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Goodbye Mayor Finizio

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 06. 2014 4:00AM

It wasn't too long ago, when we were still in the tight grip of winter, that I heard Daryl Finizio talk about his aptitude for being mayor and his plans for running again, while dismissing the notion he might ever run for any other office.

So I can report, like most everyone else, I was surprised to hear him say last week he will not run again for mayor. And, really, how odd, to declare yourself a lame duck not much more than halfway through a four-year term.

He said it will make him more effective. It seems to me the opposite would be true.

Some critics of the mayor are suggesting they don't believe him, that the day will come when he will announce he's changed his mind, that there is more work to be done to help the city he loves.

But I choose to take the mayor at his word.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me now if he outright quit before his term is up. I know it hasn't been easy.

So now that we have the city's first full-time mayor in generations declaring himself out of the next race, it seems we can start on the political obituary, at the same time we can look at how the rest of the field may be shaping up.

I would suggest the mayor's first term has been, in many respects, good for the city.

He has indeed seized all the levers of power and pulled on them, sometimes in the wrong direction, but usually decisively.

The city wanted a strong mayor and got one. Gone are the paper-pushing city managers of old. Here is someone you can choose to love or hate. Best of all, it's someone you can blame when things go wrong.

And, until last week, you might have relished the idea of voting for or against him when the time comes.

He has had a positive influence in other ways, things he probably wouldn't get credit for anyway, if he were to run again.

Most important, he shook things up, ran as an outsider and won. He proved that the city wasn't bound up in the politics of old, that voters could choose the prospect of new and improved.

I honestly believe he has also widened political participation in the city and brought more diversity and new faces to the table. For that, everyone should thank him.

On the other hand, he has proven to be a terrible manager.

Instead of hiring professionals to help him manage, while running the political side of the administration, as the new charter envisioned, he made some terrible appointments that have created consequences he can't outrun.

Indeed, some of these obvious mistakes are things that may have convinced the mayor he couldn't possibly win again, no matter how much he wanted to try.

Not only has his public works director with no experience proven incapable of the most basic aspects of the job, like clearing streets and sidewalks, picking up the trash or fixing a steam leak, but he has created serious problems that will haunt the mayor until the day he leaves office.

An investigation into alleged bid irregularities for a public works project is ongoing.

And a lawsuit that has helped ruin the city's liability insurance coverage is under way because, in part, the public works department ignored a state safety violation for the transfer station where a city resident subsequently died.

You can see why the mayor has refused to talk about that one.

I will miss the mayor for his theatrics and the entertainment value in that.

Who can forget his staged press conference at Riverside Park, when he made a grand entrance by walking down from the woods, before announcing he was killing the deal to sell the park on a technicality, never mind what voters wanted.

More recently there was the forum at City Hall where he donned a goofy boxing-themed hat and refused to even entertain suggestions from downtown merchants complaining about parking and snow removal.

His demeanor at that forum was so strange you have to wonder now if he didn't know then he wasn't planning to run again.

Some things and people will last beyond the end of the mayor's administration.

The attorneys Londregan will no doubt work for the next mayor. They have proven themselves survivors, and they know where all the bones are buried.

Sadly, the New London Development Corp., which the mayor promised to abolish, survives and still controls many of the deeds to Fort Trumbull. When I asked the mayor recently why the former president, the dark prince of eminent domain, is still listed as a member of the board, he said he didn't know anything about it.

I expect the mayor's police chief, who doesn't seem to report to work anymore, at least in any public way, will also probably survive.

Oddly enough, the chief who played such a prominent role in the last election, will likely outlast the two principal candidates who campaigned for and against her.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

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