Approaching an election cycle that includes seats for City Council and Board of Education, State Senator Marilyn Moore declares in a commentary “The residents of Bridgeport must demand accountability from anyone holding elected and appointed positions, if there is ever going to be a better Bridgeport.”
I address this letter to the residents of Bridgeport. I do not write this as a former candidate for mayor of Bridgeport, or as a state senator. I am addressing you as a mother, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin and lifelong resident of this city that I truly love. For the past 50 years, I have observed and participated in initiatives and efforts to improve the lives of all residents. It does not matter what ZIP code you live in because we have all been impacted by the actions or inactions of community members and our leadership over these many years.
As I read about the increasing incidents of violence, poor health of residents and lack of respect for the laws, it is evident that the members of our community are aware of the issues, but have come to believe, “This is just the way it is. This is Bridgeport.” Most people care deeply about our city, but have grown numb as they watch continual corruption, lawlessness, injustice and perversion of the systems created to protect all city residents, and which end up being manipulated to benefit just a few. Blogs, newspaper stories and media posts are overwhelmingly negative about Bridgeport. The comments come from both within our community and from those who either work here or are neighbors. There is a general lack of confidence in city government and, sadly, there is a lack of cohesiveness to fight against the corruption and cronyism that contributes to the city’s overall problems.
Those in leadership, those elected to City Council, those appointed to boards and commissions all contribute to the quality of our lives. And, once they are in place, who evaluates their performance and addresses deficiencies to improve the outcomes? What is the required standard or outcome? I know what the consequences are: poor health outcomes, increased violence, environmental deficiencies, zoning violations, rigged hiring, poor educational outcomes, and the list goes on and on.
While COVID-19 has contributed to a decline in our quality of life over the past year, Bridgeport’s problems existed long before the pandemic. But the pandemic has shed light on many inefficiencies both at a state and local level. Although the pandemic is only a small part of the quality-of-life issues in Bridgeport, the money flowing into our city from the American Rescue Plan has the potential to help us address many of our biggest challenges in education, housing, health and infrastructure. It is imperative that the community be engaged in the process of how the funds are disseminated and evaluated by our City Council.
The residents of Bridgeport must demand accountability from anyone holding elected and appointed positions, if there is ever going to be a better Bridgeport. If we want our children and grandchildren to have an education that meets and exceeds their needs, we must demand it. The American Rescue Plan funds will give us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it right in education by funding paraprofessionals and school resource officers, improving technology to bridge the digital divide and prioritizing other areas of infrastructure.
I propose that city leaders engage members of the community, including business heads and qualified experts in each area of funding, to help the city develop and be accountable to its spending plan. I also ask residents to speak out against the lack of transparency regarding foreclosures, minority contracts, hiring practices, the proposed rate hike from the WPCA, and the overall failure of leadership to appoint qualified persons in positions that impact health and safety outcomes in a timely manner.
I have confidence in our residents and our ability to make Bridgeport a city that thrives and supports all its residents. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and believe, “This is just the way it is. This is Bridgeport.” It is up to each of us to make sure that is not the case. Let’s do this. Let’s commit to getting in good trouble. Bridgeport is our city!