Kohut: State Must Rescue Bridgeport

Commentary from two-time mayoral candidate Jeff Kohut:

To have Judge Carmen Lopez endorse one’s idea for the radical change of government through statutory imposition of change–bypassing the democratic process (for whatever reason, for whatever length of time)–is something that one should never wager upon and that one should never expect or take for granted.

To have her endorse this writer’s idea for a state takeover of Bridgeport, toward a complete overhaul of Bridgeport’s government and economy–an idea long simmering and shuttling between the conscious and subconscious, but finally giving itself free rein upon reading, in the midst of the early stages of a deadly pandemic and companion economic depression, of yet more (unaffordable) costly stupidity in the upper reaches of Bridgeport City Hall (See OIB, 6/26–Federal Probe into Top Cop Test Swells Legal Fees)–was a bit more than surprising, and certainly flattering.

To be clear: I was serious when I raised the idea in a blog-comment in response to the aforementioned federal probe legal fees report by the Connecticut Post that OIB posted as a discussion topic for the blogger readership. What I said in that regard, on 6/26 was:

“… Only an absurd level of incompetence at the top leadership levels of the City Hall departments involved (really, all City Hall Departments) in this city’s never-ending, annual, multimillion$, legal misstep/legal problems/lawsuits $-dump can explain this absurd “trait” (stumbling down legal flights of stairs in the dark/stupidity aspect) of Bridgeport city government. But then, this would be in keeping with our decades-long decline and self-fulfilling prophecy of municipal failure enacted at the polls every 4 years.

Really: I am at the point that I would be willing to admit the inability of Bridgeport to govern itself and would be amenable to a wholesale takeover of Bridgeport by the state of Connecticut. The whole City Hall “Gang that couldn’t shoot straight” (along with the CC that has failed to provide competent, effective oversight) should just resign en masse, and allow the state to work with the people of the City in getting a fresh start for Bridgeport. The timing is right. The VIRUS has made a fresh start for the whole world, a timely, indicated thing.”

I followed up on that commentary with another on 6/27 in a discussion of the failure of the organizers of a march held this past Saturday to produce the promised celebrity speaker, Civil Rights leader, Al Sharpton. In that commentary I stated:

“… But: To those looking to get a fresh start for Bridgeport–in sync with the emergence of our city and the rest of the world from the VIRUS and TRUMP DEPRESSION–there will be plenty of opportunities, near- and long-term, to plan meaningful actions to which Rev. Sharpton, et al., can be invited for added meaning and momentum to our local change movement as it seeks resonance with the world change movement.

… Let’s start with a “Bridgeport, Ground Zero” movement seeking a temporary state takeover of Bridgeport for the purpose of a political-economic fresh start for Bridgeport in which the current, FAILED CITY GOVERNMENT resigns, en masse, and a new government is elected and installed (per special election–via special GA act, if necessary), with a couple of years of active, follow-up state oversight, as we rebuild our system of governance and economy …”

So: I am clear that I believe the time is ripe for a takeover of Bridgeport by Hartford (the State). And Judge Lopez, with her knowledge of Bridgeport and Connecticut, in the context of her broad and deep knowledge, and exceptional, attorney’s acumen, regarding Connecticut statute, has pointed a way in which this might be accomplished, per enabling state statute and historical precedent–as we have read in her OIB commentary of 6/28 in which she discusses how the municipal government-suspending “Ripper Bill” was passed by the Connecticut GA in 1925 in order to allow a state intervention in Bridgeport for the purpose of righting the chaotic, deteriorating situation of Bridgeport’s government and finances.

Neither I, nor Judge Lopez are in any way anti-democratic, but we both believe (see OIB, 6/28) that the state SHOULD suspend Bridgeport’s self-governance until such time as Bridgeport’s present government can be officially disbanded, and a new government appropriately cultivated and elected, such that a proper, effective approach to city governance and city fiscal management can be adopted and effected.

This might seem unreasonable and extreme; but it is necessary to look at the present position and trajectory of this G2 government, in the context of the VIRUS PANDEMIC/DEPRESSION, to know that Bridgeport is going into increasingly untenable territory under the auspices of a government that simply isn’t properly equipped or motivated to address its myriad, serious fiscal, public-safety, education, public-health, social, and general governance issues. I refer, again, to the frightening level of incompetence at the highest levels of our municipal government that is exposed just by the annual, multi-million$, avoidable legal-expenses/fiscal $waste$ that occurs because of what can only be called stupidity (and carelessness) in the performance of standard duties/operations by the Mayor and his department heads. (Why does the hiring of nearly every new department head/school superintendent cost nearly $1 million in unexpected legal fees (because of failure to follow the law and standard hiring procedure?!) No need to even veer off into other procedural blunders/oversights that cost the city million$ more in legal fees for lawsuits–nor the million$ lost by wasteful (albeit not illegal) practices in the operations of the various departments … And then there are the oversights/incompetence that cost million$ in opportunity costs/lost tax base–even as our pathetic grand list continues to shrink (over six decades).

But, to be clear; while Judge Lopez and I agree that our government is inept and in need of overhaul via state intervention, I do not share her belief that our problems stem mainly from local corruption. No. I do believe it is our position on the Gold Coast/suburban food chain of Southwestern Connecticut that is largely responsible for our failure to thrive. An awareness of how REGIONAL planning, sanctioned by a suburb-dominated GA, directs the low-value tax base, with expensive maintenance and land-value/quality-of-life costs, to Bridgeport, while directing the high-value/lifestyle-enhancing tax base to the Gold Coast/suburbs–even as these wealthy suburbs avoid infrastructure expenses and attract high-value tax base using Bridgeport infrastructure–will shine a light on why Bridgeport is broke. (We have only to look at how neighboring Trumbull has thrived as an exclusive enclave on Bridgeport’s border, even as it depends on our infrastructure to maintain and attract tax base and maintain its exclusive lifestyle.)

The stupidity of Bridgeport government is just an artifact of our Gold Coast/suburb-inflicted poverty.

Look at where our department heads and Mayor live and hail from. Almost none of them live in Bridgeport, even though a minority of them spent their early years here. They are not properly motivated to perform their Bridgeport stewardship duties. This isn’t where they sleep at night, or where their kids go to school, or where they plan to retire. And our GA delegation would also seem to be under a suburban spell, if you observe their suburb-favoring voting patterns and issue choices. They bring virtually nothing back to Bridgeport.

So. What do we do? What can we do?!

With the (understandable) voter apathy in Bridgeport, and the suburban money factor involved in our elections, it is not logical or realistic to think things can change from within at this stage of the game. We are too far down the Rabbit Hole. But we can possibly break out of our nosedive by pointing out to state/federal officials that Bridgeport is a huge electoral egg waiting to explode in their campaigning faces if they don’t address its fiscal/social meltdown status as the VIRUS DEPRESSION brings things to a head, such that they see the need to invoke the Ripper Bill and intervene in Bridgeport’s affairs, such that we can overcome internal dysfunction even as we are protected from suburban hegemony regionally, and in Hartford/DC, and are provided with the state/federal expertise, financial assistance, and protective oversight that will allow us to rebuild our tax base and get a fresh political-economic start.

As we are witnessing around the world; the festering social and economic problems/injustices of the past decades and even centuries–expressed by the deterioration of seemingly “stable” democracies, such as the US–are now forcing governmental and socioeconomic reform. Bridgeport is Connecticut’s sore spot in this regard, and if the state doesn’t intervene, it might serve as the falling domino that turns Connecticut government on its ear at the worst possible time.

It would be in the interest of the Governor and his fellow oligarchs to think about stepping in to put Bridgeport back in its rightful place of prosperity and political respect among Connecticut’s municipalities, before the Bridgeport domino falls and sets off a statewide political-social chain reaction. It would probably be good to have the Connecticut AG take a look at the Ripper Act before he has to brush up on the municipal bankruptcy statutes. It’s as good a (COVID DEPRESSION) year (and PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR!) as any to look into taking some profoundly serious measures to rebuild Bridgeport from the ground up.

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8 comments

  1. The smelly deal to save UB — acceded to by Bridgeport City Hall — speaks further of a clueless G2 Administration that was eased into accepting the virtual forfeiture of one of the last virtuous assets (a namesake university with a proud past of accomplishment) of this dying city… No doubt, the SHU $-people see a fire sale (of UB property) to its BOD, when all of the bd is said and done… They no-doubt promised to take some City Hall humps along for the ride, with promises of jobs and getting in on a few SHU shister schemes… Dirty, sad time for Bridgeport and the university that powered Sikorsky Aircraft to prominence with UB engineers, and played no small role, similarly, with many other regional, industrial powerhouses… It lately had a very prominent Computer Engineering/Computer Science program… Very short-sighted city and state.

    Lamont blew a big-time opportunity for his governorship here… This one will leave a stink on him and come back to bite him in the ass…

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  2. Keyword word is “Save” they kicked out the Moonies. Who was keeping in going ever since it needs to be saved back in the 1990s Not sure where JG2 fits in it’s a private failing institution. This JML Time will Tell.

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  3. Jeff, How do you expect that state to fix Port politics? They don’t ever fund our schools equitable. You and Judge Lopez really think the states going to fix the Port and all it problems?

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  4. The state has oversight/support responsibilities to the municipalities…When a municipality fails, implicitly, the state has failed, and it is then the responsibility of the state to come in, clean up the mess, and repair the damage…

    Connecticut, being a fiscally sick/weak state, with no middle-layer of government (county government) to help take in the “slack” of poorly administered, otherwise weak/poor municipalities in need of serious administrative/financial support, needs to bear a full responsibility to its municipalities that it is not fully capable of bearing.

    That being said; the state, while not flush with cash, can help to leverage some federal and private cash for ailing municipalities… But, more importantly, it can step in to take the reins of government from incompetent local hands for such period as it takes to identify and cultivate competent local hands to take the reins in the context of a special election under the auspices of the CT SOS…

    Bridgeport is a failed city, by any measure, and needs Governor Lamont and the GA to step in and start the rebuilding process, ASAP…

    The first thing that the Governor should do is hold a massive, virtual, Bridgeport Town Hall — following several small, mass-conference-call/Zoom meetings — to flesh out the ideas of the Bridgeport populace on the state of their city/necessary remedial measures… The Governor should then start the process of identifying Bridgeport residents that could work with the state in creating a “future Bridgeport” plan and setting up an interim government to administer Bridgeport until such time as a new government could be elected and get up and running to tweak and implement the aforementioned plan…

    With the COVID DEPRESSION already weighing heavily on the state and its distressed urban centers, the Governor has no time to waste in stepping in to prevent its largest city from collapsing and setting off a state-wide (maybe even a region-wide) domino-effect of municipal failures in the context of a pandemic and record-breaking unemployment…

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  5. Sounds nice, but moves like that tend to bring worse results.

    P.S a massive, virtual Port town hall? I’ll settle for our elected board and state to mandate laptop for students. Bassick at the UB site seems nice. JS

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