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Council Committee Hazy About Solar Park, Brannelly Schools Torres On City Council Protocol, Torres: Love You Too

January 15th, 2014 · 17 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, Development and Zoning, News and Events

Torres, Brannelly

Rick Torres and Sue Brannelly, a few months ago, go for a ride on Rick’s bike built for two. Rick says he’s spinning his wheels for City Council information.

Maybe all the squawking from Republican City Council member Rick Torres about a proposed solar park is sticking to his council mates. Without drawings to eye thousands of solar panels on the old municipal dump in the west end of Seaside Park within view of Black Rock and West End neighborhoods, the Contracts Committee on Tuesday tabled voting on a lease agreement with United Illuminating to build and maintain the solar project backed by Mayor Bill Finch that calls for roughly $7 million in taxes over the life of the 20-year agreement.

Even Sue Brannelly, a supporter of Finch, backed away from the proposal without seeing renderings. Brannelly and Torres last week were engaged in testy email exchanges over Torres’ opposition to the plan without additional information.

Nothing like an email thread between City Council partners, one Democrat, one Republican, in the cause of council process. Torres claims the solar field will be an eyesore for his Black Rock/West End district. Torres has made his feelings known to city officials and his own council partner Brannelly about the lack of information for the project. Brannelly lectures Torres in this engaging email exchange last week about council process. Always nice to see the love between council partners in emails.

Rick,
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the process of how items come before the City Council. Today I am responding to your post regarding the project on the Contract Committee’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. I believe that the committee process is where all of your concerns will be addressed.

An item is presented to the City Council through the City Clerk. The item is referred by the full Council to the appropriate committee. The item is then presented to the committee in full detail until the committee and any non-committee member have exhausted all their questions, concerns, requests for additional detail, changes to language, drawings, input from the public, legal opinions, expert testimony … absolutely anything and everything that a council member requests is provided at the committee level. This process sometimes takes one meeting. This process sometimes takes months or much, much more. The item, if approved at the committee level then goes to the full Council for a vote.

When an item is presented to committee, it does not mean it is ready for a vote. The committee decides when an item is ready for a vote.

To publish your version of a project before you have heard the facts is irresponsible. To request a delay is actually to stop the information from being released to us. The City has not failed to provide anything to us. We, as a committee, have not yet requested additional information. I myself need to see and hear what is presented, then ask questions, voice concerns, request additional detail, ask for changes to language, request drawings, input from the public, legal opinions, expert testimony … absolutely anything and everything that I feel is necessary to make a decision on the item.

As I told you when we first spoke after your election to the Council, the greatest lesson I learned starting on the Council was to listen. Hopefully when you go through this very thorough committee process, you will feel that what we as a Council are deciding, whatever the outcome, is the best thing for our district and the entire City of Bridgeport.

Sue

Torres’ response:

Sue,
Thanks for your letter. I’m sure that I would not have run for this position if I thought that the process which operates this city were in good shape. I understand that this body has a way of doing business. In my estimation how the city does its business is badly broken. This example which I have highlighted and you have responded to is such a broken process. A project of this magnitude ought to have several public hearings long before we are faced with a contract to approve or deny. Mayor Finch held a press conference in which he talked about it being a done deal. When I spoke to him at the swearing in ceremony he told me the deal was done and that I should move on. Well here we are, deal not done, press conference premature. God knows how much city money was spent to get to this point and I’m sure the Council did not approve of that.

Forgive me if I approach this with excess care. I want the information long before the meeting so that I may absorb it. The Lease agreement we were provided is not ready for review. It lacks too much information. There are no elevation renderings available to anyone, not you or me or the Post. Will they be there when the time comes to vote? I don’t know, but I want to know.

On a separate matter, but one which highlights the same point of dysfunction, and if you follow my letters you will discover that I have requested additional information from IT as to the need for 3 copies of AutoCAD. It took a good deal of time to figure out to whom the packages belonged. Andy Nunn’s office did not know; even though he sent the request out for funding. The purchasing dept. thought it might belong to Engineering. I called and sure enough they had requested two copies. Since then, I have contacted the IT dept. for clarification as to who gets the third and still after three attempts no response. Here is the problem: Each copy costs $4500 with service contracts. Engineering has two already a 2001 version and a 2008 version. They have been getting by with these. The 2008 version is still operable to new files created today. The 2001 version is probably too old, however, it has value in the resale area. The 2008 version is upgradable at nearly half the cost. In my opinion a department of our size only needs one copy that works at the best level. If we are doing the sort of work that requires two versions then truly taxes would be headed down.

So this one requisition for nearly $15K should really be $3K. the other $12K represents my tax bill at home. I would rather save that amount. By the way, the last License from AutoCAD is worth $3K on the black market. It is simply a number that can be sold and it is good indefinitely. So where is that last copy going? I would like to know.

I have no doubt that this city is in the habit of wasting massive amounts of money. That is the nature of other people’s money. I walk these hallways everyday and I see the waste. It is profound.

I love you Sue and your family. I really do. This Council is not functioning well. It must. I will do my best to make it work better or else I will expose what I learn that is wrong. We do not live in a bubble here on the City Council we work for the people of Bridgeport. They must know and understand what we do and fail to do.

Back to the South End project. It is a joke. Any friend of Seaside Park would agree. To do this to this park is unconscionable and massively disrespectful to the legacy of those that fought hard to close the last abomination which was the landfill (OIB). This too is an OIB moment. Can you envision Westport or any self-respecting town to do this today? I could see at other periods of time, when there was less concern for ecology.

Let’s get started repairing the past mistakes. Let’s put a long-term plan to clean that landfill. On that you will have my support.

Respectfully yours,

Your friend Rick

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • hope I can sell my house

    Ya have to wonder … wouldn’t the city be better off if Torres had been elected mayor 10+/- years ago? Shame on all these political hacks–thank G-d for you Mr. Torres–you are a breath of fresh air.

  • Bond Girl

    The term “schools” should be interpreted with a tongue in cheek. I think Mr. Torres has been “schooled” enough on the machinations of a broken process. Isn’t that why he ran in the first place?

    The act of reciting the process to Mr. Torres, in writing no less, as it is, does Ms. Brannelly no favors. It actually makes her look foolish. We all know how the process works, and we DON’T LIKE IT. I do believe that is why the 130th elected Mr. Torres.

  • Local Eyes

    In a scenic area of Westport a solar park might be seen as a reminder of the town’s commitment to “green culture” and get lauded as a civic achievement to the their progressive stance.
    But in Black Rock, newly installed Councilmen seem interested in aesthetics only and not the long-term benefits of putting solar panels atop dirt-encased garbage.
    Besides, if you’re on the top deck at Captain’s Cove you should be watching the crowd/band and not the landfill.

    • BOE SPY

      The benefits of solar are debatable. Rick only wants to know what the benefits are going to be to BPT (as far as income, jobs. taxes, etc.). Did these people even do testing to make sure a pile of garbage can support the weight of a solar plant? What chance does the plant have of puncturing the ‘cap’ on the garbage pile and letting bad stuff out? How bad will it really look? Rick was smart to not rush headlong into the fray. If the plant is a good idea today it will be a good idea tomorrow. Why the hurry? Have you ever heard haste makes waste? Sometimes it is best to slow things down and think them through. Otherwise, you end up the victim of a flim-flam man.
      Remember, Rick is not against the plant, he just wants to better understand the details.

    • Bob Walsh

      So LE,
      How many parks has Trumbull turned into solar farms? How many abandoned landfills, oh that’s right, they were used to dumping in and on Bridgeport.
      Come back with more pertinent comments.

  • John Marshall Lee

    The only additional thing Sue might have added in terms of her explanation to newly elected Council “mate” Rick Torres about the entire process is the rules of the City Council keep most of their meetings closed to comment from the public. Yes, there is an opportunity for the public to address the City Council at each semi-monthly meeting but there is no sign of response or participation to word from the public.

    Sue comments: “The item is then presented to the committee in full detail until the committee and any non-committee member have exhausted all their questions, concerns, requests for additional detail, changes to language, drawings, input from the public, legal opinions, expert testimony … absolutely anything and everything that a council member requests is provided at the committee level.” That is her opinion of what passes for good process. Were you to ask any number of recently turned-out City Council members about getting ALL THE INFORMATION, they would express wonder at Sue’s opinion.
    Let’s relate “Driveway Gate” to Sue’s statement and you can readily see all the info necessary is not routinely offered by the Administration. Just the way it is. And are there members of the public who might ask questions and seek responses on occasion (as well as have reasonable input) to assist City Council persons? You can bet on that. But a raised hand in these sessions is met with COUNCIL RULES. Interesting?

    A decision was made two years ago to eliminate the two positions providing services to Council persons funded in the Legislative budget, one of which was filled at that time. Today there is no “go-to” person for a Council person who needs or wants assistance to research an issue or get a simple question answered. Why has Council President McCarthy allowed this situation to continue? Is it his notion there was too much service for Council persons? Would our legislature be able to be more effective in keeping up with issues coming before their respective 2 or 3 committee assignments in addition to semi monthly Council sessions? More than half the Legislative OTHER SERVICES budgeted appropriations has not been spent annually. Cutting that item in half would have provided the same effect to the City budget, continued technical and experienced assistance to the Council persons, and shown a clear intent to support Council members in their duties. Who can account for the movements in City finances? Where is the support for the theory of “checks and balance”? In what way did the City cut $3.5 Million from the Full Time Earned Pay line item in multiple departments so as to report that budget decrease in the November monthly report? That seems more than union givebacks, furloughs and unfilled positions, doesn’t it? Last year a similar reduction occurred in September 2012. Will this be a regular event, like a snake shedding its skin as it grows? Time will tell.

    • Black Rockin

      John M. Lee. Please, your parents paid for a good education for you, do not let it go to waste. Take a post-grad course in quick communication. You would bankrupt Twitter. Show some word control, John. I respect you.

      • John Marshall Lee

        My word control is your issue, Black Rockin? Forget respect, it’s a cheap commodity, the way you have used it.
        What topics of the possible four I touched on:
        ** Challenging Sue Brannelly’s assessment of Council Committee process and receipt of full info.
        ** Elimination of Legislative Support personnel one year ago with Council President McCarthy reasoning they were engaging in budget reduction (while the Council simultaneously approved over 40 ghost positions that were removed four months later)?
        ** A look at the Legislative Department budget if REAL budget savings are sought.
        ** The first commentary by any observer that the City has again reduced “payroll” = Line Item 51000 Full Time Pay in the November 2014 monthly report in the amount of $3.5 Million. NO ONE ON THE COUNCIL COMMENTED ON THE SEPTEMBER, 2012 $4Million reduction, or now the 2013 NOVEMBER notice of about a $3.5 Million reduction.

        Any of these can be an article by itself. Why don’t you respect the subject material and comment on that? You and others have attempted to advise me on brevity in the past. It is less important to me than the time I can allocate to attending meetings, reading City material, thinking about how matters are connected, etc. Introduce yourself to me when you show up to any of these meetings someday. This afternoon is School Buildings Committee at 4:00 PM and the Citywide NRZ (that has not been consulted on the Solar project) gets to meet at the Mayor’s office this evening at 6:00 PM. More people stopping to look and listen about public business. More people thinking. More people discussing and voting when the time comes. Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    Here is my advise to you, Rick Torres. GFI! Go For It!
    If you take some of this advice they will throw it right back at you. Sue is suggesting you say or do nothing until it comes before the committee but at some point she or someone else will criticize you for not asking in advance. Been there, done that.
    They will say you should have anticipated and requested everything possible so they could have answers ready for you or the right people there. You will be accused of wasting time by not asking in advance.
    Ignore the advice and go with your gut. They will try to wear you down and eventually will succeed but you have a long way to go before reaching my end of the rope.

  • Bob Walsh

    Speaking of GFI, that is my advice to Mayor Greenjeans.

    “Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today that Daniel C. Esty is returning to Yale University, which had granted him a three-year leave of absence from his tenured professorship that allowed him to serve as Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).”

    Don’t waste any time. The clock is ticking. If you don’t step up now, the governor will name someone who will not be keeping the seat warm for you but instead blocking it from you.

  • Bob Walsh

    Rick, since Sue is the expert on all things aldermanic, why don’t you ask her if there are any state or city legal requirements for a public hearing concerning the sale or lease of city-owned property? You might also want to inquire as to the interaction of the Land Use Boards and the City Council concerning P & Z referrals to the council on matters like this. And finally, you may have mentioned this previously, but who owns the dumping ground? Is it property of the Parks Department? There are very strict rules regarding the sale of Park-owned Land. How do long-term land leases fit into that equation? Or you can wait the unspecified period of time prior to a vote to ask these and other questions.

  • James Louloudes

    Took some pics on the other side of the harbor where the solar farm would be built, here’s the link:
    www .facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=779628578719467&set=a.779619065387085.1073741830.100000169958127&type=1&theater

    • Local Eyes

      Finally the DoomFreaks have their day. I think the barbed wire gives the whole picture an apocalyptic feel you cannot find in other end-of-the-world scenarios.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    First off, the site in question is owned by the city of Bridgeport. It is part of Seaside Park. I am in favor of this project. If it brings money to the city treasury I am for it. I don’t care if the poor souls in BR don’t like the view, tough shit. How did you like the view when it was the city dump?
    Sue, who told you, you understand how the council works? Based on my attendance at many B & A meetings you deliver a good message when someone crafts it for you but doing your own work and delivering your own message? Not so good.

  • Local Eyes

    I’m in favor of the project, too. I don’t think it destroys a view, I think it adds value with minimal downside. Thanks ACF for the timely ownership update.
    I never thought I’d say something good about Mayor Finch and Andrew C. Fardy in the same sentence, but I just did.

  • James Louloudes

    Here is one of two solar farms being built in East Lyme, CT the other is in Somers CT. If they build the one in Bridgeport Connecticut would be producing 15 Meg of Electricity from solar farms. A total of 18,000 homes statewide would get power from the sun with no CO2.
    www .wfsb.com/story/23611373/giant-solar-farms-to-be-built-in-east-lyme-somers

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