I am writing in response to the glowingly self-congratulatory letter last week from Fourth Ward Councilman Timothy Occhipinti. Mr. Occhipinti is always quick to itemize very real, laudable accomplishments, very few if any are his for which to claim credit. I wish to offer a different perspective on Mr. Occhipinti’s “service” to the ward.
For the past 16 months, our ward has endured what can only by the most generously loose definition pass for representation by someone who has proven to be a developer shill and corruption apologist.
The interests of our neighborhood’s people have languished under Mr. Occhipinti’s tenure as our councilman in virtually every way, whether through his attempted sabotage of the hospital that serves and employs so many Fourth Ward residents, ridiculing the new flood-pump technology that has so palpably alleviated a long-standing problem for our neighborhood, or his transparent and sophomoric attempts to co-opt credit for the accomplishments of Mayor Zimmer, Director Pellegrini and the rest of her administration.
But despite the low bar our councilman has set, I was stunned to learn of his blatantly selling out the public trust.
On March 20, Mr. Occhipinti took the highly unorthodox step of attempting to testify before the Zoning Board in a variance hearing – for a developer who had gotten into hot water by constructing a restaurant facility on land the city has flagged to be part of a new southwest park.
The fact that Mr. Occhipinti either didn’t know or didn’t care that a sitting councilman speaking before the Zoning Board on such a matter is extremely problematic on multiple levels is shocking enough.
What makes the matter transcend his usual ineptitude, buffoonery and wrong-headedness into what I can only describe as a form of legalized corruption is the fact that the developers, Danny and Jolene Tattoli, contributed $3,500 to Mr. Occhipinti’s election campaigns.
This apparent quid-pro-quo arrangement is the ultimate betrayal of the neighborhood residents Mr. Occhipinti purports to represent. He ran for council promising to be an “independent voice” for our ward, including a commitment to push for a southwest park. Instead, he turned around and took large sums from a developer who wanted to build where the park is supposed to go, then sought to insert himself into the Zoning Board process for granting his developer friend the variances needed to retroactively justify construction that he’d already completed. The appearance of impropriety is unmistakable and undeniable, not to mention the rank hypocrisy, given Mr. Occhipinti’s feigned outrage at the alleged appearance of such conflicts when it has suited him politically.
Mr. Occhipinti has proven himself to be what many of us always suspected – a bought-and-paid-for friend of developers, championing not the southwest park he promised, but rather the legal loopholes that allow this kind of betrayal to undermine the public interest at every turn.
Fourth Ward Resident