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Chicopee politics remain a blood sport

Chicopee politics remain a blood sport
By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor
July 4, 2011
I’ve written before that politics in Chicopee is a bit of a blood sport and the events of the last two weeks in which the City Council cut two positions from Mayor Michael Bissonnette’s staff, followed by Bissonnette filing a charge of a violation of the Open Meeting Law, illustrates my point.
Depending upon whose side you are on, Bissonnette is either a bully or dictator or is an efficient manager attempting to make money saving reforms.
And either the members of the City Council have a hidden agenda or they are independent officials doing their job in a manner to best serve the taxpayers.
Bissonnette’s decision to transfer members of the city clerk’s staff coupled with a comment he made at a budget meeting that he could do his job without a staff — although he added that constituent service could not take place without his staff — apparently lit a fuse.
The response at the June 23 meeting from the councilors was a series of cuts that was deemed uncharacteristic by some and the product of illegal unposted meetings according to Bissonnette.
Bissonnette’s argument that the meeting at which seven councilors voted to eliminate two of his staffers was invalid on June 23 wasn’t bolstered by the fact he didn’t show up to defend his point at the second meeting on June 29. On that day, the councilors refused to entertain a motion to reinstate the cuts they made at the previous meeting.
Was the elimination of two staffers political retribution? The councilors said no, and pointed out they were acting fiscally responsible. They added that raises to several key members of Bissonnette’s administration seemed out of line in these financially difficult times.
City Solicitor Karen Betournay, whose salary was reduced to part-time status by the council in another action, told the council the mayor’s opinion that the first meeting on June 23 was illegally conducted was wrong. The meeting and the budget approved that night — with the cuts to her position and the two others — were legal.
It’s not unusual for members of the City Council in Chicopee — or any other city in our area — to be at odds with a mayor. What is different is the level of vitriol in the situation and whether or not the ill will will pass with time or impede the process of governing.
At the heart of all of this controversy are two major questions: is Bissonnette doing a good job? Are the councilors doing a good job? If the answers are not “yes,” the real responsibility to make Chicopee a better place rests with the residents. Run for an office. Turn out and vote.
***

Having your life interrupted by a tornado is one thing. Going through the steps to get back on track is another.
Most television commercials about insurance generally show companies that quickly react to emergencies and start cutting checks to repair damage. Since, in our 21 years of home ownership, my wife and I have never made a claim, this process to address of nearly $22,000 worth of damage to our property has been interesting, to say the least.
When we received the check last week, it was made out to our mortgage holder and us. Thanks to my insurance agent’s intervention — my call to customer service led to only more confusion — I learned that the lender will be holding the money and releasing it in thirds so I can pay contractors.
The mortgage company will also be inspecting the work to make sure it is actually done and that Mary and I haven’t taken a trip to Bali with it.
My agent explained to me that this is a really good deal, as many lenders do not release any funds until a repair job is finished, which can complicate the process. I certainly couldn’t front the money necessary in our case.
While I understand the need for the mortgage company to protect its investment, these additional steps seem to slow down the recovery process and, frankly, tend to make me wonder about why do they get to control the proceeds from a policy paid by my wife and me.
Since the amount of damage we have pales next to the type of repairs some of my neighbors are facing, I can only imagine what they are going through.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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