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Kohut: City SS Titanic

July 4th, 2017 · 14 Comments · City Politics, Development and Zoning, State Politics

North End resident Jeff Kohut, a 2011 mayoral candidate, shares in this commentary “Economic “development” in Bridgeport is mostly fanciful illusion and consists almost exclusively of propaganda-quality announcements of inappropriate, grandiose, jobless, undoubtedly tax-abated/untaxable projects on city-owned, “flippable” properties.” From Kohut:

John Lee’s years-long tracking and analysis of Bridgeport’s ever-worsening fiscal morass, in the context of his latest OIB submission “City in Bondage” calls attention to the implicit huge dimensions of the iceberg under the exposed fiscal tip of that iceberg, which he has played a major role in exposing as he calls attention to the course of the Bridgeport SS Titanic as it blindly speeds, full steam, toward a collision with that massive fiscal iceberg.

In that regard, it is undeniable–and should be obvious to those local, state, and federal officials, the responsibilities of which include the well-being of Bridgeport and its residents–that without a massive-scale, near-term, tax-base/jobs-creation initiative in Bridgeport, the residents and employees of the city have a bleak financial future. In regard to the latter, the younger pension contributors in the BPD (et al.) plan will never see a return of contractual proportions on their investment, and the last of the residential taxpayers will be “leaving for the Coast” before pay-up time comes. Since there is no plan in place to secure the $billions in new tax base (perhaps $12-$16 BILLION) needed to recreate a viable Bridgeport tax base capable of sustaining our tremendous real financial needs for the present and future, informed Bridgeporters of any wherewithal are not planning on staying here for the long term.

If City Hall had a real plan to meet our needs, they would have done the math needed to allow for the appropriate planning of our municipal future and would know that for a reasonable residential/business tax rate at full employment (so that taxpayers were working at living-wage jobs and could actually pay–without forfeiting other essential aspects of their well-being–all of the nefarious taxes and fees exacted on Bridgeport residents/homeowners, which, in addition to our ridiculously high property taxes are of the nature of economic battery and rape (e.g., the onerous, corrupt, suburb-subsidizing WPCA tax), we would need in the area of $14 billion in new tax base within the next 5-10 years. But City Hall hasn’t even attempted to calculate our tax base needs in any short- or long-term context. (The Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis could do that for them–but that office apparently never even did that for the state in any timely manner!)

But, per the full list of city economic development projects–extant and paper projects–the residents cannot expect anything but continually decreasing services and increasing taxes for the foreseeable future. The aforementioned development list is largely jobless and tax-negative, consisting mainly of workforce housing/transit-related (tax-negative development), region-serving powerplants and waste-disposal facilities (tax-base devaluing and polluting), some low-end or otherwise inappropriate retail (tax-abated/tax-negative), and only a relative morsel of tax-paying, jobs-producing business (albeit largely tax-abated/low-wage jobs).

More importantly, there is no economic development plan. Economic “development” in Bridgeport is mostly fanciful illusion and consists almost exclusively of propaganda-quality announcements of inappropriate, grandiose, jobless, undoubtedly tax-abated/untaxable projects on city-owned, “flippable” properties. And there is no rhyme or reason as part of any grand scheme for any of the development (save servicing the tax base development/maintenance needs of the Gold Coast/suburbs at Bridgeport expense). There is no aim at the creation of any targeted amount of tax base pursuant to short- or long-term city fiscal and socioeconomic health. There is no indication that any purposeful, visionary, or even basic thought or study with resultant calculations in the form of a tax base development target has ever even been attempted by any modern Bridgeport City Hall. There is no puzzle in which to fit any economic development pieces. In terms of purposeful economic development functions in Bridgeport City Hall, it’s describable either subversive and “region-serving” or mindless finger painting.

So Bridgeport, as John Lee and David Walker have collaboratively and individually researched and presented in terms of numbers, is sitting on fiscal quicksand. That is undeniable. And, inexcusably, there is no viable plan to create any sort of timely, adequate foundation for our municipal survival–short- or long-term.

In this context, politically aware Bridgeporters might ask: Who will be favorably impressed with Bridgeport’s economic planning–much less our actual fiscal and socioeconomic condition–in time for the 2018 gubernatorial and statewide elections? Certainly no one who lives and works southwest of Hartford. This is something for Bridgeporters seeking statewide office to consider as they create political platforms and prepare to present themselves and their backgrounds and accomplishments to the rest of the state.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Well said, Jeff.

    Pensions keep increasing as liabilities because the folks investing the funds cannot earn the returns projected. OK so if you try to be realistic and lower the assumptions, that just increases the current liability, and no legislator nor elected executive wants that to show up on their watch, do they?
    Historically they have kicked the problem down the road, and short of some WONDERLAND in the future with risk-free high returns, they will not work out favorably for taxpayers. But why care about long term? Executives and legislators will be out of office…living in other, better-managed states? Perhaps that is the reason City Council persons attend those conference junkets with stipend funds? Maybe they are lining up their retirement locations where taxes are lower? Services are higher? And governance by those elected is accountable and capable? Time will tell.

  • Local Eyes

    Here’s the wort part: defined-benefit pensioners are entitled to those WONDERLAND returns irregardless of their funds’ returns. That’s right: if Connecticut’s pension fund goes from its present $37 billion to zero, pensioners are still entitled to their benefits. When Obama bailed out the banking system, he saved pensioners, too.

    • Local Eyes

      Cities aren’t like ships that sink; they’re like caterpillars that morph.
      Watch when the metamorphosis is complete, the butterfly starts to fly!
      Until then, beware of doom freaks.

  • John Marshall Lee

    As Local Eyes correctly states, defined benefit plans provide GUARANTEED BENEFITS to beneficiaries and leave the RISKS to be assumed by the providers, in the case of governments, the taxpayers. So there is interest rate risk (where high returns mean lower contributions, all other things equal) as well as mortality risk that beneficiaries will on average live longer than assumed and cost the plan to extend benefits.
    Did you know that back in the day when the MERS transfer for Bridgeport public safety employees was put to the Council that some of the people voting for the plan including James Holloway, Amy Vizzo-Paniccia, et al seemed to have no information in their administration provided packets of the expense of such a change. Finch was long on talking about health insurance contributions per person (but not cumulatively for years into the future) but no talk about the expense of funding overtime when added to base incomes used to calculate benefits? What do you think of that type of watchdog activity? How about that “curiosity” on behalf of the taxpayer? Where are voices today? Time will tell.

    • Frank Gyure

      WHy are we conducting warfare on union members/people who support collective bargaining and collective decisions between management and employee. Let’s go back to the sweatshops of 1900-give or take 40 years either way. I get the impression that some of you-including the acolytes of DWalker-would not mind at all to go back to those times when employees had no rights whatsoever..and especially state employees have no rights and state employees are the cause of the economic.fiscal,financial situation in Connectcicut. I observe with some amount of irony that various publications have called The State of Connecticut as on of the “richest” states in the USA but yet we have these “massive” problems. I simply do not get it. Something is wrong here.

      • Local Eyes

        Ever since state employees unionized, Connecticut has been losing its financial footing. What’s good for state employees is bad for Connecticut residents.
        Collective bargaining agreements are for people who lack individual bargaining abilities. Some activists folks continue to criticize that which they do not understand. That’s what’s wrong.

      • John Marshall Lee

        Frank,
        In the private sphere workers required representation in many places because they could not negotiate individually, while management knew it was representing the ownership interest of the share owners.

        In government, no one owns the entity. Government managers are more like their union employees as they do not own anything. As a matter of fact, leaders may lose votes in the next election if they are not seen as labor favorable. So, who represents the taxpayer. Taxpayer is who owns the responsibility if not a share of wealth. So bargaining process fails for another type of conflict of interest. Government leaders would rather be loved by a few than worry about being hated by a large number, as long as an election is not close. Got it? Time will tell.

        • Frank Gyure

          JML and others…..IMHO,I think we should take a deeper qualitative look at state employees. I think most will equate state employees as ,for example,employees at Dept of Motor Vehicles. However,the largest slice of payroll is The University of Connecticut with close to 550 million,almost 20% of total state payroll. Not included in that is the University of Connecticut Health Center which comes in at 400 million. The highest paid employee is UC basketball coach Geno Auriemma at 2 million. To all those who might be interested,maybe we should look at the TOTAL amount of money that the State of Connecticut has spent/invested in The University of Connecticut. Are we getting a fair return on our investment. Many experts claim that a better educated populace/workforce will keep and attract more employers which creates economic growth. Is there a point where too much money can be spent on education. I know for certain that there has been some commentary made/questions asked about state spending on the University of Connecticut. What concerns me is the simplistic bashing of state employees here and by others without any facts to support blank statements. IMHO,it is unfair to blame state employees,especially looking at the role that The University of Connecticut plays in the payroll figures.Without a doubt,reexamination should be made of state employees(number of employees,are there technologies(digital) that can reduce the amount of employees in the long term,an examination of salary and benefits and create a balance that would be “fair”- however that might be determined. However,to read here on OIB that one person felt that the financial/fiscal ills of Connecticut began with the unionization of state employees is far to simplistic and no facts are presented either.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Local Eyes: In 2008, we saw what can happen to “guarantees.” There are some in decision-making positions that would abrogate guarantees under certain contingencies… The population of the world is increasing and is out-striping the amount of wealth creation needed to support global population increases at modern living standards… The next financial crisis can occur under conditions where money-printing and wealth-reshuffling won’t be able to occur at levels needed to meet banking/pension guarantees… The 2008 crisis saw lock-box police pensions threatened in such cities as san Jose, California… The trends of wealth-creation and wealth distribution in this hyper-capitalist, globalized world shouldn’t leave the average residential US tax payer or pensioner feeling comfortable about bailouts or guarantees of any sort… The world, as it is now organized, is essentially a feudal system serving a few dozen extremely wealthy families/individuals… The rest of us might think that we are living in an age of a guaranteed “floor” to our standard of living, but 2008 should have alerted to the huge sink-hole under our house… Only the super-rich are on real terra firma… And at the present time, we don’t have Franklin Roosevelt working to assure the implementation short- and long-term measures to assure a solid economic floor under the 99%…

  • Frank Gyure

    This is a State Of Connecticut problem. It is called “Home Rule” that began in the early 1960′s and created a state of segregation in CT. The old “Jim Crow” laws were replaced by economic redlining in Connecticut. I will keep on saying this until I am blue in the face. We have TWO states of Connecticut. One Rich and One Poor. All of you OIB experts can extrapolate all of the other implications.

  • Frank Gyure

    If i remember correctly,Jeff was part of the “Bring Back Ganim” Gang.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Frank, according to you, quoting from your statement above, you are in complete agreement with me about the role of the Gold Coast-Stamford/the ‘burbs in regard to Bridgeport’s demise, yet you continually defend these same entities that engineered and enjoy the economic benefits of the “red-lining” that you cite. Per your, post above:

    “This is a State Of Connecticut problem. It is called “Home Rule” that began in the early 1960′s and created a state of segregation in CT. The old “Jim Crow” laws were replaced by economic redlining in Connecticut. I will keep on saying this until I am blue in the face. We have TWO states of Connecticut. One Rich and One Poor. All of you OIB experts can extrapolate all of the other implications…”

    And yes; I supported Joe Ganim’s return. I hoped that he was truly seeking “redemption” and we needed to the remove the Gold Coast Mole in City Hall…

    Joe, unfortunately, is trying to pick up where he left off in his political career without first securing any real economic-development success — or the equivalent, visionary (real) planning for that success (regional sabotage and the related lack of state and federal support notwithstanding)…

    In any event, Frank; now, when you “pooh, pooh” the “Gold Coast economic-development rigging” conspiracy undermining Bridgeport’s socioeconomic redemption and try to attribute such to local corruption (of course, there is no corruption/patronage in Stamford or Greenwich or Shelton or Trumbull or Westport…), I’ll be sure to resurrect your words from the above quote… (And, your statement in a previous post; if you had any idea of what the Seaview Avenue Corridor development was all about and the effect that it will have on the neighborhoods involved and its ultimate effect on your tax bill, you might not think that it is such a good idea. You need to do some homework — on regional history, appropriate economic development wrt to urban-renewal efforts, etc…)

    It’s good that you’re in the activist category, but take a closer look at things before you endorse or condemn them… (Who was your horse in the last mayoral race? What was their strong suit?…)

    • Frank Gyure

      Jeff,
      Thank you for the thoughtful reply and the time that you spent to create it. I will certainly revisit this entire posting and especially your comments.

      • Frank Gyure

        Btw,for the record I voted for Finch in the primary. Frankly,I don’t remember who I voted for in the General Election. It might have been Foster. When Ganim was elected I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought he would work hard and try to over-achieve the expectations the community might have had of him. IMHO,he has failed to do that. As a community leader,he has failed to reach out to the Bridgeport community. He remains isolated and aloof. He does have his PR events but leaves ASAP. His decision to run for governor undermines the perception of his dedication to the Bridgeport community. On a policy level I don’t agree with the choices he has made although trying to turnaround the fiscal/financial/economic challenge that Bridgeport is facing is,indeed,a tall order.

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