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Do Results Match Finch’s Rhetoric

August 23rd, 2010 · 36 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Politics, Civil Service, Development and Zoning, Library

“Together we are making Bridgeport the cleanest, greenest, safest most affordable city, with schools and neighborhoods that improve each year” … Mayor Bill Finch

Like it or not everything Mayor Bill Finch does within the next year will be measured against the declaration above that he includes on just about every news release, statement, correspondence, etc.

Well, what say you? After nearly three years as mayor is the city cleaner and greener? Is it the safest, most affordable city? Have schools and neighborhoods improved each year? The mayor who promised a $600 tax cut in 2007 has raised taxes by more than that in the higher-voting areas. Crime in the city has now become a royal kick in the crotch. Is the city cleaner? That’s the problem with lofty government slogans. Someone’s going to call you on it, especially your election opponents. But this is classic Bill Finch idealism, and to his credit, or stubbornness, he’s placing his mayoralty on the line with a line he cannot realistically sell.

The mayor’s internal mantra for the first two years was don’t worry we have four years to figure it out. Problem was there was no real strategy connected to his decision making. And he still hasn’t figured it out. (There’s still a window for him to win reelection, but it’s going to require some big break.)

For instance when he canned, through the Civil Service Commission, personnel director Ralph Jacobs no Civil Service reform message accompanied it. He has done this with several individuals he fired. Let’s fire and figure it out later.

The unions? Yes, he managed to secure a couple of zeroes from uniformed services labor pacts. But the outer years now kicking in carry 11 percent increases. This is classic let’s get the zeros now and figure out the rest later. Problem is later has arrived, and it’s one of the reasons the city faces an $8 million budget hole. He tells voters disingenuously we have not increased spending and no real tax increase except for the one mil library referendum that voters approved (representing roughly $7 million) that the mayor supported publicly. What he doesn’t say is the city in the prior year had appropriated close to $6 million for library services, soup to nuts, salaries, benefits, etc. before the library system received some extra dough backed by the taxpayers vote. The library vote was not the reason taxes increased one mil.

He also says he did not increase spending this year. Really? That’s because the city put off its fire pension contribution worth tens of millions in the hope investment markets would turn around. Hopefully, that will happen by next year otherwise the city’s gonna have to do another dance explaining why it wants to put off its pension contribution again, or pay it in an election-year budget.

I have many more examples to cite of hizzoner’s strategic challenges. The mayor’s gonna need something of serious impact to happen by the spring of 2011 to give him a reasonable shot at reelection. The list of pols he’s pissed off for no good reason who supported him in 2007 goes around the block from City Hall Annex and up to City Council chambers on Lyon Terrace. A Finch friend told me the other day he will not support the mayor for reelection, that he’s done a remarkable job of making State Rep. Chris Caruso, never an establishment favorite, look good. By the way Connecticut Post reporter Keila Torres, will soon be dropping a list of Finch hires in the past year or so during the so-called fiscal crisis. Let’s see which pols show up.

The good news for Finch, he’ll be well financed. The bad news is sometimes you can have all the money you need to lose. (Paging Ned Lamont.) What can give the mayor some mo beyond hoping the mayoral candidate pool is weak next year? The mayor’s hoping a regional water pollution control authority between Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe will be the ticket to plug his election-year budget hole. He desperately needs progress at Steel Point to show he was able to do what so many say couldn’t be done. I’m a broken record on this, he must promote city entertainment assets, parks, museums, seaport, ballpark, arena, neighborhoods, restaurants, some of the little-known stories that mean a lot. It helps voters feel good about their city.

Finch’s strength has always been look good, sound good and optimism. In three years he has not often taken advantage of what he does best.

As for the slogan I’d have scrapped the slogan–actually the darn declaration should never have made it on the mayor’s letterhead–a long time ago. But now he has no choice but to defend his words. We’ll see how well he does.

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36 Comments so far ↓

  • Local Eyes

    FAITH MUST PRECEDE KNOWLEDGE meaning one’s conviction comes before the eventual outcome–that’s what leaders do! While Mayor Finch prefers the power of positive thinking (after all, it’s free) to reach citywide goals, Mr. Grimaldi chooses to use his political capital to engage in a negative dismissal. Today’s post shows a disgruntled employee dissing his former boss.

    Local Eyes thinks Mayor Finch leads by example and Mr. Grimaldi follows by default.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      LE, Bill Finch is a friend, and a candidate I managed, but never my boss.

      • Local Eyes

        Mr Grimaldi:

        Take a lap! when you managed Mayor Finch’s earlier camapaigns, he was your boss (or were you not paid?) and you’ve betrayed his friendship on this blog many times before. Journalistic neutrality is not your forte’.

        • LennieGrimaldi

          LE, you obviously don’t know how I managed races. When I manage a race I’m the boss. The candidate whose race I’m managing understands that straight up. A friend tells his friend the truth. By the way, where were you when city cops pinched Pete Finch over that street sign? Did you come to the mayor and Pete’s defense as I did? Did we hear a peep out of you? As for journalistic neutrality, I’ve written a hundred times and I’ll write it here again, don’t come here for neutrality. OIB: always biased, always fair.

          • Local Eyes

            LG, I’m glad I could help you out by giving you a reason to repeat the OIB mantra but you’ve done nothing to soothe my concerns about political operations.

            Now hear this: when I make a post, I’m in charge.
            When you run a campaign, you’re working in conjunction with the candidate, right?

            The only Boss I take orders from is Bruce Springsteen–can you say the same thing?

            (Lennie reply: Bruce is a great Boss!)

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Look who’s back! My eyes were going ‘Loco’ looking for you here on OIB. Is it true you are working for Finch?
      Well, at least you would be more loyal than Lennie has been. Lennie does make a good point when he questions your whereabouts when Peter needed you; there was no ‘sign’ of you then.

      • Local Eyes

        Joel, get it straight: I am under no obligation to represent or defend any characters mentioned by Lennie or you. Its inclusion is a weak way to deflect my concerns about his political orientation.

        You’ve been identified as a member of “Lennie’s Treefort.”

  • town committee

    Bill Finch and his inner circle refuse to take the steps necessary to move this city forward.
    The city is filthy the curbs and streets are strewn with garbage. Go anywhere in the city and you will see it. Drive by the public facilities complex and look at all the street sweepers that are parked and not in use. We have not had a street sweeper on my street this year, that coupled with the parks department employees mowing the island up here and leaving the grass clippings in the street really makes a mess.
    I have a question. When has Charlie Carroll left his office to see the dirty city this administration has created? The only thing green in this city is my ass on St. Patrick’s day.
    When is the last time anyone saw a truck and a crew filling in potholes? Yeah I know we are waiting for federal money.
    I don’t care how much money Finch has for reelection, it’s not going to happen. He can only keep the taxes low for so long then the piper needs to be paid.

  • RedWhiteandBlue

    No bit of progress on Steel Point is going to help at this point. When people can’t trust your word and your disingenuousness is obvious in a city like Bridgeport, you are sunk. It is too bad, Finch was a very good state Senator–he just was not cut out for Mayor. I don’t see anyone out there at this point who can beat Caruso. It may happen, but I don’t see it today. Caruso seems to have learned from his last campaign. It may be a good thing for the city. Someone needs to clean house. He may be the only one out there with the guts to do it. You can’t bring a city forward with the same thinking that put it in the situation in the first place. I admit, ten months is a lifetime in politics and a lot can happen but people are really turned off by the people in charge. Sad.

    • carolanne curry

      RedWhiteandBlue // Aug 23, 2010 at 8:08 am
      Responding to your posting above

      Trust is what you say. How right.

      Without it there remains 86% of the Bridgeport registered Democratic voters, who do not trust their vote to anyone anymore.

      Without it there remains 78% of the Bridgeport Republican registered voters, who do not trust their vote to anyone anymore.

      Would those miserable statistics be improved by the introduction of a candidate whose intentions and whose actions are to be trusted?

      I think for Bridgeport and her voters, this ability to “trust” is at an historical turn in the road. And it will be the operational word in the success and failure of campaigns in less than 400 days to September 1.
      All your other insights are on point, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say my interest and commitment is with an individual who has the potential to re-activate the trust factor and: 1. grow our active voter base to match our 2. registered voter base … and then reach our 3. eligible voter base. How many votes does it take when you do it right, and engender trust?

  • johnb

    Eyes, sometimes you have to put up or shut up. Finch’s albatross is Adam Wood, at least that’s the common perception and perception is everything. Finch must get rid of Wood and a few other hires and get rid of their pay increases. Do as I say, not as I do mentality doesn’t cut it. Finch knowingly lied to the people when promising an average of a $600.00 cut. He was told by people in City Hall it would not work, it was too expensive. It was really based on trying to get a homestead exemption for property taxes. Problem is he needed legislation to allow him to do it. He knew that and knew it would never happen, but certain people on his campaign said we have to promise people something. Paging Mr. Wood and his cronies. Finch has been doing the same thing for 3 years expecting different results and you know what they call that. I am torn between seeing if Finch could save himself or just embracing Caruso. At least he is something different.

  • Grin Ripper

    Mayor Green Jeans needs to change his soiled pants.

  • Local Eyes

    johnb:

    That’s Mr. Local Eyes to you, dude. Sometimes you have to shut up–this is one of those times!

  • john gilmore

    I fear the coming months will be a debate over who-can-beat-whom in a primary or general election. While the ability to win is clearly a part of the political process, the real question should be who-can-ADMINISTER-and-GOVERN?

    A legislator sitting in a crowd of other legislators gripping his/her single vote on a host of issues is not the same as sitting in the hot seat of a mayor’s chair, governor’s chair or president’s chair charged with being the sole decision maker and responsible party for actions taken or not taken.

    The city needs an administrator, a person who CAN plan and ACT on the plan. There will always be a degree of political hiring in every administration. Former Mayor Paoletta said it best, “What? I’m not going to hire my friends?”

    But as with all things, that aspect of governing has to strike a balance with the things that have to be accomplished.

    All of Bridgeport needs to delve a layer deeper into the political morass and get acquainted with their town committee members and demand certain types of candidates. I can guarantee you if a district leader discovers a few hundred party members have threatened to bolt, that message will get to the powers higher up.

  • Grin Ripper

    LE is full of gristle!

  • johnb

    OK Local Eyes: You want me to shut up and I want you to shut up. It seems we are at an impasse. Here’s my last best offer, I say whatever the hell I want and you can do the same. It’s called the Freedom of Speech.

  • john gilmore

    Hey Local Eyes, Thanks for the Uplifting Optimist Award. I’ll accept.

    I figure you have to start somewhere. If you don’t ask for change, where is the imperative for anyone (like an elected official) to actually change?

  • Jim Callahan

    Lennie has stated most of the issues facing Mayor Finch going into an election year quite clearly, I think.

    The mayor has little control over the crime problem unless it can be shown there is an administrative deficiency in the Police Department’s protection of civic order–gang activity comes to mind, only from past problems with the issue.

    As Lennie suggests, some of the mayor’s problems are of his own creation. Finch has back-ended labor contracts in the hopes of a better day. Even by the lax standards applied to virtually all public officials, the mayor’s word suffers from statement versus action.

    The mayor should not anticipate or hope for an election year miracle to bail him out. He doesn’t have a baseball team to unexpectedly win the world series right before election to make everyone feel good.

    No, Bridgeport voters are likely to be in a grumpy mood next year. The economy is not good. Government costs seem immune from reality. In addition to the usual problems that would nag an incumbent, Finch has lined up his problems so they come due during his (presumed) reelection campaign.

    His best hope is his personality. People may still like him, and like him to be their mayor. If Finch has the bucks to preach that, it counts for something. I’ll stray a bit from Lennie on this point: Finch is there; Lamont, despite his money, was an unknown from Greenwich trying to break in. I saw Lamont’s ads when I was visiting earlier this summer. I thought he was a wuss (and OK, I’m not a liberal, but …).

    Finch’s mainstream opponents don’t seem very organized. Caruso is unwilling to build coalitions on any terms but his own, which makes it darn hard to build coalitions.

    I think the mayor has until Christmas to sort out his political problems, but someone better be working on them.

    There is a municipal budget to pass next June. How do you make ‘ugly’ a 10-syllable word?

  • Jim Callahan

    I’m not sure if Mr. Gilmore is worthy of an Uplifting Optimist Award as much as a lifetime achievement plaque for Cynical Observer.

    Note he suggests a successful mayor/administrator count on his friends and suggestions from his political committee for directions on how to govern.

    Granted, you don’t necessarily ask your enemies for advice, but that hardly sounds like the usual salad toppings from drooling libs.

    I was surprised at first that Mr. Gilmore would jump at the opportunity to accept an “Uplifting Optimist” award. Of course, in light of his lifetime achievement plaque, it makes perfect sense.

    Congratulations John!

  • Grin Ripper

    JG–Based on Local Eyes’ handle, I think he meant to give you the “Uplifting Optometrist” award. Can you see me now?

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Hold on guys, the nomination hasn’t been seconded yet!

  • john gilmore

    James, James, James.

    You have to admit an Uplifting Optimist Award is better than a stick in the eye (sorry, LE).

    Besides, even you have to recognize the inherent havoc on the political system of 100 people in every district calling up the local district leader all saying “I want …, I want …, I want …”

    Come on now, think of the various district leaders; now, think of the phone ringing, and ringing and ringing.

    I am just suggesting people consider the power behind that kind of political action.

    Come on James, let’s take a ride in the ol’ Way-Back Machine … the time is the late ’70s-early ’80s when the absolute best, bar none, entertainment in town was a Democratic Town Committee meeting at the former Mary Journey’s Inn on Fairfield Avenue.

    That’s where John Adao’s aging mother was hit by a flying rubber chicken thrown by an ACORN member (yes, ACORN was in Bridgeport years and years ago), it was the scene where your Telegram brother (name withheld on purpose and out of kindness) quoted Mayor John C. Mandanici as screaming “Madam, if you don’t behave I’m going to PUNCH you out,” when he REALLY said “Madam, if you don’t behave I’m going to PUT you out (of the hall)!”

    Back then we said “the times, they area changing.”

    All I am suggesting is a little street-level focus of that energy!

  • Local Eyes

    The political landscape is always changing.

    Witness the end of an era and ponder the political consequences: www .cnbc.com/id/38757287

    (wink)

  • Mojo

    *** Forgetaboutit *** Do the math, seeing is believing for bigger & better things, no? The Lite-green machine is behind on results! ***

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Bill Finch is trying to get Local Eyes’ ex to buy him back:

    blog.ctnews.com/connecticutpostings/2010/08/23/guy-buy-back-program-in-bridgeport

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