Gomes: City Finances “Wild Ride Into Further Debt”

Democratic mayoral candidate John Gomes weighs in on the city’s plan to sell/lease Bridgeport City Hall and City Hall Annex. Statement follows:

Another taxpayer sellout …

According to the Connecticut Post article (Feb 24, 2011 “City Hall and Annex on the Market”), the Finch administration has proposed the sale/leaseback of City Hall and the City Hall Annex in hope of a deal that gives a one-time-only infusion of cash … a one-shot deal.

Under this proposal the City hopes to get $30 million dollars before the end of the fiscal year as part of a sale/leaseback plan of both buildings to a public/private entity, with a lease agreement of 20 years.

At the end of 20 years, the plan calls for the City to buy back the buildings for one dollar. Money for the leaseback payments would be in the form of rental payments for 20 years, and would come from setting up a trust fund, generating bonds (or issuing certificates of participation), and then using the earnings/revenue gained from these bonds or certificates.

Also referenced in the same CT Post article is mention of other cities which have closed their budget deficits in this manner or are cities thinking of doing so for the same reason.

The difference in our City is that we have two City Halls; therefore we can double our pain as we watch all this activity by the Finch administration becoming no more than a wild ride into further debt.

Currently, we do not have an Administration making fiscally responsible decisions meant to solve our budget deficit problems. We do not have an Administration whose fiscal decisions can be trusted. And we do not see an Administration working towards genuine budget deficit reduction.

First, there was the Regional Sewage Authority idea/solution, which was supposed to produce a one-time-only payment to the City. Under this proposal, the City would receive $40 million dollars.

In the next one-shot deal, the City proposed the idea/solution of selling both City Hall buildings and then buying them back … with the City making repayments to stay in the buildings for the next 20 years.

Both of these “solutions” could possibly meet some of the short-term needs arising from the City’s current budget crisis. But there is hardly any guarantee, especially with the same individuals in the Finch Administration continuing to make the fiscal decisions for the City.

Nowhere does either of these two proposed solutions address the long-term loss they represent for the City taxpayers. In other words, there is no long-term gain for the City under either circumstance.

And further, both proposals contain language which provides for personal financial gain for a selected few. This continues the Administration’s pattern: to maintain control, to payout favors and to play favorites.

All this goes on while the residents of Bridgeport must continue to pay their tax dollars for these poorly conceived ideas.

At this time, at least four schools have been sold to private developers, while at the same time the Board of Education has been looking for space in order to centralize its core facilities. The initial search was never taken to find the best re-use of four schools. Rather, the search began with a proposal to lease the Bodine building (with its terrible environmental problems) and then next to follow was the approval to lease a site for BOE off Connecticut Avenue.

If indeed this Administration was looking and planning for the long term, why couldn’t the Board of Education and the City come to an agreement and have the Board of Education move offices out of Lyon Terrace into one of the existing schools, while retro-fitting the building to meet BOE needs, just as it is doing now at the recently leased location off Connecticut Ave.?

Or why couldn’t the Board even have considered building a new facility based on a portion of the funds generated with the sales of the remaining schools?

Yes, the argument can be made that such transaction would incur debt. And my counter to this argument is: what is the sale/lease proposal doing for both the short- and long-term needs of our City, other than incurring an unnecessary debt with no long-term justification?

The vacant space that would become available at Lyon Terrace from the BOE move-out would allow City offices at the Annex to be relocated to Lyon Terrace. The City would then have one City Hall housing all administrative functions and operations.

This kind of centralization is doable and offers an opportunity for maximizing efficiency not only for the administration by having all agencies under one roof, but also to serve as a single service point to the City for all of our citizens.

City Hall Annex should be sold but not through a sale/leaseback agreement. Rather, City Hall Annex should be sold to a private developer with the idea of converting the building to a downtown centerpiece. This location could become a fifty (50) story downtown skyscraper with a movie theater, a gym, retail space, a medium-sized convention center, and residential apartments.

Perhaps we could consider revisions to the idea that Magic Johnson proposed as a way to redirect the economic future of Bridgeport. I know that many other issues would have to be resolved to fine tune this idea, but it’s an idea which demonstrates economic growth and it does not further burden the taxpayers of this City, who are now saddled with the City’s financial debt.

We need to think about this City and act in a way that ensures her future.

It is an established fact that favoritism and cronyism has been the guiding force of the Administration’s policies and practices. We have been witness to a history of pervasive internal and external greed.

Now is the time to shed light on the Administration’s erroneous thinking and its dangerous actions. Now is the time to call for a correction to our course if we are to reach a goal of economic stability for Bridgeport.



  1. Guess who would be the Bond Counsel if and when bonds are sold for the city hall complex and for the Regional sewer treatment facility. You got it, John Stafstrom.

  2. Good statement from John Gomes. As I recall, Ganim moved city offices into the Annex because he liked the idea of having the big bankers office suite with the Persian carpets. Even though that forced us the taxpayers to now pay utilities and maintenance on two large municipal buildings. Finch spent a ton of money on renovations to the Annex including a new office for CC and new kitchen for the Mrs. The Annex is mainly wasted space. The second floor is a maze of hallways with a scattering of offices and conference rooms. It requires two full-time security guards (none at City Hall) which is an added expense. PLUS, it is inconvenient to the public as there is no parking. I agree with Gomes. Sell the Annex and move everyone back to the real City Hall.

  3. *** Election year short-term quick money proposal to balance the budget, with long term possible debt? Which way is up, I don’t know? Old city hall doesn’t have the parking space for employees & visitors now never mind after the annex moves back! Maybe selling both city hall & the annex is the ticket & then finding or building a large enough tall building where all city hall functions can be located along with extra floors which could be leased out to business companies to help pay some of the expenses. BOE should be separate from the city side, and have there own independent state budget with minimal services from the city like plowing & landscaping maint. This way the finger-pointing & money fighting between the two sides would hopefully be minimal @ best. And let’s not forget downsizing from the top first for smaller government; leadership by example, no? *** Time for change ***

    1. Mojo // Feb 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm
      to your posting

      Good insight … and it’s heartening to know others are still willing to explore the options …

      And a very good point … leadership by example, yes!

      It is both the absence of current leadership thinking on one level and the hipocracy of the current leadership behavior on another level, that leads me to think … someone with a willingness to keep his vision focused on ALL of Bridgeport (not just a selected favored few and favorites), and direct any message to ALL of Bridgeport would have the opportunity to make the change you think it’s time to make … September 13, 2011 is decision time for Bridgeport voters.

      Everything has to come up for review, and with a top-fight cabinet, partnered finally with a City Council we can be proud of …

  4. pfft … 50-story skyscraper? Is Gomes serious? Medium-sized convention center? Isn’t that the Arena? I along with a lot of other people would love to see a 50-story skyscraper downtown, but if a 5-story mixed-use building had such tremendous problems getting funding, with a theater project that seems to be stalled, how can a mayoral candidate seriously suggest this for the city that does not have this in its vision? Are there not so many other locations that would better suit large scale new construction in our downtown? Downtown north? Lafayette circle? Near the arena or Bluefish? I don’t think at all that John is thinking before he speaks.

    1. Lake Forest Guy // Feb 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm
      To your posting

      Get a grip Lake Forest Guy

      You have to be the first one to know that keeping your vision focused on ALL of Bridgeport is going to bring a lot of ideas to the table.

      You should be one of the first to say the thought’s in the right direction, and that is City Hall does not belong belong at 999 Broad Street. That was one of the more hedonistic, self-indulgent moves Ganim made.
      Rest assured Lake Forest Guy, we can find locations, we can find anything we want and perhaps it’s the lack of current Administrative vision so far that makes 20, 30, 50 stories that are filled with activity a non-happening in our City.
      Stay tuned. I think a lot of new ideas will become part of the City’s vision.

      1. www .highbeam.com/doc/1G1-109447302.html
        This article appeared on 9/8/2003
        It’s time to bring back the Phoenix Project.
        Frustrated by escalating property taxes, a vanishing industrial base and municipal corruption, Bridgeport residents Jim Fox and Tom Lombard have proposed an immense urban redevelopment project they say can give the Park City a niche in today’s economic framework.

        Their proposal, dubbed the Phoenix Project, would replace vacant industrial buildings and rundown neighborhoods in the city’s West End with office towers, affordable housing and street-level shops over the next 10 to 20 years.

        But city officials have backed away from the idea that big projects can save the city, especially since former Mayor Joseph P. Ganim’s administration ended with a corruption conviction.

      2. Carolanne,
        Let John speak for himself. I think the the idea of Bridgeport housing a 50-story skyscraper would be wonderful. However, is this viable? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea at all, but look at our downtown as a whole and you tell me that knocking down an operational building to try and build a 50-story skyscraper is feasible. “Theaters, shops, convention center.” Isn’t that Steel Pointe? I’m just saying John has some good ideas but many many misconstrued unrealistic priorities, and that’s scary when coming from someone seeking the city’s highest office.

  5. I think most people are missing the bigger news story here. And that is why is the city contemplating such an expensive move?
    To cover a $35 million budget deficit? I didn’t realize the city had one anywhere near this amount. If it does, then Finch has been hiding some real fiscal mismanagement problems.
    To reestablish the fund balance? Though that might be a noble cause, his administration has done nothing in the past three-plus years to address this shortcoming other than to establish a policy that they continuously ignore.
    I believe the city is so short on cash that Wall St. will not issue Tax Anticipation Notes or that the loan is considered so risky the cost of borrowing is becoming extremely prohibitive.
    When this proposal comes before the council it MUST include an ordinance to ensure this money cannot be spent to cover budget shortfalls or else the city will have problems greater than the ones established by Mayors Bucci and Moran.
    If such limitations are not included this is one City Council member who will definitely vote against this sale.

  6. *** In a decaying city that presently lacks a “real qualified” candidate to oust the present admin. & lead this city into a brighter future, we are left with well intentioned people who would need an experienced team to hit the ground running. Mind you ideas & opinions are just that, they must be examined, studied & set in motion to hopefully become reality. It is said that experience is the best teacher, so where does that leave city voters in making a smart choice towards change or another 4 years of the S.O.S.? *** HERE WE GO! ***

    1. Per Mojo: “Mind you ideas & opinions are just that, they must be examined, studied & set in motion to hopefully become reality.”

      Unfortunately ideas and opinions are currently hatched behind the curtains at City Hall (or at one or more restaurants or law offices in the region) with relatively few people present, not all of them elected, not all of them Bridgeport voters. The dialogue, discussion and debate that might play out before the public in public sessions, in local media, or in political party meetings (don’t laugh, it happens in other communities), does not happen here with any frequency.

      Any new slate that wages a war of ideas, especially about the financial consequences of current City practices will help the voting population come to a better understanding of what may work better over the next four years and beyond.

      And if financial markets are looking askance at tax anticipation notes by indicating a higher interest rate, then all of us are going to need to ask our Council representatives, “What’s the story? Why did you vote on last year’s budget accepting it wholesale? How does it look to you now?”

    2. Mojo // Feb 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm
      To your posting

      What you say is right … no one disagrees with you.

      Why we’re all in this now … To make the reality far better for Bridgeport tomorrow … than it is today …

  7. “Together, the buildings have an assessed value of $38 million, which represents 70 percent of the fair market value.”

    I would insist on an independent appraisal of these buildings. There is no way in hell these buildings are worth this much money. What the city is doing is taking the value that the tax assessor places on these building and claiming this is their market value.
    This is a game the city always plays. When they need to grow the Grand List they arbitrarily increase the value of city-owned property. Since no one pays taxes on these properties no one is going to challenge the appraisal. That is unless the city is going to borrow against that value. If the city has reason to believe these values are inflated and uses them anyway, that act might be considered criminal. Without an independent appraisal the city is skating on very thin ice.
    If $38 million represents 70% of their appraised value, that would put the value of the two building at over $50 million. Does John Gomes actually believe they are worth that?
    If so go ahead and sell them and build a new building but since the city couldn’t even sell the M & F building for three quarters of a million there is no way City Hall Annex is worth $10 mill on the open market.
    I believe Bernie Madoff is the broker of record on this deal.

    1. Bob Walsh // Feb 26, 2011 at 11:22 pm
      To your posting

      Think about this for a few minutes … Someone is actually thinking about the consequences for the whole City … and that someone is not Bill Finch …

      Because we know from the record Finch has no intention of thinking of the City-wide consequences of his thought processes to date.

      There is a candidate for Mayor today, John M. Gomes, with open agenda of City Government reform, and it’s a good opportunity for you, other OIB’ers and the voting public to build on that agenda.

      To your question of whether Gomes does or does not believe figures that the City has quoted. Nobody could Bob … knowing this City Administration. But the larger point is a willingness to change the City Hall agenda.

  8. *** Well Bob, it sounds like the city once again is trying to go upstream salmon fishing without a paddle on this pre-election’s quick fix! Go figure, what’s next? ***

  9. I made two of the worst decisions of my life when I didn’t have any money. Lack of funds is the mother of bad decisions. It was true for me and it’s true today. The number of bad choices being made today is staggering. I hope Bridgeport escapes this distinction.

    However, John Gomes made his choice several months ago, and every day he sounds more and more like a genuine candidate.

  10. John Gomes used to be an announced candidate. Now he’s an announced candidate with White Papers, an HQ, a web site and a steady media presence.

    But let me digress:

    Is this a bad time to talk about Lennie’s M.O.M.?
    (Message, Organization and Money)

    Message is the hardest part but it’s a politician’s best ticket to victory. Gomes is still thrashing to discover his message (it never ends) but we get to watch his political career unfold before our eyes.

    Organization is something Gomes already has in place. It can easily be increased and it never has to exceed city boundaries. MBAs would say it’s “scalable.”

    And money? Here’s the best part: when you have the first two things and a little wind at your back, it’ll find you.


  11. For those who missed this story in the CT Post by Keila Torres:

    BRIDGEPORT — An organization that has faced stiff opposition from city residents and officials for a plan to establish a halfway house in the South End may have hurt its chances to obtain an extension for the approved plan.

    Charles Willinger, an attorney for Community Solutions Inc., did not turn in the application for an extension before the Nov. 2, 2010, expiration date set by the Planning and Zoning Commission when it granted the applicant the initial extension for the 120-bed facility in 2009.

    However, the extension will still be presented to the P&Z for a decision at its regular meeting Monday at 6:45 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

    “The decision of whether or not to grant this request for a second extension will be made by the P&Z, after its consideration of all the relevant facts, including the timing of this request relative to the expiration of the initial extension,” said Assistant City Attorney Edmund Schmidt, legal counsel to the commission.

    But there is a lot more to this than appeared in the newspaper.

    Read more: www .ctpost.com/local/article/Halfway-house-plan-missed-filing-deadline-1031215.php

  12. Below is the original letter that I sent to Mr. William Minor and his initial response.

    William Minor
    LUCR Director
    Land Use Construction Review
    Bridgeport City Hall
    Room 212
    45 Lyon Terrace
    Bridgeport, CT 06604

    By Fax: 203-576-7213

    Dear Mr. Minor
    I am writing in regards to item an item on the February 28, 2011 Planning & Zoning Commission’s agenda. Specifically I am referring to:

    (D-1) 4 aka 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave. – Petition of Community Solutions, Inc – Seeking a Coastal Site Plan Review, and a 2nd extension of time for a Special Permit granted on November 24, 2008, to establish a 120 bed group living facility in a R-C zone, and I-L zone.

    It has come to my attention that the original extension of time was granted on October 26, 2009 with the understanding that “the expiration date of the Special Permit approval, as required under Sec. 14-4-5 of the Zoning Regulations of the City of Bridgeport, CT has been established as November 2, 2010.”

    In order to file for an extension of time, this item should have come before the commission at its October 2010 meeting. An extension of this expired extension is out of order at this time.

    I am requesting that you immediately rule the item out of order and that it be stricken from the agenda. In light of the decision by the acting chairperson at the last meeting which would limit the scope of testimony to the extension of time only, the petitioner should at this point be required to start anew. Any further attempt to alter, change, revise or amend the item before the board would cause additional confusion with the public and could discourage their participation if the is any indication that this item is an extension.

    I will personally contact you after you have had a chance to review this to determine your decision. If you have any questions you can contact me on my cell at (203) 623-6215.


    Robert S. Walsh
    Bridgeport City Council
    132nd District

    To which Mr. Minor responded:

    I have read your email and I must let you know that Ed Schmidt, Associate City [Attorney] and Dennis [Buckley] has discussed the date discrepancies and Ed feels the request is valid. Should wish to know more, you contact Attorney Schmidt.

    Then the fun had begun.

  13. Sale/leaseback deals like this are almost always a bad idea. Yes, the City gets a cash infusion, but at a cost. Over the term of the lease the city pays far more (sometimes two to three times as much) as the initial payment. The only ones who make out over the long term are the investors.

    In reality it is a lot like borrowing for current expenses. Short Term cash fix. Long term cost. Dumb idea.

  14. The anatomy of the city’s decision-making process and PR machine.

    Mark Anastasi reponded at 9:30 Thursday evening with the following:

    I will defer to Att. Ed Schmidt, but my recollection of my discussions with Ed are that his opinion is NOT as stated by William Minor. The original 1 year extension was to a date certain (on or about 11/2/10), and therefore the request for a 2nd extension filed on or about 11/9/10 or 11/12/10 was in fact UNTIMELY.

    If Ed does not respond to this e-mail chain, I will address the subject with him at tomorrow morning’s staff meeting and update all.

    It obviously took the city and the City Attorney’s Office a full day to try to re-spin their story because at 4:12 on Friday afternoon the city issues this statement:

    From Assistant City Attorney Edmund Schmidt re: P&Z hearing

    “The decision of whether or not to grant this request for a second extension will be made by the P &Z, after its consideration of all the relevant facts, including the timing of this request relative to the expiration of the initial extension.”

    This is a direct contradiction to what Mark Anastasi said.

    After Keila Torres pushed them more on Atty Schmidt’s statement Mark Anastasi weighs in with this opinion at 4:39:

    “The reason that the decision ultimately rests with the P&Z is that the original one (1) year extension was granted by the Commission; and therefore, it would NOT be within staff’s authority to authorize or deny any further extension.”

    The city responded to Keila at 5:05 with the same quote that Mark had given me in an e-mail but attributed it to Atty Schmidt.

    1. The reason I went through this whole process was first to show this is a matter of the city not only shooting itself in the foot but shooting each other.

      I had already gotten wind of how the city was going to try to explain away the fact that the application was timely. And I believe Mr. Minor’s original response was very accurate. The city had hoped this question if it had to be dealt with would not come to light until Monday evening.

      If this is not a prime example of how the city bends over backwards and bends its rules for the likes of a Chuck Willinger and the DiNardo family then I cannot think of a better one.

      The city is prepared to open up a large can of worms by issuing an opinion that says applications for extensions must be heard by the full P & Z and cannot be administratively denied. So even if an extension is being filed one year late, the city must put it on the agenda.

      So if the city had ever denied an extension administratively, that decision is now up for review and maybe even potential legal action.

      All because Chuck Willinger missed a filing deadline for his clients the DiNardo family.

      I hate to sound too much like Chris Caruso but this is as corrupt as corruption can get.

      God save the city of Bridgeport from itself.

      1. Oh, and I forgot to ask, does anyone REALLY think the City Attorney is doing all of this without the full knowledge and approval of the Mayor? Of course not. But the Mayor publicly comes out against this proposal in order to suck up to the neighborhood groups.

        1. Bob Walsh tells it like it is and does his homework.

          This reminds me of Joe Ganim on the asphalt issue when the moratorium was instituted. Ganim was “Me Too!”

          Finch thought this deal was in the bag so he could could go against it with a wink and a nod.

          On Monday evening someone should ask for intervenor status and request a “RULING” not an OPINION, from the City Attorney on this issue. This is ministerial in nature and should not have to go in front of the P & Z. If I don’t get my paperwork in on time to zoning I am S-O-L!

        2. Hey Bob maybe you can help me with this comment from the P&Z attorney: “People can say that the one-year extension has expired but it’s only if it’s on the record that it counts,” Schmidt added. “If you don’t have a record it would be very difficult for a court to decide.” What kind of legal BS is this? If the P&Z grants a one-year extension and the one year date comes and goes with no action from the petitioner, isn’t that on the record? Since when do the courts only accept cut and tried cases? It sounds to me like this P&Z attorney has been taken to that special room in city hall where they took his brains and his balls and left us with another Finch Toadie.
          Bob these are all Finch appointees and they try to say Finch has no control over them. BS. Finch does not want to piss off a powerful benefactor.

  15. Let’s take a different approach to this problem. The BOE should be terminated for their abysmal performance. Next sell all the schools to nonprofits for halfway houses. Now here’s the good part. Bus all our kids to the suburbs so they can finally get a real education.

  16. Antitesto,
    I would be happy to submit your idea in the form of a resolution to the City Council but I am sure Mark Anastasi would administratively rule it out of order!

  17. The ownership of school buildings revert back to the city once the BOE stops using them as schools. This is not to say they should not be the first choice for administrative offices but it would require the city’s approval.
    Not only does it makes a positive statement by the BOE but when you consider the size of playgrounds and teachers’ parking, these buildings have one thing that the downtown locations do not have; lots of parking.

  18. Too late for the school buildings. Ramos and his band of unqualified non-braintrusts kiss Finch buttocks and hand over buildings to the city so they can be sold for condos while the BOE uses up its budget renting space at a factory on Connecticut Ave. Rent is the key word.


Leave a Reply