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Letter to the Editor: Has William DiBella Become a Liability to the MDC?

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Dear Editor,

Has Mr. DiBella Become a Liability for the MDC?

We are living in a different world than when William DiBella first arrived at the Metropolitan Dictrict Commission. As far back as 2006, Mr. DiBella had already served the MDC for over 30 years, according to the Hartford Courant. That was back in the 1970ʻs, the era of Watergate, Nixon, secrecy, big hair, deal-making, patriarchy. The Atlantic Magazine published an article reflecting the business model in the 70ʼs.

“But the perception of the ideal business leader is starting to shift. The old model of command and control, with one leader holding all the decision-making power, is considered hidebound. The new model is sometimes called ‘post-heroic,’ or ‘transformational,’ in the words of the historian and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns.”

We are an educated population that takes our civic responsibility seriously (engagement, participation, community). Communities want to shape the world in a better way for our children. We realize that leaving control to the powerful, has left our world much more insecure and our guilt has become a major motivator.

We live in an environment threatened by global warming. Our water supplies nationally are in jeopardy. Though MDC speaks only to drought conditions, they cannot adequately address the effects of our changing climate on reservoirs. Their own specialists admit, the numbers can be skewed in any direction, there are just too many unknowns. It is this unknown variable along with the horror stories we have read throughout our country, that have launched a wave of concern over our precious water resources. The arrival of Niagara Bottling Company pushes concerns to a critical level.

What happens when uncertainty over something as important as water, becomes critical? In Mr. DiBellaʼs era, those in control would pat us all on the head and assure us that we need not worry, …we have plenty of water…. go shopping (as President Bush recommended after 9/11). Heaven forbid, we ask questions. We agonize over our experience with the disastrous effects of blind trust.

CBS reported soon after 9/11: “I believe that the big mistake that our leadership of our nation made after 9-11 is we told people to go shopping and we told them to take a trip,” McCain told students at a military prep school in this early voting state.

Times have changed, and Mr. DiBella lives in an era past. We have learned that control over a resource as valuable as water, in the hands of a few, is dangerous. Control is power though, and people like Mr. DiBella will not give that up. Simply stepping down from his chairmanship will not be enough, his influence has become imbedded in and defining of, the culture of the MDC. I remember him asking citizen lobbyists, “What are you doing here?” He appeared to have no concept of regular people having an opinion, let alone a voice.

The MDC in general, may come to realize that partnering with community as a process in decision-making and oversight is the only way to go forward. It may even realize that the old ways of “doing business” no longer fit in our new world. Mr. Jellison is much younger, and seems to come from a very different era. Unfortunately, Mr. DiBella and his patriarchal approach will only widen the gap between the MDC and the people it was designed to serve. Has Mr. DiBella become a liability to the MDC? I think people have come to that conclusion.

Alison Quinion
West Hartford

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