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How Bridgeport Avoids Economic Entropy (Disorder)

February 9th, 2017 · 4 Comments · Development and Zoning

When the snow’s piling so high your shovel-shaken joints can’t take it anymore you’ve reached a state of entropy; when the federal political system implodes under a rant of presidential tweets it can only lead to entropy; when your decaying mind cannot noodle a lucid idea for readers you’ve reached a state of entropy. Only one thing to do for weekend reading, ask city policy wonk Jeff Kohut (then reach for a dictionary) to parse city development priorities. He writes, as an antidote to entropy, “Bridgeport should be getting state and federal funding for essential bridge replacement and harbor/freight-shipping development related to re-creation of a high-value, job-intensive manufacturing sector that could provide the $energy$ which would allow for Bridgeport’s renewal.” From Kohut:

When studying college physics and chemistry, among the earliest abstractions that are attempted to be imposed on the beginning student’s thought process/understanding are the Laws of Thermodynamics. Essentially, these are the laws of the universe which describe the interactions of matter and energy.

When considering the everyday situation of humankind in terms of the laws of thermodynamics, the basic–and ultimate–consideration would be in regard to the Second Law, which states the net “entropy”–disorder–of the universe must always increase. Entropy can be used in the discussion of the evolving condition of any system, such as the human body, a house, city, country, etc. Any entity that can be described in terms of a coexistence of interacting parts can be described in terms of entropy.

Thus, for all humans, including their dwellings and all the other artifacts of civilized human existence, such as various levels of governmental organization and the physical infrastructure and administrative units under the purview of such governments, the disorganization of such entities must always increase. The proviso here is entropy, the natural tendency toward disorganization (i.e., decay) can be deferred through the purposeful application of energy derived from sources from outside the “system.” And to a limited extent through the redirection of the energy defining the “decay” of the system. (While the “net” entropy of the universe must always increase, there can be at least temporary negative increase in entropy in “isolated” systems, such as cities.)

Translated into a specific, relevant example for the lives of Bridgeporters. We can see the effects of unmitigated entropy all around us. Our municipal political system is largely dysfunctional and ineffectual, and as a result, our municipal administrative apparatus is stressed and undermaintained and unable to effectively address certain critical aspects of our municipal lives. Because of this governmental deficiency at our municipal level, our essential physical infrastructure and environment are in various states of decay and dysfunction. Our socioeconomic condition is similarly affected and similarly serves as a reflection of the decay and dysfunction of our political/municipal aspect.

Now, we must remember the proviso of the Second Law is entropy–decay–can be countered through the appropriately directed input of energy from external sources, as well as through (to a much more limited extent) the redirection of the energy of the entropy from within our own system. In other words, our municipal political/governmental/infrastructure/socioeconomic decay could be countered by appropriately applied financial aid and oversight from higher levels of government, as well as through the redirection of some of the energy of our decay (e.g., through the direction of our the electoral energy of our anger/frustration toward appropriate application of internal and external political energy/economic aid, such as through local, state, and federal-level lobbying for the amelioration of Bridgeport socioeconomic decay even as we focus our decay-based frustration politically toward the election of effective political representation at all levels of government.)

That adequate, appropriately applied, external political/economic energy hasn’t been forthcoming for Bridgeport speaks of dysfunction and misapplication of our internal political energy, as well as the dysfunction and misapplication of political and economic energy at higher levels of government.

A description of modern Bridgeport economic policy, per the involvement of the state and federal government in this regard, speaks of unchecked political entropy at all levels of government, with the condition of Bridgeport being a symptom of an unchecked process of political and socioeconomic decay at the state and national levels, and implicitly, the global level, with things spinning out of control in this regard.

But not to stray too far from Bridgeport.

Here, we presently have a model of economic development (largely imposed by higher levels of government) that emphasizes the construction of regional workforce housing, regional transportation infrastructure, as well as public-education infrastructure, on largely polluted, former industrial/manufacturing sites that require energy-intensive remediation for purposes that serve the problematic overdevelopment of one particular part of the State of Connecticut, the Stamford area. This overdevelopment of the Stamford area has resulted in a huge waste of energy, by way of the increased infrastructure needs required for the energy-intensive/time-intensive mass transportation of a non-local workforce to the Stamford area that has accelerated the municipal decay process for much of the rest of the state and which will ultimately create an unsalvageable situation for the whole state, as it has already (probably) caused in Bridgeport. The proviso of the Second Law has been misapplied per illogical, wrong-headed, regional/state development policy.

While Bridgeport has square miles of land that could be reclaimed with minimal energy input as high-value, job-/wealth-producing manufacturing sites, these sites are instead either languishing and contributing only to the decay of the city, or are being reclaimed for uses that otherwise accelerate the decay process by displacing potential tax base and job creation or by directly stressing waning municipal resources.

To be specific: Bridgeport, under the auspices of a misguided state development plan that mandates concentration of high-value commercial/financial/advanced manufacturing development in the overdeveloped Stamford region (with the consequent, predictable, inevitable, unavoidable exacerbation of state/regional economic development problems and economic activity restriction, related to the traffic logjam that has resulted from this overdevelopment) has been induced to undertake the economically/environmentally contraindicated development of massive, municipal-services-requiring housing and education/regional social services infrastructure, regional power-generation/power-supply infrastructure, and now a $300 million train station (and companion, hugely expensive highway connector, Seaview Avenue Corridor) that is not amenable to any purpose that will serve Bridgeport, even as it occupies potentially valuable manufacturing space and stresses municipal services/infrastructure.

Following the basic laws of physics and utilizing essential logic, there is an unavoidable realization that state/regional and consequent Bridgeport economic development policy cannot defer Bridgeport’s municipal/socioeconomic entropy/decay. Resources that could be used to defer our decay, indeed, largely reverse our decay, and perhaps even allow our total renewal, are instead being misapplied (and/or denied) in a way that furthers our decay and ultimately will further the decay of the regional/state economy through misapplication of resources that results in economic dysfunction/dislocation (e.g., the southwest Connecticut traffic logjam and the socioeconomic decay of the cities of southwest Connecticut). (The flight of companies away from Connecticut, notably to neighboring Massachusetts and New York, isn’t because of noncompetitive taxes; it is because of problematic logistics and the untenable socioeconomic trends of the cities and inner-ring suburbs that create serious detractions from the overall quality of life/public safety in the state.)

Bridgeport, the State of Connecticut, and indeed, even especially the US government have adopted economic development policies that are greatly accelerating, not deferring, political and socioeconomic decay. Present policy at all levels of government describe waste and misapplication of resources that lead to further socioeconomic decay that fosters the political corruption that exacerbates the whole decay process in a destructive feedback loop.

Logically, the state and federal government should be promoting brownfields rehabilitation for job-intensive manufacturing reuse that would employ/utilize the local workforce and extant housing stock/infrastructure and which would obviate the need for ever-increasing transportation infrastructure needs. The economic stranglehold of the Stamford region bottleneck could be much more effectively/permanently alleviated through the redirection of massive transportation infrastructure spending toward the creation of affordable workforce housing within the Stamford-area communities utilizing labor currently commuting and creating the regional traffic bottleneck/economic stranglehold on the state’s economy.

Bridgeport, rather than being goaded into the creation of more (municipal services devouring) regional workforce housing, train stations/highway connectors, massive education infrastructure (on brownfields sites), and regional power-generation/power-supply infrastructure (all serving the problematic overdevelopment of the region) should be getting state and federal funding for essential bridge replacement and harbor/freight shipping development related to re-creation of a high-value, job-intensive manufacturing sector that could provide the $energy$ which would allow for Bridgeport’s renewal. This would be a win-win-win for the city, region, and state in the long term.

Current Connecticut/regional/Bridgeport economic development policy can best be described as the “Policy of Entropy” or “the Policy of Decay.”

Factories, bridges, and deep (dredged) harbors with freight rail spurs, NOT isolated, region-serving, second train stations/highway connectors (nor regional workforce housing!), are what Bridgeport (and the state and region, for the largest city) really need. $300 MILLION (new train station cost) could go a long way in dredging/upgrading our harbor for manufacturing-related, ocean-going cargo transport, replacing our missing/damaged bridges, and cleaning up brownfields for high-value tax base creation/jobs-intensive manufacturing use.

Make Bridgeport the “enterprise capital” not the “entropy capital” of Connecticut!

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Make lots of media and newspaper announcements about future pending economic developments on the city’s list and drawing board that were probably already there from the last admin. Then for every new development that comes to Bpt, usually two end up leaving! This just one of the reasons along with the actions of the new President and the lack of actions of old political incumbents all over America why voters are calling, writing, visiting political offices, showing up at town hall meetings and even emailing and leaving notes on local, state and even Fed. Politicians’ office doors! Americans state by state, city by city, town by town are catching political fever and voicing and demanding more from their political representatives, both parties! It’s about time and I am hoping it spreads like wildfire and lasts until all these career seat-warming incumbents are voted out of office. Time for all American voters to do their political homework and vote for new or known good candidates who will do their jobs without political party Loyalty B/S! Voted in by the people, for the people, regardless of party, gender, young or old, or religion. Uphold the American Constitution for all Americans, period. ***

  • John Marshall Lee

    Mojo,
    You revealed a very basic concept those in power ignore: COMPARISONS!
    As you say, there are developments coming and going each year but for the most part it is developments that get the publicity and photo ops. Sometimes it is impossible not to show blight or falling-down structures that are being removed, but most folks would sense there is more plus than minus activity. Are they correct? Need to look at last year’s Taxable Grand List and then this year’s edition and compare. If a method to draw out inflation of values and depreciation adjustments from the data as well, we can really see what is happening in the City rather than rely on the stories and hype.
    And some City Council members have held local meetings this year. Why not read the CAFR itself, something that is not customary with the majority of Council members annually, make sure it gets onto the Finance site for the City along with the Federal and State audits, and let the people see some of the comparative tables in that document? Better understanding of what is going on will lead to greater outrage, perhaps. Time will tell.

    • Frank Gyure

      JML, is the CAFR available at City Hall or the Annex? If so, which office and how much?

      • John Marshall Lee

        Within the past 24 hours Ken Flatto posted the CAFR for 2016 and the Single State report. So you can read on line, download, or do both, your choice.
        We still await the Single Federal Audit report and the June 2016 final monthly report using audit-adjusted numbers. I found some new info and am in the process of looking back to last year’s report to notice the changes. Time will tell.

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