The good news is, they’re talking! On the eve of the Bridgeport City Council officially voting on Mayor Bill Finch’s budget, discussions between City Council Budget and Appropriations Co-Chair Bob Curwen and Chief of Staff Adam Wood appear to have struck a more conciliatory tone.
Curwen attended a mayoral press conference today in which Finch announced a compromise with City Council leadership aimed at restoring deep cuts to libraries and health care. (See Finch press release below.)
Curwen has been pushing the city to redirect the approximate $1 million in fees for the Bridgeport Port Authority into the general fund. Curwen wants the City Council to disband the authority board and replace the department under the umbrella of the chief administrative officer. City lawyers are reviewing this potential move.
The big revenue item that appears headed back into the budget for next year, that caused a hole in the current fiscal year, is the $4.5 million revenue item in fees generated by the redevelopment of Steelpointe. Curwen said he has assurances that the projected revenue source will arrive sometime in 2008-2009 budget window.
Curwen said the budget committee has restored $900,000 of the $1.1 million that Finch’s proposed budget cuts to library staff. Curwen believes, after discussions with library officials, that the funding restoration should be enough to save jobs and keep most existing services in place, but could impact evening hours at the main branch downtown. Curwen also wants to trim Finch’s proposed tax hike from 9 percent to about 7 percent.
I spoke to Zoo Director Gregg Dancho this morning about the pink slip Joel Gonzalez, a night watchman, received as a result of Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed layoffs. Dancho said a void in night security could jeopardize the zoo’s continued accreditation by the body that oversees zoo standards.
Dancho credited Joel’s job performance and wants him to stay, adding that the second-shift coverage Joel’s position provides, leading up to midnight, is critical. Maybe we should start a Save Joel campaign! Call your council member! Call the mayor’s office!
OIB party this Thursday, 6 p.m. Captain’s Cove!
Finch press release on compromise with council:
Mayor Finch and City Council Leadership Announce Budget Compromises
BRIDGEPORT, CT May 12, 2008 – Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport), along with Bridgeport City Council President Thomas McCarthy and City Council Budget Committee Co-Chairs Robert Curwen and Leticia Colon, today announced that major progress and compromise had occurred in budget negotiations for next year’s budget. While the City Council’s recommended budget has yet to be finalized and voted on by the full council, the group expressed optimism in reaching agreements that will restore some city services.
“The budget I recommended to the City Council sought to put our city back on a path towards sound financial footing through honest accounting, reduced spending, some very difficult service cuts and limited investments targeted at growing our city’s tax base and improving education,” said Mayor Finch. “This is not a perfect budget compromise by any means. The council has to do things I’d rather not to get us through this fiscal crisis. It is in the spirit of moving this process forward that I support their efforts and long hours of work on this budget.”
New budget compromises include additional funding for libraries to ensure sustained hours system-wide and no library closures; restoration of some public health nurses to include a nurse in every school, except those with a school based health clinic; restoration of partial funding for school based health centers on a limited transitional basis while the RFQ process for a provider occurs; and building capacity in the City’s Office of Planning and Economic Development to help increase the city’s tax base and facilitate economic development.
“The Budget Committee has been forced to balance city services and property taxes against each other,” said City Council President Thomas McCarthy. “There is never a perfect balance because of the difficult situation we’re put in by the state.”
“I think one of the biggest problems we’ve found is that the public was unaware of the financial crisis the city is really in,” said City Councilman and Budget Committee Co-Chair Robert Curwen. “We have taken the Mayor’s concern for the city’s fund balance into consideration while trying to restore city services.”
Budget Committee Co-Chair and City Councilwoman Leticia Colon added, “We’re working hard to make sure we balance the budget to the best of our ability. People are not acknowledging that we’re in a recession. If we don’t work together to make this better, we could end up in a depression. It’s not easy.”
The City Council’s budget committee will be meeting tonight to vote on the final budget resolution and the Council will meet as a whole tomorrow to vote.
Barbara On The Bench
Press release from State Sen Rob Russo regarding confirmation of Barbara Brazzel-Massaro for Superior Court judge. Barbara was a distinguished decades-long attorney for Bridgeport. I always loved her schoolteacher’s glare.
Senator Russo, Representative Rowe Vote to Confirm the Nomination of Trumbull Resident Barbara Brazzel-Massaro for Superior Court Judge
Hartford, CT – State Senator Robert D. Russo (R-22) and State Representative T.R. Rowe (R-123) today congratulated Barbara Brazzel-Massaro of Trumbull on being confirmed by the General Assembly as a Superior Court Judge. The State Senate voted to confirm Massaro on May 5th, with the House of Representatives following suit on May 7th.
“Barbara is a skilled attorney and a thoughtful, hard working public servant,” said Senator Russo. “She has a wide range of legal experience, having represented Connecticut’s biggest city in cases involving everything from civil rights actions, to antitrust laws, to complicated land use issues. She has always put the law first and I believe she will make an outstanding Superior Court Judge.”
Everyone who has worked with Attorney Massaro knows she will make an excellent judge. I am delighted Governor Rell nominated her, and was very pleased to support her nomination,” said Representative Rowe.
Barbara Brazzel-Massaro has represented City of Bridgeport for more than 24 years. She first served as a litigator with the City in 1983 and was appointed City Attorney from 1989 to 1992. She has been an attorney trial referee since 1985.
Massaro has aided in the re-write of Bridgeport zoning regulations and master plans, and negotiated agreements with the Barnum Museum, City ambulance services, the Beardsley Zoo, Bridgeport parks and the Harbor Yard Arena. She has argued cases at the Appellate level, in Federal Court and before the Connecticut Supreme Court. She has served as a member of the Federal Civil Justice Reform Act Committee, a chairperson for the Land Use Committee and a member of the Board of Directors for the Bridgeport Bar Association.
An active member of the community, Massaro serves on the Trumbull Police Commission and is a member of the State Police Commissioners Association. She volunteers for Swim Across the Sound to aid people affected by cancer, co-chairs the Sacred Heart University Theater Renovation Committee and helped form a new non-profit organization working to open a food pantry within the City of Bridgeport. Massaro is a graduate of Montclair State College and Western New England School of Law. Her husband Carl Massaro is Minority Leader of the Trumbull Town Council.