The meeting tonight at South High regarding the SMOC Triage Center ended much earlier than planned.
The parking areas filled early and many cars had to park along Apricot Street. The auditorium was nearly full — approximately 600 people — watched over by six uniformed WPD officers and a few that seemed to be plainclothes version of the same. Cruisers were strategically placed at various points outside.
The meeting was due to begin at 7:00 p.m., but as minutes passed and seats filled, there were several mini-meetings held at the front of the auditorium between members of city government/administration and SMOC.
By 7:15 the crowd had waited long enough and began clapping loudly in unison. Michael Angelini, a lawyer representing SMOC, spent five minutes presenting where SMOC stood on the matter of the controversial relocation of its triage center to 1398 Main St. His comments suggested a certain flexibility about the location of the triage center. Many questions/comments were shouted at him, but he mostly dodged them in an effort to keep things focused. He turned the microphone over to Mayor Joe O’Brien around 7:20 or so. Mayor O’Brien spent about ten minutes explaining the city’s position and fielding several irate questions from people who came forward to speak at microphones at the front of the hall. He finished by announcing that the meeting was being shut down early, as an agreement had been reached to have the city council reconsider the site of the SMOC Triage Center at tomorrow night’s meeting. In what must have been an instinctive gesture of a naturally courteous man, he invited everyone in the hall to come attend that meeting. City Hall’s going to be really interesting tomorrow.
Dozens of voices cried out for City
Dictator Manager Mike O’Brien to speak or answer questions. He never acknowledged these calls — in fact, once he took his place on stage, he almost never looked at the audience. He alternated between tickling the touchscreen of his smart phone or gazing intently at the speaker at the podium.
Tonight’s last-minute pre-meeting huddle seems to have been to secure SMOC’s willingness to abandon plans for 1398 Main St. should the City Council ask it to. Now chef Mike O’Brien is leaving it up to the Council to either undo what he’s been carefully cooking up with SMOC, or else rubber stamp the menu and take all the heat.
He’s now adroitly tossed them a very hot potato. To be fair, an earlier City Council tossed him the rather unpalatable potato of the PIP shelter, and he’s now cooked it up in true O’Brien style, single-handedly igniting a neighborhood as he did so.
Now it’s up to the City Council tomorrow night to cool it off, or else force-feed it to the angry residents who attended the foreshortened meeting tonight.
Added, 10:30 pm — According to Joe O’Brien, one of the alternate locations for the triage center would be 701 Main Street (the former PIP Shelter). SMOC attorney Angelini mentioned a “Plan B”, but it’s unclear whether that referred to 701 Main Street or to another site.
Joe O’Brien said that if the 1398 Main Street site were voted on at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, that there would be yet another meeting at South High School on Wednesday night to answer the questions that were not answered tonight.
One wonders why the city and/or SMOC couldn’t solicit questions beforehand and prepare a FAQ sheet that could be handed out and posted online. Now people have gone to at least two meetings, have not been able to ask questions, received no answers, and are becoming thoroughly disgruntled. They have been told they could attend a City Council meeting tomorrow, and might still need to go to yet another meeting on Wednesday to actually get their questions answered.
Whether or not you agree with their concerns, the only thing the city and SMOC could do to make the information dissemination any worse would be to hire BP as their spokespeople.
I’m not sure if meetings and decisions have been postponed in the hopes that fewer and fewer people will show up at these meetings. If tonight’s meeting was any indication, it’s that silence and evasion will only draw in crowds.
At the rate we’re going, South High School will not be able to accommodate all the interested parties. What’s next — the DCU Center?