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General Lee Calls Out Emperor Mario

July 5th, 2016 · 26 Comments · City Budget, City Council, News and Events

Often a lonely voice, citizen fiscal scrutineer John Marshall Lee had plenty of speaking support at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Text of his remarks, including an emperor reference to Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa.

Today is July 5, 2016. It is the first day of the 241st year of our “American experiment in democratic government.” In Bridgeport CT we are present for the 30 minutes of time designated by the Council before each of 22 meetings so that members of the public may come forth to express their thoughts to you 20 members who represent our 10 City districts. Will you hear our words tonight?

In the past quarter the Mayoral budget proposals, for operating and capital, along with lots of other routine matters happened. But the Taxable Grand List showed a decrease of $1 Billion, or more than 14% down from the previous $7 Billion value. THAT was the first public outrage. The second was a unanimous vote of the CC in early May to approve a 2016-17 budget of $558 Million. Outrage three? The mil rate, which rose 29% from 42.2 mils to 54.37 mils.

Tax bills for property owners who pay their taxes personally have been received. Tax bills that go to mortgage holders have not become known to all yet. And so, the community is still learning about the impact of your decisions. There is palpable anger and outrage. This past Saturday, a meeting was held in the 130 District. It revealed that your Council votes were expected by leadership, even though the budget data provided to you was erroneous, difficult to understand in places, and incomplete regarding current employment numbers. A departmental chart totaling city and BOE employees was missing from this year’s budget document. No Table of Organization, no listing of employees, no indication of priorities from our “second chance” Mayor. Is this the Open, Accountable and Transparent government they promised during the campaign?

“Royal councilors,” you have had a choice for years. If you did not get the information you wished, you could have voted NO, and let the Mayor’s budget take place. All the blame is on him, none on you. Such a vote would have shown some backbone. Has your Lord Councilor McCarthy guided you bravely or steered you into financial quicksand? What do you do now? Perhaps a negative response to everything from City Hall crossing your desk until you begin to get ALL the fiscal information is one patriotic way against this tyranny? Right now it is your “boots” on the necks of many property owners, especially those elderly long-term residents who scrape by on fixed incomes. Without proper representation by you, they are seeing their property values decline and their purses empty. Shame on you.

Taxation without genuine taxpayer representation is our problem today. Taxes increased on 96% of commercial property. What does that say to ongoing efforts of Economic Development in step with those 20, 30 and 40 year abatements of recent years? And examples of “walking away” from or abandonment of overtaxed property is not just a problem in a few neighborhoods. Blight can be pointed out in all neighborhoods.

Our “royal emperor” does not sit on a throne. He is not elected by an open election. He is a retail food business owner who enjoys politics. I cannot tell you where he really lives, although he has a lovely home in Monroe. The power in our system is Emperor Mario and the 89 Democratic Town Committee representatives of his royal court. Democrats elect them, and then they select 93% of our political representation for residents on municipal and State levels. Is there a party platform? A set of goals that indicates concern for all of Bridgeport’s people? Does their leadership speak on the important issues? How do they feel about the 29% mil rate increase? How do they feel about level funding the 22,000 youth in public schools? What are they saying about it, as many of them work for the BOE?

Emperor Mario, come out of the kitchen or the caucus chamber and answer the questions that Mayor Ganim II will not. We are not gathered to discover the secrets of your restaurant business or your true town of residence. We are seriously curious about the burdensome tax increase and the huge increase in funding of public safety without the full story provided on paper. Why are 350 employees who mostly live outside Bridgeport the object of so much fiscal reward when 22,000 resident youth are left hanging? Time will tell.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • Pete Spain

    Thank you, John Lee!

    Tonight–for your great, hard-earned knowledge for the greater good and your doggedness–you received a long-overdue standing ovation.

    Hey CT Post, maybe worth a look at John Lee’s claim, that “taxes increased on 96% of commercial property?” You have got to be kidding that our current crisis is only a Black Rock problem. Wrong! Tonight proved it’s a widespread problem across our city.

    Will the mayor get the message and do something?

    If he doesn’t, then his “second chance” is up.

  • DC Faber

    To read the text of what John Lee said on OIB is awesome, having heard him live on Tuesday was extraordinary. I am not a finance guy, but what he and David Walker said makes plenty of sense! Thank you for having been on alert, boots and all!

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Usually budgets are not that complicated. X money in and X accounts to pay. Year after year JML has examined, studied, searched and researched, and he always has as many questions as answers. Time has told. When Stafstrom was sitting on the city council his opinion was the city would go broke in about three years, and he wanted the chance to try to fix it. I would argue the administrations have known, and once JML started investigating and never gave up, their shell games simply cannot work anymore. Clearly the electorate has No Confidence in the ability of this administration, no confidence required a financial control board to audit, cut waste and give taxpayers relief and full accounting of just how their hard earned dollars are allocated for the benefit of their citizens.

    • Frank Gyure

      Budgets may not be difficult if you have a good tax base. BRIDGEPORT DOES NOT. This is more of a problem than the age-old mantra “CUT THE WASTE.” However there is no doubt we have a crisis of good/bad governance. The City of Bridgeport government has been turned into a huge source of political patronage jobs and money is being wasted by unqualified political hacks occupying city jobs. There is also the question that some should be outright fired for incompetence such as Flatto and Anastasi and Tiago just to name a few.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Our financial problems are caused by a less than intelligent voting public. Election after election we keep putting the same DUMB ASSES on the council and year after year they keep screwing us by being too dumb to understand the finances of the city. Here is a question for everyone. How many of the 20 sitting council people will be reelected next time? People of Bridgeport, you are the dumb asses.

    • DC Faber

      I think the problem is Bridgeport is a one-party system. The Democrats control the city and have for over 20 years outside of the occasional Republican from Black Rock. The party picks their candidates, not based on most qualified but by candidates’ loyalty to the party and their popularity within the party. If you are not on the Democrat’s line, you probably won’t be seen on Election Day. If change is going to happen it feels like we need to create a non-partisan Bridgeport political party that can recruit qualified candidates based on merit, fund raise and organize and educate the public with a greater vision of the future. This will challenge the monopoly of Mario and Joe’s Democrats. In my opinion the Democrats have failed Bridgeport and are incapable of breaking up their inherent cronyism and the Republicans are too weak to challenge. I know there are good Democrats who are sick of the town counsel, but trying to break into the graces of the party might be tougher than starting a new one.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Attaboy, Andy!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Mario has the perceived power because the people of Bridgeport give it to him. I am so sick of hearing Mario lives in Monroe. I will say it again, he lives in Bridgeport and has a summer home on the lake in Monroe. Since when is it against the law to own a summer home?
    I am sure Mario is not happy paying $100K in property taxes.
    The people of Bridgeport just need to LOOK IN THE MIRROR and that will tell them who is responsible for the financial problems in the city.

    • Marshall Marcus

      It’s amazing how the story changes when another party is in power. Here in Trumbull the Republican Registrar of Voters sent a Private Eye to investigate the Democratic Town Committee Chairman’s summer residence in Stratford, peering through the windows and frightening his wife.

      This is all such nonsense.

  • Grin Ripper

    Andy is a Semper Fi friend.

  • Jimfox

    The people of Bridgeport just need to LOOK IN THE MIRROR and that will tell them who is responsible for the financial problems in the city???

    What in hell does that mean? Not Bill Finch, Not Tom McCarthy, Not Sal DiNardo, who walked away with a $10 million tax break this year, and he gets to keep part of Remington land, thanks to this City council and Joe Ganim!

    So the city has to sell Fairchild Wheeler golf course land to make up the difference?

    • Andrew C Fardy

      What that means, dumb ass, is the people of Bridgeport keep putting the same people in office. What happened Jim, you were on this blog during election time kissing Ganim’s ass and now you are unhappy? What did you think? Ganim was going to wave a magic wand and our problems would go away? The freaking Democrats would vote for Donald Duck if he were on the Democratic line and that includes you.

      • Jimfox

        I also voted for John Marshall Lee, but I can’t remember if Donald was on the same line.

      • Lisa Parziale

        Andy, I also supported G2 because I was under the mistaken notion he wasn’t a bad mayor, that is before he took a left turn. Don’t be hard on my handsome Fox, we gave him the benefit of the doubt, and know we realize he lost his game. I shouldn’t be speaking for my handsome Fox, but at least give us credit for cutting our losses sooner rather than later.

        • Jennifer Buchanan

          Lisa, Lisa, Lisa; guilty of 16 federal law violations while serving as mayor. What does it take for you to consider someone Bad? Never mind, I don’t think my heart would survive the details. Just happy you have seen the light and come back to making Bridgeport a better place. Always a fan of a true redemption and reform story.

    • John Marshall Lee

      It is difficult to find good and accurate numbers showing the actual count of active department employees, department salaries and benefits, and other expenses including costs of bond financing, etc. attributable from year to year for comparison, and this is most especially true for the Police Department of Bridgeport.
      The City provided a number of 470 and then indicated 17 vacancies without ever saying whether 470 was a target, an actual, or a dream state. And the other numbers follow in inconsistency and confusion, especially since the City software in too many cases does not provide totals.

      So let’s approach it in this amateur fashion:
      The actual 2008 PD expenditure was $46,262,562 in that transition year from Fabrizi to Finch. In 2010 the adopted budget for PD was $77,279,188, a full Finch year. And in 2017, a transition year from Finch to Ganim, the budget exceeds $100,000,000. And the public safety programs have actually had excess overtime issues for most of those years. And the departments are understaffed, yet we are shown no reliable numbers, by Sherwood formerly or today by Flatto. Why is that? What has been hidden and for what reasons? Time will tell.

      • Frank Gyure

        We can thank Chuck Paris for that and his efforts can be called EXTORTION as both Finch and Ganim have curried favor with the Bridgeport Police Union and have thrown millions their way to mollify Chuck Paris. The Bridgeport Police Department is supposed to be, for a city this size and urban issues, a para-military force but Chuck Paris has turned it into a para-political force. In fact, with the Gaudett affair and throw Chapman in there, we truly do not have a Bridgeport Police Dept. What is left is the Bridgeport Police Union and they are in charge. Ganim is owned by the Police Union. The Police Union also extorts money from the people of Bridgeport by working hand in hand with Charlie Mason of Mid-Line Towing, lining Mason’s pockets with the towing and also the booting scheme.

        • Frank Gyure

          And let’s not forget an impotent Board of Police Commissioners and one of the board’s members is Dan Roach, aide (or whatever his title is now) and that is A CONFLICT OF INTEREST because it gives the Mayor undue influence on the board.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    John, we don’t know if the PD is understaffed, overstaffed or what because nobody can remember the last time the PD was surveyed by a professional Law Enforcement firm. Based on the crime numbers I will say this, there are not enough street cops but we have too many detectives and too many ranking officers. Why do we have four deputies and an assistant chief? People act like the PD is overburdened. Are They? Let’s bring in a private firm so we can find out. The freaking overtime is out of control.

  • Ron Mackey

    Taking Mario Testa out of his position of power is not as hard you think. Andy Fardy has it right when he said, “the freaking Democrats would vote for Donald Duck if he waere on the Democratic line and that includes you.” Let me address those who live in Black Rock, you can’t look to the Republican Party to make any changes in Bridgeport. Lisa, Mojo, Bob Walsh and myself have written many times on OIB, if you want power then run your own slate of nine like-minded people for the Democratic Town Committee just the way Maria Pereira did in the 138th district. This election is held every other year in the month of March, it is one of the lowest voting times of any election. You have ten districts in Bridgeport and there are nine DTC members in each district for a total of 90 DTC members and it takes 46 DTC members to remove Mario Testa and the chairman of the DTC does not have to be a member of the DTC. But remember, Bridgeport is made up with over 70% people of color so those in Black Rock who want Mario Testa out then you have some work to do but it can be done. Remember if you want power then you have to take it.

  • Donald Day

    In 2006 the city of Waterbury Property tax rate: $97.79 per $1,000 of assessed fair market value. In 2013 it was down to $57.76 per $1,000 of assessed fair market value. The moral of this story is to quit electing people who have a greater loyalty to a party rather than the people. Waterbury righted its ship using this method, but they’ll tell you there is still much to do.

  • Frank Underwood

    But Bridgeport is doing so well.

    Did you guys see Ganim is rolling out a new plan for economic development?

    It’s called Debtor Every Day.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    This on a FB thread:
    Frank, I recently had dinner with a DOJ prosecutor here in DC. I regaled her with tales of Bridgeport, its history and politics. She literally thought I was lying. I had to finally pass my phone across the table with link after link. Every new tale she would shake her head in awe and just kept saying “this isn’t possible.”

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