Time for spring thaw

It's been a tough winter.

It's already St. Paddy's parade season, and yet it still feels like New Year's.

It makes you think we should all try to just get along, if we are stuck with more cold weather.

For inspiration, just look at New London Mayor Daryl Finizio and police union President Todd Lynch, who traded some big (rhetorical) smooches last week, in a press release announcing progress in a new police union contract.

"We are in agreement to work in good faith," the mayor said in the press release.

"Today's meeting . . . went extremely well," Lynch said.

Wow. It wasn't long ago the two were bouncing around in their separate corners of the ring, to use the mayor's boxing analogy, ready to go at it.

The City Council used up some of the lingering grip of winter this week to unanimously agree to minimum staffing levels at the police department, at least 80 officers.

Not so unanimously, by a vote of 4-3, they agreed on one addition to the department lineup, voting to bring back Officer Thomas Northrup and drop the mayor's appeal of a mediation decision chiding the city for firing him in the first place, for the use of deadly force.

Alas, City Councilor Anthony Nolan, himself a member of the police union, braved the cold this week to come out and vote on all the pressing police business before the council.

I remember when Nolan declined to vote on police matters and even left the room when they were discussed. Sadly, those days are apparently over.

It's nice that there has been a thaw in relations between the mayor and the police union president.

But when a police union member casts a deciding vote on the City Council on a police-related litigation issue, an obvious and clear conflict of interest, it puts a chill on democracy in the city.

Voters should remember council votes like the one this week when considering whether to elect city employees and union members, like Nolan and city firefighter Michael Passero, to the City Council.

In some of the other city news this cold March week, Mitchell College announced it has a new president.

Janet L. Steinmayer, whose impressive resume includes serving as general counsel to Trans World Airlines, running an $800 million food services company and founding a company aimed at helping food entrepreneurs, seems like an interesting choice to confront Mitchell's many challenges.

I would encourage Ms. Steinmayer, like the new president of Connecticut College, to put a meeting with Mayor Finizio high on her agenda of new business to tend to.

Even in the cold, proposed legislation from House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, aimed at making colleges like Mitchell and Connecticut College, and hospitals like Lawrence + Memorial, pay taxes to their host communities, is working its way through the General Assembly.

Under the proposed bill, the colleges and hospitals could negotiate a mutually agreeable payment, shy of the full tax bill that will become due.

A public hearing on bill 5583, which could be transforming for New London, is scheduled for Friday in Hartford.

If I were Mayor Finizio, who once argued the city should have a lobbyist, I would be sure to at least attend Friday's public hearing and speak in favor of the legislation.

I can't imagine there's anything he could do around here that day that would have the same potential to generate millions of dollars in new revenue for the city.

In fact, the mayor ought to charter a couple of buses and fill them with folks wearing green and gold, maybe even 5583 T-shirts, who could cheer on the house speaker's legislation.

Since the mayor is in reconciliation mode, he could fill the buses with some of the people who like to wallow in complaints and criticism. Here's a chance to have a positive impact on the city's future.

What better way to finish out a cold week in March?

This is the opinion of David Collins



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