In Politics, Fall River Stands Tall Over New Bedford [OPINION]
In spite of the federal charges facing its mayor, Fall River should be proud of itself.
It's not often that I make the journey from New Bedford to Fall River to cover a story. Most of our Fall River coverage is rooted in street-level, blue collar crime. It's only when there's a story such as the one that has all of Massachusetts and beyond talking that I find myself venturing to Fall River to bring first-hand coverage to our listeners.
I always find myself positively surprised when scandal hits the Spindle City. Obviously, it's not good news to hear that your mayor, who once made headlines for being one of the youngest mayors ever elected in Massachusetts, is facing 13 charges dealing with financial corruption. But it is good to know that the citizens are not standing idly by.
Several years ago, when I hosted my weekday talk show, I scolded New Bedford for having its lowest voter turnout in the city's history. Only 7.9 percent of the registered voters in New Bedford turned out to vote in a year that saw the loss of a casino bid and a possible stage for the Olympics, and the implosion of the Cape Wind project that would have used New Bedford as a staging area. I was appalled.
I wish I could say that New Bedford has rallied since that time. Oh, how I wish I could say that. But I live in a city that seems to be completely disinterested in their local political scene. Sure, they talk about what was said during a City Council meeting the night before, but how many of them actually show up to the meeting? Very few. And the ones that do attend are either written off as eccentrics or blowhards.
That's why when the news of Jasiel Correia's arrest came across our news desk, I was excited. Not because this was a big story, but because I would once again get to see the passion that the citizens of Fall River have for their home.
It's amazing to see that in a city with so many problems, not unlike New Bedford, there are so many people that continue to take great pride in their city and continue to hold close to their hearts the hope that it will one day be restored to its former glory.
This attribute shone no greater for me when I saw the City Council's chambers filled to standing room only on Wednesday night. The audience was made up of people who, in the face of scandal and embarrassment, boldly sat in their seats to support either the immediate removal of their embattled mayor or defend his self-proclaimed innocence.
Regardless of what side they took, residents took their three minutes of citizen input time to plead the Fall River's case, as they saw it, to the City Council. And they did so with vigor.
That's not something I see too often in New Bedford. Granted, the Whaling City, while not without controversy, has not had a public civic scandal in recent memory. Rumors fly, of course, but rare is the time when a seat in the City Council chambers is hard to find.
And New Bedford has plenty to gripe about, mind you. A flailing fishing industry, wrought by the misdeeds of Carlos Rafael. A crippling addiction to opioids, much like in Fall River, has claimed lives and sucked resources. And crime, though not exclusive to New Bedford, is unique in the fact that much of it is committed by people who are transplants from the Boston area.
Yet, New Bedfordites fail to turn out in droves to the regular council meetings to voice their concerns. Status quo seems to be good enough for many.
So hold your heads high, Fall River. With so much facing your city, you still find a deep and resounding voice demanding better from your elected leaders. New Bedford residents would do well to ingest whatever vitamin it is that you take that keeps that passion so vibrant.
Taylor Cormier is News Director for 1420 WBSM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @OldManCormier. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.