The Committee To Ungag The People, a community group making a lot of noise through silent protests, wants Mayor Bill Finch to remove Associate City Attorney Greg Conte from serving as legal counsel to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
They say Conte has gummed up the works. See details in a letter the organization sent to Finch on Monday. Greg, if you’re out there, feel free to respond.
Re: Associate City Attorney Greg Conte
Dear Mayor Finch:
We would like to extend our gratitude for thus far hearing our united voice regarding our issues with the Planning and Zoning Commission (“PZC”). We note that you have stood with us in calling for public hearings before the PZC on both the Master Plan and the controversial zoning changes we have identified. We also note that you have signed the City Council resolution approving the Master Plan with changes to keep our two areas of Main St. residential and preventing spot zoning changes to Testo’s, Greenwood Street, and Anton/Serpentine Streets.
Today we are writing to you about a matter that is negatively and severely impacting the impartiality, transparency and fairness of the PZC’s procedures. This matter involves Associate City Attorney, Greg Conte. Mr. Conte’s conduct in acting as counsel to the PZC at best gives the appearance of impropriety, sheds a light on his conflicts of interest and at worst could be illegal. We are hereby asking that you immediately remove him from his role as counsel to the PZC to inspire citizen confidence in that body, maintain the PZC’s integrity and end any appearance of impropriety.
During recent meetings of the PZC, Mr. Conte had consorted with counsel for developers who are seeking zoning changes that are detrimental to homeowners, taxpayers and residents of our city, and carrying the developers’ messages to the PZC without contacting, consulting with, or in any way taking into consideration the views of the citizens attending the meeting and whose property values and quality of neighborhood life could be at stake. These conversations, and Mr. Conte’s advocacy on behalf of the developers, are not a part of the public record at the proceedings thereby destroying any sense of fairness and transparency.
There are serious issues before the PZC. At stake are preservation and protection of our neighborhoods, quality of life and property values. If the PZC decides to establish all of Main St. as a commercial corridor and approves spot zoning changes favoring a select group of developers, land use attorneys and special interests, this will directly and negatively impact our neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
Through his actions, Mr. Conte has made the playing field uneven between the developers and special interests, on the one hand, and the residents, citizens, taxpayers and neighborhoods, on the other. Moreover, Conte has blatantly displayed his bias favoring special interests and developers rather than doing what the City pays him to do, which is to be an impartial legal interpreter of statutes and pertinent zoning regulations and matters. This bias has been exhibited on various occasions and has been documented.
We point to a recent Connecticut Post article “Public Comments Halted on City Zoning Revisions”, dated April 22, 2009, which reported as follows: “Conte told the board the public has a right to attend the PZC’s discussions, but should not be allowed to comment. ‘If you’re not paying attention, shame on you,’ he said of neighbors who might be surprised by the proposed zoning changes.” We have evidence that at the very same time Conte was “gagging the public”, he was being used as a mouthpiece by land use attorneys, developers and special interests to communicate with the Planning and Zoning Commission to get special favors snuck into the Zoning Map. In other words, special interests and developers had access to the City’s impartial land use body while the citizens did not. This arguably violates Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws, and calls into question the transparency, fairness and impartiality of the PZC.
Mr. Conte as much as admitted he circumvented public hearing requirements in a Connecticut Post article “75 Demand Master Plan Hearing”, dated June 30, 2009. To quote the article, when Conte was confronted with the fact that certain land use attorneys had the “ear of the city attorney” which in turn “gave that information to the Commission while residents [had] been told they cannot speak”, Conte admitted, “These individuals [land use attorneys] are friends of mine and I do on occasion speak to them … ” Clearly, Mr. Conte’s actions have caused the operations at the PZC to be biased against the neighborhoods and the taxpayers and residents who live in them. The PZC has capable staff members to gather any additional “information” it may need to perform its functions in a fair and transparent manner. It is not up to Conte to insert himself in that process to help his “friends”. He has clearly overstepped his bounds and exceeded his authority.
In conclusion, Mr. Conte has made himself an issue in the planning and zoning process to the detriment of neighborhoods, taxpayers and residents. He has become a distraction from the important issues being decided before the PZC that will affect land use, neighborhoods and property values for a decade or more. We therefore respectfully request that Attorney Greg Conte be removed from his role as counsel to the PZC.
Very truly yours,
COMMITTEE TO UNGAG THE PEOPLE!
Michael T. Voytek, Esq., Chairman
Cesar Cordero, Neighborhood Captain
Eugene Allen, Neighborhood Captain
Dee Manento, Neighborhood Captain
Mark Eigenbrodt, Neighborhood Captain
Don Tesch, Neighborhood Captain
If the library referendum question makes its way to the ballot in November how will library supporters sell it to voters? Whether you agree with him or not, Sly Salcedo, that genial attorney who filed suit in Superior Court on behalf of library rooters, posted this rejoinder to Local Eyes and donj on Monday. It’s worth repeating to show the rationale:
You’re up pretty early in the day … do me a favor and check out the North Branch and Old Mill Green Branch tomorrow and let me know how many adults are hanging around those “adult day care centers”, please.
In between court hearings today, I dashed into the Main branch for a quick look and saw the computer room was packed, I counted about 15 adults … anyone who looked over 18 … the rest were kids of every age on the second floor with 32 computer terminals … in the children’s room on the first floor, all but one of eight computer stations had a child and an adult working diligently; in the video room, there were two adults at two of three terminals … this was at about 2:30pm. At 4:30pm, I peeked in at Black Rock, with about 20 plus computers on site, only about 6-7 teens were at the computers, closing time was at 5pm … I did recognized one old guy as Atty. Ed Piquette who was reading the newspaper … a lawyer reading the newspaper at 4:30pm in a library branch on a blazing hot and humid day? I want that kind of lawyer job … then, quick ride to Newfield at 4:50pm … ten minutes to closing time … place is full of teens, no adults present at this “adult day care center.” Brave attempt to get to Old Mill Green at 5:05pm, only to see the staff locking up and driving off … Local Eyes, we await your report …
For donj: Great question, very insightful …
Here’s the breakdown: the current library budget from the city is $4,836,459 … that’s soup to nuts as the library is run today. In mil rate terms of your taxes today … this represents 0.069% of the total city budget.
… the Liberate Libraries Committee is advocating for the idea, as offered by the Library Director and supported by the Library Board, that as a City, we should raise the library budget to a full 1% of the budget or 1 (one) mil which equals $6,965,650 based on our current and projected grand list.
Now, let’s look at how this affects the average homeowner, if your home is valued/assessed at $100,000.00: today you are contributing $69.00 per year to the library budget. At 1 (one) mil, you will be contributing $100.00 per year. Look at YAHOOY, “he reads 2-3 novels a week at about $20.00 a pop” … after reading five library books, everything else is gravy for him.
Look at real Bridgeport people, let’s start with me … I bought a three-bedroom condo in the East Side for $75,000 in May, 2004 after a most amicable divorce from the highest paid, best dressed public servant in Bridgeport back in the day … the condo is now assessed at about $62,000.00 so I pay about $2,350 in taxes (using the mil rate of 38) … of that amount, $42.78 goes to the library each year. I’m willing to have my city councilors and my mayor take another $19.22 and give it to the library budget for a full 1 (one) mil towards the library budget from me. That’s all that’s being proposed here. No one is asking or looking for any new taxes to be raised for this effort.
I imagine that the heartache/headache for the mayor, if this referendum is successful will be, (if he doesn’t raise taxes which he should not do “in these tough economic times”) … where does he get the additional $2,129,191.00 from the city’s current budget (ie, $6,965,650.00 minus $4,836,459.00)? If he and the city budget staff cannot figure it out … I will step up to the plate and volunteer to help him/them. No charge and I’ll even bring the Doritos (Another pro-bono case from the 2nd largest minority law firm in Bridgeport, CT). Special flavors: we have Nacho cheese, Ranch or the combo pack?
Oh, yes … for bipartisan-ship’s sake, let’s look at former Congressman Shays as a high-end example … I believe his house on the waterfront in Black Rock was reported in the CT Post to be assessed at about $600,000.00 … his taxes (I estimate) are about $22,800.00 per year. Today, Chris Shays contributes a generous $414.00 to the library’s budget, and with 1(one) mil, he will contribute $600.00 … that’s about 30 novels that YAHOOY will read … he can do that in less than 10 weeks, on his summer reading program.
Where Has All The Money Gone?
News release from Congressional Republicans
Himes Owes an Explanation: Six Months After ‘Stimulus,’ Americans Still Asking, ‘Where Are the Jobs?’
Budget-Busting Disaster Still Hasn’t Yielded Results
Washington- Today marks the six month anniversary of the signing of the Democrats’ $787 billion economic stimulus, and Connecticut’s hard-working taxpayers are still wondering when they will see any positive effects on the economy – and still waiting for an explanation from Jim Himes about his vote to pile a mountain of new debt on their backs with no results to show for it.
“Despite all the spin coming from the White House and Capitol Hill, Connecticut families know that the last six months of Jim Himes’s stimulus swindle have amounted to little more than a monumental waste of money,” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain. “Jim Himes and his Democrat friends embraced a ‘Washington knows best’ mentality that put nearly a trillion taxpayer dollars in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians. Six months after he handed over their hard-earned tax dollars to his buddies in Washington, Connecticut families are still wondering: Where are the jobs?”
According to a new poll, Americans have lost confidence in the big-spending agenda that Himes and his allies in Washington continue to force through:
“Six months after President Obama launched a $787 billion plan to right the nation’s economy, a majority of Americans think the avalanche of new federal aid has cost too much and done too little to end the recession.
“A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found 57% of adults say the stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse. Even more – 60% – doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead, and only 18% say it has done anything to help improve their personal situation.” (Brad Heath, “Poll: 57% Don’t See Stimulus Working,” USA Today, 8/17/09)
After declaring that he was “not satisfied” with a pattern of slowed spending in June, President Obama set an ambitious goal to speed the Recovery Act’s pace. The pace of stimulus spending, however, has dropped severely in recent weeks, despite Obama’s demands to speed it up:
“Taxpayer groups say the numbers show spending decisions are random and prove that the $787 billion stimulus program has had no effect on the economy … . Spending as of Aug. 7, the 172nd day since Mr. Obama signed the bill, stood at $200 billion obligated. To meet the goal of $225 billion, the government will have to spend nearly $1 billion each day over the next four weeks — or nearly double the pace of the past four weeks.” (Stephen Dinan, “Pace of stimulus spending plummets,” The Washington Times, 08/14/2009)
In January, the White House warned the American people that without the passage of the so-called stimulus package, unemployment would reach over 9 percent. Then, President Obama promised Americans that unemployment would slow and peak at less than 8 percent if the stimulus passed. Now, six months after the stimulus was signed into law, America faces a $1.6 trillion deficit and 9.4 percent unemployment. (Source: Department of Labor)
With no real progress to show since January, Jim Himes and his fellow Democrats owe Connecticut families an explanation. After mortgaging the country’s future with a trillion dollars in new debt, will he finally take responsibility for a runaway spending spree that has failed to yield results?
P. T. And Kids
Stories in the Summer mean Fun for Families at The Barnum Museum
Hear a children’s tale and create a themed craft to take home
While your children are out of school this summer, consider bringing them to the Barnum Museum for some creative learning. This is the third event titled, “Book Tales and Fun”to be heldat The Barnum Museum, 820 Main Street at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays August 25. All materials will be supplied for the children to create a craft to take home. The crafts will be reflective of the theme of each book. The program is designed for children from age three to six and is free with general admission to the museum.
On August 25 the story will be “Look! Look! Look! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and the children will make postcards.
What: “Book Tales and Fun”at the Barnum Museum
When: Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. August 25
Where: The Barnum Museum , 820 Main Street , Bridgeport , CT
Cost: The program is Free with General Museum Admission
Adults $7, seniors and college students $5, children 4-17 $4 and children under 4 free.
R.S.V.P. to 203-331-1104 x106 Jaime Knoedler
Regular Museum Hours: Tuesday – Saturday – 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday – noon to 4:30 p.m. Closed Mondays and Holidays.
Phineas Taylor Barnum, one-term mayor of Bridgeport and four-term member of the Connecticut General Assembly, was born July 5, 1810 in Bethel and died April 7, 1891 in Bridgeport . The original museum building, owned by the City of Bridgeport, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is handicapped accessible.