— By Ben Conley, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis says the Democrat Party leadership in Monongalia County needs to be purged “and replaced with actual progressives.”
He specifically targeted County Commission President Tom Bloom, with whom Brazaitis had a heated exchange following Wednesday’s commission meeting.
Brazaitis said he was attending not in his capacity as deputy mayor, but what he described as his “more powerful role” as vice president of Learn to Skate for the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club and advisor to the West Virginia Figure Skating Club. He came to ask the commission to place an $8.5 million levy on the November ballot for a state-of-the-art, year-round ice rink for Morgantown’s Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners.
Following the meeting, Brazaitis expressed his belief that the commission altered the agenda to move the public comment portion of the meeting — a claim he later walked back. Brazaitis also said he was held to three minutes for his presentation while a subsequent speaker was given additional time.
Asked by Bloom if he was accusing the commission of redoing the agenda, Brazaitis responded, “I’m not accusing these two gentlemen of anything,” referring to Commissioners Ed Hawkins and Sean Sikora, whom he later identified as “honest men.”
“So you’re accusing me,” Bloom said. “Very unfortunate. You need to start respecting city council.”
Brazaitis countered by telling Bloom: “You need to start respecting the people.”
Bloom ended the exchange by saying: “Well, I tell the truth. That’s something that you need to learn, and that’s all I’ll say.”
Brazaitis expounded afterward, telling The Dominion Post he believes Bloom is a right-wing Republican masquerading as a Democrat. Brazaitis, having been criticized by fellow city councilors and WVU for recent rhetoric, accused Bloom of actively working against the city’s best interests to benefit wealthy private developers.
“I think you have public officials who are genuinely working with the public’s interest at heart, and I think you have, unfortunately, a number of others who are in the pocket of the 1 percent,” Brazaitis said.
Bloom said he’s been called a lot of things in his time in the public eye, but never a Republican.
“I represent the citizens of Monongalia County and the truth. People know I work extremely hard, am approachable and honest,” said Bloom after arguing with Brazaitis.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from. The attack that you saw, I still have no idea what was going on there,” he said. “I feel like he has a responsibility to represent the city council and I think his actions have been disappointing.”
Bloom said the interaction would not impact his consideration of the levy proposal.
Brazaitis said he was prompted to present his levy idea individually after his Morgantown City Council colleagues failed to approve endorsing “even a conversation about levies.” The council on July 24 stalemated 3-3 on that decision, unable to reach the necessary majority to approach the commission about a dedicated BOPARC levy for November’s ballot.
Brazaitis said city administration and council were aware of his plan to present the levy to the commission Wednesday, but he had not received feedback since making his intentions known.
When asked if he came with the blessing of BOPARC, Brazaitis explained that his actions have been “pre-approved” by four years of conversation, planning and design consultations regarding a new ice rink.
Bloom pledged that the levy proposal would be considered like any other request from a county resident, though the commission could meet with Brazaitis in a work session.