To the Editor:
I want to respond to a letter by Jeff Caggiano (town chair of the Republican Party) published on April 16th. It seems Mr. Caggiano is resurrecting from the dead past Freedom of Informaion issues concerning the Memorial Boulevard Task Force. He admits the Republicans dropped the ball when they never showed up to a final disposition hearing in August of 2016 resulting in the matter being dropped. As someone who was involved in the 18-month Memorial Boulevard Task Force effort, I find his issue with the FOI process personally irritating. I spent almost two years of my life volunteering for this task force and worked alongside Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters to create the Theater Report component of the plan, as well as traveling to Niagara Arts and Cultural Center in upstate New York to tour their almost identical facility to MBS. Our volunteer work on the task force resulted in valuable information gathered that otherwise would have cost the city huge dollars had they hired a consultant to do the same work.
In the fall of 2015, while the mayoral election was underway, I was dragged into the FOI request, along with other community volunteers. We were named in the Republican Party’s FOI filing in an attempt to discredit the Democratic mayoral candidate who also chaired the task force. The issue? Holding small work group meetings with both Republicans and Democrats present, in a conference room at City Hall before the full task force meeting began so they could understand the renovation numbers presented by the architect. While I was not part of those meetings, I understood them to be a means of digesting the numbers involved in the architects’ report before having to answer questions in an open community forum. It seemed prudent to me, nothing sinister or unethical. And clearly, if it had been either of those things, the Republicans who submitted the FOI request would have followed through with any investigation of impropriety, which they did not. They never showed up to the final disposition because they did not have to ... they won the mayoral seat.
So, Mr. Caggiano is now whipping up a dust storm concerning those FOI requests so as not to address comments in a letter by Kris Granatek where she drew parallels between our mayor and President Trump as it pertains to the almost $100,000 in legal fees the mayor has incurred at taxpayer expense for his questionable behavior towards a city employee. In his response to her letter, he states, “It is time to focus on issues rather than personal attacks.” As a Republican, I agree Mr. Caggiano. So move on and let the legitimate criticisms of the mayor roll off your back. Focus on Bristol’s future, not matters that have been put to rest a long time ago by your own party.
Kim Villanti, Chair, Theater Sub-Committee, MBS Task Force (2014-2015)