correct or clarify potential errors in their governing documents, especially with the implementation of a new form of government?
The City Council should vote to form a new charter revision commission. I suspect this commission would be strongly opposed by the mayor, but the overall good of the people needs to come before politics.
In addition to correcting the obvious, the commission would have a strong reason to consider reducing mayoral terms from four years to two. Such a change will eliminate the attitude: "You got me for four years so deal with it."
New London will finally move forward and any dishonest administrations like the current one will be short lived.
Michael Buscetto is a businessman, former New London councilor, and was a candidate for mayor in 2011.