Council Approves New Tax-Break Guidelines, Lee Has Questions

On a night the City Council approved new tax-break guidelines by a 10-8 vote, citizen fiscal observer John Marshall Lee raised a number of questions during the public speaking portion of the session.

From Lee:
For more than six years I have written and spoken about governance of our City. The last approved Charter significantly removed a fiscal review body called the Board of Taxation and Apportionment. It stripped the City of fiscal watchdogs with knowledge and memory of what was happening in the City. The power to initiate and to execute was retained by the Mayor. The Council was left with a duty to review the operating and capital budgets annually and little else. Between actual conflicts of interest with Council members employed by the City or legal opinions that restricted any desire to get “smarter” with measured decision making and evaluations, progressive results from the Council have been wanting.

I have often spoken about OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST governance. Where has the Council made progress in two years in this regard?

Did you realize that the Ordinances you address tonight revoke language adopted by the Council on November 4, 2013? Did you read that 47 months ago the City Council assigned OPED the task, in consultation with the tax collector and tax assessor of establishing “uniform and consistent policies, procedures and forms to ensure compliance with this chapter making such procedures, and forms publicly available within one hundred twenty (120) days of the enactment of the ordinance codified in this chapter.” Did the Council Ordinance Committee ever follow up on this deadline? And why did the City require a grace period of more than three years to comply? Is it because of a deal on Main Street where visuals have been presented, but not the financials that will show the guts of the deal and where the taxpayer stands at risk?

Have you taken a look at all the numbers that must be entered in categories that must be defined and then entered in work sheets? Is this more complicated than your personal tax return? Do you ask for professional assistance? My 2015 City Council running mate Tyisha Toms, now of the City Attorney Office looked for such language, had she been on the City Council. So I favor some type of standardization. But why is this rushed and at the last minute? Why give up your power to approve? If you have a new approach that is standard, then approval should be as automatic as the consent calendar, shouldn’t it? But are you sure how this formula works today?

Perhaps you should consider accepting the formulas from OPED as a starting point? But perhaps you should hold onto your review power and vote until you see how this all works out in practice? What is the goal of OPED? Does the Mayor have the same goal and priority? How would you know when he does not state such often and proudly? Another clause you have eliminated states: “The policies, procedures and forms shall be made available for public comment for a thirty day period prior to their implementation …” Why is that being ignored at this time?

If the resolutions provided and approved were to pass, inasmuch as they are a part of a process where a developer needs to apply for financial aid, just as families do for college aid for family members, will the taxpayer be part of the review team? Will the forms be made public for review? Or will they be considered confidential because of proprietary issues? Isn’t it about time that the 100% taxpayers are let in on the full picture since we are making an investment when the Vibes leave town with hundreds of thousands owed to the City? When a baseball team is credited with paying rent with an accrual by one administration and then the current administration has to reverse the accrual and let the current taxpayer, perhaps not a baseball fan, make the funds up? When a Port Authority has almost $1 Million of debt settled from OPED Capital funds illegally as well as property selloffs completed with two Commission members missing and no fiscal reporting to the public for almost nine years?

I favor open, accountable, transparent, and honest governance and representatives who are both knowledgeable and responsive. Are you such a group tonight? Time will tell.



  1. It is now apparent that Charter Revision will be necessary to go back and clean this up. The other main objective also would be to return the mayoral term to TWO YEAR. There is absolutely no reason that the term for mayor should be as long as the POTUS. There are many other issues that need to be looked at. It is very clear now that City Government in Bridgeport is broken and Charter Revision will be necessary. In the past,I called the present City Council the worst in modern Bridgeport history. I rest my case with this action and whatever they will do until December 1st.

  2. I agree charter revision is necessary to go back to a financial review board. Most Council people are not qualified for financial review. Where was NMcCarthy in all this?

    1. McCarthy was probably standing behind the door.

      I noted in an earlier thread that the City Council consists of twenty individuals that serve on a oart-time parliamentary body without compensation. None of them has an academic background in finance or accounting. As they sll have businesses, full-time jobs, family and other obligations none of them has the time or patience to pour over complicated municipal budget proposals.

      Charter revision, please. Bring back the independent nonpartisan financial review board. And reduce the mayor’s term to two years while they are at it. Ganim and Finch oulasted their usefulness after 24 months. Any longer than that and the potential for abuse of office increases, at least in this town.

  3. The charter has so much wrong within it that it isn’t even funny. Outside of the revisions needed to make us ethical again such as moving the mayor back to 2 years and reestablishing an independent board of fiancé; they can fix the grammar mistakes and remove gender references to make it a modern document.


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