So, a grand total of one–yes, one–spoke Thursday night at the public hearing on the general budget in City Council chambers. And that one person was Bassick High School teacher Annie McDermott who delivered a passionate plea to improve conditions at the physically challenged high school. Annie was encouraged to return next week for the public hearing on the school board budget.
These OIB moments are priceless considering the roughly 150,000 folks in Connecticut’s largest city impacted by city spending plans. All seven members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee attended the cricket-volumed event. Several other council members attended.
It’s rare for a City Council meeting to feature more public officials than members of the general public but that was the case Thursday night. Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposed spending plan calls for no tax increase. It’s certainly a work in progress with several unanswered questions including anticipated state dollars and funding for the voter-approved library budget. So many unknowns. In a few weeks the budget committee will vote on the spending plan for the budget year that starts July 1. Most of the budget review work occurs at the committee level before a full vote of the City Council.
Remarks from Annie McDermott:
My name is Annie McDermott and I am a science teacher at Bassick High school. I am here to speak to you today about some of the drastic funding and resource disparities that manifest at Bassick High school, but more urgently, the current public health and safety issues that we are dealing with. In any old building, there is expected to be some deterioration but at Bassick, the physical environment has literally become toxic. There are currently concerns that the buildings have mold, asbestos, and radon radiation. On the science floor of the building alone, the air quality is so bad that this year there have been 2 instances of anaphylaxis, 2 cases of pneumonia, and 2 cases of severe bronchitis in addition to persistent allergic and respiratory issues amongst the teachers, not to mention the students. Students and teachers cannot perform to the best of their ability when their basic physiological and safety needs are not being met. And this toxicity is not lost on the students. Students at Bassick high school know that they are getting less than they deserve, less than every other school in the district with regards to resources, facilities, instruction, and opportunities. They are concerned about the health issues related to the building in addition to the complete lack of resources that we have within our school. The city of Bridgeport has an equal obligation to ALL citizens from all parts of the city to protect them, especially the youth. We as a community are currently failing Bassick high school by ignoring this health crisis and it cannot go on any longer. This issue extends beyond normal funding. On behalf of the students, teachers, and other members of the Bassick HS community, I implore the city council to take action to protect our students and remedy the air quality issues at the school. The school as a whole is in desperate need on improvements and resources. I am here to inform you of this because I believe the conditions at Bassick high school are far worse than the community of Bridgeport realizes. But rather than listening to my opinion, please consider the following letters written by Bassick students to the city council:
Dear City Council,
I attended Central High School for 2 years before I moved to Bassick. In those 2 years, I have seen most of the renovations being done. When I first came to Bassick and saw the condition it was in, I was confused. It seemed like things haven’t changed since my mom attended 20 years ago. All of the cabinets, desks, and lockers are outdated. The floor tiles are cracked and old and so are the ceilings. The bridge that we walk across everyday to get to class has a leak and looks as if it could fall down at any second. This year we have teachers getting sick because there isn’t even any good air. Have you guys noticed we play home games at Central’s field? I have one serious question, how much did you think the students would take before they would speak up? Bassick’s reputation may not be squeaky clean but this isn’t a prison and I refuse to work in a building that looks like it. How do you expect kids to come into a building ready to learn if the building looks like this?
A Bassick Student
Please consider the words of this student. We desperately need the air quality improved in the building. Beyond that, the students know that their education at Bassick HS is sorely lacking because the school has been chronically underfunded and neglected for decades. As a city council, you need to take action to begin to improve the disturbing conditions at Bassick. Despite the long term plan of building a new Bassick high school, there are no funds being allocated to improve Bassick in the capital plan. We cannot wait for a new building, we desperately need to improve the air quality and the resources allocated for Bassick now.
Really, consider the words of the student. He is recieving a substandard education in a building that more resembles the set of a low budget horror movie than an educational institution. Bassick is a crumbling wreck. Decades of neglect cast a dark heavy shadow on the school and the neighborhood.
If successive City Hall administrations, City Councils and Boards of Education have allowed Basick High School to fall into such disrepair it’s not likely to change any time soon. A teacher and a student came forward to demand change. The current Council would do well to listen to everything Anne McDermott has to say. She is a dedicated educator that cannot teach our children as well as she was trained to because her workplace is in a state of abandonment.
Elementary, middle and high schools should and must be positive environments to foster and encourage the learning process. Students ought to be inspired to learn.
Compared to what
Needed: $1.2B. In The Bank: $468M |
New Haven Independent
“The city’s pension funds should have over $1 billion in the bank. They have under $500 million. That’s a problem. How to fix it?”
Thank you for calling to attention issues 20 miles east of us in New Haven. The article on pension and healthcare expenses in that City is amazing in the coverage of the subjects. Had Bridgeport had such coverage before looking at pension obligation bonds again recently, especially cautionaries like three year operating budget assumptions, showing defined contribution alternatives as genuine labor relations tools, and facing the fact that Bridgeport’s Pension A borrowing of $350 Million in 2000 for a 30 year period is costing the City operating budget taxpayers over $30 Million annually, charged to Police and Fire departments. But that is not all!!!!!!
Because necessary payments to Plan A beneficiaries exceed $30 Million annually and the investments in the plan amount to only about $60 Million, taxpayers have been paying annually additional dollars totaling more than $15 mILLION. How is that for planning? Long term planning? A pension obligation bond with a low interest rate is better than with a higher interest rate, higher than the City is able to earn over 20-30 years.Poor Bridgeport. Already on the hook for $1 Billion or more to cover the needs of Plan A when investments did not get us there in the first place. New Haven spends about $590,000 on personnel annually on support of its legislative body. And we spend less than $10,000 for one part timer in the middle of budget review, aside from Stipends? Value? Time will tell.
Bridgeport has NOT had that type of public dialogue with the residents of Bridgeport and they never had it for any nationwide search for a new police and fire chief, never.
How to fix the problem:
Some mistakes are so bad, they cannot be fixed without drastic changes.
‘Local Eyes’ is on-point with this article.
As much I think a casino would be good for Bridgeport; if the city ever wants to be relevant and truly reverse its fortunes then our schools must be funded, repaired and updated so our kids can compete, so our property values rise, so many can find a way out of poverty. Education, if done correctly can be a silver bullet.
Thank you, DC.
When the casino idea was first floated I was the lone voice shouting “What about the schools? What about the poverty, the despair? What about the lack of decent public education, the deepest source if a criminal class? What about the working poor living in dilapidated housing in neighborhoods contaminated with industrial chemicals?” I was called a scumbag for it by a self important asshole that grows angry when anyone tries to snatch away his rose colored glasses.
The idea of a casino came and went, like a bottle of good chianti. Then there was the hangover, a reality check subtle as a brick through a plate glass indow. The schools are still failing, there is still crime high unemployment and environmental contamination.. If social history has taught anything it is this: when a community feels disenfranchised from education and employment opportunities the only survival option is criminal activity. Street gangs exist because marginalized young men need to empower themselves.
A casino is not going to fix any of the socioeconomic problems noted above. sure, there will be a surge in short-and long-term employment. If MGM Resorts is true to its word there I’ll be lots and lots of money flowing into Bridgeport’s coffers. Given the mismanagement of the city by successive administrations it is quite a stretch to hope or believe much of that money will be spent Improving the quality of life for more than a few people in the city of Bridgeport and its suburbs.
“Urban Expert Calls For “Inclusive Growth” |
New Haven Independent
It was a mistake for New Haven to pursue, along with Bridgeport, old ideas of economic development, like the elusive goal of attracting Amazon’s second headquarters with large tax incentives….
That was political grandstanding of the cheapest sort. As if a major retailer like Amazon is going to open a regional headquaters in a down-at-the-heels industrial city known more for political corruption than anything else. Bridgeport is the butt of jokes in Hartford, the city that elected a recalcitrant felon as mayor.