In modern journalism there is a seemingly inescapable requirement to provide a “hot take” on the news of the day: to be first, to offer instant analysis of an issue or an arbitrary grade on a person’s performance. With Indelicato, only time will tell whether her tenure will be seen as a success, a failure, or something in between. Rather than a referendum on her time as President, the interview published today offers a few interesting takeaways; some about the person who has held the office and some about the office itself, we get a few surprises and a frank discussion about where the Island is, and where it may be going.
Overall, the impression one takes away from speaking to Indelicato, particularly at such length and in great depth, is that of a competent, pragmatic bureaucrat. This description is not intended to be pejorative. Quite the opposite. After a succession of political hacks inhabiting the office, competence, pragmatism, and an understanding of how to work within the layers of bureaucracy may have been just what the Island needed.
Indelicato inherited a crisis within the Public Safety Department, a tectonic change to the Island’s culture brought on by the arrival of Cornell Tech, a fractured RIRA Common Council, an unsettled political environment brought about, in large measure, by Albany’s refusal to acknowledge the Island’s right to democratic self-rule, a lack of commercially viable stores to service Islanders’ needs, budget and personnel issues, overdue capital improvements on a massive scale – the list could go on and on.
Did she solve every problem? No. Did she attempt to tackle issues in a fair and judicious manner? Probably. She certainly expressed awareness and could speak to every issue, so it seems that on the whole, she did attempt to do just that.
More importantly though, is what we can take away from Ms. Indelicato’s tenure and how her successor – and the Island – can build on her successes. In one of the more striking comments from the interview, she discussed her first year and how rocky it was, the community climate she walked into, and the emails she still receives that are complaints blasted to every RIOC Board member, all of our elected officials and so on. Why do we fan flames before going to her first and determining whether there is a fire? Why mobilize troops unless we are certain there is a war? The Island is a small town, and with that comes a requirement to treat everyone with respect. I hope that the next President will be offered some benefit of the doubt, at least at the outset.
It may be that Indelicato’s legacy is that she laid a few z-bricks on the road toward trust between RIOC and the community. And while Islanders cannot be chastised for having a healthy amount of skepticism toward RIOC due to the abuses and incompetence of the past, trust is a two-way street. We thank Charlene Indelicato for her service and hope that her successor can build on a relationship between Islanders and their government that remains guarded, but perhaps cautiously optimistic.