Civil Council Passes Budget

What a bunch of party-poopers.

On a night the City Council lowered Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed mil rate a smidge and increased the tax collection rate a smidge in overwhelmingly passing the central parts to the mayor’s budget, there was no yelling, no screaming, no real name-calling. Nothing. What a bore. What happened to the days when civility was a foreign language?

Actually, it’s just the way Finch wants it, nice and quiet, as he approaches the midway point of his mayoralty. The new budget year begins July 1.

The bottom line to this budget for taxpayers heading into a revaluation implementation year is a mixed bag. City officials say roughly 60 percent of taxpayers will receive a tax reduction or the same tax bill with the rest receiving a modest or heavy increase. The mayor, for instance, will see a large increase on his home as a result of his assessment.

The council session was relatively tame with just a couple of folks attending from the general public. The council spent the longest debate on Councilman Bob Troll Walsh’s motion to privatize the City Attorney’s Office. Troll has had a running battle in recent years with City Attorney Mark Anastasi who he claims doesn’t respect council member requests, helps respective administrations rationalize public policy rather than giving legal advice and has failed to contract minority hiring for legal services.

Walsh motioned for the $1.4 million legal budget to be eliminated and called for all legal services to be farmed out. His motion was defeated. Finch emphasized that he has successfully reeled in legal fees to expensive outside law firms, and farming out all legal services would be counterproductive.

Walsh also criticized Budget and Appropriations Co-Chair Bob Curwen for supporting an increase of the tax collection rate from 96.18 to 96.38 percent, something the full council supported. Walsh, an accountant, called it “gimmick accounting” to falsely raise revenues.

City Finance Director Mike Feeney and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn told OIB that tax collections are running slightly ahead of the anticipated pace so they do not oppose the adjustment.

The only time council exchanges perked up was when Curwen called Walsh’s suggestions irresponsible, including Walsh’s call to slash $260,000 from the department of Economic Development.

The council passed the budget 16-3 with Walsh and North End Council members AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia and Michelle Lyons voting against the budget.

Finch said the $490 million budget passed is roughly $3 million lower than last year while maintaining basic services. The mayor can veto council changes, but it doesn’t appear that he will. The council will set the final mil rate in early June. As passed Monday night the mil rate is 38.7.

The one major unknown to the city budget is the funding impact from the state legislature which will not pass a budget until next month.

I also found out a few other things Monday night. City Council President Tom McCarthy announced that a tax surcharge on commercial properties is still on the table. McCarthy said he could support a surcharge of 2.5 percent designed to wire a tax credit to residential homeowners, but wanted to review the legal niceties before making a final decision.

Paul Timpanelli, chief of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, says a business tax surcharge is a killer to retain and attract business. The council still has before July 1 to act on it. Finch has said he does not support it.

Councilman Rich Paoletto, who represents the upper East Side along with Curwen, says he’s leaning heavily toward reelection. Long-time city pol from the district Andy Fardy is planning a primary if he does not receive the district endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee.

Sue Brannelly, who represents Black Rock, is looking for a council partner. Looks like Brian Crowe will not seek reelection.



  1. Zoning panelist never OK’d, but still serves
    By Keila Torres
    Updated: 05/11/2009 11:12:29 PM EDT

    BRIDGEPORT — A Planning and Zoning Commission member, appointed to serve out an unexpired term on the panel, continues serving on the commission more than two years after the term expired even though the city Ethics Commission has refused to recommend that she be appointed, precluding the City Council from ever voting on her appointment as required.

    Anne Pappas Phillips was appointed and administered the oath of office to serve as a PZC alternate for an unexpired term by then-Mayor John Fabrizi in April 2006. The term expired in December of that year.

    Members of the city’s boards and commissions are selected by the mayor. Then, the Ethics Commission and the City Council’s Miscellaneous Matters Committee review the candidates, and if they pass muster, the names are forwarded to the full council for final action.

    Pappas Phillips’ appointment did not make it before the Ethics Commission until August 2006, according to the Ethics Commission minutes filed in the City Clerk’s office. Since then, Phillips’ appointment has failed to pass the ethics panel several times, even as recently as last fall.

    Ethics Commissioner Jeff Kohut said panel members were concerned about Phillips because of a legal issue over a decade ago. He would not specify the specifics of the matter, given ethics panel rules barring public discussion of its cases.

    However, the Connecticut Post learned that the Statewide Grievance Committee in 1996 conducted a hearing in New Haven Superior Court on a complaint filed against Phillips. According to the decision filed by the grievance committee, Phillips, a former land-use lawyer, was hired by the complainant, Domenic Cammarota, who planned to purchase several condiminium properties at 3370-80 Madison Ave.

    On Christmas Day 1994, the Cammarota and Pappas families spent the holiday together and the Cammarotas told Phillips’ father, former Judge James Pappas, about their plan to purchase the property, according to the decision. Less than a week later, Phillips represented her father in the purchase and final closing of the Madison Avenue condominiums.

    The state committee found that Phillips’ representation of her father was a conflict of interest. “The Respondent [Phillips] was aware of the Complainant’s interest in the condominium at the time of representing both her father in closing the condominiums and the Complainant.”

    Asked if this was the incident that concerned the Ethics Commission, Kohut admitted that it was.

    Phillips, however, discredited the case. “The argument wasn’t mine. It did belong to my father who was a judge who was smart enough to get his own attorney. I haven’t practiced law in 12 years,” she said.

    As for the Ethics Commission’s refusal to approve her appointment, Phillips said: “I don’t agree with it. Obviously the mayor didn’t agree with it. Even Fabrizi didn’t agree with it.”

    Adam Wood, Finch’s chief of staff, declined to comment on the Ethics Commission’s denial of Phillips’ appointment or the fact that the City Council has never acted on her appointment.

    “Anne Phillips is filling a temporary appointment which has technically expired. Under the city Charter; Chapter 2, section 8, like all expired appointees Anne Phillips serves until a successor is appointed and qualified,” Wood said. “The mayor for reasons of continuity and recognition that the zoning re-write is in its final hour has made a determination that he will not be interrupting the service of current board members until the zoning re-write is complete.”

    But, City Council member Robert Walsh, D-132, argued that the city charter refers to full commissioners, not alternates. “These alternates are not appointments to boards and commissions. There is a huge difference. Alternates are there to try to avoid a scenerio happening where boards can’t reach a quorum. Alternates are not even addressed in the city charter,” he said.

    Walsh called Phillips’ continued role on the PZC a “shady” situation and said the city’s municipal code of ordinances makes it clear that alternates are only supposed to serve as temporary appointments.

    Chapter 2, section 102, of the city’s municipal code states: “There shall be a panel of alternates composed of three members appointed by the mayor for a temporary term of one hundred eighty (180) days … If the mayor fails to recommend to the full council such alternates or the council fails to approve said alternates, the temporary term shall expire and the mayor shall appoint new alternates.”

    “In my opinion, the city knows that what they are doing is wrong, but they are risking land-use decisions so they can keep her on as a shadow vote,” said Walsh.

  2. On this one the Troll is wrong. “Alternate Member” is in fact a public office and “until a successor is appointed and qualified” language applies. That said, should anyone continue to serve on that basis for TWO YEARS? Of course not and the Mayor needs to do something about it.

    Another concern. It is one thing for the Ethics Commission to meet in private when they are investigating a complaint. It is quite another to meet in secret to consider an appointee to any public office, take no action and avoid all accountability. That is, frankly, UnAmerican.

  3. Councilmen Curwen stated in today’s post that he expects his district to see a slight decrease in their taxes. Of course he does!!!
    Nunn and Feeney stated that there has been a slight increase in the taxes that have been collected. How much more? Give it to us in dollars or in a percent. Just saying it does not make it so. Figures lie and liars figure.
    It’s great that the council is still holding the business community hostage by keeping the business tax on the table.
    I am glad to see the Great Kreskin was hired to increase the percentage of taxes projected to be collected. Will he be around in the mid-year budget time when the actual percentage of taxes collected are lower than projected?
    Congrats to Lyons, Paniccia and Walsh for voting no on this phantom election-year budget.

  4. When it comes time to locate the wind company’s manufacturing and assembly plant why would want to do it Bridgeport with a 5% or 2.5% business tax? We can go to Stratford, New Haven, or the Valley. In today’s economy businesses are looking for the most cost-effective locations and consider taxes, enterprise zones, property tax credit etc. … It would seem that it would be more advantages to have a company that employs new people, pays property tax, (especially if they have equipment) and will provide ancillary business as well. I will be watching closely what Bridgeport chooses to do on this issue.

    PS Has the Board of Education lowered their budget request to the city or had any luck negotiating with the teacher’s union?

    1. MCAT shows her true colors pimping for the business community! Without any other facts, she has immediately determined that it is more costly to do business in Bridgeport than elsewhere if a tax surcharge is passed. Period. She does not need to look at the value of property, she does not need to look at the cost to lease space, she does not know about or totally discounts the state’s manufacturing property tax legislation, etc. etc. etc. Like all selfish business people all she will say is if she thinks it might cost a business a penny more to do business in Bridgeport then she will direct her business clients elsewhere.

    2. And “PS Has the Board of Education lowered their budget request to the city or had any luck negotiating with the teacher’s union?” Again, for someone who acts like she know a lot, she should know about MBR and what state law has to say about what boards of education must do with their money. So the BOE has no impact on the surtax unless she is openly suggesting that business people would rather see a city shortchange their school children just to save a buck for businesses. If that is how your clients feel then they definitely should take their business elsewhere. B-port has too many businesses like this already today.

  5. I really believe Bridgeport has a nasty behavior trait that resembles crabs in a basket. Crabs anatomically cannot walk forward, they can only move sideways or backwards. Crabs in a basket constantly try to pull those that are trying to get out back in and under the heap.

    Many very good and honorable people are trying to make Bridgeport succeed. However, there is this awful undercurrent that tries to stifle them and thwart Bridgeport’s ability to reach the tipping point. Look at this article by Keila Torres, which mysteriously isn’t in today’s paper and isn’t online yet. The Mayor is going to swear in a guy to the PZC that has been in violation of zoning by operating an open-air contractor yard that contributes to the high asthma rate in Bridgeport’s children. The Council actually approved this guy even though he is in litigation against the very board he will be serving. Then you have another, this Alternate who, according to the report, was brought up on a grievance that happened 15 years ago that dealt with her father, a sitting judge of many decades. Whatever the particulars, that was 15 years ago and I for one know that a father with that kind of pedigree will do what he wants, not what his young daughter would recommend. What in heavens name does that 15 year old issue have to do with the current state of the PZC anyway? Look at her record in the last three years when it comes to the PZC. This Alternate attends every meeting, works hard to do her research, asks important and relevant questions, and has only one mission; to do the very best for the City she has called home for many decades. The Ethics Commission should revisit the issue with this Alternate and the Council should act favorably with regard to her appointment. The crabs should put it to rest.

    I truly hope the Mayor will not swear in the non-compliant contractor. I do applaud the Mayor for not removing any more PZC members until the new zoning map and regs are finalized. It is a darn shame that several members that participated in the Master Plan development are no longer on the PZC. Enough damage has been done. The best interests of the City are for the PZC to finish their work asap.

  6. Only in Bridgeport could the ethics committee vote down a person that was involved in an alleged incident that happened 15 years ago and then turn around and vote for a person that has a suit against the very board he is nominated to.
    It seems that if you make a mistake and then over a period of years do many, many good things for your city you still are paying for a perceived mistake.
    To make matters worse this latest person nominated to P&Z lied to the ethics commission and to the council committee reviewing his nomination and still gets the council to vote favorably for his nomination.
    Either the council just rubber-stamped this nomination or were ordered to vote yes on this nomination. Business as usual.

  7. I’m surprised the guy isn’t schizophrenic. One moment Mojo is congratulated for making a good point and then is ordered to grow a backbone–all in a single post! If this blog needed a referee, Mojo would be my choice–he’s seen it all.

    www < -- Bridgeport Police photo circa 1914--see anyone you know? Fact: GE has invested millions in wind farms in NY state--all using GE-manufactured turbines. WHO is capitalistpropaganda and WHY does he/she post stories from The Post?

  8. Reaper, you are very quick to jump to conclusions and not reading or understanding what was posted. Is that your M.O., not to listen to the other side, just put forth your own ideas while not at least understanding the opposition’s arguments?

    1) I asked why should businesses choose to locate in Bridgeport if they can go where they get a better tax deal; I did not state that my company will.
    2) If that question wasn’t asked you would not be a very competent business owner.
    3) With elected officials like you why would any business want to deal with all this political discontent in an atmosphere of distrust?
    4) If an idea to help Bridgeport comes from outside of Bridgeport people are suspect of their intentions.
    5) If an idea for helping Bridgeport comes from within one of the factions in Bridgeport, the other two or three groups cry foul.
    6) P.S. means post script and the text of the P.S. has nothing to do with the content of the main post.
    7) I was curious to see if the Bridgeport’s Board of Ed was talking with the CEA or TLA, purely a question.
    8) I am very pro-education, but I am being a realist and pragmatic. I have heard you decry others for wanting good things but call them “airhead” or “moonbeam.”
    9) Has anyone here even tried to post objectively about the pros and cons of a business tax and then come to a conclusion?
    10) I am glad Bridgeport stepped up its collection of taxes, because no one should have to subsidize people who don’t pay their legal and just taxes.

  9. www < -- In this story, a Greenwich hedge fund bought Stella D'Oro, the famous bakery, because they thought they could extract money from its union. Shame on them for their managerial ineptitude that put concessions ahead of their own input. They didn’t add value; they’re trying to subtract it. I hope they lose. Boo-hiss.

    I’m not upset if a contract is reworked to salvage a municipality but not a $20 billion hedge fund!

    Reality check: Mayor Finch succeeded where a hedge fund failed.

  10. *** Thanks L/E for the observation & G/R for letting the cat called (SCHIZO) out the bag!!! *** P&Z can’t catch a break lately and when the “Big Bopper” is done with them, it’s the Ethics Committee’s turn for a new “Makeover”! *** Forget about it! ***

  11. It’s more than taxes that dictates where a business locates their operations. If taxes were all that mattered, nobody would ever locate their business in New York City where rents and taxes are the highest in the country. Although it’s not a good reason to raise taxes, high costs are frequently associated with good locations.

  12. I agree that high costs are often associated with a good location but Bridgeport has yet to establish itself as a good location to do business. We need to encourage businesses to locate here. Having recently started a small business here I say with certainty the city has a long way to go in making itself attractive to small business. When we are a good location we can charge for it. We are not there yet. Yes a tax is a consideration in where you locate a new business among other things. It’s a bad idea.

  13. What’s Goin’ On:

    Counterfeit Cash
    “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” Scott Keeton will no doubt say when he takes the stage of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre tonight–even though he obviously isn’t. So who is this guy? Keeton is an Oklahoma City singer/songwriter of the Americana variety, a distant relative of the Man in Black himself and a prominent Cash impersonator. During a four-day stint at the theater, he’ll shuffle through Cash’s repertoire–I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, Folsom Prison Blues–all while channeling a Tennessee drawl and outfitted in darkness from head to toe. And every Johnny Cash needs a June Carter Cash. Ashley DePascale, a West Haven native, will take on that role this weekend. Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport. Thu.-Sun.; see Web site for times. $33. (203) 576-1636, www

    My Bum is on the Swedish
    Coming in for Two Boots’ new Indie Thursdays are Swedish indie punk band MOA and New Haven art-rockers Fay Réy. Things to know before you go: MOA’s publicity photos feature a strong topless-with-hand-down-pants theme (the ass-end of the pants) and their MySpace page says they’re “all blade, no handle.” MOA brings a saxophone and some wild jungle vocals to go with its blues/punk sound. Watch for more of these Thursday shows at Two Boots, at least through May. Two Boots, 281 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. 9 p.m. $5. (203) 331-1377, www

    Dancing with the Saints
    Oddly enough, the Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Company is one of the most acclaimed collegial dance troupes in the country, stacking up awards from across the globe (including a win in the prestigious British Formation Championship). Pulling off their eye-popping moves would tough for any troupe, let alone one confined to wrist-long sleeves, knee-length skirts for women and gonad-ensnaring magic underwear. Fairfield Theatre Company, Klein Memorial Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. 8 p.m. $5-$25. (203) 259-1036, www

    Gallery Girl–you’re in the right place. Best Wishes with your business!

  14. Damn does anyone not have an agenda on here??? No one even sticks to the subject … just their own agenda and then the gloves come off and the fights begin … btw … Mr. Mojo … when did you become Italian??? … it’s fuggedaboutit … glad to be of service.

  15. To Former City Official and Countdown,
    Chapter 19, Section 5 of the City Charter reads:

    (a) There shall be a Planning and Zoning Commission, composed of nine (9) members, which shall be the planning and zoning authority of the city.
    (b) The terms of office of the members of the commission shall be three years which shall commence on the first day of January. Those terms shall be staggered so that no more than three terms shall expire annually.
    (c) Vacancies on the planning and zoning commission shall be nominated by the mayor and the members of the city council and filled by the mayor, with the advice and consent of sixty per cent of the entire membership of the city council (exclusive of the Mayor), for the balance of the term.
    (d) The current planning commission consisting of five (5) members plus alternates and the current zoning commission of five (5) members plus alternates shall be combined into a nine (9) member planning and zoning commission.

    So back in 1993 when the Planning and Zoning Commission was combined and the separate planning and zoning commissions were eliminated the implementing language also eliminated alternates. So according to the City Charter there is no such thing as an alternate to the P & Z and therefore the City Charter is silent on expired terms. Ergo, she must go.

    1. *** I believe you covered it Bob, from P to Z! *** Also B/F, I didn’t know I was blogging in Italian either. It all sounds & looks Greek to me after a few glasses of “vino”! *** “You know what I’m saying”! *** Hey-ho! ***

  16. Here’s a new acronym for the die-hard optimist: TWINE as in The World Is Not Ending.

    Trade your rope for TWINE and you’ll be alright!


  17. I now am starting to understand why some towns are privatizing their governments and running it like a business! Bridgeport’s biggest problem is nepotism.

  18. With all of this BOE money flying around and a H.S. dropout rate of 68% (good use of money, by the way): Why not create an education program for our city officials and council people and have Mr. Mayor in front of the class in a prominent seat. They can all learn what “ethics” means, money management, cooking (not the books), leadership; I think you get my drift.
    Remember: they have plenty of empty seats in school; what a sad joke.


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