Things are getting a little scratchy between some members of the City Council and Mayor Bill Finch as the city’s legislative body moves forward with the budget process.
Bob Curwen, co-chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee and committee members including East End councilman Andre Baker have identified some potential cuts that are a little close to the mayor’s office. Baker told OIB he wants to eliminate the office of Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn, the government-efficiency CitiStat program, and one of two deputy director positions in Public Facilities. That, he says, would save a cool $1 million or so.
What gives? Baker said he wants the mayor to spread around the financial pain to mayoral discretionary appointments in light of city unions stepping up to the plate to provide serious wage and benefit concessions to balance the budget. Budget committee members would also like to knock off another mil from the 39 mils proposed in the mayor’s spending package.
Baker argues that responsibilities in the CAO’s office can be absorbed by the mayor’s immediate inner-office staff.
That scream you just heard came from Andy Nunn and Chief of Staff Adam Wood. Nunn, who did an efficient job when he served as chief elected official for the town of Monroe, is chief of all department heads supervising day-to-day governmental activities and operations. He’s not a Bridgeport pol.
Wood, Finch’s closest political adviser, is chief of the mayor’s immediate staffers whose responsibilities include scheduling, constituent services, legislative and community outreach, and media relations.
The budget committee is scheduled to meet tonight to review potential areas to cut and then vote on them later this week before the budget goes to the full council for a vote, and then back to the mayor for final review, and then back to the council for a final vote and setting of the mil rate. Out of breath?
The mayor has strong veto power should he need to use it. The council would need a two-thirds vote to override him. It’s hard to imagine the council coming up with enough votes to blowtorch complete city departments. (Do I hear Councilman Bob Troll Walsh sharpening his teeth?) Should it go that far however, I don’t see the mayor allowing the gutting of Andy Nunn’s department or the CitiStat program that he has ballyhooed for efficiency.
But it would put to a test for the first time as mayor Finch’s veto pen.
Hey everyone, where are all the parties for Stinko D My Oh? Let me know.
OIB asked Jeff Kohut, a member of the city’s Ethics Commission, to write a special commentary regarding Jose Tiago’s appointment to Planning & Zoning. See his comments below:
The situation of the approval by the City Council of someone with absolutely no record of civic involvement or public service, such as Jose Tiago, to one of the most important and demanding municipal commissions should give the public great pause … The situation of the approval by the Council of such an unqualified candidate in the face of accusations of lying to the Ethics Commission and misleading the Miscellaneous Matters Committee during his pre-Council screening process is one that should cause great consternation and outrage among the citizens of Bridgeport–who will have to live with the results of this “decision” by the City Council …
Indeed, examination of the records of the Ethics Commission for the December 2008 and January 2009 meetings, and those of the Miscellaneous Matters Committee for their April 2009 meeting, would bear out the accusations of Mr. Tiago’s having lied to the Ethics Commission in regard to having no unresolved matters with the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the accusation that he misled the Miscellaneous Matters Committee when he said that he “wasn’t pursuing” a legal contest of the P and Z action against him over the illegal use of his Seaview Avenue property for non-zoned uses (his contest/court case with the P and Z is still in play–as is the P and Z cease-and-desist order against his illegal use of the property in question …).
The “decision” by the City Council to approve Mr. Tiago to the Planning and Zoning Commission was anything but that. A “decision” implies a logical process and the use of pertinent information; in the case of the City Council approval of Jose Tiago to the P and Z Commission, it was obvious that the councilpersons who spoke and voted in favor of Mr. Tiago were acting in lockstep, in one accord, having been given their marching orders by some influential entity; none of them presented anything resembling a rational argument in refutation of the accusations made against him, nor did any of them construct a rational argument for his approval as a P and Z Commissioner based on background or experience … The arguments by the 12 councilpersons who voted for Mr. Tiago’s appointment were based not on evidence or logic supported by fact, but on the denigration of the journalistic integrity of the Connecticut Post and on simple, indefensible denial of the accusations against the integrity of Mr. Tiago (which can be substantiated by examination of the aforementioned records of the Ethics Commission and Miscellaneous Matters Committee).
Truly, the support for Mr. Tiago at the Council meeting appeared staged and rehearsed–from the distracting, irrelevant (if not absurd) arguments of City Attorney Anastasi (who focused only on Mr. Tiago’s legal right to be a P and Z Commissioner and on the inviolate secrecy of Ethics Commission executive sessions …), to the sequential presentations by the supporting councilpersons who spoke only of Mr. Tiago’s forthrightness and the lack of journalistic integrity of the Connecticut Post.
It was just amazing how only 6 of 18 councilpersons saw fit to revisit the accusations of Mr. Tiago’s lying to the Ethics Commission and deceiving the Miscellaneous Matters Committee in their decision to postpone–if not deny–his approval to the P and Z Commission. This fair-and-sensible-six essentially sought–even in the face of the aforementioned accusations–only to see Mr. Tiago’s process deferred/restarted from step 1 following resolution of his legal matters with the P and Z … But the 12 supporters were so hell bent to fast-track the process that they refused to hear any real argument for adherence to logic and circumspection in the process …
This latter situation (and the obvious orchestration of the Council approval process) has a really bad Bridgeport-at-low-tide-at-the-old-burning-Seaside-dump smell to it … Something really smells fishy in Denmark! Why does this particular unqualified, lacking-in-integrity individual have to be inserted into the P and Z process at such a critical juncture? Who are the individuals behind his “installation”? Why has the City Attorney become so obsessed with secrecy on city boards and with minimizing public knowledge and input in regard to board appointments and land-use issues?
On a final, serious note, I can only say that I am truly disappointed and disgusted by what I have observed in regard to the screening and approval process of Mr. Tiago … Bridgeport has taken a giant step backward at a time when we can least afford it … I can only hope that the Mayor will intervene and rectify this situation by removing Mr. Tiago form the process before he is sworn-in and actually becomes a P and Z Commissioner … I know many people of real integrity and ability who have served their city diligently, albeit quietly, who are far more qualified than Mr. Tiago to serve on the P and Z … (If it were the Ethics Commission’s prerogative to screen candidates based on qualifications, I wouldn’t have voted for Mr. Taigo’s approval by my commission–however, by the Bridgeport Ethics Commission Ordinance, we are charged only with screening for ethical conflicts, not on the basis of qualifications … Based on the information provided to us on Mr. Tiago by the Mayor’s Office and by Mr. Tiago, we really had no choice but to refer him on to Miscellaneous Matters …)
News release from State Rep. Auden Grogins
REP. AUDEN GROGINS AND THE BRIDGEPORT DELEGATION FIGHT TO SAVE BEARDSLEY ZOO, DISCOVERY MUSEUM
Representative Auden Grogins (D-Bridgeport) has joined with members of the Bridgeport Legislative Delegation to restore proposed funding to Beardsley Zoo and the Discovery Museum that was cut in the governor’s budget. The proposed budget cuts funds to both the zoo and museum by 50 percent in 2009 and removes funding altogether in 2010 and would put both at risk for closing.
The zoo attracts more than 275,000 tourists annually from around the state and nation. It features an educational center that serves more than 50,000 Connecticut residents and provides a valuable curriculum on endangered species as well as education concerning the ecosystem.
The Connecticut Zoological Society, a nonprofit support group for the zoo, purchased the zoo in 1997 from the city and continues to run the zoo as a private, nonprofit institution with assistance from the State of Connecticut and the City of Bridgeport.
The Discovery Museum is an educational museum dedicated to science literacy. It provides over 60 educational programs to student visitors from all over the state and provides 2,500 hours of outreach education to Bridgeport public and parochial schools annually.
The Appropriation Committee’s sub-committee on tourism, at Rep. Grogins’ urging, restored the funding for the Discovery museum and adds an additional $20,000 to the zoo to bring the total funds to $400,000.
Among actions taken to support the zoo was a meeting to discuss funding cuts and restoration by the Black Rock Community Council, an organization in Bridgeport. A group letter has also been drafted to the governor in support of the funding.
An event, hosted by cablevision, entitled “legislators day at the zoo” on April 25th was attended by more than 27 local and state elected officials that support continued funding and highlighted this excellent attraction in the City of Bridgeport.
“I would like to thank sub-committee on tourism chairs Representative Terry Backer (D-Stratford) and Senator Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien) for their support. The Beardsley Zoo is a very significant and important educational vehicle and tourist attraction for Bridgeport as well as the State of Connecticut,” Rep. Grogins said. “The zoo attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year form across the country and it is imperative that we continue our support to ensure the survival of this valuable state asset.”
“Beardsley Zoo is a wonderful asset of the state and needs to be protected with adequate funding to keep its doors open to the public,” Rep. Jack Hennessy said.