You know things are bad when Mohegan Sun, that near-perfect money machine, delays construction of a massive renovation.
Closer to home I’m betting that Mayor Bill Finch doesn’t include layoffs of political appointees to further illustrate–and sell to municipal unions–the city’s fiscal calamity. It’s a balancing act: how do I get through this without eliminating the people that supported me? It allows union officials and government careerists to meow about selective layoffs. The mayor will argue that his discretionary appointments have given up a week’s pay–if all unionized workers had done so layoffs would be avoided.
Still, this latest round of 31 layoffs impacting cops, park police and workers from a variety of departments such as health, public works and town clerk, is raising high anxiety.
In a strange way, Finch, a Democrat, and Congressman Chris Shays, a Republican, may become closer in this mess. Shays lives in Bridgeport and needs to do more to show that while he’s contemplating a bailout of Wall Street he’s just as active trying to save the state’s largest city from melting into the Pequonnock. Example: if the city does not receive the $4.5 million it budgeted for Steelpointe revenue, what’s it going to do? What happened to the Magic Johnson project in the South End? What happened to the development of the old Remington Shaver building? These projects have lots of environmental issues. How can I, as a congressman, help?
This is what makes politics fascinating–the events that magically bring an opponent’s credentials into play. Shays’ Democratic opponent Jim Himes made a nice living as an investment banker on Wall Street. He can speak directly to the financial challenges now and in the future.
The Himes campaign released a new ad skewering Shays on the economy. In rapid-fire succession it quotes George Bush, John McCain and Shays all proclaiming recently that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Yikes!
Shays can use the prestige of his office to blunt attacks from Himes that he’s out of touch.
Yes, it’s bad out there. I’ve seen it worse. I had a front row seat in the mayor’s office in late 1991 and early 1992 as Joe Ganim held the city together during the nasty New England recession. Amid bank closings, utilities threatening to leave the city, UB law school moving to Quinnipiac, the city literally in bankruptcy court as a result of action by Ganim’s predecessor Mayor Moran, Ganim and his labor negotiator Dennis Murphy achieved amazing union concessions. The city enjoyed a lot of help from then Gov. Lowell Weicker.
Led by the governor, the state bought Beardsley Park and Beardsley Zoo, wired millions in gaming revenue, built a new Housatonic Community College, relocated the Troop G state police barracks from Westport and took over maintenance responsibilities of the train station. Ganim built the city’s fund balance up to $50 million. It’s now at $10 million and shrinking.
This is where relationships matter. Does Finch have the skill set to leverage relationships in Hartford and Washington to save the city from further erosion?
You know what, let’s settle all of this Thursday at the OIB party, 5:30 p.m. at Captain’s Cove. We’ve got lots to talk about. First cocktail on OIB, plus eats. Let’s conspire, spread rumors and figure it all out.