When you’re outgunned nearly 10 to 1 by the city’s Democratic registration, it’s hard to bore through the party layers. But this is an election year for the all-Democratic City Council as well as five seats on the Board of Education where city Republicans could regain footing through minority-party representation controlled by members of Connecticut’s Working Families Party. On April 15, before the start of the next full City Council meeting, the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee will rally against Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed tax increase on the front steps of City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, at 6 p.m.
“Bridgeport taxpayers have been abused by an administration that does not seem to have a shred of regard for them,” according to a statement released by GOP Chair John Slater. “Coming on the heels of a tax increase only one year ago, a proclamation in the national media that Bridgeport is the worst city in the country to retire in, a report from H&R Block stating that Bridgeporters are the highest taxed people in the country, and a failed display of basic city services during the Blizzard of 2013 another tax increases is simply unacceptable.”
Bridgeport Republicans say that the City Council must vote down a tax increase that would “further pound an already overburdened tax base. People of all political parties and persuasions are encouraged to join Republicans in standing against this unjustified proposal by Mayor Bill Finch. Bridgeport simply cannot sustain the course that it is currently on.
“There are other ways that the mayor could make up for funds that he will not be able to draw from the State cookie jar,” the statement continues. “Only half of the city of Bridgeport’s property is currently taxable, leaving only half the city paying for the entire burden. This is clearly a long-term issue that must be addressed. The Bridgeport Housing Authority is the biggest landowner in the city. This administration has the ability to look to surrounding towns for support in either sharing the costs associated with or taking in some of the citizens currently in need of public housing. The clearest solution of all would simply be to cut some spending. If asked Republicans believe that Bridgeport taxpayers would rather keep more of their money than build another small underutilized park or research “green jobs” that may never come into existence.”
In 2009 Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka shocked city Republicans by winning school board seats running on the Working Families Party line. They are up for reelection this year along with the seats occupied by Democrats Bobby Simmons, Tom Mulligan and Leticia Colon. Under state-mandated minority-party representation, the Republicans could regain those seats by finishing ahead of the WFP candidates in November.
Mayor Bill Finch, for one, would love to see the defeat of Pereira and Baraka who oppose many of the initiatives advanced by school chief Paul Vallas including his hiring which they claim was illegal. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez has filed a legal complaint challenging the three-year contract approved last month by a 5-4 vote of the school board, arguing that Vallas does not have the legal qualifications to serve. Simmons and John Bagley, another WFP school board member, also voted against Vallas’ contract.
Finch’s options in trying to defeat Pereira and Baraka include embracing the Republican candidates for school board or recruiting petitioning candidates for the November ballot. GOP political leaders say they will not play footsies with the mayor on selecting their school board candidates. Democrats have made overtures to the Republicans about financing the campaigns of GOP candidates they can work with on the school board. So far the overture has been rejected.
In lieu of GOP candidates they can support, Democratic operatives may recruit petitioning candidates for November to try to win the two minority-party slots available.