UPDATE: Leave it to city resident Jim “Sonny” Fox to add a little excitement to a community meeting.
A proposed “Community Benefits Agreement” between the developer of a controversial 120-bed halfway house for male offenders and the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone was debated Tuesday night at the University of Bridgeport. The benefits agreement guarantees a $50,000 charitable contribution if the project is approved. For background see here.
Attorney Chuck Willinger on behalf of Community Solutions Inc., operator of halfway houses for transitional offenders, made his pitch to several dozen neighbors why they should embrace the halfway house project and the benefits agreement. Willinger was backed by Carl McCluster, chairman of the South End NRZ, who is also pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in the South End. That’s when Fox, a candidate for City Council last year, says he went “berserk.”
“McCluster rallied people against this project and now he’s supporting it because a checkbook was opened,” Fox says he told the crowd. “This was the worst one-sided meeting I’ve ever attended. The fix is in. They’re looking for the cash. The poor moms and pops attending the meeting didn’t even know what was going on.”
CSI is appealing in Superior Court the Planning & Zoning Commission’s rejection of the development. CSI is trying to resurrect the project by building neighborhood support.
A vote by the South End NRZ Tuesday night apparently did not go the way chairman McCluster had hoped, according to several residents who attended the meeting. McCluster wants a mulligan so another vote will take place in March. OIB poster “kitty” provides some insight. Read the complete observation in the comments section. Here’s a portion:
As for last night’s meeting, more than 20 from the public spoke against it and one spoke for it before Carl McCluster chairman spoke for what seemed to be an eternity in favor of the project. When the vote was finally called 5 voted in favor. That was apparently not good enough so he called for the vote a second time and after coaxing another board member to vote in favor he got the vote # to 6. He apparently wasn’t happy about that so he had them raise their hands a third time but the vote remained at 6. Unfortunately for him the against number was 7. This morning I understand he has since called the vote invalid and is planning another meeting in March.