There was little doubt as to the outcome.
The motion to change the hiring of a Fire Chief from Civil Service to a contract position would have passed during Tuesday's council meeting if it wasn't delayed by Steve Camara's procedural objection. That objection bought time, but it was obvious that this special meeting was scheduled so that there would be no time to change the minds of the council majority.
There was little doubt as to the outcome. Still, a group of firefighters assembled in front of Government Center. They stood in protest of this proposed change. Inside the Council Chamber was mostly empty. Some citizens were told that there was no entrance until the 1PM meeting time. Others were slowed down by the fact that the main entryway was closed due to construction work.
Shortly after 1PM the Council Chamber was filled to near capacity and although there was little doubt as to the outcome, it wasn't going to happen without a fight. First, an e-mail by Councilor Camara was read, in it he explained that due to a death in his family he might not be able to attend the meeting. Pulling no punches he expressed his disgust with the scheduling of this meeting, with the lack of courtesy shown to him, his fellow councilors and the people of Fall River. The councilor's e-mail clearly implied that this was politically motivated. He requested that the council reschedule to a time where he would be able to attend and that would be more convenient to the citizens of Fall River. This was the beginning of the fireworks. Camara's request was voted down and just as quickly a motion for a 30 minute recess was made by councilor Hague. That too was voted down. A request to allow for public input was voted down. A debate between Councilor Hague and President Camara resulted in Hague citing rules of the Charter that stating that the President can't debate from the podium. President Camara, with his face flushed red, exchanged positions with Vice President Casey so he could make his remarks from the floor. Every effort to bring the motion to a vote was delayed by Councilors Hague and Pelletier as each brought up other motions and spoke to express their outrage. Finally a recess requested by Councilor Pelletier was granted but once back the motion was brought to a vote and passed 6-2.
In the press conference that followed Mayor Correia was gracious in saying he understood and respected the efforts of those who objected. It was only then that I realized who the winners and losers really were.
Council President Joe Camara - It's hard to see his scheduling of this special meeting as anything other than politically motivated. It was his name that I heard firefighters grumbling about when leaving Government Center.
Councilor Pat Casey - Pat has to get special mention here - not only did she vote in favor but she the only councilor who spoke out against rescheduling and allowing public comment. In both instances her comments did her no favors and only made her look insensitive and in the Mayor's pocket.
Councilor Mike Lund - Councilor Lund made a statement defending this as a bold move and saying that Civil Service doesn't work. It was a statement that had more polish than anything I've heard Lund say before but it had several firefighters saying that he had his facts wrong.
Councilor Tom Kozak - Kozak played it smart, he didn't say anything! Still Tom was not a top vote getter this last time around (he finished 8th) and he voted against rescheduling, against public input and for the motion. Unless the firefighters and firefighters union forget this could cost him some votes next election.
Councilor Linda Pereira - Every other loser on this list isn't facing the voters until the Fall of 2009 but Linda is running for State Rep. and has to face the music this Fall! Chances are the firefighters union and the firefighters themselves are not going to be voting for Linda!
Councilor Steve Camara - Not only has Steve spoken out against this he saved the day on Tuesday with his procedural vote. On top of that the scheduling of the meeting seems to have been planned to keep him away. Come the next election several firefighters will remember how Councilor Camara was on their side.
Councilor Ray Hague - Hague was fiery, compassionate, and crafty. Although he didn't do it alone, Hague was the big reason that Friday's meeting turned out to be a more than just a quick 5 minute vote. Come next election it will be remembered that Hague fought this tooth and nail.
Councilor Leo Pelletier - Poor Leo, if this has happened a few months ago he might be State Rep. right now and if he was running in the Fall this might have put him past Kevin Aguiar. Leo doesn't need any help on election day to maintain his council seat. Leo was, well Leo, loud and outspoken. His efforts here will just ensure him another top place finish.
Mayor Robert Correia - Yeah, I know but, Bob's proposal is one step closer to becoming reality and while sitting up on the 6th floor he was able to stay above the ugly fray in the Council Chamber.
Councilor Cathy Ann Viveiros - Yes Cathy Ann did vote for this proposal. However, hearing her talk to various people I've come to the conclusion that she's the only councilor who could convince you that it was the right decision.
The Fall River firefighters - I know they lost the battle but there is still a few opportunities to win the war and I think public opinion is going to be firmly on their side.