Finizio's not-so-new politics

He is not even New London mayor yet and Daryl Justin Finizio has strayed from his promise of a new era of governance in the city, one that respects the process and would focus on ability, not political expedience in making appointments.

In his first few days as mayor-elect Finizio decided to substitute his will for the will of the people at the ballot box. He also made a key appointment for his administration that was obviously political.

Pointing to technical problems with the sales contract, the mayor-elect announced that the city would not be selling a portion of Riverside Park to the U.S. Coast Academy. The deal, he said, was off. He did not care what the vote count showed. At the time the vote stood at approval of the sale by 13 votes.

Finizio made the announcement one day before the scheduled recount. That recount reversed the vote, showing the sale defeated by 19 votes.

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry would say, "Oops."

Such a boneheaded political move was even more shocking because Finizio had run his campaign so well. There was no reason for Finizio to launch himself into the controversial matter and cut short the honeymoon period a new mayor can typically count on. He should have let the registrars recount the votes.

Instead Finizio came off as a politician ready to use legal technicalities to get his way. It was all so unnecessary.

Finizio made it clear during the campaign he was against the sale of the park land. And we suspect much of his political support came from those who shared that opinion. Finding a technical reason to call the deal dead, before he even takes an oath of office, was blatantly pandering to his base. That hardly meets his vow to be the mayor of all the people and neighborhoods of New London. On the contrary, it's the old-fashioned politics of, you wash my back and I will wash yours.

In his other major announcement of the week, Finizio selected Jane Glover as his chief administrative officer. This was a political decision for an office where citizens might have expected a professional choice, particularly given Finizio's campaign rhetoric. Yet as a political choice it was a good one, unlike the Riverside debacle.

It shows Finizio recognizes his weak point is his lack of experience with city politics, having moved to the city in the summer of 2010. With her long history in the city's Democratic Party, including three terms as the city's ceremonial mayor, Glover can help Finizio understand the players, their agendas and their histories.

In selecting an African-American woman, he also begins to address his promise to field an administration that represents the city's diversity. And Glover is certainly up the job, given her political background and having directed the Kente Cultural Center, directed children's programs at the Groton Public Library and served as president of the Connecticut Education Association.

Yet by not conducting a broader search for this key position and then making his choice among multiple candidates, Finizio opened himself to criticism that nothing has really changed in New London.

There are many more appointments to come and Finizio will not begin building his record as mayor until sworn into office Dec. 5. He will have ample opportunity to demonstrate his will be the new kind of leadership New Londoners voted for. But this is not the best of starts.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.


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