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A Pearl, A Pol And A University Partnership

April 20th, 2016 · 8 Comments · City Budget, Development and Zoning, News and Events

Update, Video: The ninth floor of the University of Bridgeport’s duPont Tower Room greets visitors with an exquisite expanse of Long Island Sound, a visual gem in Connecticut’s most populous city, what university president Neil Salonen describes “the pearl of the Connecticut coastline” and the “safest college campus in the state.” Tuesday night Mayor Joe Ganim greeted more than 100 local and international students, faculty, city stakeholders and residents declaring that the once-ignored brain power of the South End will help create a gateway with Downtown for a commerce, education and quality of life partnership.

UB communications Professor Susan Katz, a seasoned political strategist who designed several of Ganim’s direct mail pieces on his way to a comeback victory last year (full disclosure: Katz designed the OIB website), organized the event in Ganim’s continued embrace of the university following predecessor Bill Finch’s myopic disregard for an institution that educates roughly 5,500 students, half from Connecticut and the rest from about 80 countries.

UB on the water

View from Tower Room.

Salonen joined Ganim in predicting the South End neighborhood, anchored by the school and P.T. Barnum’s waterfront gift to the city Seaside Park, will feature a brighter face in several years led by new housing, a major federal grant for flood control and infrastructure improvements initiated under Finch, a coal-fire power plant transitioning to natural gas, and a gateway in the design stage linking Downtown and the South End via Park Avenue. On the eastern side of the campus new housing is underway on the site of the former Remington Shavers plant also initiated under Finch. The South End factories are not coming back, declared Salonen, but the future is bright with hundreds of new housing units, a growing university and a working partnership with a new mayoral administration. He added that collegiate institutions are among the highest job generators in the state.

Ganim, an alumnus of UB law school that relocated to Quinnipiac University during the financial struggles of the early 1990s, discussed the challenges his administration faced taking over from Finch whom he defeated in a September 2015 Democratic primary.

He fielded a number of questions from the diverse audience, several that were not softball observations. A visiting scholar from China extolled the city’s waterfront park but lamented the trash she sees along the way, a university alumna wondered what he will do to keep taxes down and attract young people in the city, another student asked what he will do to promote entrepreneurship.

Ganim reiterated his focus has been on public safety and negotiating a thorny budget season that relies on many variables regarding the state budget. He said if his proposed budget is adopted by the City Council, about 60 percent of residential homeowners won’t receive a tax hike and some will experience a cut in a revaluation year. But so much of that depends on what happens in Hartford in the closing days of the legislative session.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Laura Palmer

    A fantastic propaganda event. Ganim boasted Mayor Finch’s accomplishments as his own and presented big dreams and promises without any transparent steps as to how he would accomplish them. He dodged questions and continuously stroked his and Salonen’s egos.

    Happy to see a partnership between the city and UB but steps for progress need to be laid out in a reasonable and attainable way. Businesses are leaving downtown, why on earth would economic development spark up in the South End without any secure investment opportunities?

  • Frank Underwood

    Was this where he handed out his 100-days propaganda pamphlet?

    Is this not the same money he criticized Finch for using with their Better Every Day/BGreen ad campaign?

  • John Marshall Lee

    “Ganim reiterated that his focus has been on public safety.” Honestly Mayor Ganim, is it your focus, and if so, why? Because crime trends broadly have been down for years, current attention has been on changing the way we deal with non-violent offenders, and on finding answers to recidivism are not drivers for increasing public safety expense.

    Honestly Mayor Ganim, is it because you are being driven to budget for the dollars that are a result of Bill Finch and company’s police and fire contracts? For which a large cohort of eligible officers were closing in on retirement and saw a MERS pension that gave retirement income credit for overtime pay would be better for lifetime pay for them (though deadly for Bridgeport taxpayers who had been dealing with Plan B Defined benefit plans that were as appropriately funded or more so than State plans). So here we are today with retirement obligations stuck on the balance sheet forcing us underwater in that reporting area, and also undisclosed to taxpayers by Finch in the FY 2016 budget current year. To meet those “public safety” obligations the budget at this moment ignores the contractual union agreements over in the Board of Education that has 22,000 resident youth in its developmental charge.

    Why does leadership not talk about these inconvenient truths that are coming home to roost? When is the next meeting of the PLAN A Pension Committee? To it is entrusted the payment of pensions to the retired fire and police officers or their widows numbering over 800 today. How much money is left in that fund? What is the balance in it? How many years additional do taxpayers have to repay the Pension Obligation Bond to create this fund at $30 Million per year principal and interest from current police and fire budgets? Will leadership speak up on this issue? Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    Let’s not get too excited about this talk of South End housing. The Remington project has been talked about for years. The last I saw it was supposed to be done by the same people who converted the old Fairfield Post Office into commercial space.
    That project dragged on for years. Finally ended up with a Plan B burger and a B Fresh Market. B Fresh be gone after just six months.

  • Frank Underwood

    Best question at 38:55.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Frank,
    Thank you for noting the Q&A.
    Ganim telling us about state required revaluations which he regularly deferred? Curious.
    Ganim reforming City staffing? Okay, but can we tell from his budget submission an honest number of current employees, targeted hires in the new year’s budget, unfilled or vacant positions? NO.
    Ganim budget ignoring any new local funds for BOE though he understands how underfunded the local system is? Comments on ECS formula problems and new lawsuit? Okay, but fiscal action? Not in evidence.
    Sad. Budget system still under review. Time will tell.

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