Brien: 'People of Woonsocket continue to suffer'

Brien: 'People of Woonsocket continue to suffer'

On March 10, I appeared in Woonsocket Municipal Court to dispute an alleged “parking violation” for which I received a ticket. Municipal Court was not held in Harris Hall, but instead was held in the large conference room at the Harris Public Library. The reason that Municipal Court is held at the library and not City Hall is because City Hall remains on an unnecessary lockdown and is inaccessible to the taxpayers of Woonsocket.

To be clear, you can go to City Hall to pay your taxes, but you can’t go there to have your day in court, or have access to the many departments, documents, or personnel located there. Why does City Hall remain in a locked down state? The answer is simple, because that’s the way Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt wants it.

The COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago. Vaccinations are up, while positive cases and hospitalizations are down. City and town halls across the state are accessible to the public, but our City Hall remains under lock and key. It is a secret fiefdom where public business is conducted behind closed doors and away from oversight. We often hear that the public safety director or the fire chief are making the call, but this is pure folly. The role of mayor is chief executive officer of the city. The buck stops at her desk, and they work for her. There is nothing that happens in City Hall that the mayor does not micromanage, hence the city’s inability to attract and retain a happy and motivated workforce.

The atmosphere within City Hall remains toxic, with the mayor’s mantra being that “It’s better to be feared than respected.” The public wouldn’t know this, however, because the people of the city are not allowed into the “People’s Hall.”

Secondly, the ticket I received was “overtime parking.” The city’s Code of Ordinances states that there is a one-hour parking limit on Main Street, except for Sundays and Holidays. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the date of the alleged violation, my vehicle was parked in front of my mayoral campaign headquarters, located at 285 Main St. It was Election Day, which is considered a legal National Holiday, and therefore the ticket was dismissed by the court. The alleged violation is not the predominant issue at hand. What is so glaring and obvious, is the political petulance and politicization of public safety on display in the writing of this ticket. I don’t blame the patrolman who issued the ticket, he was just the messenger. What’s ridiculous is that the ticket was issued after 5 p.m. on a near empty Main Street.

This was never about public safety or enforcement, but rather it was meant to send a message by the mayor that “we” are still in power, and this is what you get when you dare challenge her.

It’s sad really, a complete display of insecurity and indicative of exactly why I ran for mayor. It is April of 2021, and five months after the election cycle, there is still no leadership, vision, or integrity in the Office of the Mayor. Notwithstanding the fact that a majority of our citizens chose to leave the current mayor in office, it is my belief that the people of Woonsocket continue to suffer as a result.

Jon D. Brien

Woonsocket

Brien is a former City Council member 
and former state representativ