Mayoral candidate accused of running to push union raises

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

This article appeared on September 08, 2005 in the Standard Times

NEW BEDFORD — Responding to constant criticism from challenger Scott W. Lang on the city’s crime problems, Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. has accused Mr. Lang of running for mayor to ensure that the city’s police and fire unions receive their pay raises.

“Mr. Lang, the police union and the fire union are working together to put out wrong and distorted information in the hopes that the public will not understand their true motive — which is not public safety but unjustifiable compensation for police and fire fighters,” wrote Mayor Kalisz in a prepared release. Mayor Kalisz was asked whether laptops in police cruisers are working as they should.

“What is more outrageous is that an attorney in Mr. Lang’s private law office represents the New Bedford firefighters in their contract negotiations with the city and now that same union has endorsed Mr. Lang,” Mayor Kalisz wrote.

Mr. Lang, when contacted at his political fundraiser last night, called the mayor’s statements “a disgrace to every working person in this city.”

This is the most ridiculous, paranoid charge,” Mr. Lang said, noting that he has not personally represented the city’s firefighter union since 1985. William Straus, a state representative from Mattapoisett and a member of the law firm of Lang, Xifaras and Bullard, has been the attorney for the union since then. The city’s firefighters, after meeting with four challengers to Mayor Kalisz, endorsed Mr. Lang last week.

“The mayor should stop taking everything as a personal affront, and start talking about the issues that face this city,” Mr. Lang said. “People are going to hear about it at the debate; I’m going to go right at it.”

Mr. Lang had been criticizing Mayor Kalisz for separating property crime from violent crime, when larceny and auto theft are two categories of crime the FBI requires communities to report.

“For the mayor to imply that some crime is basically OK, but other crime is not, shows a lack of respect for the victims of crime and leads to the very heart of the feeling of lawlessness in New Bedford,” Mr. Lang wrote in a prepared release.

Mr. Lang also criticized the computer laptops in city police cruisers, saying they are not working as they should.

“Due to a software problem, our police cruisers have been flying blind, the equivalent of sending your Air Force pilots out on missions without radar,” he wrote in a prepared release. “Whenever a police stop is made, a call is placed to headquarters for information. This presents a delay and an extraordinarily dangerous situation for the police officers in the street.”

Mayor Kalisz said the laptops “can communicate with the dispatcher and other cruisers, initiate calls and check the status of other cruisers.” They cannot tie into state databases, to do things like check a motor vehicle license or check for statewide all points bulletins, because the state changed its computer format.

“Our software company and the state worked together towards and have successfully tested the systems, and we are in the process of going online,” Mayor Kalisz wrote.