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Mayor Finizio unplugged

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 18. 2014 4:00AM

At the moment, the most engaging sight in New London is the barque Eagle.

What a treat to see it at the base of State Street, its gold figurehead almost poking into the downtown, framed on one side by the red brick of Henry Hobson Richardson's masterpiece, Union Station.

It is an especially welcome sight at this expectant time of year, a sign of a summer voyage at hand, and a reminder that New London is still a city that sends big sailing ships to sea.

Once the Eagle is gone, though, I expect New Londoners might also experience some engaging entertainment folly through the summer, indeed for the next two years, from the city's newly liberated mayor.

It was refreshing this week to read of Mayor Daryl Finizio riffing in front of a group of students from Three Rivers Community College about the wastefulness of the government's big defense budget.

The mayor, who must be enjoying the loosening of his political collar now that he has announced he won't run again, chose the forum in front of students to take aim at one of his city's biggest employers and taxpayers.

We don't need to keep building all those submarines, with their many nuclear missiles, the mayor said. We have enough weapons.

Never mind that Electric Boat and its submarine building is one of the mainstays of not only New London's economy but the region's.

Indeed, I would say that submarine building is the third rail of eastern Connecticut politics, and it was interesting to see Finizio grab it and hold on this week, his hair practically standing on end.

In contrast, you had only to watch Wednesday while not only the region's congressman but two United States senators from Connecticut gathered for the dedication of a new grocery store on the submarine base.

All three stayed on political message, as they spoke not far from a new produce section with its display of gleaming apples stacked in the shape of a submarine.

Voters in this district have sent a lot of liberal delegates to Washington over the years, but I can't think of any who didn't support building as many submarines as they could get the rest of Congress to agree to.

Of course seeing the mayor so openly speak his mind, political consequences be damned, was sort of fun, another delight of this welcome spring.

It also makes you wonder who or what will be next.

We all know some of the mayor's political enemies. Maybe now that he seems to feel free to frankly speak his mind we will hear exactly what he thinks of them.

One wonders what he might say now about his police chief, who, despite her help in getting him elected, has been a heavy cross for his administration to carry. For all we know, the AWOL chief is, at this very moment, tied and gagged in the attic of City Hall.

Finizio told the students this week that his decision to not seek re-election and concentrate everyone's attention on the city's problems is working, that people are focusing less on him.

I think that may be true.

Still, now that he may not care what people say about him, people who have been critical in the past might want to be wary.

I, for one, plan to stay clear, at least out of swinging distance.

I hear he is pretty comfortable in the boxing ring.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

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