Ah, and you thought we were done writing about the Bridgeport Port Authority?
Okay, last week city resident Nancy Hadley, former Bridgeport director of economic development, fired off an email letter to state officials including State Senator Don DeFronzo, chairman of the Transportation Committee, expressing concern about a potential legislative override of Gov. Jodi Rell’s veto of a bill that placed the BPA under the umbrella of the state Department of Transportation.
Legislative passage had set off a panic by the City Council over loss of home rule. In response, the council abolished the port authority, but sanity prevailed when Rell vetoed the state measure and Mayor Bill Finch did the same of the council action. Executive Director Joe Riccio, who failed to tell his bosses the BPA commisioners about his intentions to lobby the state legislation, was severed from the agency.
Hadley shared with OIB the email letter response to her from DeFronzo because she believes that she had mischaracterized Riccio in her letter to DeFronzo as a rogue operator of the bill. DeFronzo, according to the letter below, says Finch (through his legislative liaison) knew all about the legislative action and, in fact, sanctioned placing the BPA under the state DOT. See DeFronzo’s letter to Hadley below:
Thank you for your e-mail concerning the DOT bill and specifically, the Port Authority provision.
While I understand your concerns, your assumptions relating to the process are not quite accurate. I hope this will set the record straight.
Roughly two weeks before the session ended (not at the “very last minute”) this issue was brought to the leadership of the Transportation Committee by the CEO of the Bridgeport Port Authority (BPA) and his lobbyist. Following that meeting I discussed the proposal with Mayor Finch’s legislative liaison at the capitol and was told that the mayor fully supported the change.
Subsequently we asked DOT’s position on this proposal and was told that the Department supported the measure and that their Deputy Commissioner had discussed this topic with the BPA and the city. In that the state is preparing to make a sizable financial commitment for port improvements, DOT officials reportedly favored the change so as to assure a stable and reliable fiduciary agent and partner. Therefore, your assumption that Governor Rell’s administration was unaware of this proposal is inaccurate.
You also need to be aware that the BPA and the city share the same lobbyist, so any suggestion the the administration in Bridgeport was unaware of the request is not plausible. In addition, I personally discussed this issue with several members (but not all) of the city’s delegation who were aware of the request and deferred to the city’s interest in the matter.
I can assure you that had not the city supported the request, and had not the DOT vetted the proposal and indicated its support, the proposal would not have been included in the DOT bill.
Again, I appreciate your comments, but I do want you to know we don’t arbitrarily insert provisions into a major bill without consulting the key decision makers well in advance.
Now, if DeFronzo’s version is correct (the city does not dispute his position), the city could have saved itself a lot of time, effort, yelling, screaming, special meetings, etc. Or maybe there was just a little miscommunication? Or perhaps the most cynical among us (not me) believes a trap was set for Riccio? Or perhaps at the time the mayor did not fully understand the ramifications for dissolving the BPA?
Am I reaching here to give hizzoner the benefit of the doubt? The bottom line is Finch did the right thing vetoing the council ordinance after Rell vetoed the state legislation. The city, through the BPA commissioners, can now recast the agency with a new director.
The city’s legislative liaison Tyrone McClain is empowered with representing the mayor’s position to state legislative officials. Perhaps Tyrone got it wrong when he told DeFronzo the mayor was on board. Was there miscommunication? Shit happens.
Viva Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rican Day parade is on Sunday. Check this out: www.prparadefairfieldcounty.com
Mouse In The House
Three times a week or so I receive news releases from the National Republican Campaign Committee blistering Congressman Jim Himes about this or that. I usually ignore them. But this one is just too funny to pass up. Get a load of this:
Thanks to Himes, Pelosi’s House Mouse Gets Stimulated After All
Despite Dem Claims to the Contrary, Squeaker of the House Benefits from ‘Stimulus’ Funds at Expense of Middle Class Americans
Washington- After Nancy Pelosi pledged on national television that the so-called stimulus bill would be free of pork, a well-known project that epitomizes stimulus waste will receive taxpayer funds. A total of $16 million will be released for projects to improve mouse habitats in San Francisco, thanks to Jim Himes’ support for the $787 billion monstrosity:
“The tiny mouse that became a hotly disputed symbol of wasteful spending in the congressional debate over the $787 billion economic stimulus bill has returned to pester House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The Obama administration quietly announced last week that as much as $16.1 million from the stimulus program is going to save the San Francisco Bay area habitat of, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.” (S.A. Miller, “Agency Funds Pelosi’s Mouse Project,” Washington Times, 7/9/09)
Characteristically, Democrats offered false assurances to taxpayers that stimulus funds specifically would not be dedicated to San Francisco mice. According to a Pelosi spokesman:
“There are no federal wetland restoration projects in line to get funded in San Francisco … The idea that $30 million will be spent to save mice is a total fabrication.” (Greg Sargent, “Pelosi’s Office: Conservative Talking Point About $30 Million For Mice Is ‘Fabrication,'” The Plum Line, 2/12/09)
“Jim Himes and his fellow Democrats promised to create jobs get the economy back on track, but Connecticut families have taken a back seat to a rat living in San Francisco,” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain. “Democrats are giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘pet project.’ Jim Himes might think that throwing taxpayer dollars down a rat-hole is a priority, but Connecticut voters only want to know one thing: Where are the jobs?”
Democrats claimed that money for mouse habitats wasn’t in the stimulus bill even though millions of dollars were clearly marked for allocation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
“On Thursday, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) took to the House floor to make a different point: the money for the restoration isn’t actually in the bill.
“‘There are no earmarks in this bill. There is no earmark for rats in San Francisco. There is money that goes to the EPA and the Department of the Interior for cleanup of wetlands and maintaining of wetlands and apparently this is on a list of ready-to-go projects but it, like many others, must compete within the departments for that money. It is not a specific earmark within the bill,’ he said.” (Ryan Grim, “Pelosi’s Mouse Explained: What’s Actually In The Stimulus Bill,” Huffington Post, 2/12/09)
Pelosi herself pledged no pork in the stimulus bill:
CNN’S WOLF BLITZER: Can you assure the American people that there will be no pork barrel spending, none of these earmarks, these bridges to nowhere, these phony deals that are going on – that legislators won’t be able to bury stuff for their districts – the stuff that’s been so highly publicized?
PELOSI [raising right hand]: I can pledge to you that no earmark – or any of that, any description you want to make of it – will be in the bill that passes the house.
According to a NOAA press release, the agency has dedicated $16.1 million in stimulus funds to two separate San Francisco wetlands restoration projects:
· San Francisco South Salt Pond Restoration (San Francisco, Calif.) – $7.6 million
· American Canyon Salt Pond Restoration (San Francisco, Calif.) – $8.5 million
News release from Jim Himes
Himes Welcomes Pastor Bennett for Congressional Invocation
Bridgeport pastor provided opening prayer for United States House of Representatives this morning
Washington, DC-Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) welcomed Pastor Anthony L. Bennett, D. Min, of the Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Washington today (July 9). Serving as the Guest Chaplain, the pastor provided this morning’s invocation for the United States House of Representatives.
“I’m honored to have a local leader of Pastor Bennett’s stature represent Connecticut on the national stage,” said Congressman Himes. “His prayer reminded us of the fundamental values that all of us, regardless of party, must serve.”
Pastor Bennett is the Senior Pastor of the Mount Aery Baptist Church. In addition to his work with the church, he is an Adjunct Professor at Hartford Seminary and Guest Lecturer at Fairfield University and Yale Divinity School. Pastor Bennett is also active in the greater Bridgeport community and has led the church to create an extensive network of personalized ministries to meet the growing needs of the congregation and community of Bridgeport. In addition to his work with various religious organizations throughout Southwest Connecticut, Pastor Bennett has served on the boards of local organizations such as the Music & Arts Center for Humanity, the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County, and the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition.
“I hope the words I shared today will help lead the Members of Congress to make wise and thoughtful decisions,” said Pastor Bennett. “The initiatives they consider will have a significant impact on families, communities, and even countries.”
Pastor Bennett is a graduate of Morehouse College. He earned his Master of Divinity at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, New York and completed doctorate studies at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He lives in Bridgeport with his wife Donna and their children Brittany and Ahmad.