There was some compelling local cable TV yesterday. At 6am on City Life hosts John McDonough and George Anthes were visited by their regular every-other-Monday guest, former City Manager and School Committee member Bill Taupier. They ended up with a second, unexpected guest: Mayor Patrick Murphy who arrived at about 7:15 am to confront Taupier about statements made during his previous appearance on July 31. You will recall that at the time, those statements particularly riled Gerry Nutter who in the midst of a blog post entitled “Taupier plays fast and loose with the facts” wrote this:
The comments that got me the most irate were these – He stated the Mayor and Manager received envelopes with letters much earlier than June about the missing money and covered it up! He made that charge and claimed a 2nd time that the Manager was informed ahead of time and John McDonough agreed that he had heard the same thing.
I didn’t see yesterday’s program live but I was able to get a tape of the Mayor’s appearance that I’ll watch sometime soon. The part I did catch began with the Mayor’s departure from the set and the discussion among Taupier and the two hosts that followed.
Two things stood out to me from that portion of the show. One is that Bill Taupier said that the information he shared with viewers on July 31 about the Mayor knowing about the missing money long before it became public (the statement that got both Gerry Nutter and the Mayor so agitated) had been told to him by Rita Mercier. He said that twice. Aside from whether or not it’s true that Rita Mercier was the source of information, it was really amazing to see how casually that Taupier threw her name out as the source of such incendiary information.
The second thing that struck me was Taupier’s repeated statement that “if I said something that offended the mayor, why didn’t he call me” which kind of gets to the heart of a bigger battle going on in Lowell politics today. In the old days, a few self-selected insiders played a slick game of politics, spending hours each day on the phone gossiping like teenagers about the politics of the day. Those calls along with an inside track to what would be “in the paper” were all one needed to be perceived as a power in local politics. All that has changed. I don’t know if the internet and social media are a cause of it or a symptom of it or just tools that are used by people with a different view of how politics work in a changing city. It all reminded me of a scene from the movie Thirteen Days (about the Cuban Missile Crisis) in which Secretary of Defense McNamara chastises the Naval Chief of Staff for refusing to acknowledge or accept the “new language” of crisis diplomacy (the relevant dialogue comes near the end of this 3:45 minute clip but watch the whole thing and see the movie if you haven’t yet).