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Why do people hate the mayor?

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published January 22. 2014 4:00AM

I've lobbed my share of criticism at New London Mayor Daryl Finizio in this, his first term in office, as he has often seemed to fall woefully behind the learning curve.

Remember the first budget debate, when he heralded his plan for a whopping 20 percent tax hike, an absurd and unpalatable solution to the city's financial woes that was, naturally, dead on arrival.

This being a little politically charged city, the mayor didn't get much of a honeymoon period before the wolves moved in. And to be fair, the mayor can function in attack mode as well as any of his critics.

But there has been a distinct whiff of pure animosity in the attacks against the mayor, which often seem more personal than policy-oriented. I think you even could call some of it hateful.

The latest and best example was the photo that appeared this week on a website managed by gadfly Kathleen Mitchell. The picture of the mayor was manipulated to make him look like Hitler.

Mitchell made matters worse by explaining, after the offensive picture was taken down, that people misinterpreted it. They might have known, she said, it was meant to draw parallels between the great oratory skills of the mayor and the greatest practitioner of genocide the world has known.

Really? We were supposed to figure that out?

In other words, if you didn't look at the picture and understand that Finizio's oratory skills were being commented on you missed the point.

That explanation sure seemed to put Ms. Mitchell's campaign of hate in perspective. She could hardly bring herself to apologize when called out.

Last week, one of the mayor's loudest critics posted a photograph on his Facebook page of the mayor's car pulled off the side of his driveway, parked partly on the lawn, evidently so another car in the driveway could pull around it.

Apparently this was interpreted as a minor violation of some zoning ordinance.

The mayor-bashing gas has apparently seeped under the doors to the executive offices at L+M Hospital.

The hospital's communicator in chief last month lashed out at the mayor on The Day's editorial page, asking him not to "parrot others' rhetoric" in criticizing the hospital. The mayor had taken part in hospital bashing during a rally for a union walkout of nurses.

You wonder how it could be considered good public relations for an executive of a nonprofit, nontaxpaying community hospital to publicly scold a duly-elected representative of the community. The mayor bashing is not good for the hospital, which just came off a long lockout of its union nurses, or the community.

After all, if the hospital executives really want a meaningful meeting with the mayor, just call up and make an appointment, like people do in the real world. Don't make some "open invitation" in the newspaper that seems intended more to settle a score than really meet and overcome your differences.

Finizio, for his part, usually seems good at turning the other cheek.

This week, though, he called out the Hitler-hosting website and the city political leaders it tends to support, including fellow Democrat Michael Passero, the city councilor, firefighter and one-time opposing candidate for mayor.

Passero seems poised for another run at the mayor's job, and if he wants to be taken seriously he ought to distance himself from the haters.

I was struck that one of Passero's first attacks on the administration this year was to suggest that the bid process for the rebuilding of the city's animal shelter was so flawed that it should be reviewed by the attorney general.

Passero said he was not accusing anyone of anything. But then why try to involve the attorney general, who is certainly not interested?

I don't understand this, any more than why you are supposed to think of oratory skills when you see a picture of someone made to look like Hitler.

It was curious that Passero formally lodged his complaint against the Finizio administration while, at the same time, not far away, steam seeped dangerously from a City Hall heating system rupture. Workers had simply put plywood over the door of the steam-filled room, instead of stopping the leak and the continuing damage it was causing. It took the health district to intervene.

Maybe Passero could have been more concerned with the health of the City Hall employees if he was going to attack the competence of the administration.

A healthy and thriving political arena where people can comfortably spar on both sides of an issue is perhaps one of the city's strengths. It's been that way here for a long time.

It's the growing inclination by some toward hate or personal attack that is worrisome.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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