One week away until Mayor Bill Finch submits his recommended spending plan to the City Council for the budget year that begins July 1. That’s when City Council Budget Co-Chairs Bob Curwen and Angel DePara get a crack at it before it goes to the full council.
The budget will include more dough for city libraries per a referendum approved by voters. Also, additional money to fund pay increases for uniformed services. Last year the city received a huge break when the Connecticut Legislature approved a two-year moratorium on payments to the city’s bond-funded pension plan. The move delayed a $25 million payment for police and fire pension obligations. The rationale provides the city a grace period in anticipation of a market rebound. Can you imagine if the city had to budget that number this year? Yikes. Well, unless the state extends the authorization it will be due next year. But, one budget at a time.
The city can bring on 20 new cops, if it so chooses, through recovery moolah secured by Congressman Jim Himes, but with strings attached. Bean counters cannot use the stimulus dough to fund existing positions nor layoff 20 cops to make way for the new. The money is supplemental to current budgeted strength.
This is a crucial budget for the mayor. He cannot afford a tax hit. One person stands between him and reelection next year, and that’s State Rep. Chris Caruso. For all the political meowing about the mayor I see no one on the horizon who can step up as a serious threat beyond Caruso. The black community talks about finding a candidate because of dissatisfaction with the mayor over a variety of issues. Okay, who could that be? What candidate has the stature, money and political support to pose a serious threat? I don’t see one. There’s a movement to find a “black candidate.” The more black community political operatives hammer home that myopic message the greater the challenge to find a compelling candidate. That strategy does nothing more than split a community, especially one that has not, after all these years, coalesced with the Latino community. Former State Senator Ernie Newton? Ernie’s plotting a political comeback after several years in the joint, but I see him going for his former state senate seat in a few years, not a futile effort for mayor.
As for the Latinos, one name that pops up is State Rep. Andres Ayala who also served as City Council president during the John Fabrizi years. Andres is unknown outside his East Side state rep district. That doesn’t mean he cannot build his stature, but that takes lots of work and money. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez had acted like a candidate taking the mayor to task on Freedom of Information requests and living conditions at P.T. Barnum Apartments. Talk to Carmen’s closest friends and they say she’s not going to play. And even if she were interested what’s Carmen’s fund-raising ability?
Can Johnny Fabs make a comeback? Not without a coalition to put it together for him. Fabs has always relied on the political process to create opportunities for him. He doesn’t have the fire in the belly to create his own. His strategy is to hang around, hope Finch implodes and the party runs into his wide-open arms. That’s not going to happen. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa has told him you had your time.
For all the fun I’ve had about a Joe Ganim comeback, Joe’s priority is his family. He’ll readjust on the family compound in Easton and and get his life back together after a long prison sentence. Could his brother Probate Judge Paul Ganim make a play? Paul, who is up for reelection this year, has a safe seat. Why give that up unless it’s a sure thing? Rules of conduct for probate judges do not allow an incumbent to maintain the seat while seeking office for another so unlike other elected positions it would not be a free run for Paul.
So that leaves Caruso. What makes Caruso a threat? Super popularity in his legislative district, citywide name recognition and the ability to pounce on issues such as Jodi’s Jail. Money? Caruso doesn’t need as much dough as unknown challenge candidates. He’s run for mayor against Fabs and Finch and each time came close. Caruso is an establishment fighter. The business community doesn’t like him. Nor the editorial board of the Connecticut Post. They think he’s narrow-minded. Can Caruso buff a message that appeals to a broader audience?
Does this mean we’ll not see a large field for mayor next year? We could see several candidates. Unclear who they’ll be.
The mayor will have lots of loot for his reelection. If I’m Finch I say come take a dip with me, plenty of room in the pool. Why? The bigger the field the more the anti vote is split in a primary. Used to be the Republican candidate was ready to pounce in the general election beneficiary of a party split. No more. Zzz zzz Zzz zzz Zzz zzz! Local GOP is in a rebuilding state if you can call it that.
Labor Secretary Visit
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Congressman Jim Himes this afternoon will visit The WorkPlace Inc., a job training and placement center downtown partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Solis and Himes will tour the center’s facilities, interact with job seekers, and discuss training and employment opportunities in the renewable energy, weatherization, construction and retrofit industries.
The WorkPlace Inc. administers workforce development funds and coordinates providers of job training and education programs to meet the needs of residents and employers in southwestern Connecticut. www.workplace.org.
Himes had weekend constituent meetings to address flood issues. www.doingitlocal.com caught up to him and some noisy folks in Darien unhappy about the health care bill. Jimmy could have slipped out the back door. Ouch.