During Tuesday night’s vent session in City Council Chambers a woman from the North End addressed Mayor Bill Finch and his leadership team in charge of the response to the historic blizzard that paralyzed the city, trapped folks in their homes for days, forced others to miss work with no pay and still others overwhelmed by the storm had their cars towed with exorbitant rates to retrieve tem. The woman spoke of her relative in Trumbull who said streets were passable. She wanted to find out herself so she said she walked up Main Street to the Trumbull line. “Main Street Trumbull was like nothing happened … Main Street Bridgeport was a disaster.”
Charlie Carroll is the director of Public Facilities in Bridgeport, a super agency that oversees parks, the airport, as well as Public Works including sanitation, street paving and snow removal. It can be a labor intensive job that requires anticipation and deploying a crew of public plowers and private contractors to the task of clearing streets for passage. Carroll’s body of work for the five years he’s had the job under Finch has been sturdy through an onslaught of snow storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and rain-swelled neighborhoods. This latest storm was different.
Carroll and his underlings in Public Works sat through a barrage of criticism Tuesday night. The Public Works brass did not anticipate the amount of snowfall, based on weather reports, and were caught short at the height of the snowfall. Across the line in Trumbull, Public Works Director John Marsilio had ordered continuous plowing through the storm; don’t let the storm get ahead of you. News reports in Trumbull, as well as residential reaction, credit Marsilio’s response to the storm.
Marsilio is no stranger to storms in Bridgeport. For more than 10 years he had the job in Bridgeport now occupied by Carroll, and folks who remember Marsilio’s service nearly universally agree taxpayers got good service for their buck.
Charlie Carroll is a man of professional pride who will make sure his team does better next time. And that could be as a soon as this weekend. Pray for rain?
Yes, citizen response to city services always live and die with chief executives who place their names on the ballot. But one lesson from the storm, as it relates to approval ratings of elected officials, is certain. Public Works directors matter.