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Borres: Don’t Let Political Vendettas Derail High School Proposal

February 13th, 2014 · 21 Comments · Education, News and Events

Cisco Borres, the Republican deputy Registrar of Voters, addressed the school board committee Tuesday night about the proposal to replace Harding High School. He is also a parent who lives in the Harding school district.

My name is Cisco Borres. I’m a state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commissioner, the Vice-Chair of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee and the President of the Mill Hill NRZ. That being said, I’m not speaking on behalf of any of those organizations tonight. I’m here to speak as a parent of a Bridgeport public school student living in the Harding district of the city and that is what is most relevant and most significant to tonight’s meeting. I’m concerned that we are in danger of losing an opportunity to better the educational potential of our kids, and worse yet for the sake of a political vendetta.

I think it is clear to all of us that the need for better facilities is desperately required. We have an opportunity to provide the children of the East Side and East End with a state-of-the-art environment that will increase the education potential of our kids. We should of course take advantage of a prime piece of land donated to the city by GE to build this school.

The Bridgeport taxpayers who are too often overlooked should also be taken into account when the decision of whether or not to delay this project is made. The State/Federal government is currently offering grant money that is expected to cover 80% of the cost of the building. The city has already been granted two extensions for this grant money and will lose access to this funding if those proposing to delay the project are allowed to do so. A delay at this time would put the burden of upgrading Harding directly on the shoulders of the already overtaxed people of Bridgeport.

Do we really believe that GE, an international mega-company, and the Federal DEEP, who will have to sign off on the land, are going to risk their respective reputations by putting children in a toxic environment? There are written statements everywhere that GE will bring the remediation of the land to “residential standards.”

Do we really believe that there is even a shred of possibility that the new Harding High School will be more contaminated than the 100+-year-old building that is currently in use? The old Harding was built before the existence of the DEP when coal-fired furnaces were the norm.

Carmen Lopez stated that the city has been working behind closed doors to sneak this through, however, as president of the Mill Hill NRZ I can state with confidence that the city (in this case) has been happy to answer any questions that our membership has had. As a matter of fact Jorge Garcia came to one of our meetings and gave a full presentation about a year ago in order to keep the neighborhood in the loop. I would even go as far as to say that the new school facilities will alleviate some of the needs that the NRZ has stated in our strategic plan.

I believe that some of those who are attempting to delay this plan are doing so for the sake of political vendettas that stem back to the previous board and the current city administration. Although I acknowledge the past indiscretions and secretive nature of the current administration, it’s sad that this would take precedence over the educational needs and safety of our kids or the responsibility to our citizens. Coming on the heels of trying to remove the police department from school security I’m losing confidence in and questioning the motives of certain members of the BOE.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Right on, Cisco Borres. Common sense on display. What is the agenda of the folks speaking against this project? Are they saying the current school is adequate? Do they object to converting taxpaying property into City-owned … a reasonable idea to be explored?
    Are they worried about the amount of increasing debt incurred for school and other capital projects?
    Is there some concern specific to the kids in the classroom since that has been their rallying call in the recent past?
    Are they saying the remediation efforts planned for Harding will still leave that school property disadvantaged relative to other education sites in the City?
    Lots of questions. Who knows? Time will tell.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      JML–I for one am so confused by the do not take taxable property off the future development list in this particular situation. A modern school facility is, in my humble opinion, the only acceptable reason for the exception to build here. Dear BOE, stop punishing our city’s children because you are still mad about the cases you won/lost in court. That fight is over, focus on the next mayor election if you are so driven by your anti-Finch agenda.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    The Cisco Kid shoots straight.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I have a question. Why can’t the students from Harding be temporarily sent to one of the buildings at UB and a new Harding High School be built on its present site? This is being done at Roosevelt school, why not Harding?
    Someone is going to bring up Bridgeport Hospital and their plans for the Harding site. Let them find another area to build on, maybe they can build in Mill Hill Ave where they secretly own almost the whole street.
    What is the advantage for Bridgeport by building a new High School at its present site? We save 37 acres of industrially zoned land for development.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Because the swing school at University of BRIDGEPORT is already being used by Roosevelt school. The school will take quite some time to complete. Harding needs to be replaced immediately.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Steve, just so you know there is more than one vacant building at UB that can house the Harding students. BTW what is wrong with the kids from Harding going to school in a college setting?

        • Lifelong Bpt

          Good point Andrew, what would the additional cost be to bus the Harding students to UB? The bulk of Harding students walk to school. I think that is another reason why the GE property is ideal (location-wise). Almost all of the students walk.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            The question (one of many) is does the extra distance although not that much further now makes those kids eligible for busing? We bus kids all over the city and outside the city so this does not seem to be a problem.

        • Steven Auerbach

          Nothing, if there were a swing school available that could house HARDING students. I do not believe there is.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Steve, right next to the building that houses Roosevelt students is a 10-story vacant building.

          • Lifelong Bpt

            Andrew–the extra distance would mean a majority would get bussed. No that much further? East Side/East End to UB is far from UB. Not a sticking point, but there are more than you think. I used to live over there. Hundreds of kids going either down Boston Ave, or back down Central Ave towards the CT Ave/Stratford Ave area.

  • Godiva2011

    Well stated, Mr. Borres.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Cisco Borres, like your dad Frank, you are most eloquent. You give hope to the Republican party. I could not agree more with your thoughtful and well-presented argument supporting the GE site for Harding High School. Those standing in the way are just plain ignorant. It is so sad time just keeps slipping away and Bridgeport just cannot seem to move forward. GE would never allow their reputation to be ruined and there are so many options when dealing with contaminated land. Encapsulation is just one option. Mr. Borres, I hope your compelling argument moves this project forward. This is good for Bridgeport, the neighborhood and most important, the students and the teachers.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    “I’m concerned that we are in danger of losing an opportunity to better the educational potential of our kids, and worse yet for the sake of a political vendetta.”

    Mr. Borres, have you ever stopped to think of the possibility the cause of learning disabilities of children and many other health issues affecting the general population has to do with environmental contamination? The BOE members have the responsibility to consider the safety of students first. The people raising this concern have a valid concern and it’s irresponsible for anyone to try to play down and silence those asking questions and raising valid environmental concerns. You call their valid concern “a political vendetta.”

    Republican City Councilman Rick Torres is the only Councilman raising his concern for the proposed Seaside landfill solar project on one of the most contaminated pieces of land in Bridgeport. Where have you been on this issue? If Pereira, Lopez and Bagley have a political vendetta because they are raising legitimate environmental concerns, then what you are saying is Rick Torres has a political vendetta too.

    I served on the Bridgeport City Council (1995-2001). Around 1997, the Ganim Administration pushed through the Landfill Foreclosure Plan. Bill Finch was the chairman of the Contracts and Appointment Committee and he handles this foreclosure contract. It was a $3 million deal with a company that was to be allowed to dump treated sewage and other earth material on the Landfill. As the company dumped these materials, they had to cap the Landfill. After three years, the landfill was to be closed. Bill Finch fully understood the dump had dangerous contaminating materials buried there. Now he wants to let UI dig and build on the land for $7 million and 20 years on more acres than Steelpointe. I challenge you and mayor Bill Finch to go fly-fishing on the lake next to the proposed location of the New Harding High School then cook and feed your children and family all your catch of the day. Did you read the part that read, “Just as long as you don’t drink the water?” Do you know where that body of water ends? Are you not aware the lobster and Horseshoe Crab is disappearing from the Long Island Sound? Do you know people who fish LI Sound water eat their catch?

    I raised the point of the lake and not one of you commented on that. Why not? Clean up the dirt and the lake will contaminate it again. What about the Remington contaminants in that area? No one seemed to care or notice the Fuel Cell Plant on State Street near Cesar Batalla School. Where have you seen such a facility build on a residential area near a school and worse yet so close to the railroad tracks very close to where we had a train derailment. What happens if the next one takes out the Fuel Cell plant? What if a terrorist selects such a soft target for a terror attack? How does any one of you dare to compare the current Board of Education with the prior one? Shame on all of you. I thought you would all be smarter than that.

    Let me let you in on what you all failed to notice now that you’ve got me on a roll. When Tom McCarthy first became City Council President, he quickly introduced a resolution. This is the very resolution that opened the doors for the energy-producing facilities like the Fuel Cell plant and the Seaside Landfill solar panel project ready to be rubber stamped soon. The projects were supposed to be small. Look at the State Street plant and the Seaside proposal and tell me they are small and safe. These are long-term plans that are taking shape today. For many years I’ve heard some very negative opinions about many of the bloggers here and I defended you all. Looks like I’ve wasted my time doing that. I am the parent of two school children. One attends Batalla and if something tragic happens to her due to that Fuel Cell plant, I promise those responsible will pay dearly. For seven years I’ve dealt with a trucking company who is responsible for the death of my son and refused to take responsibility. I’m not going to do that again. I’m having her moved from Batalla as soon as I can.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    “The owners want Remington Woods to be returned to productive use, but remain concerned about third-party liability.” What’s this? Liability for what?
    home.earthlink.net/~remington_woods/frw/id5.html

  • Mojo

    *** Well Cisco, you touched on part of the problem, “political vendettas” along with inexperience and ignorance at times! *** THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND! ***

  • John Marshall Lee

    Joel,
    You have raised the issue of the body of water near the to-be Harding site. Can you be more specific about this contamination and how it relates to the would-be school site?
    I have mentioned the Madison School remediation that was handled, found wanting in some aspects and re-remediated. I also talk prospectively about the Longfellow site. Children from the Hollow or West Side/Black Rock neighborhoods are equally worthy of environmental attention, but WFP did not go ballistic in these cases.
    What is it about Harding land remediation that is so different? And since we are a small land area community already densely used, is there a lesson we can learn from looking at the entire City to determine what we know about likely contamination and remediation?
    I looked at the testing charts showing the wells that were sunk to determine the extent of harm to the Harding site. It appeared to be a conscientious exercise with practical information. Brownfield remediation is a known field of action with necessary standards and methods. Why isn’t someone in authority or responsibility calling a timeout to the bickering and putting some objectivity to the subject? Time will tell.

    • BOE SPY

      The ‘waterborne contaminants’ argument seems like nonsense. If the pond were going to contaminate the land in the future, you would think it would have contaminated the land in the past. However, none of the contaminants found (lead, oil residue and arsenic) are waterborne (water soluble) contaminants. If you went to the site and looked in person, you would see the pond is several feet below the grade level of the lot. There is also a retaining wall that encompasses the pond. If they add some amount of clean fill, it will raise the grade level of the lot even more. You would hope if you are spending $40 million and the builders feel flooding will be an issue, they will make arrangements to prevent it. The factory was on the lot for ~100+ years. Does anyone remember seeing a report of it flooding?

  • Bridgeporteur

    Forget about the words “Political Vendetta.” Let’s be honest. This is all about money. Out-of-towners making big bucks in the name of helping the children.
    How about the process? Does anyone wish to comment on how this $40 million project went through with no public scrutiny?

  • Andmar

    Hello Joel, you mentioned earlier (or for another post) about toxic soil from the Bluefish site being placed elsewhere, do you know where it went? Also, you mentioned something about bones and gravestones, do you know where these were from, or how many were found, was this a discussion when you were on the city council? Last, I just want to say I am sorry to hear what you said about your child, no parent ever deserves this.

  • CT Taxpayer

    Let’s keep our eyes on the prize here and not get blinded by the sparkly object we call the “new Harding High School.” Anyone who thinks a new building is going to turn Harding around is being unrealistic. I’d like to see a plan for a new building, along with serious academic reforms. Oh, and knowing how Bridgeport works, I’d also like to see a plan for maintaining said new building.

    I don’t know the deficiencies of the current Harding facilities, but surely they are no worse than are the facilities at Bassick, which the city plans to renovate. Furthermore, Harding has more land, including an athletic field, while Bassick has nothing more than a small area of grass on the corner of Clinton Avenue and State Street. And for those who don’t know, Bassick was built to be a junior high school, not a high school. Only the addition was built with high school programming in mind.

    Bassick’s learning outcomes are about the same as Harding’s, but the thinking is a renovation will do just fine for Bassick. Will someone help me understand this?

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