Confronting City’s New ‘RoboCops’

Bridgeport parking meter
CT Post photo.

Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez’s patience meter for the city’s new Downtown parking meters has run out. She writes in a commentary “patrons of downtown businesses are given tickets without ever being told, warned, advised or otherwise notified that pulling over into an empty space for more than 5 minutes will result in a $40.00 ticket.” The commentary also appears in the CT Post.

From Lopez:

In Washington, President Trump promises to drain the swamp.

In Bridgeport, Mayor Ganim, aided and abetted by his Rubber Stamp City Council, is content to feed the alligators!

President Trump wants to build a wall.

Mayor Ganim has built a bridge to the corruption of the 1990s while imposing a ‘technology tax’ on Bridgeport residents.

Where is our ethics czar? Paging Ed Adams!!!

In his March 3, 2017 article, CTPOST reporter Brian Lockhart provided readers with a look at the impact of new parking meters.

On February 6, I came face-to-face with one of these “RoboCops” a/k/a Smart Meters. Nothing on the street was different, other than the new meters. There was absolutely no signage warning a downtown visitor of what a brief stop at a new meter would trigger.

On that date, I took my 89-year-old dad to Lafayette Barbershop on Broad Street. The barbershop, owned and operated by Juan Santiago is located across the street from the Annex. As is my custom, I pulled into a space in front of the barbershop, helped my dad out of the car, and escorted him into the shop. I then returned to the car and waited until Mr. Santiago signaled to me that my dad was ready to be escorted back to the car. My dad doesn’t have much hair these days, so the hair cut is usually quick. We then left to return home.

One week later, on February 13, 2017, I received a “Notice of Parking Violation” for failure to pay for parking on February 6, 2017. I immediately made a trip to the Police Department and was directed to the parking enforcement window. There I was greeted by Mr. Bukovsky (my council member’s husband). He is not a police officer, but rather is employed by the City and assigned to collect the fines. I did not pay the penalty, but instead informed members of the police department to accept my appeal of the ticket. The appeal is pending.

Research on this latest scheme visited on the taxpayer revealed that on July 5, 2016, the City Council, without debate, approved an ordinance creating a “Parking Division.” Pursuant to the plain language of the ordinance, the “Director of Public Facilities” serves as the administrator of this new Parking Division with power to enforce parking regulations and the right to receive amounts remitted to the City for parking violations.

The Director of Public Facilities is John Ricci, a political appointee of Mayor Ganim.

The legislative history of this Ganim Scheme to fleece the taxpayer and downtown patron reveals a City Council complicit in the effort to keep the public uninformed and misled about its perpetual swamp management.

Not even the most cynical among us imagined that Council Member Milta Feliciano, a city employee and chair of the ordinance committee, would call a public hearing on the ordinance to order and adjourn it two minutes later. The public hearing was scheduled minutes before the City Council meeting on July 5, 2016. The ordinance was approved, without debate.

This new system, under the control of John Ricci, amounts to an Orwellian tax increase visited upon the people of Bridgeport through the use of technology and surveillance reminiscent of a maximum security prison. Parking meter revenue used to be deposited into the general fund. Now it has been diverted to a political appointee and a private corporation.

Due Process is a fundamental principle in our democracy. Bridgeport has now reached the point in its downward spiral, where patrons of downtown businesses are given tickets without ever being told, warned, advised or otherwise notified that pulling over into an empty space for more than 5 minutes will result in a $40.00 ticket.

You can’t placate the alligators; their appetite is insatiable!



  1. Judge Carmen Lopez, thank you so much, I had the same experience last week and I know I’m going to get a ticket in the mail this week. Everybody should NOT shop downtown Bridgeport, period. The businesses downtown need to feel the financial loss in their pocket and push Mayor Ganim and the City Council to address this problem now. I will drive a longer distance now instead of driving downtown Bridgeport. This is pimping at its best.

    1. Judge Lopez, thank you for sharing your experience. It’s unconscionable that an ordinance would be approved without a public hearing scheduled on an assigned time and date, with enough time to allow the public to comment. This is why I have been critical of the sitting CC members; they have no concern, nor do they practice responsible performance representing us taxpayers. Disturbing to now know that a sitting Councilwoman’s husband works for the City. It has always been a challenge to attempt to park downtown, the ticket people were like predators waiting for a meter to expire, but at least you saw them coming, and if a situation warranted common sense, a few would be receptive. This new method is akin to cruel and inhuman punishment. Ron’s right, unless it’s absolutely necessary to venture downtown, don’t go, no one should subject themselves to this thievery by the City of Bridgeport.

  2. It’s becoming clear the five-minute rule is a public relations failure overshadowing an otherwise successful rollout of great new technology.

    The judge is correct: The tickets are issued without warning. And the price is steep. The meters should be disabled from issuing these tickets and a more reasonable policy devised.

    This is why we have flexible technology–to adjust to human needs.

    I use the same barber shop. Last time I went, my mother dropped me off. If we had chatted in the car, she’d have been hit with $40, just as happened to the judge.

    This is a flaw. Let’s fix it by stopping it, researching how other cities handle short-term standing time, and put the new policy in place after a downtime public hearing and passage of an ordinance. Then we can re-program the meters. In fact, as downtown develops, I hope we occasionally adjust the parking ordinances to meet the current needs, knowing the meters can be easily reprogrammed.

    By the way, has anyone in the city administration even seen a demonstration of the smartphone app that works with these meters? I am concerned the reason there is no app is because the app is still under development. I think the explanation of “We’ll roll it out later” is insufficient. We are owed more information about the status of the app. Is it still under development? Is it being developed in Connecticut? Is it ready for beta testing? Is it failing abnormally in qualify assurance tests? If it’s delayed, why not switch to the Parkmobile or ParkWhiz apps already used in other Connecticut cities? What is the timetable? Why won’t LAZ Parking use an existing app?

    1. Doug, I agree with you but who is going to suspend and disable this system in order to research and come up with a rollout, the mayor, the City Council? No, that’s not going to happen but taking money out of those business’ pockets by not shopping downtown will jump-start the process. The mayor and the City Council have no reason to stop income coming from those new parking meters.

      1. Ron, I refuse to assign bad faith to the rollout of this program. And I refuse to penalize my friends and neighbors in the downtown community. They have their capital at risk, and they are not pawns. (Not even the pawn shops should be pawns!)

        This problem could be fixed within hours and certainly should be solved by the end of the week. This is new income to LAZ and the city (in the sense of being “found money”), so it would be a fine gesture for tickets issued so far to be forgiven and refunds sent with an apology letter to those who have already paid. That would turn this lemon into lemonade.

        Let’s prove how flexible technology can be by turning off this feature, which rather has proven to be a flaw. This would allow us to enjoy the many benefits of the new meters, and it would demonstrate the power of responsive technology. It would show that with technology, we control the meters, not the other way around.

        I suggest the Downtown Special Services District convene two community meetings co-sponsored by the District 131 councillors, Jack Banta and Denese Taylor-Moye, to hear concerns on parking. Researching parking policies is easily enough done. Let’s let it bubble up from the citizens. They can handle this question and make recommendations. (I have already suggested to Jack and Denese that they conduct such a hearing, and both have telephoned me during the past couple of weeks to indicate initial interest.) I suggest two meetings, actually: one in mid-afternoon primarily for downtown retail and office property managers (mid-afternoon, to accommodate restaurant managers) and one in the evening to hear primarily from downtown residents as well as from business managers who might be too busy with their own concerns to attend an afternoon meeting.

        I think that LAZ and the city have been caught short by the public’s strongly held belief that a smartphone app is integral to the usefulness of the meters. They do not acknowledge the hurt and disappointment prevalent in the public that the app was not available at the outset. They act as if it is a feature acceptable to introduce later. But it’s clear that many of us regard an app as essential in managing our parking needs. I repeat my advice for the city to provide a report in conjunction with LAZ on the status of the app. If it is not going to be immediately available for introduction to the public, we should consider abandoning the LAZ app and using either Parkmobile or ParkWhiz instead. Would LAZ have to pay a management fee to either of those apps? Yes. Could that be an incentive to produce a better app later? Yes. But the public is speaking. Bridgeporters want to stand at meters for more than five minutes without penalty, and Bridgeporters (in a city whose history is steeped in technological and business innovations) want the convenience of a parking app. Ending the 5-minute standing penalty and introducing an app (note the preposition “an”) would end this episode. Five years from now, we’ll be pleased with the meters and with other aspects of our 21st Century downtown, and all but a few OIB diehards will continue to complain about this botch.

        My own interest lies not just in fixing this flaw, but also in making adjustments to the parking ordinances to account for (and encourage) the continued development of downtown an entertainment destination, a creative economy locus, and a 24/7 residential community. I look forward to presenting those concerns in a DSSD/District 131 public meeting, perhaps at Burroughs-Saden Library or at the Margaret Morton Center.)

        1. Doug Davidoff, I respect and admire your respectful, thoughtful and informative comments. I would like to pose a question to you and I would appreciate your comments, if that is possible. My own personal thoughts of having meters in Downtown Bridgeport is due to dire/negative business conditions, we should not have meters at all Downtown. Downtown businesses and other entities already have conditions stacked against them. Everything should be done to encourage people to go Downtown. Frankly, I think the whole idea of parking meters does not even make sense except in larger cities such as NYC or Boston. The only possible advantage is it does force movement of cars and prevents long-term “garage-ing” of cars in downtown areas where space can be at a premium (even though I do not believe that to be the case in Downtown Bridgeport except around the courts). Conversely, long-term garage-ing is a problem in the rest of Bridgeport’s neighborhoods.

        2. Doug, I totally understand your position and I agree with you but try to understand my position, the mayor and the city council have no need to change anything and to do anything you mentioned. Now, could you tell why they would want to stop the money from rolling in with these meters? Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue ’til they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”

  3. The city for years has tried to get people downtown. So what do they do? They install highly technical parking meters that nail you for $40 if you are five minutes past their set time. This administration is loaded from top to bottom with idiots and incompetents.

  4. These meters got me. At the annex doing volunteer work and loaded the meter for two hours thinking this would be plenty of time. Second meeting went longer than anticipated and boom, I was five minutes past expiration time and received a ticket a week later for 40 bucks. But here’s the most troubling part of this new city program–an app should have been made available with the installation of the meters that would warn (protect) the unassuming citizen (taxpayer) that time was running out, but according to the Bpt Post, they weren’t ready to launch this app and they went ahead and installed the meters anyway. Great decision for the city coffers, not so good for the citizenry.

  5. Long gone are the days in which I could leave my metered parking spot with 20 minutes remaining for someone else to benefit and appreciate. The human version of these ticket machines are not gone. They now travel all over the city ticketing people for all sorts of parking violations. To add injury to insult, the fines double if not paid by deadline. Forget fake news, we need fake plates.

  6. On February 28th I sent Lennie an email asking, Lennie, I parked downtown Bridgeport at one of the New high tech meters. I was sitting in my car after parking talking on my cell prior to going into Ms. Thelma’s. A public works man came over to me and said they’ve just installed them and most people don’t know that if you take more than five minutes to put you money into the meter it will take a picture of your tag followed by a ticket in the mail. 

    Lennie informed that was indeed true and I thought how come no one I talked to had ever heard of the picture-taking meters nor had anyone read about them prior to their implementation? This is an affront to all that is decent and moral and it’s a New Low for Mayor Joe Ganim. Just when you think you’ve heard everything, Bridgeport will say listen to this!

  7. All this was discussed and should not be a surprise to OIB readers. Please look at the December 12, 2016 posting on OIB. There are actually additional postings. Or just enter “parking meter” into the “Search OIB” box and you will get the story. However, Carmen Lopez did add additional facts as to how the City Council passed the new ordinances concerning the Robo-meters and the fact that the money goes to Ricci. The fact The City Council Passed this so quickly is probably they had no idea of all the details and they once again assumed their usual role as rubber stamp for Ganim and Co. however,the question of how Ricci is maintaining the funds is a very interesting question. Personally speaking, whenever there was a discussion of the Downtown meters, I stated I do not go Downtown either because the meter maid storm troopers would be on top of you and now we have high tech storm troopers. If you go back and real ALL the capabilities of these Hi-tech surveillance meter/machines, you may very well have qualms about going Downtown.

    1. I would also like to find out how much income Bridgeport gets from city parking meters and fines from meters. Maybe the online City of Bridgeport financial websites will give an answer. But I’ve taken a look at these websites and I will admit I cannot understand or make sense/cents of the websites.

      1. Great. I just remembered I signed up for the Civics meeting/courses being held this weekend being held at the BPT Public Library. I might do a combo of bus or Uber for the Saturday part of the event unless the group that is sponsoring this two-day event has arranged for some parking.

        1. Several observations raised have been excellent, including the recent history of meter ordinance and departmental re-organization.

          1) About Council hearings, where does the public see the language for a new ordinance at the time of a hearing as well as view the discussion held by the Council sub-committee from the minutes? When you go to an “official hearing” on Ordinances the language of the Ordinance is nowhere at the public meeting site, and it is likely not passed by the committee to become available as part of committee approved minutes. This past Monday night, two new ordinances, no one speaking in favor or opposed. Most people in the dark for failure to have info OPEN, TRANSPARENT, HONEST and the Council members ACCOUNTABLE, right?
          2) With the new meters automatically able to provide tickets, was there a decrease in staffing regarding the meters? If automation is working so well, why have someone pounding the pavement in all kinds of weather earning pay, benefits and a pension?
          3) The installation of ??? many meters was an expense of ??? dollars and causes a regular payment to an outside Vendor??? What were the numbers prospectively? A net saving or a net expense when compared to the “old-fashioned way” we operated?
          4) How many meters were converted of the total in the downtown area? Plans for expansion? Is there a map published that would show streets where:
          a) There are new meters
          b) There are old meters
          c) There are no meters but time limits, like on State Street on the South Side of the Annex where cars can be parked all day?
          d) Any streets in the Downtown with no meters and no time limits, like near 300 Congress Street where some cars are there for long periods of time?

          By the way, we are talking about meters, money and our municipal policy, but what about take-home cars? Any news on this front?

          Thank you Carmen for shining another light and good commentary on this “created situation” that is different enough from the past norm as to require better communication. For instance, a downtown resident, Odis Hart spoke at the last February Council meeting on this subject and was scheduled to be the first speaker this past Monday but was not present. Mr. Hart rides in a four-wheel motorized chair on downtown sidewalks and has been observing how the public is being abused without its knowledge. Thank you for being a “good citizen” and bringing info to the taxpaying public, when City Hall forgets to do so.
          Tom McCarthy likes CC meetings to begin with “good news,” right after public speaking. Will he recognize the comments of Judge Carmen Lopez and Odis Hart on the meter subject at a later Council meeting? Time will tell.

        2. CORRECTION. The Bridgeport Generation Now Civics Workshop will be held at UB. Originally to be held at Downtown Library. WHEW!!! I don’t have to worry about the robo-meters, how to get downtown, etc.

  8. Frank, the article you referenced on December 12, 2016 talks about their convenience, how you can pay using cash, credit or phone. The only mention of the 5-minute rule was, “The new parking meters have a grace period of five minutes before a violation is recorded.”
    This leaves a reasonable person to think, feel and believe it means if one doesn’t add additional money to the meter 5 minutes after it runs out a ticket will be issued. Nowhere in any article you referenced was there a mention of picture-taking METERS. Frank, this is deceit at the public’s expense.

    1. Donald Day, you are absolutely right that 99% of the main article extolled all the “virtues” of the new meters yet it was only one sentence that mentioned the 5-minute rule. I would have missed it myself except for the comments made by Jennifer Buchanan with the addition of some other “features” of the new meters.

  9. EXCUSE ME, but this is one of the rare times OIB is behind the curve. I copied and pasted a post on the I LUV BRIDGEPORT FB site and Downtown merchants were noticing the problems with the great new meters. please notice this is dated December 5, 2016. I Luv Bridgeport shared Moe’s Burger Joint Bridgeport’s post.
    December 5, 2016
    Please read and share

    Moe’s Burger Joint Bridgeport
    December 5, 2016
    Attn: Loyal Customers

    Once again the City of Bridgeport screws over Downtown Merchants without ever getting our consult or points of view. New Parking meters are going up all around downtown. Although we know our old meters stunk and only took quarters but the reality is we are NOT a thriving downtown and should have gone WITHOUT meters at all, for about a year before plunking down for the most expensive meters on the market.

    We stand with our other merchants and disagree with the City’s use of meters as ONLY a revenue stream.

    #1) $40 for a parking fine is 2x the state average of $15 to $20

    #2) The city spends zero dollars marketing and attracting folks into downtown whereas merchants do spend money . All the city wants to do is penalize visitors who came on the backs of merchants’ marketing dollars. Many fines are paid by merchants such as us too embarrassed when a customer gets a $40 fine for a $5 hamburger.

    #3) Zero of dollars collected at meters or in parking fines ever come back into the downtown district to revitalize the zone.

    #4) We DO NOT have a Parking Authority in place even though the city charter clearly empowers us to have one.

    #5) A Parking authority should stimulate economic and downtown growth. It should maintain solid traffic patterns to encourage shopping districts, maintain parking efficiency and signage to encourage safe and respectable parking use, BUT instead all we have a Parking Enforcement with sole purpose of driving revenue.

    The new meters have cameras which takes snapshots of license plates. Tickets can now be sent by mail and alerts can be sent for booting and towing your vehicle if back taxes or fines are owed to the city. Downtown is now a TRAP for BPT Residents who will clearly avoid us even more now.

    YES we needed new meters but only after a plan to help and stimulate the economic growth of our downtown was in place. We are extremely disappointed and we are sorry to all our patrons who refuse to come downtown anymore because of parking enforcement abuse.

    We are actively seeking opportunities to relocate as we can no longer be stuck in the cross hairs of stupidity

    #MoesBurgersBPT #ArcadeMallBPT #BridgeportMatters #IluvBPT

    1. Shame on Joe Ganim, his entire staff (who don’t have to worry about parking), come in at 9am and leave Downtown at 5pm(hopefully??) and the rubber stamp ignorant City Council.

        1. We also have political leadership in this one-party city that is centered in the North End on Madison Avenue that does not have to worry or think about meters. Out of sight, out of mind. So the downtown meters are not even thought about. ‘Non mi interessa quella succede.”

    2. Frank, I was in and out of the store in seven minutes to purchase an item that cost $12, now I’ll have to pay $40 for a ticket. Now why in the world would I go back to that store or any other business downtown especially with no notice warning myself and the public of danger of getting a $40 ticket?

    3. Frank, thanks for taking the time for posting that letter. When I go downtown most of the time I shop at three different stores and they are three different ethnic groups, but those days are gone.

  10. Real, “transit-oriented development.” per the 21st Century definition, is supposed to largely obviate the need for residential automobile reliance and parking needs in the “planned” “transit-oriented” neighborhoods. No? So why so many residential automobiles parked in the cutting-edge, “transit-oriented” downtown Bridgeport neighborhood?! It would seen something must have escaped the attention of the developer/planners(?).

  11. Glad I saw this discussion, every other Friday I pick my friend up and we go to lunch. We were planning on going to the Publik house across from the annex. But after reading this, no way I’m chancing a $40 ticket. Looks like the Galaxy diner instead, free parking! Bridgeport will never change, it’s like the buffoons we elect want the city to fail, unbelievable.

  12. Remember the old saying:
    When they say it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money.
    And it will be proven when they do nothing about this problem.
    They will discuss, debate, defer the problem until a better solution comes around but they will not stop the money from coming in.

  13. Just my two cents. NO PARKING METERS AT ALL, Downtown. I agree with a previous poster, the merchants have enough of an uphill battle and we could do without the political patronage aspect too. It has become an industry.

  14. NO PARKING METERS! My friend got a ticket in the mail for $40 dollars. She had a handicap sticker, placed money in the meter and still got a ticket. Go figure. Shame on the city council that did not stop and think of the outcome.

  15. Thank you for the new meters update, I had no idea that if I pull over in one of those meter spaces to make a cell phone call or receive a call, I can get a $40 Parking ticket. Talk about ripping off visiting citizens in Bpt’s downtown! Even picking up someone who works downtown and parking for a few minutes, you’re in violation. Sad what’s happening in Bpt and to its citizens! You can’t trust anyone in politics anymore, and shame on those rubber-stampers on the city council who are lazy and have no backbone. Voters need to replace all 20 of them in the next city elections but we all know that will never happen with the way city voters tend to vote in Bpt!

  16. “Voters need to replace all 20 of them in the next city elections but we all know that will never happen with the way city voters tend to vote in Bpt!”

    Mojo, I would generally agree with this, but this is different. Usually the people don’t realize when they are getting taken advantage of, i.e. pension/raises increases for the mayor’s people, taxes going up slowly, services getting taken away, etc., those things are sort of overlooked at election time; but now people have to start physically taking money out of their wallets in an obvious money grab? People notice. It is time to clean house, a lot of the council members have been there so long, I think they become complacent, feeling no one will notice, so why research the parking meters at all?
    It’s time to rid ourselves of the McCarthys, Halloways, Lyons, Vizzo-Paniccia, etc. etc. etc. Let’s do this, Bpt!!!

    1. Harvey, that sounds good but nothing you wrote will happen. The city council and mayor will not change this process with the parking meters because it’s a cash cow. The council and the mayor have NO fear of anything happening to them because those who are complaining can’t hurt them, so why change? Now if you cause the businesses downtown to lose money by the public NOT coming to their businesses it will cause those businesses to raise hell with everybody and you will see change.

  17. Harvey, there is an effort in place now, but it’s too early to start. The movement is giving them rope to further anger the residents with their complacency and disregard for their constituents. Some districts are more vulnerable than others, but any replacements will be a start. The last purge was the direct result of a decision Finch made that carried over to the Council. If it happens again, it will go toward the Council exclusively. From what I hear, there are formidable men and women stepping forward to give it a try.

  18. *** Just another way to rip CT Citizens off for more money, only to waste on all the wrong things. Robo-Con, pay it now or pay the city much more later! Pays to stay informed on what’s going on in your city, good or bad! ***

  19. It is time some of the people who signed off on these meters should take a ride downtown. Maybe if one of them gets whacked for $40 maybe they will fix these. Clearly they have not responded to the complaints; they will “hear” their wallets.

  20. I heard a segment on the radio about eating your own dog food. Not in the literal sense but to experience what other people do. The show Undercover Boss is a good example of this.

    For instance if the chief of police had to wait three hours to see an officer. If the head of school system had their kids in public school and had to hear of the chaos that goes on, on a daily basis. If other people who work for the city went through what the citizens go though every day. Perhaps the city services would get better.

  21. I wonder just how many city employees including teachers actually live in Bridgeport.
    I understand 18 out of the 20 CC members live here and two others live out of town. One lives in West Haven. My guess is 5% live here and 95% live out of town.


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