NEW BEDFORD — A former local radio talk host who lives near Buttonwood Park is taking Mayor Jon Mitchell’s administration to task for not seeking expense reimbursement for the cleanup in preparation for Tuesday’s campaign visit by former President Bill Clinton.
John Oliveira said a precedent was set during a previous visit in 2002 when Clinton was stumping for Shannon O’Brien, the Democratic nominee for governor that year. Then-Mayor Fred Kalisz’ administration was reimbursed by the party for expenses, Kalisz confirmed, although he didn’t recall the amount.
Oliveira said that the level of cleanup activity around the park this week was unusual. He said that the city’s sweepers were working very hard on cleaning up the streets and trash collection was happening early in the day rather than later. He told The Standard-Times he thinks the worker-hours devoted to the event preparations should be calculated and submitted to the Democratic Party rather than be left in the hands of the city.
He acknowledged police details would probably not qualify for reimbursement, but said the cleanup might.
Mitchell’s office referred all questions on the issues to Ron Labelle, the commissioner of public infrastructure. Labelle said no extraordinary measures were taken, and the street cleaning is routinely done by city crews, often starting at 4 a.m.
The only additional expense appears to be some orange barrels to guide onlookers on Oneida Street in front of the warming house, Labelle said. “What would that be, about 50 bucks?” He called the whole issue “silly.”
Kalisz said that compared with this week’s event, the 2002 visit was a major production.
Streets were blocked off, rented staging was set up at Custom House Square, and elaborate fencing was rented and installed to manage the crowd and its VIPs, which numbered an estimated 10,000 people, Kalisz said. Clinton spoke for the better part of an hour and a half in a major event which had onlookers waiting for hours beforehand to catch a good look at the former president.
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