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Help Me Spend The Moolah

December 3rd, 2008 · 21 Comments · Development and Zoning, Media, News and Events

I’m wondering (and that usually gets me in trouble) with Barack’s talk about pumping billions into infrastructure improvements to ignite the economy what shovel-ready projects can Bridgeport start on assuming money finds its way to the Park City as early as this spring.

What wish list would you start on, fix, upgrade, remodel? Congress Street Bridge? Pleasure Beach? Seaview Avenue? Brownfields? Sewage treatment? Schools? Brothels? (Let’s forget those, we have enough of them.)

This is the time to dust off those studies, architectural renderings and engineering plans that are screaming for funding. I imagine public works and development officials are poising staff to be ready to go in anticipation of the flow.

Judging what Gov. Rell had to say about the meeting involving a collection of U.S. governors and Barack she sounded upbeat about pumping new life into stagnant approved plans. Maybe this is where former Mayor Nick Panuzio will earn his lobbying fee on behalf of the city. Everyone line up!

Party Time

We had a slammin’ event at the Barnum Museum Tuesday night to mark the publication of my new book Bow Tie Banker, a biography of David Carson, retired chief executive of People’s Bank. Kudos to Barnum Museum Director Kathy Maher for all her help. Lots of OIB friends were among the 200 or so folks in attendance, including Bruce Hubler, Sue Katz (designer of OIB site), Black Rockin, State Senator Rob Russo, City Council President Tom McCarthy, Republican Town Chair Marc Delmonico and wife Barbara, Congressman Christopher Shays, Bijou Square developer Phil Kuchma, those dynamic marketing divas Rowena White and Caryn Kaufman, and Connecticut Post Managing Editor Michael Daly.

Cougar Rodgerson was also hand with Anna who promptly needled me about the airbrushing of my photo on the dust jacket. I noticed Anna was searching for Yahooy, but ended up hitting on the Feejee Mermaid. Eeeeeee!

Don’t forget …

Mayor’s Downtown Holiday Tree Lighting Set for Friday, Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

WHAT: McLevy Green will glow with thousands of lights on Friday evening when Mayor Finch and his family flip the switch on the Downtown Holiday Tree Lighting. The Park City Pride and the Central High Choir will perform, and Fairfield U. cheerleaders will be on hand to lend a festive air. Santa will arrive at approximately 6 p.m. WICC’s David Smith will emcee. The event is sponsored by HeathNet and People’s United Bank.

WHO: Mayor Bill Finch and his family; local dignitaries; The Park City Pride; Central High Choir; Fairfield U. cheerleaders, and Santa Claus.

WHERE: McLevy Green at the corner of Main and State Streets, Bridgeport, CT

WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5.

But before that …

Connecticut Post Columnist Charles Walsh to show photographs in Black Rock Insurance Agency

Most people in the Fairfield county already know Charles Walsh from his years as a columnist and reporter for the Connecticut Post newspaper, but behind that Walsh has been producing evocative original artwork for many years. On December 4, Walsh will show his works on paper at the Gallery at Black Rock Insurance Agency, 2861 Fairfield Avenue, in Bridgeport. Walsh’s illustrations have been featured in the Connecticut Post and The New York Times. Art has been a passion for Walsh for over 40 years and this show will feature pieces spanning much of his art career. The rapid growth of both the art and business scene in the Black Rock area prompted agency owner Michael Murren to create a unique coupling of art and business. The agency will host an opening on Thursday December 4th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The Artist will be available to discuss the work. The opening is free and open to the public refreshments will be served. Community members are welcome to stop in and see the art during normal business hours Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:00 pm.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Wondering

    Well I really don’t believe we will see a significant amount of money from any money coming from Washington. If these monies are to be sent to Hartford first and then are distributed to the towns and cities we will definitely get screwed.
    The smaller towns and cities control Hartford and thus the purse strings. They have screwed us on the Pilot Program monies and on educational funding so why think anything will change?
    We need two major things here in Bridgeport:
    1. We need to have the Congress Street bridge replaced.

    2. We need to expand our sewer treatment facilities otherwise we will not really be able to develop much of anything.

    I hate to be negative but Lennie I will bet you a dinner and all you can drink that we do not see the money for either project.

  • HereWeGo

    If the PD contract offer is such a “boneheaded move” as mentioned yesterday, does the Council have the cojones to vote it down?

    A question I would like to see answered by someone who knows, not by those who think they know is this:

    Why would a pension “buyout” be such a bad deal for the City? The employee has to pay for each year needed to reach full retirement–most pensions are funded now, so the employee would be off the payroll, and the City would have to (if needed) pay a much smaller rate (compared to the employees full salary) to make sure the pensions are still properly funded. To me, it sounds a lot better than paying senior employees their full wage, who also have a lot of vacation time. No layoffs needed, and your workforce is younger (supposedly), has fewer vacation days and a lower salary.

    Why will this not work? The last time this was done, the pensions were unfunded; now, the majority of employees are in funded pensions.

  • yahooy

    #2

    Why won’t it work??? It’s fundamentally illegal. Everything you suggest is tantamount to prima facie age discrimination.

    Put yourself in the shoes of a long-term city employee who is pressured to retire so that the budget will balance.

    Thank God there are laws that preclude such ridiculous and thoughtless actions.

  • John from Black Rock

    Can anyone explain to me why so many police union members did not bother to vote either for or against their new contract? It appears that only 297 of the 423 eligible members voted. That leaves 126 members (almost 30%) who did not vote. This seems very strange. Does anyone have an explanation for this?

  • HereWeGo

    yahooy – if it was fundamentally illegal, then it would not have been done in the past, correct? If it was illegal, then it would not have been an option for other municipalities and school districts throughout the nation, right?

    It is not forcing employees out, it is offering an early buyout. If departments are talking of laying off 10 or 20, then I would feel that there would be no “pressure” as you put it for similar amounts of senior employees to choose to take the offer.

    Never did I say that the City would force employees out on a buyout, however they will force employees out if they lay them off.

    Oh, and by the way – relax – take a deep breath. You’ve become awfully feisty on the blog as of late.

  • Chris Russo

    In the next few years, I’d have to say brownfields and then Congress Street, but obviously all need attention.

    Speaking of Obama, we never really discussed some of his Cabinet appointments. I’ve been extremely impressed with his patience and deliberate process. However, I think he made a mistake, and possibly a big one, making Clinton Secretary of State. I don’t understand the decision. I can see serious conflicts in the future as she pursues her own solutions to overseas situations and Obama has to remind her she works for him. The India-Pakistan situation is an extremely hairy situation for the United States, but must be resolved for Obama to deal with Afghanistan. A Secretary of State must be a great organizer of all the staff and ambassadors, as well as a firm and articulate representative of the President. Not someone who will come up with their own ideas for a solution and pursue them.

  • yahooy

    Voluntary retirements with buyouts are perfectly legal. Coerced retirements under the same circumstances are not.

    Awfully feisty minimizes my animosities towards what is going on in our city. Sure I’m pissed off … so should you be. Anyone who has to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the foolish mistakes being played out by an incompetent fool and his band of merry agendized sycophants should be demonstrably outraged.

    This latest debacle with 1159 is shameful. Finch defers an issue to beyond his term and 1159 expects to be paid from non-existent funds that can only be paid for by higher taxes.

    Finch is plainly and simply the architect of the ruination of this city. Someone of competent ilk has to be engaged to address each and every bleeding point and effect a reasonable solution. This has to be done quickly. Every day that there is inaction is a day that puts us deeper into an abyss from which we may not recover.

    Business as usual got us here. Business as usual will destroy us.

  • Wondering

    HereWeGo; There is not a set of balls on the entire council other than Bob Walsh. The rest of them are obligated to Finch and Company because they work for the city and in 2 cases have received promotions for their votes. Those that don’t work for the city have family members that do. If all member attend the council meeting the vote will be 18-2.

  • HereWeGo

    Very well. Maybe I was not clear on the voluntary aspect in my original post. I apologize.

    Now, given that. Would a voluntary pension buyout be a viable option for the City at this time?

  • Wondering

    John from Black Rock; In every group you have a certain number that don’t care, will go along and just don’t want to vote. Others feel that the outcome is predetermined and why bother to vote.
    My neighbor is a cop and he did not vote he just feels whichever way it goes he is okay with it.

  • Grin Ripper

    JfBR,
    The answer to your question about the paltry turnout by union membership is quite obvious. The other 30% were out working overtime.

    Chris Russo,
    Maybe Obama should have picked Chris Shays for Sec. of State. Shays would make a great Ambassador to Iraq!

  • Chris Russo

    Actually, he probably would make a great Ambassador to Iraq. And I’m not saying Clinton shouldn’t be part of the administration, but Secretary of State was the wrong pick. I think Jim Jones might have been a better fit for the position, because I also feel in the next administration the Secretaries of Defense and State need to be a tag team. Sec. Gates himself has said he wants to see more funds directed toward the State Dept. instead of Defense. The State Dept. is key to winning these wars, but I have a tough time envisioning a Clinton-Gates tag team with Obama as their coach.

  • yahooy

    I don’t know why Hillary is regarded as the wrong pick for State. She commands a competent professional demeanor with a record of accomplishment to back it up. Plus her husband was not a bad diplomat. I believe she is more respected then is he. Sans his zipper problem, Clinton wasn’t that bad. Hillary can capitalize on her vivid experiences from his administration and her tenure in the Senate.

    I hadn’t heard Gates’ comments that more funds should be directed to State rather then Defense. I wholeheartedly agree. Any combatant knows that his task is relevant only when efforts at diplomacy fail absolutely.

    I’m comfortable with the choices.

    With energy costs diminishing and promised reductions in the cost of defense we see a successful paradigm for financial recovery.

  • yahooy

    #9

    It stands to reason that a business entity or municipality that can offer VOLUNTARY retirement incentives will save a great deal of money. Such programs are good business.

    Let’s face it. How VOLUNTARY are some of these early retirements in Bridgeport?

  • independent soul

    With regard to buyouts, involuntary ones can quickly become voluntary if you’re told or hinted at that a layoff can happen. I believe the bigger question to be asked is where will the money come from to pay for the buyouts? Many places take the money directly from the pension fund rather than place an additional burden on a budget that is so badly in deficit. Can B’port tap the pension fund to pay for the buyouts? That would make it a good deal. Is the pension fund adequately funded to begin with?

  • yahooy

    Coercion

    This week we offer you a buyout.

    Next week we offer you the door.

    What to do … hmmm … what to do???

  • HereWeGo

    Forget about coercion or conspiracy theories for a moment–as it has been shown already that the City cannot lay off the senior members of these bargaining units (at least in the PD that we have seen).

    Let’s discuss if the City chose to offer buyouts to the larger bargaining units–PD, FD, Public Works–I do not think that BOE could be included here because they are a part of the state pension, not a City one. If someone knows, please chime in. There are still some employees left with unfunded pension plans, but by and large, most employees are in funded plans now.

    As it was done in the past, the employee has to do the buying, not the City. The City will collect monies from employees wishing to leave in the amount that would have been their normal contribution if they had stayed full term. So, if you have 3 years left before retirement, then the employee would have to pay, upfront, 3 years contribution in order to buy out his/her pension. The City would/should then put those monies into the pension fund to make sure the fund is truly funded.

    Senior employees retire, layoffs averted, salary burden has decreased, should be a win/win.

    Can someone tell me factually otherwise?

  • Ron Mackey

    The Bridgeport Post Thursday, April 5, 1990 front page story reads, “Fire Force cut to trim $2 million,” “Union approves plan to keep stations open,” by Karla Hudecek staff writer.

    “At a news conference Mayor Mary C. Moran hailed the move as proof that labor is willing to make concessions. The savings, for the most part, were reflected in the mayor’s recommended budget, which she presented Monday to the Common Council. The document showed that 40 firefighters positions were unfunded. Reductions in the current staff of 437 are to come through retirements and if necessary, layoffs.”

    “Chief Moran said the fire department and the city administration are working out the details of an early retirement plan for firefighters with 15 years or more experience. If fewer than 40 retire by June 30, layoffs would make up the difference.”

    “The first to be laid off would be members of the class of rookies that entered the department in January. The idea of the retirement plan is to let people go who want to leave and keep those who want to stay, the fire chief said.”

  • countdown

    I think the stimulus money will get here if the City’s grants office gets the recognition and support that they need. The new leadership in that shop has sent some of the very competent grant writers running for the hills. Anyhow, if the City gets its game on there are many short lead time projects that could qualify:
    1. The Congress Street bridge is almost finished the design development phase. Perhaps they are into construction drawings. If they have started the permitting process with DEP, it might be the number-one project.
    2. The Neighborhood Revitalization Plans have lots of recommendations for new sidewalks, upgrades to neighborhood parks, parking lots, demolition of crappy buildings … the list is there, the design time is short, there is millions of dollars of quick infrastructure projects that could go a long way to improving the neighborhoods.
    3. The downtown sidewalks, lighting and streetscape work also has a short lead time. The key is the City has to commission the design work now. Getting to the construction start within 12 months is a serious requirement of the stimulus so get with it City. The clock is ticking.
    4. School Construction: the new inter-regional magnet schools–middle school and high school are into the design development stage. If they accelerate the construction drawings, it would be a win/win.
    5. The gap filling grant money necessary to get the Downtown private projects into construction are also perfect for this stimulus and it will grow the tax base. OPED knows what to do if they are given the signal.
    6. The sewer/storm separation project may also be a candidate only I am not sure they even have the design development drawings and permitting underway. This is critical to the growth of the tax base but WPCA and Engineering are without the horses necessary to push these projects.
    6. Brownfield remediation takes a lot of lead time and permits. I don’t think it will meet the ready/set/go criteria.

    The key is how competent the City grants staff is to get this work in front of the right state agencies in ready-to-go status. There isn’t a City Engineer; there isn’t a Director of Construction Management Services; OPED doesn’t have the horses that were budgeted. This City deserves a huge chunk of the stimulus money. The City has to deliver the justification.

  • Wondering

    Countdown; You have hit the nail on the head as to what needs to be done. I will bet dinner at the Metric that we will not have the plans in place when the time comes.
    We have not rushed to fill the City Engineer’s slot because we are getting away with using a former employee who comes in and rubber-stamps zoning projects. We have no city traffic engineer and as you state no director of Construction management. OPED will not get the people that were promised; that has gone the way of the $600 tax break. This has been the reason why Bridgeport has lost out in the past. The only time we did well was when Nancy Hadley was here. BTW where is the new Economic Director? Did he get lost on the metro North train on his way to work?

  • countdown

    Wondering,
    Don’t get me started. Last night’s paper had the following little article on the ‘Money’ Section front page:

    Major development started in New Haven, Conn.

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A $180 million redevelopment of a former department store began Monday in what New Haven officials called the largest development project in the city in more than 20 years.

    When completed in the fall of 2010, the 700,000-square-foot development at 360 State Street will include 500 apartments, including 50 affordable units, a grocery store, other retail, a parking garage and an early childhood education center.

    Despite the downturn in the national economy, city officials said downtown New Haven is experiencing one of its largest development booms with over $1.5 billion worth of projects in the works.

    “What resonates most about this accomplishment is that, despite difficult economic times, New Haven continues to thrive,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. “This project means good jobs, increased traffic to patronize local businesses and a continued spirit of vitality in our downtown.”

    The project will pump an estimated $400 million into the local and regional economy and create about 1,200 union construction jobs and 492 permanent jobs, officials said. They called it the largest residential building ever built in Connecticut.

    NOW WHERE THE HELL IS BRIDGEPORT’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? The Canyon Johnson/Mid Atlantic 11-acre deal should be paying the city monthly exclusive fees for the delay in executing a formal Land Disposition Agreement–or the City should send them packing and RFP the site.
    The Steel Point developer should be paying the city a monthly exclusive fee for the 50 acres or the City should send them packing.
    The Kuchma Deal should have had the financing plus 10% state grant for the gap done and closed by now.
    The Downtown North Deal should have had the CHFA financing plus the GE Money financing and the 10% grant money by now and get that deal under construction.

    What the hell is going on? The silence is deafening.

    Yup, you got me started. I think I need to go watch Countdown.

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