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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tom Gentz’s bully pulpit

Tom Gentz being constructive.
By Linda Felaco

At the beginning of every Town Council meeting, there’s a slot on the agenda for Council Comments where each councilor can speak on any subject they wish. They don’t each speak at every meeting, though. Councilor Dan Slattery’s comments, when he has them, tend to be self-serving. He’ll announce his citizens’ forums or the results of one of his investigations. Councilor Marge Frank, when she chooses to speak, generally will call attention to someone who has performed exemplary service to the town or something she wants to inform the audience about, either an upcoming lecture at URI or something civic-minded like the Shovel Brigade. Personally, I find it very inspiring, the interest she shows in the town and in promoting town activities.

Council President Tom Gentz is the only one who’s always got something to say at every single meeting. It’s become something of a schtick of his. When it’s his turn to speak, and he announces that he’s got something to say, he’ll say, “I know you’re surprised, aren’t you.” Unlike his fellow councilors, his tendency is to pontificate. Either he lectures about some book he’s read or tries to show off some new economic theory he’s just learned about. Though he did preface his April 11 remarks on Net Present Value of Money by saying how “tickled” he was to drive the Easter Bunny into Ninigret Park for the Easter Egg Hunt.

Or he directly lectures the audience, like he did Monday night.

Gentz proposed a New Year’s resolution for the town. He asked everyone to join him in resolving to focus on “politics, not people” and to be “constructive, not destructive.” He said if people have problems or questions about the way things are run, that they should address them to either the Town Administrator or the Town Council and let them handle it, that they were there to help.

I’m not sure who Gentz was addressing, but I can say for myself that I have no problems whatsoever with the town staff and nothing but praise for the job they’re doing. Indeed, I joined in the round of applause at the meeting for Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano and Economic Improvement Commission Chair Frank Glista for the success of the New Year’s Eve bonfire. But not once when I’ve e-mailed the Town Council about any of my concerns have I gotten a reply from Gentz. So it’s not clear to me how he figures he’s “helping” when he doesn’t even respond to citizens.

Perhaps he’s turning over a new leaf in 2012 and intends to start answering his e-mail?