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‘Graveyard Full’ Of Financial Skeletons

August 4th, 2016 · 14 Comments · City Budget, News and Events

In a call for a financial oversight board, former Republican City Councilwoman from Black Rock Donna Curran shares this stinging commentary about city finances, asserting “Of course, we do understand why “outside” assistance is rejected–the fear of exposing abuses that go back decades.” From Curran:

August 2 CT Post headline: “Taxpayers demand oversight.”

Mayor’s response to this demand: “The answer is not to give control of Bridgeport’s finances over to an outside group which doesn’t understand the city and its people.”

Hmm … let me see. If his answer is a negative, “not to give control,” what is his positive recommendation for positive action? Taxpayers have rightly demanded outside financial oversight for a historically dysfunctional operation that faces a $1.5 billion 2017 shortfall–yes, that’s a “b”–and is plagued and hampered by confused, confusing, irregular reporting. Over the course of two public meetings, more than 600 taxpayers voiced their anger and frustration. The Mayor’s dismissive quote promises more of the same.

Do I dare point out our budgeting process has been in the hands of an “inside” group for more than 30 years! And look where we are. With no lasting challenges to its power, this “inside” group has ruled with a free hand to our significant disadvantage–education, economic development, property values. The City has lost its credibility as a sound investment for any human or monetary capital.

Bridgeport’s fiscal credibility can be restored with an outside financial review board. The review board process is objective, non-adversarial, and wants nothing to do with “understanding the city and its people.” The process wants to “understand” the numbers which will ultimately result in the people being better served. Of course, we do understand why “outside” assistance is rejected–the fear of exposing abuses that go back decades. Not a closet full of skeletons but a graveyard full.

To fuel this reform effort, I challenge the CT Post to use FOI to write a Pulitzer-prize winning expose laying bare the cloaked, byzantine workings of the City budget process. (Why not!?) I challenge the voters to do their research starting with the August primary and vote for those who are independent of the “inner” sanctum. Do we really want to read another front-page interview with the head of the ruling machine gloating over a protégée’s victory?

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I agree with your commentary. We have no idea how our money is being spent and if it is legal the way the city spends money. Years ago under Ganim 1 the city bonded for $300-plus million to fund police and fire plan A. Over the years it is alleged this pension fund that was managed by an outside firm lost millions of dollars. Really? Prove it!!! How do we know money claimed to have been lost in the market was used to balance the budgets of various mayors? We don’t know that and we don’t know which stocks or funds we lost these millions of dollars. I have dabbled in the market since the ’90s. I did lose some when the market fell but I recouped what I lost when the market rebounded. How come the city’s pension investments never rebounded?
    Where did the city come up with the millions they spent on all the equipment in public facilities and why don’t the taxpayers know? Where did the money come to get many, many, many new police cars?
    We just had public facilities spend a lot of money on trailer trucks and equipment, who approved this?
    We are not going to get answer from the council because they don’t know. Ganim is not going to tell us. We need a federal probe into where all this money came from and who spent it. These politicians are stealing us blind and it seems we can’t do much about it.

  • Ron Mackey

    Donna Curran, so are you saying over the course of two public meetings, more than 600 taxpayers who voiced their anger and frustration and who were mostly from Black Rock represent the makeup of Bridgeport?

    • DC Faber

      Hi Ron–Does it matter what brings the people to the cause? The 29 mil increase in property taxes got Black Rock to the table. I talk to folks in my neighborhood (Beardsley Park area (E.Main/Huntington Tpk) and it is a fairly diverse area with more people of colors other than white. Everyone is talking about taxes; the high taxes of Bridgeport affect everyone. The fact is if finances do not get under control things will only get worse for everyone. The numbers show if things do not change the city is headed towards bankruptcy; and while Ganim will never call for it, municipal bankruptcy can be imposed by the Federal government, and bankruptcy would most certainly affect everyone.

      • Ron Mackey

        DC, I agree with what Andy said. How do we know, where is that information?

        You said, “Does it matter what brings the people to the cause?” Of course it does, I mean we do live in a democracy, don’t we? No, everyone is not talking about taxes and bankruptcy. So because people who live in the Beardsley Park area E.Main/Huntington Tpk area along with Black Rock represent the makeup of Bridgeport?

        • John Marshall Lee

          Ron,
          You live in the South End. Are taxes a factor for people in your residential community? Certainly some of my friends who have moved from Black Rock to your neighborhood found and still find Bridgeport finances (including taxation) tough to understand and support.
          Respectfully, I suggest you get out a bit more yourself. You usually talk about the East End as a neighborhood to visit. What location, school, church or library property or other would you suggest as a meeting place? What day and time would be ideal from your knowing perspective to have a conversation about City finances, priorities and public expectations? Let’s do this together, brother. Time will tell.

    • Zena Lu

      Were you there? I was. ‘Mostly” is inaccurate.

      It was about 60% Black Rock and the rest from everywhere else in the City. INCLUDING nonresident Bridgeport business owners. For the record, I do not live in Black Rock.

  • Ron Mackey

    Here’s what I don’t understand about those who live in Black Rock, you say that you want change, then why haven’t you changed your Democratic Town Committee members? All you need is to elect just five (5) members whom you want to serve on the DTC, just five out of nine and by doing that you control your district, the entire 130th district. You can remove Danny Roach from being the district leader but no, not you guys, you act like you can’t do two things at the same time. You want power, well you have to take power but no, you live in Black Rock so things are different. I’ve said this so many times but you guys live in your own world.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Ron,
      You have beaten the drum to death. The opportunity you speak about happens once every two years, several months after City Council elections. What you propose has been attempted about 20 years ago in Black Rock, and only one of the new folks made the cut. That does not mean yours is an invalid strategy, but what are you doing along the same lines in your district? If one district changes, like the 138th, but the others do not, is that effort worth it? Debatable, probably.
      The DTC is fueled by “privileges,” jobs, titles, invitations and money around election time is part of the excitement. It is not about what a party stands for, a progressive platform that supports economic development, the education of all children and quality of life for all. Those are things DTC members get because they are more important than others, favored if you will, and expectant of promises made to them for what they will do to keep the party in power. How does that fit into your sense of fairness and justice, brother? Perhaps pointing these facts of life often enough to be heard and understood is a more worthwhile effort. Let the administration continue to dole out perks where they do, to ever more limited population while asking fiscal sacrifice ever more on taxpayers and NOW YOU HAVE ATTENTION THAT WAS NOT THERE BEFORE. What to do with that? Obviously your Citywide strategy is very appropriate. Will you help it become a reality? Will you understand that using skin color, or a neighborhood as a code word (after all we are not termed White Rock) for the same, to keep folks at a distance is just as much racially based behavior as much of what Michele Alexander has written about in THE NEW JIM CROW. You have read it, I expect. Let’s get some folks together and see what it has done to Bridgeport and where we can begin to repair the structures and heal the persons affected, together? Time will tell.

      • Ron Mackey

        JML, I tell you what. You and the rocket scientist Dave Walker can find a place to meet in the East End, the East Side or whereever and who to talk to because I’m out, you guys work it out because you guys got all the answers. Why wait for a control board, just go straight for bankruptcy, that’s what Dave wants so go for it.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    You guys are missing the point. It’s not about Black Rock or the East Side or North End. It’s about these freakin’ politicians spending our hard-earned money. Now for David Walker’s favorite subject, Pension plan A. When asked it’s we lost it in the market and that’s it. I will say it here, our city government is rife with thieves and abusers. Just look at the payroll.
    Here is an example. Who writes the request for proposals that puts items the city needs to buy out to bid? The department head writes the proposal and puts in things that may favor a friend. Back years ago on the FD whenever they needed to buy a fire truck they would write a proposal that favored just one company so in all the time I had on the job it was one kind of truck. That is bid rigging. Let’s talk about real problems, not my crowd is bigger than your crowd.

  • Jimfox

    Detroit Bankruptcy from Wikipedia.org

    In April 2012, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the nine-member City Council entered into an agreement with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that allowed for greater fiscal oversight by the state government in exchange for the state’s providing Detroit help with its finances.[14] A financial review team was appointed in December 2012 to conduct a 60-day review. The team consisted of Andy Dillon (Treasurer of Michigan), Thomas McTavish (Michigan Chief Financial Officer and Auditor General), Ken Whippel (Korn/Ferry), Darrell Burks (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Ronald Goldsberry (Deloitte Consulting) and Frederick Headen.[15] In February 2013, Snyder announced that the Michigan state government was taking financial control of the city of Detroit, as it viewed that Detroit failed to meet deadlines set by the state government.[14] In accordance with Public Act 72 of 1990, the state government’s Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board appointed Kevyn Orr emergency financial manager of Detroit following a declaration of financial emergency.[2] As emergency manager, Orr was granted the power to rewrite Detroit’s contracts and to liquidate city assets.[16]

    A report on the financial health of Detroit was released by Orr in May 2013.[17] The report stated that Detroit is “clearly insolvent on a cash flow basis” and that the city would finish its current fiscal year with a US$162 million cash-flow shortfall.[18] It also stated that the city’s budget deficit would reach $386 million in less than two months and that one-third of the city’s budget was going toward retiree benefits.[19]

    In June 2013, the government of Detroit stopped making payments on some of its unsecured debts, including pension obligations.[3] In an effort to avoid bankruptcy, Orr sought to persuade some of Detroit’s creditors to accept 10% of the amount they are owed.[3] White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, during a press conference in July, that he knew of no plans by President Obama to bail out the Detroit city government similar to the bailouts in recent years of Detroit-area automakers General Motors and Chrysler.[3] On July 17, just one day before the bankruptcy filing, Detroit’s two largest municipal pension funds filed suit in state court to prevent Orr from cutting retiree benefits as part of his efforts to cut the city’s budget deficit.

  • Ron Mackey

    Is this the same Michigan Governor Rick Snyder where the Flint water crisis is a drinking water contamination issue in Flint Michigan, who issued an apology to citizens and promised to fix the problem, and then sent $28 million to Flint for supplies, medical care and infrastructure upgrades, and later budgeted an additional $30 million to Flint that will give water bill credits of 65% for residents and 20% for businesses.[6] Another $165 million for lead pipe replacements and water bill reimbursements was approved by Governor Snyder on June 29, 2016?

  • Tom White

    As usual, Ron Mackey’s comments are uninformed and irrelevant.

    I am pleased to see Donna Curran speaking up. Her service on the city council was thoughtful, informed and sincere. She insisted on understanding duties of the city council, including the budget process.

    Even during an ‘enlightened’ period of the city council following the corruption of G1 and prior to the McCarthy era of control and rewards, Donna could, I believe, see the need for more capable and objective people on the city council.

    Well, the Democrat Town Committee does not tolerate having people like Donna Curran or Rick Torres on the city council.

    I believe a discussion of the need for independent, ‘outside’ oversight rather than the current charter-prescribed system in place with the city council having legislative and financial responsibilities is necessary.

    There are many issues outside the purview of the city council such as the dependence on property tax as the primary source of revenue for municipalities that have lost their commercial tax base.

    I don’t know what it will take to convince this or any mayoral administration to voluntarily seek outside financial oversight. Clearly, the recent property revaluation and questionable ability of the current city council to address the impact suggests changes are needed.

    Perhaps our state house and senate representatives will support legislation that sets parameters for when a municipality must seek outside financial oversight.

    • Ron Mackey

      Tom, is that the best you can do? You have been uninformed and irrelevant since you left the city council.

      Donna Curran, I’m glad you have expressed your opinion especially by you being a Republican. Now back to my question, Donna Curran, you are saying over the course of two public meetings, more than 600 taxpayers who voiced their anger and frustration and who were mostly from Black Rock represent the makeup of Bridgeport?

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