Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee was among the taxpayers addressing city counselors at a budget public hearing Tuesday night, and brought with him his symbolic red boots signifying caution about red ink. Lee’s comments:
The “red boots” are on display again tonight to call attention to the fact that the proposed budget adds dollars to spend on obligations not well explained. It seems that to assume its numbers real is folly until the State gets through with its decisions. But the Mayor presents a set of numbers that totals $10 Million less than the current year. He did that by decreasing the BOE by $38 Million without presenting in his letter or the report the assumptions of how the schools will open next fall. Is the Mayor anti-school? No, he likes buildings he says. But he walks away from fiscal expertise in the City.
On operating funds for basic academics, for 21,000 urban youth, some with special needs and others with athletic, artistic and scientific aspirations, he does not comment. He is an experienced Mayor, but he does not show he cares about the youth except at photo-op time in this chamber.
Page 327 shows an increase of $850,000 for interest on debt, that is 33% greater than this year for general obligation bonds. What is behind that increase? What will $15 Million of added revenue to general, public safety and public facilities accomplish in a “lean” or “well managed” plan? Why do revenues like Lighthouse fees from parents of $850,000 or real income coming to the Print Shop illegally not show?
The CC must first authorize requests for the Capital budget annually, and then when the City comes back for bonding must approve once again. But is there a public list since 2007 for these authorizations with a timeline of completion on time, within budget or not and made available to the Council or to the public routinely? Not in Bridgeport. Who monitors the spending and the development and how? Used to be O&G but now much will be run from Public Facilities? At what expense? With what reporting? Is John Ricci to become our local Jared Kushner with multiple responsibilities, except for stopping the opioid crisis?
Can you tell which authorized Capital spending items from five or ten years ago that were never funded or sit incomplete, today? Why not? Isn’t this routine reporting in other towns? When will you admit that we have no checks and balance mechanisms left in Bridgeport?
— The CT Post announced the meeting tonight on the front page above the fold but with little actual content on Monday morning and did not share that there are other hearings scheduled. If there are more folks out tonight, good. But what info did you get to assist you?? (Talk about content: The Post included two copies of last Sunday’s comics with my paper this AM.)
–Ed Adams was announced as the man who would bring about greater disclosure, transparency, etc. with his legal and FBI experience. So we have OPEN BUDGET, copied from the State and costing the City $24,000 per year but how many people in the audience have used it as a resource more than once a month? Has Mr. Adams helped the Mayor fill a number of vacancies and expired terms among City Boards and Commissions? Where’s the evidence of that? Not on the Port Authority that is a semi-public Commission with three public members but two vacancies for much too long. No meetings since last August and no financial report of their assets, liabilities or basic budget since December 2008? Any way to run a railroad or a Port Authority? But they own valuable waterfront property and an RFP will doubtless come out one of these days? Open, accountable or transparent? Outrage?
–What about $950,000 removed from OPED capital account in the last weeks of the Finch administration to repay a Port Authority debt with a 10% interest rate? Contrary to our budget book that says on page 1, “Transfers of certain appropriations between departments require the approval of the City Council.” Did it happen? What’s the story? Where’s the Sheriff?
–For years Police Department personnel have been overstated thus increasing the appropriation. Happened again this year with a count of 493.5 full time employees reported as well as vacant positions. Current PD numbers of sworn officers and other personnel are 15% under that number. Why use distorting numbers? Why no explanations? Taxpayers should expect facts, not fantasies.
–Why does the Mayor increase General Government by more than 20% with only three added employees? Why does the proposal reduce Library budget by 15% and leave a gap between what BOE has requested $256 Million and presented of $198 Million without explaining where that entire gap is expected to be constituted from State funds? Last year you did practically nothing about education. This year you run for office; it’s your problem to solve.