When I met Bob Bromley outside his distinctive ranch house just off upper Rockdale Avenue in the area of the city known as “Northwest,” I was interested in walking down his dead-end street to see a cluster of single-family homes that are hard up against Route 140. But he steered me in the other direction because there was something he wanted to show me.
Over on Potter Street there is a strip of overgrown field. On the other side sits New Bedford High School a few blocks away.
Bob Bromley speaks with Jack Spillane
The field looks nondescript to me on this winter’s day. But as we get closer I’m astonished by what’s in there. Five-gallon drums and abandoned coolers, stuffed trash bags and sticks of corrugated metal of some sort. All of this adjacent to a brook that is running through the property.
I ask whose property it is and Bromley is not sure. Some of it appears to belong to private owners, at least one of whom looks to be preparing for construction. Other parts of the land are behind a fence and are cleaner.
Bromley said he’s unsure but he thinks some of it is city-owned land.
The neighbors, he says, had approached former Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn about it, but nothing changed.
Bromely says he thinks he can do better.
“If you had a ward councilor that cared about the ward, he’d be saying ‘OK, if it’s private property, you have to talk to the owners. If it’s city property, then the city should be coming down here and cleaning up the trash and cutting back the brush a little bit.’”
I ask if the city government can afford to clean up every neighborhood of dumping like this, and he says the government already does it — it’s just a matter of a good councilor bringing it to their attention.
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Almost a lifelong resident of Ward 3, Bromely’s life has been a New Bedford success story by any measure.
Born without the middle three fingers on both hands, he had to overcome old-school teaching styles and the taunts of new classmates to succeed. He eventually attended Roger Williams University and has worked as a financial analyst for both the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where he currently analyzes the budget for the state Senate.
“I knew early on I had to use my brain and go through college,” he told me, realizing he would not be able to follow the family tradition of serving in the military.
Bromley, 62, says he’ll bring his financial acumen to the job of councilor. After 40 years working in government, he says he knows how to get along with people and get things done. As far as the property taxes in the city, Bromley says he has the ability to explain to the public what is going on. Expanding the tax base is important, he says, but being open to the city unions’ ideas on savings could also be important.
He does have some political instincts, and manages to be on both sides of the issue of whether the city should devote part of the municipal golf course to an advanced manufacturing campus. He also said the city needs development to grow revenue like at Hicks-Logan and AMC. But he also argued that ward residents don’t even know what are the options, what are the traffic challenges for that development and a planned marijuana dispensary on Hathaway because the city has dispensed so few of the latest facts.
The residents are basically suffering from a lack of information from the city government, Bromley contended. That’s a theme mentioned by several of the Ward 3 candidates.
“They feel that they pay enough, and the major thing is ‘Where does the money go?’” he said.
Bromley says his main focus in this campaign are the needs of Ward 3, which he believes have been forgotten the last several years. He gives another example of his frustration with Dunn, whose December resignation has led to this special election.
Potter Street has a long section with no traffic light. The area has become more developed with residential construction in recent years, but still no lights — even though Bromley says he contacted Dunn, from whom he said he feels he basically got “disinterest.”
“At first, I had to describe to him where I was talking about because he had no idea,” he said. “I got a little upset with him, saying you’re a ward councilor. It’s your duty to know where the areas are. You don’t have to know every single house in your ward, but at least the areas.”
Dunn did not return a phone call to The Light regarding Bromley’s comments.
Bromley and I walked by the massive Shawmut Village low-income housing development in his neighborhood. The development is directly adjacent to the single-family street he lives on, and he says he has no problem with it. The Housing Authority vehicles are always there, he said, and the development is clean, quiet and there is no crime associated with it that he knows of.
Bromley rattled off other issues in this western part of Ward 3 that he is concerned about, like the speed of the traffic on Rockdale and the lack of a nearby playground. They are advocating for one to be built just over the Ward 5 line at the Carter Brooks school, he said.
An amateur historian, Bromley can tell you interesting facts, like the Ward 3 spot near the water tower where the colonists fled the British during the Revolution. He may be best known to city residents for his work for many years as one of the administrators that built up the military museum at Fort Taber into a success.
Bromley’s biography reads like a lesson in loyalty. He purchased his current house because it had an accessible bathroom for his disabled wife, who then died just three days after he had passed papers.
He doesn’t mention Jacob Ventura’s recent move to the ward and previous runs for political office, but he seems to be alluding to it when he stresses that he himself has lived there all but a few years of his life, and that he is not looking for a political career beyond the ward.
Ventura has also said his first focus is only on helping the ward with constituent services, but he has made no promises about a future career years down the road.
“I’m not looking for a career because I have my career that I’m winding down. I’m not looking for another mark to put on my resume because I don’t need it,” Bromley said.
“I’m not looking for it, for a bump – ‘OK, I’m going to start here and jump to other political offices.’ I’m not looking for that. I’m just mad about what’s going on. I want to get in and basically right the ship, get it in place, and then be able to move on and pass it on to somebody else.”
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of walking profiles with each of the seven candidates in the Jan. 24 preliminary election for Ward 3 city councilor. Read Jack Spillane’s overview of the race with links to all seven profiles.
Correction: A statement about who the American colonists were fleeing from when they went to the Hathaway Road area was originally incorrect. The correct information is that the colonists were fleeing the British during the Revolution.
Email Jack Spillane at email@example.com.
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