Kalisz, Lang at odds over public safety building plan

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

This article appeared on September 05, 2005 in the Standard Times

NEW BEDFORD — Scott W. Lang, candidate for mayor, is calling on the mayor to stop “playing pre-election political games” with the construction of a new public safety building.

Mr. Lang, who attended Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr.’s presentation on the new public safety building this week, criticized the mayor for putting forth the plan and 10 possible locations “with no budget for construction, no funding secured for construction, no design for construction, and no legitimate input from the police or public safety officials in our city on this most important public safety project,” Mr. Lang wrote in a prepared release.

Mayor Kalisz responded by accusing Mr. Lang of “political rhetoric” for criticizing a public discussion of what a public safety building should look like, and where it should go.

“My opponents on the one hand argue for public process, and whenever I provide that public process, they criticize me,” Mayor Kalisz responded in a prepared release.

I will see you in your homes, in your neighborhoods, and at any gathering that I am able to attend, to introduce myself in person and hear ideas and ask for your support in making New Bedford a safer and more welcoming place to live for all our families.

“I don’t care what Scott Lang says, I will make sure that every resident in the city of New Bedford who wants the opportunity to weigh in on their public safety facility will have the opportunity to do so.

“Unfortunately, I have to run for mayor every two years. If I stopped moving the city forward during an election year nothing would ever get accomplished.”

Mayor Kalisz has made three public presentations of the proposed public safety building, which would include the entire Police Department as well as the command structures of the Fire and EMS departments. He has presented 10 possible locations for the building. There is no state or federal funding in place, other than some planning grants.

Mr. Lang called the mayor’s plan a “shell game of smoke and mirrors” and that the city should first decide who is going to lead the discussion on a public safety building.

“He’s the one who gave us a police station in a shopping center. He’s the one who closed the police substations,” Mr. Lang said of Mayor Kalisz. “Anyone can put on a jacket with police on the back and say we’re here to fight crime.”

Mr. Lang said that based on statistics from the New Bedford Police Department, crime in the city has increased.

Documented incidents of serious crime in New Bedford which include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary and auto theft, have increased by 17 percent in the first six months of 2005 compared to the same six months of 2004. The police statistics indicate there were 1,946 reported incidents in those categories from January to July 2004 versus 2,280 incidents from January to July 2005.

“Let’s avoid another boondoggle like the Keith Middle School project, where the mayor’s politics took priority over common sense and true neighborhood and citizen participation,” Mr. Lang said. “Enough political games.”

Mayor Kalisz said that Mr. Lang is “attempting to misrepresent the crime statistics by including larceny, which is a non-violent property crime.”

Mayor Kalisz said larceny and auto theft are not violent crimes, and that Mr. Lang’s inclusion of them in violent crime statistics is “politics at its worst.”

Mayor Kalisz said that statistics show that murder, rape, robbery, assault, and burglary the first seven months are slightly down over 2004’s statistics. There have been a total of 945 incidents in the first seven months of 2005, compared to 947 in 2004 and 1,007 in 2003.

Burglary has dropped over the past two years from 534 in 2004 to 418 in 2005, a decrease of 29 percent. Robbery has dropped from 151 incidents in 2004 to 108 in 2005, a decrease of 28 percent. Murder and rape have remained approximately the same, while assault has increased from 230 in 2004 to 328 in 2005, a 30 percent increase.

The non-violent crime of larceny has significantly increased from 746 in 2004 to 1,137 in 2005. Auto theft is down from 335 incidents in 2003 to 252, a decrease of 25 percent.