City Council Message–Time, Talent, Resources (And Karaoke)

City Council observer John Marshall Lee addressed the legislative body Tuesday night urging them to put their time, talent and resources to work. (And don’t forget about Karaoke.)

When you approached the voters you may have known some issues dear to them, had a good reputation in your district, or were considered someone who would stand for the community and have its back. Great. Congratulations!! Because now you are about proving that.

You all have equal time … that is 24/7 for the serious work of representation. Talent … skills, experience, knowledge, and relationships to come up with creative solutions. And resources … that is the TAXPAYER money in an operating budget or in a capital budget, already borrowed, the people who are employed in municipal work and the Charter, rules and policy of Bridgeport.

Let’s talk about time first; the time committed by you to Council work and Committee meetings. I have been surprised at the number of recent cancelled Committee Meetings of the new Council. A comment overheard suggests that the City had not set out much for you to deliberate, discuss or decide so meetings were eliminated. Does this make good sense for the community at large, I ask you?

There is much to be learned by the newest members, not only about how the City Council operates twice per month when you all come together, but specifically about each Committee, the nature of its work and background info necessary to pick up where the old committee left off. I am most familiar with the way Budget and Appropriations has worked for years. What discussions are they having on the CAFR released last week, a document that provides a wonderful overall view for you? Read the narrative. Puzzle out the financial illustrations. What plans does the administration have for the departments for you to review during budget sessions? What information can you review today so as to fully understand Capital budgeting plans? Have you discussed what professional assistance may be useful for more than the few weeks on operating budget formation annually? There are 5 rookies on this Committee. Don’t they need every chance to get up to speed before decisions are facing them?

Public Safety and Transportation did not meet in December or yet in January as a meeting was canceled. More than half the members of this group are newly elected to the Council. The budgets for Police and Fire have grown faster than average in recent years and overtime budgets have been reasons for negative variances, yet there is nothing to learn, discuss, review, or have basic conversations about? Do you realize that the fringe benefit line for Police costs more than the salary line? Why is that? Know any private business that operates that way?

Perhaps Public Safety Comm. might consult the monthly operating budget to see that budgeted fringe benefits exceed basic compensation for the department. How did that happen? Was it planned? Would they also like to know how the year closed with the final June 30 report used in the Audit which had revisions and adjustments? Has a request been made to the Finance Director for the document?

Times are scheduled for you to respond to City actions, but that does not stop you from scheduling your own activities other than a Karaoke benefit and inviting the public to participate. How much benefit came from your fund raiser by the way? That is news, by the way.

Your talents will shine if you do the time and let the public in to see, ask questions, and learn with you. You must learn to question more frequently. Where is the fund for Lighthouse shown in City records? Where is the income from In-Plant Printing since last summer? Are they charging outsiders to gain revenue? Just examples of questions. Your opportunity. Time will tell.

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8 comments

  1. Perfectly stated. Let’s see how the newly elected ones perform. I hope they shake up the status quo and get this city on the right track once and for all. On another item…anyone know where the “voter fraud” absentee ballot issue is??

  2. JML, the more direct route is to go to the Police and Fire commission meetings and to seek the information from and the police and fire chief. The chiefs runs the day to day operations and they make the requests and the commissioners oversee their budget and overtime.

  3. Gee, Ron, why didn’t I think of that? Perhaps you have found Police and Fire Commission meetings helpful to public understanding of those budgets? Well if anyone is actually providing “oversight” on budget and overtime, like a Police Commissioner, do you think that one or two questions or mentions of same might have appeared in the newspaper during the past five years about, POLICE COMMISSION comments on OVERTIME, on bringing civilian control under direction of IA and POLICE CHIEF with 2015 signed contract, with how $3 Million plus is likely to be saved on salaries in FY 2018, and NOW FOR THE BIG ONE…..How did the Commission not happen to mention to anyone that the last Police Contract which moved Plan B to CT State MERS would cost taxpayer an actuarially determined $96 Million plus interest for 26 years, plus any additional required contributions due to Trustees assuming higher interest rates for calculation purposes, than they earn each year. Ron, which of the Police Department Commissioners some of whom are being re-appointed have good grades at oversight? Or telling the public about costs of contractual matters? Four or five years ago I was impressed by a couple members of the Fire Pension group who were resisting the transfer of Plan B to the State.
    Ron, why would the City Council have a Committee structure such as it has without understanding it as a part of the check and balance governance equation? Unless you see the City Council only as a “tail on the dog” that is the administration from the Mayor, down, then it must establish and support its own view and understanding of City activities IMO. And, Ron, from your point of view as a man of color, a retiree from a public safety force, the fire department and a beneficiary of Plan A, how do you grade the Police and Fire Commissioners in the past five years for equal support of racial and gender employment opportunity categories? Time will tell.

    1. JML, you asked me, “how do you grade the Police and Fire Commissioners in the past five years for equal support of racial and gender employment opportunity categories?” I rate the fire commissioners, Fire Chief Rooney and former mayor Bill Finch and Mayor Ganim an “F”. In the past 10 years the Bridgeport Fire Department has not hired any female of any race and it’s not because females don’t want to be firefighters because females continue to apply to become firefighters here. There also been a cutback on the number of blacks being hired in the fire department.

      Just like with other City commissions the commissioners only do what the mayor tells them to do.

      President Kennedy challenged the U. S. Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to black high school students soon after his inauguration because during the inauguration parade President question why there were no blacks marching with the U. S. Coast Guard Academy.

      I do believe that the City Council Public Safety Committee are now monitoring police and fire commission meetings.

  4. Ron,
    I stated in the article that Public Safety had not yet met for some reason according to City records. What is the basis for believing that Public Safety Committee is monitoring Police and Fire Commission meetings? Do they routinely attend? Do Liaisons report in writing? Are agendas and minutes pursued with inquiries? Wouldn’t a few of these folks known the amount of the Police and Fire overtime expense in terms of the $99 Million 2017 bond? Time will tell.

  5. This is my first ever post on here,I have been for a long time pretty much discuss-ted with Bridgeport politics but now i have just a couple of things to say First I think John Marshall Lee is a great guy who does his homework like no one else,and I wish this city had a lot more like him.Last week there was a discussion about the Republican Party and its Chairman Mike Garritt some suggesting that Mike is a racist,I have know Mike for over 20 years and nothing could be further from the truth. Mike is not a racist in his personal life as well as his job as Chairman of the party. Its seems like its me

    1. real easy to throw out that word,but somehow ignore the destruction of Bridgeport by the Testo -crats–over the last thirty years or so one reason I became a Republican was as a protest against what those so called Democrats were doing to this city. That is where the focus s should be.

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