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2010 Top Stories, What Say You?

December 29th, 2010 · 19 Comments · City Budget, City Council, City Politics, Civil Service, Development and Zoning, Education, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, News and Events, State Politics

tornadophoto Kaolian

Tornado hits Bridgeport. Courtesy Morgan Kaolian

What’s on your list of top Bridgeport stories?

In June, a tornado struck buildings on the East Side and downtown including heavy damage to the Barnum Museum. On July 24 two city firefighters perished in the line of duty. On Oct. 30, President Obama visited the Arena at Harbor Yard to campaign for Democratic candidates. Three days later a shortage of city ballots turned national attention on an Election Day debacle that shook memories of Florida’s 2000 presidential nightmare, delayed Democrat Dan Malloy’s gubernatorial victory and forged a Freedom of Information ballot examination led by the Connecticut Post. A post-Christmas snow blast made sure December went out like a lion.

Some story highlights covered and debated on OIB:

January:

Former Mayor Joe Ganim is released from a Pennsylvania federal prison camp after incarceration for six and a half years related to his 2003 federal conviction. Will he make a political comeback?

February:

Former State Senator Ernie Newton, the Moses of his peeps, is also released from a federal prison camp following his five-year sentence on bribery charges. He vows a political comeback.

Ernie Newton

Moses returns

José “Chico” Rivera, long active in city politics, passes away.

Ralph Jacobs and the city agree to a settlement package of more than $160,000 following his termination as personnel director by the Civil Service Commission at the urging of Mayor Bill Finch.

Marian Evans is not reappointed city health director by Finch setting off protests by African American leaders.

March:

A knucklehead chainsaws trees along St. Mary’s.

Saints

Leatherface chainsaws trees at Saints.

Governor Jodi Rell pulls back her proposal to build a juvenile detention center for girls in a residential section of the Upper East Side, following neighborhood protests led by State Rep. Chris Caruso.

April:

Philip Sherringham is forced out as chief executive of People’s United Bank.

John Gomes, former director of the city’s government-efficiency CitiStat program, announces his candidacy to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Mayor Finch submits his proposed budget to the City Council that includes an $8 million hole largely reliant on employee givebacks to close the gap.

May:

Community gadfly Cecil Young lectures the Bridgeport City Council leading to a wrestling riot on the floor of the council chambers.

The East Side becomes a law enforcement swarm following a search involving the accused Times Square bomb suspect who had resided in the city.

Phil Kuchma’s Bijou Square development, grounded from an economic downturn, receives financing for completion of the restaurant, housing, retail complex sparking new life on Fairfield Avenue downtown.

Bijou Abbate

Phil Kuchma's Bijou Square brightens downtown. Courtesy Bob Abbate.

June:

A tornado wreaks havoc to numerous buildings downtown and the East Side.

July:

City Firefighters Steven Velasquez and Michel Baik die fighting a house fire on Elmwood Avenue.

August:

A fire at the old Remington plant on Barnum Avenue ignites finger-pointing between city officials and developer Sal DiNardo.

RemGrit

Inside old Remington building after fire.

Mayor Finch rescues a popular Fairfield Avenue hotdog cart ordered shut down for permit violation.

Hotdog

Popular hotdog vendor next to downtown courthouse relishes savior Mayor Bill Finch after dog house was ordered shut for zoning violation. Judges, lawyers and jurors are happy to resume weiner lunches.

A spike in violent crime, just months after Finch heralded lower crime rates, causes mayor to promote late evening walks in several neighborhoods.

Republican Town Chair Marc Delmonico files a a complaint with the city’s Ethics Commission over City Council member freebies at the annual Gathering of the Vibes hippie fest. Ethics Commission finds no fault.

Vibes Kaolian

Gathering of the Vibes, city's annual hippie fest at Seaside Park. Courtesy Morgan Kaolian.

September:

Judge Leonard Cocco passes away.

City unions try to reach concession agreement with city bean counters to avoid layoffs.

October:

President Obama visits the Arena at Harbor Yard to campaign for Democratic candidates.

Barack in Bridgeport

Barack rocks the arena. Courtesy Wayne Ratzenberger.

Anthony Cernera, following 20 years as Sacred Heart University president, abruptly resigns under a cloud. SHU officials provide no public details.

Mike Feeney resigns as city finance director to take a similar position with the Stratford Board of Education.

Developer Robert Scinto, who had pulled out of Bridgeport claiming distaste for city government and politics, enters a guilty plea for providing false information to federal investigators in a corruption probe of Shelton officials.

Congressman Jim Himes announces $11 million in federal funding for the long-languishing SteelPointe Harbor development on the East Side.

Steel Point

Steel Point redevelopment area receives boost from Congressman Jim Himes. Courtesy Morgan Kaolian.

Robert Pelton, former Barnum Museum curator, passes away.

November:

Negotiations heat up for a proposed regional wastewater treatment authority between Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe.

Planning and Zoning Commission denies a zone change for Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa’s Madison Avenue restaurant.

Mario Testa

Mario Testa wonders about zoning vote.

One cop is fired and four others suspended by city Police Commission for covering up a drunk driving hit and run involving one of the officers.

Governor’s election is thrown into chaos when the city Registrar of Voters Office fails to print enough ballots, forcing emergency printing of ballots and a court-ordered two hour extension of voting hours. Democrat Dan Malloy is declared winner by a slim statewide margin. Finch forms an informal committee to hear Election Day complaints and recommend solutions to avoid election chaos.

Malloy names Ben Barnes, operating officer of the Bridgeport Board of Education, state budget director.

Pat Crossin resigns Board of Education seat for health reasons.

Modern Plastics, following 65 years in the city, announces relocation to Shelton.

election mess

Election mess vote tabulation at the city Registrar of Voters Office.

December:

A Connecticut Post review and count of Election Day paper ballot shows “widespread miscalculations” of vote tabulation, but no apparent fraud.

Finch appoints Joe Gaudett police chief.

Federal court terminates a 27-year remedy order of discrimination in the Police Department.

Finch appoints Kristin duBay Horton health director.

Two city unions agree to concessions to avoid layoffs.

Winter storm rocks city.

What did I miss?

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • Grin Reaper

    You missed the mark. You missed the purpose of the list. All you did was run through a chronological listing of events. Put the top ten in order as to importance dumb ass (sorry TC temporarily took over my keyboard).

  • BEACON2

    Hey Lennie, Happy New Year, 2011!

    Grin is upset because you ran through a listing of events (covered by OIB, if not by the local media) and failed to rank them by their importance. Of course, importance or priority depend upon your viewpoint. Ranking is a matter of opinion, sure.

    So perhaps you missed a Bridgeport story that has developed all year long, from January when the 2010 budget was a vision to April when it was presented to the Council, subsequently approved and we have been living with it now for six months, with our attention on the $8 Million hole that is to be fulfilled by employee givebacks, right?

    This story pits taxpayers who fund salaries AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS against employees who work for salaries and RETIREMENT BENEFITS!

    When you go to the FY 2010 City Budget and search through General Government Divisions you can click on PENSIONS/BENEFITS to see program highlights. In 2009 the City actually funded over $14,600,000 towards five Pension Fund Accounts. FOR THE CURRENT YEAR The Mayor proposed no funding, the City Council Accepted the Mayor’s proposal, and there are no City dollars going into those funds this year!!!

    This might not be bad news if these pension accounts were overfunded. But are they? Perhaps not, the last we heard. Actuarial services cost the City $19,500 in 2009 but that was increased to $34,100 in 2010 and approved by the Council. Actuaries are the special ‘bean counters’ who can tell you how much you have to fund currently, assuming mortality, morbidity, investment returns, etc. over long periods of time to meet the promises made by the City as they come due.

    Do the majority of the police, fire and MERF employees realize no funds are being contributed for that day when they no longer can trade a day’s work for a day’s pay and when a regular pension check is expected to accompany a regular Social Security check?

    This may be part of the explanation for why the City Budget overall came in lower than the past year with no tax increase, but I cannot remember hearing it. Do you remember an explanation? Has anyone seen the actuarial report(s)? Maybe the expense increased because the numbers had to be crunched additional times when no money is funded? Any answers out there? With Mark Feeney departed, maybe the Mayor can tell us what the plan is?

    Maybe I missed the current negotiations regarding furloughs, health insurance premium contribution %, etc., but were pension contributions part of this dynamic?

    • BEACON2

      It may be that the info I was looking for, the actual funding of pension plans in the current year, is in a different place this year? Perhaps it is located along with compensation within each department budget? OK so how do you easily compare the expenditures from one year to the next?

      Perhaps the budget is not constructed with answering that question? In any case and whoever may care to answer the questions in both entries, the commitment by the City, the promise to pay income to retirees has an obvious effect on both taxpayers and potential retirees. To the former it is an expense that increases property taxes and to the latter it is income to survive on. Both parties have serious interest.

      So the question remains, how do the actuaries tell us we are doing as a City with the several plans? Are we underfunded (like with the City undesignated fund balance) and what action are we taking towards getting fully funded over a period of time? Where are the City fund trustees and what have they committed to? Finally, where are the reports of their deliberations?

  • Black Rockin

    How about the complete BOE audit, or did Timpanelli forget to do that?

  • Grin Ripper

    June 1991, Mary Moran tries to take city into Bankruptcy Court. Fast forward to 2010, “The prophetess was unknown in her own country!”

  • Joel Gonzalez

    “… January: …”
    “Former Mayor Joe Ganim is released from a Pennsylvania federal prison camp after incarceration for six and a half years related to his 2003 federal conviction. Will he make a political comeback?”

    Lennie, you couldn’t find a picture of Joe Ganim?

  • Serpico

    “Guess who’s comin’ to dinner”

  • city hall smoker

    This story is the basis for an opponent’s campaign ad:

    $160,000 of taxpayers’ money wasted buying out Ralph Jacobs.

    Total disrespect for Dr. Marian Evans during Black History month.

    $8m budget hole blamed on the unions while Finch continued to hire consultants and give raises to city councilmen and political cronies.

    Ballot fiasco causes national embarrassment and then is pushed under the rug.

    Public Works director’s inept response to blizzard; he claims all streets were passable when entire neighborhoods never saw a plow.

    • Serpico

      Geeez – - – CHS – - – and the lemmings will still vote for these peeps – - – forgetaboutit.

    • carolanne curry

      city hall smoker // Dec 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm
      to your posting

      I would say you are stellar in your inventory of items to be repeated and reinforced in such a way that those who are so deeply affected …

      (and I would say these are every man woman and child who look to this City government for their safety, security, a decent education for kids, and fair tax rates assessed to pay for services needed to assure the above).

      I would hope every person who finds themselves challenging the current Mayor’s right to return to Office will repeat your list every chance possible.

      What my candidate knows from his tenure with the City is the critical functional breakdown in all Departments throughout the City.

      This has been forced to happen through the stripping of competent personnel and hiring on the basis of political prostitution. This in turn has caused a rupture in the delivery of any meaningful City services.

      And the collective economic indicators only spell more deception from the Budget Office (aka Office of Policy and misManagement) when Tom Sherwood talks his numbers.

      City Hall Smoker, you may agree with me or not, but I don’t think anyone knows real numbers except TOM SHERWOOD. Is that healthy for this City?

      One other thing,
      You can see this malfunctioning in a microcosm every Wednesday when the Mayor has his brown-bag lunch. Anytime the Mayor helps someone who comes to the table, there has to be instant gratitude expressed. Often, there is no help given to those the Mayor’s aides regard with disdain. One guy has shown up for six weeks and he is still angry at the way they are playing with him.
      Again the taxpayers are funding the ‘brown-bag, shopping-bag-sized-lunches for these aides who set their little trough up each week … and have their feast. An example of City government services at their best.

      But this is not information that will bother the voters so much as that $600.00 tax rebate promise.

      And there might be true anger at the miserable state of public education in this City.

      September 13, 2011 … a chance to change it all.
      By the way, add this to your trivia. I was fired on National Women’s Equality Day, marking passage of the 19th Amendment giving women across America the right to vote.
      If I didn’t hold the Mayor in such contempt, I might consider that he knew what he was doing to choose dates that would hurt by their irony two women trying to do their best for this administration.

  • Jim Callahan

    The ballot screw-up is an important national, state and local story. Because of it, people who normally would say “that can’t happen” can see that IT DID HAPPEN. It can be corrected. Because of the Connecticut Post, the exact ineptness of the process was shown. This stops any urban legends, and outright lies, about the voting in Bridgeport in this election from developing. Just as importantly, it shows the election was square, if flawed.

    The tornado is sexy, but fortunately not very damaging. The firefighters’ death is tragic. As a newspaperman I want to report the reasons. I’m sure the firefighters want TO KNOW the reasons.

    The big story is and was the municipal budget. How well is Mayor Finch & Co. managing the fiscal affairs of a community with a wheezy tax base, and not a lot of room for error? It is not sexy. And no one really cares until it collapses. The mayor and colleagues are pretty good at hiding their cards on this. The Common Council, the citizens, and the newspaper let him get away with it.

    It is not a whack on Finch to say that this trust is not deserved. These cards should and must be on the table. The fact that the mayor is able to play this game this way is good for the mayor, perhaps. It is bad for the people of Bridgeport not to know the financial health of their municipality. It affects public safety, education, the values of their property, and the ability of the community to attract investment and economic development opportunities.

    In amoral political terms, it is good for Mayor Finch to be able to pull this off. It helps him politically.

    I’m not trying to set myself, or anyone else as a “moral” force here. I’m just saying that taxpayers have a right to know this stuff.

    I am fascinated. The mayor does not even have a decent political machine backing him. The Democratic Party factions bicker beneath him.

    I guess you could say good for Finch.

    • carolanne curry

      Jim Callahan // Dec 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm
      to your posting …

      What is the role of 20 City Council members who passed off this 8 million dollar deficit budget like a hot potato? I don’t group them with the newspaper and I don’t group them with the citizens. These two are the reactors, but the City Council is the actor and holds as much responsibility as the Mayor for allowing this deficit to become such a painful reality.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Lennie, how could you leave out Season 10 of Family Guy December 12, 2010 episode “Road to Bridgeport, Connecticut?”

    www .fox.com/familyguy/full-episodes/708351551001

  • Mojo

    *** Top stories for me: 1. death of 2 Bpt. firefighters, 2. tornado, 3. Obama visit, 4. voting debacle, 5. city & BOE budget, 6. local crime, 7. New Dem. Governor, 8. lady Huskies winning streak, 9. big snowstorm, 10. Family Guy. ***

  • flubadub

    I believe the death of the two firefighters is the top story. And as someone posted earlier (tc?), we still do not know the root cause of their deaths.

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