9 p.m. Update: Chuck Willinger, lawyer for the halfway house proposal, has made his case to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission in City Council Chambers. He argued, in part, that crime and drugs are so rampant in the West End that a halfway house could not curtail quality of life, a central argument in the debate. How does such a proposal impact quality of life? City Council President Tom McCarthy, among many others, addressed P&Z in opposition to the proposal.
Mary-Jane Foster, an exploratory candidate for mayor, issued the following statement today regarding the proposed halfway house for the West End.
Bridgeport businesswoman and social action advocate Mary-Jane Foster, who is exploring a run for office, will submit the following statement this evening at the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission meeting:
Over the course of my career, I have been an active proponent of reentry programs, having both hired and worked with individuals committed to transitioning from incarceration to civilian life. I applaud organizations such as Community Solutions for delivering programs that help people successfully get their lives back on track. While there is undoubtedly a need for these programs and services, it is clear that Bridgeport has borne far more than its fair share of the responsibility for not just Fairfield County, but the entire state of Connecticut. I cannot support locating one more bed in Bridgeport, nor can this be a battle Bridgeport fights building-by-building, neighborhood-by-neighborhood. We need a statewide solution to this problem and I call upon the State legislature to review the issue and pass a law that fixes this gross imbalance. It is time for the rest of the state to step up and be a part of a true community solution.
Having said that, it must be pointed out that the reason we are here this evening can be directly attributed to the incompetence and administrative mismanagement of the Finch administration. Where was the mayor in 2008 when this proposal was submitted and approved? Nowhere. Did he register any concerns over it in 2009, when Community Solutions requested an extension? Not a peep. Only when the residents raised their voices in outrage did he finally say “Me, too!”
Adding insult to injury, the mayor continues to allow key positions on boards and commissions to serve in expired terms and/or without essential training or go unfilled altogether. As a young lawyer, I interned with a planning and zoning lawyer, John Fallon, and I know firsthand how intricate and nuanced zoning law is. How do you justify spending more than a million taxpayer dollars to modernize the City’s Master Plan and zoning regulations and not require volunteer laymen to undergo the training they need to do the job they signed on to do? It’s a total abdication of leadership that has rendered the City impotent. Without properly functioning land use boards, we may as well put a “Closed for Business” sign next to the “For Sale” sign on City Hall.