1:30 p.m. update: The Bridgeport City Council voted 13-6 Monday night to abolish the Bridgeport Port Authority.
Mayor Bill Finch gave the council a lot of rope to dictate action in dissolving the PBA. He can always blame the council if scuttling the port authority becomes more trouble than it’s worth. But then he can be criticized for not mustering the good sense to step in.
In the end the council action becomes Finch’s benefit or his burden.
The ordinance will be on Finch’s desk for signature sometime today. Will he sign it or veto it? It does not become law until he takes action.
And if he lets it sit for a few days is he hoping that Governor Jodi Rell signs the state legislation that threw the council into overdrive to maintain home rule? If so, the port authority lives and its future cannot be determined without sign-off from the state Department of Transportation.
The ordinance passed Monday night transfers all functions conducted by the port authority–revenues, expenses, maintenance, security, staffing, debt, ferry dealings, etc.–under the authority of Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn.
Sounds like a boatload of work.
The council deliberated behind closed doors following a public hearing in which forces from the city’s business community urged them not to torpedo the port authority citing a litany of financial and economic advantages it brings to waterfront development.
Just hours before the special council session, commissioners of the port authority suspended Executive Director Joe Riccio with pay after Riccio failed to seek their approval to lobby state legislation that strips the city of home rule.
Riccio had directed Jay Malcynsky, an attorney and high-powered Hartford lobbyist for the port authority, to splice onto a bill in the last days of the regular state legislative session language that gives the state DOT veto power over municipal dissolution of a port authority.
Ricco apparently felt this was not important enough to bring to his bosses for approval.
Riccio’s stealth campaign forced the city’s hand to consider abolishing the port authority before Governor Rell could sign the measure into law.
The port authority commission was scheduled to meet again later this week to fully consider the future of Riccio who’s under employment contract into October 2010. But now that meeting could be moot depending on the next two days.
Lots of unanswered questions. Will Riccio be paid off and told to go away?
The commission decision to suspend Riccio gave council members something to think about as they debated dissolution. Some council members were looking for blood and Riccio was served up as red meat Monday night.
Several of Riccio’s friends showed up to support him at the council public hearing including Mike Freimuth, former city economic development director who told council members “When you’re mad at the jockey you don’t shoot the horse.”
Well, the council shot the horse, placing the saddle squarely on Finch’s back. Judging by comments Finch issued Monday night before the council debated the issue, the mayor wants to make sure there’s no financial fallout to the city.
Statement from Finch regarding the port authority:
“We will continue to work with the state Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP), Economic and Community Development (DECD), and Transportation (DOT) to address the environmental, economic development and transportation issues that affect our waterfront and the port.
“The city’s assessment of the future of the port has evolved from it being a solely water-based commercial use to one that involves numerous uses including water-based recreational, residential and commercial uses. We’re seeking a resolution to this state legislation that reflects this evolution, and which will allow the City and its leaders to retain a measure of local control over the port and its operations.
“The City and the Council welcome the involvement of the state offices, but it is vital that a degree of local authority be maintained. This current piece of legislation is seen as undermining the future of local control, and I pledge to continue to work with our legislators to craft legislation that meets both local and state priorities in regard to the governing of the port.”
“Of concern is the ultimate scope of legal liability the City would be assuming should the Council vote to dissolve the Port Authority. If tonight’s action passes, the City could be liable for any and all assets and liabilities including buildings, vehicles, land, contracts, retirement and pension plans, grants, accounts payable and receivables, insurance policies and any claims or causes of action pending or threatened, among other items.
“The potential legal ramifications resulting from passage of item No. 92-07 by the City Council are not fully quantifiable at this time without further review. If the Council proceeds to dissolve the Port Authority it could be leaving the City vulnerable to largely unknown legal and financial exposure.
“This is why my administration has worked with Council leadership and state leaders to consider all available alternatives before pursuing this path.
Shooting Update From Mayor’s Office
BRIDGEPORT, CT (June 23, 2009) – Bridgeport Police have released the following information regarding the incident at 197 Burnsford Avenue on Monday, June 22, 2009:
As of 6-23-09 — Autopsies have been completed by Medical Examiner. Incident has been ruled an apparent Murder-Suicide.
Police were summoned to 197 Burnsford Avenue at approximately 3:37 p.m., Monday, June 22, on a report of a shooting.
Upon entering the premises, Officers found two female victims both dead from apparent gunshot wounds. Police Detectives are continuing to investigate and will confirm additional details after all evidence is collected and forensic/autopsy examinations are completed.
Victim #1 is the biological mother of Victim #2.
Police identify the victims as Ann Marie Rino, 48, and Gabriella Marin Rino, 8.
News release from Jim Himes. I wonder if any of this dough is for Bridgeport’s port!
Himes Announces Nearly $13 Million to Protect Against Terrorism
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) today announced $12,835,255 in grants to local organizations to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. A member of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Himes is committed to protecting Southwest Connecticut from the fear and consequences of terrorism.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what we can do to prevent a tragedy like 9/11 from ever happening again,” said Congressman Himes. “This funding is critical to keeping terrorist activity at bay and protecting ourselves if there ever is another attack.”
The funding is broken into two categories: funding for the greater Bridgeport area and state-wide projects.
Bridgeport-area grants include:
$2,807,350 for the Urban Areas Security Initiative: Funding to select high-threat, high-density urban areas to assist them in building enhanced and sustainable capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.
$273,038 for the Urban Areas Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program: Grants to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations at high risk of terrorist attack in high-risk urban areas.
State-wide grants include:
$9,545,500 for the State Homeland Security Program: Supports the implementation of State Homeland Security Strategies to address the identified planning, equipment, training, and exercise needs to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events.
$209,367 for the Citizen Corps Program: The Citizen Corps Program supports activities involving citizens in emergency preparedness, planning, mitigation, response and recovery.
For more information on FEMA grants, please see www.fema.gov/grants.