Friday, September 7, 2012

Vescera, The Common Council, and Freedom in City Hall

Councilman Frank Vescera was censured by his colleagues on the Utica Common Council. He was also removed from all his committee positions. This, in response to his refusal to remove a small video camera from the table in pre- council meeting caucus.

Wait a minute! Are you kidding? In this era of You-Tube everything, direct from life to the internet recording, the Common Council has a problem with being taped? At an open, public meeting?

Just when you thought you heard it all in the Banana Republic that has become Utica, now even more freedom is being squashed in the Gulag that has become Palmieri's City Hall.

Just exactly what are the members of the Common Council afraid of? Why should they care that a man who tape records EVERYTHING should want to include the mundane roll call of legislation and mindless bickering that has become the hallmark of Utica government. I think I know the answer. Having sat in that room for six years as a common council representative, I have witnessed firsthand the way personal freedom of expression and beliefs are routinely squashed by the dictator-like mindset Utica officials.

You see, the people who sit in that chamber all have one thought burning at the base of their brain-that someday, they too can become mayor. That, when the citizens of the city discover the legislative brilliance that they bring to the floor, when their constituents realize that they have all the answers, they will be crowned king (or queen) of this dying city. No one wants to lets a pesky, intrusive thing like a camera record the truth- that not much brilliance occurs in city hall, that no one ever has the answer.

And then there is Frank. Angry, confrontational, and at times so off base as to have you wonder-is this guy living in the same place we are? Vescera has not always been an easy man to serve with. He does, however, have the distinction of being the singular person who is so polarizing, having such a take-no-hostages approach of doing business, that he ends up being the guy that most appeals to the frustrated, angry citizens of Utica.

At the heart of Vescera is a man who truly wants to accomplish things. The motivation behind his actions are sometimes blurry, but he shows no fear. What he believes, he is willing to fight for. That strikes fear into the hearts of his colleagues on the council. He is not a "team player." He stands on his own. That can be a good thing and at times it can be detrimental to his cause. It is always a quality unappreciated by elected officials with one eye constantly fixed on higher office.

So now, because he would not tow the line, he has been stripped, censured, discredited and neutralized by his co-members on the council. Or so they think. Because a guy like Frank never tows the line. He never makes a deal. He fights for what he believes in whether we agree with his cause or not. And I expect that he will dig his heels in even further to show Utica that he cannot be told what to do.

As a property owner in the district that he represents, I appreciate that demeanor. I want a guy to fight for me and my concerns without worrying if he is offending city hall. Unfortunately, he is alone in his quest. With the exception of Dave Testa and Jim Zecca, all the other members (Jerome Mckinsey was absent) voted to shut Frank down.

That's sad. City Hall has shut down all outside communication under the iron-fisted rule of Palmieri. His minions on the council must be doing his bidding in an attempt to rid him of his number one nemesis-Vescera. But, like all misguided attempts to squash open government through intimidation and brute force, it will not succeed. This administration will fail. The common council will spend it's time arguing about non-issues like recording meetings, and the city will suffer. Again.

I have not agreed with Frank Vescera on many, many issues. At times, I was not sure if he even belonged on the Utica Common Council.

Today, I have my answer. Keep on fighting Frank! The people of Utica will thank you and your two supporters on the council for keeping the light shining on the murky mess that has become the city of Utica!