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Line Up Council Candidates, Plus: Stratford’s Piggy Pols, And Bridge Loot

June 2nd, 2009 · 19 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council, State Politics

Here we are in June, just a month or so before respective districts of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee meet to endorse candidates for City Council seats.

So far I’ve not heard of any high-profile challenges except for Andy Fardy, retired firefighter and long-time city pol and his running mate Ann Barney, a city educator, taking on incumbents from the 138th District Bob Curwen and Rich Paoletto.

I expect a competitive primary here. Fardy’s been around a long time and has lots of experience running primaries whether on behalf of his own town committee seat or for other candidates. Barney is a compelling selection because of her contacts in the education community. Education people vote. But primaries are all about identifying your friends and dragging them to the polls.

Curwen, co-chair of the Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, is toying with running for mayor in 2011. He’ll need a strong performance for anyone to consider him a serious candidate for the city’s top spot.

The 138th District  covers some of my favorite parts of the city in the Upper East Side, including the areas east of Beardsley Park along the Trumbull and Stratford lines. Lots of owner-occupied homes there.

Come on, let’s hear it. What council members do you want to challenge?

Stratford Pols Bite

I’ve always maintained that Stratford politics is nothing more than Bridgeport east. Stratford State Rep. Terry Backer who doesn’t give two shits about the state’s largest city is trying to hold the city hostage because god forbid airport safety improvements should inconvenience those poor souls in his beloved Lordship. From Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post:

HARTFORD – Legislation that would allow Bridgeport to postpone contributions to its troubled pension plan is on the verge of dying under a threatened filibuster by Stratford lawmakers.

It’s tit-for-tat politics, with the 12:01 a.m. Thursday legislative deadline looming.

Stratford lawmakers want to extend a moratorium to delay the expansion of Sikorsky Memorial Airport and if they don’t get their way, they’ll attempt to kill the Bridgeport pension bill.

In recent days, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his staff have been working the halls and meeting rooms of the Capitol in attempt to fend off the attempts by Stratford’s House delegation to further delay the construction of an airport runway safety zone.

At the same time, Finch has been promoting the need to delay a $20-million pension payment due this year and next, hoping that the stock-market bounces back and retrieves some of the losses that have depleted the once $350-million fire and police pension down to about $165 million.

“The way it stands right now, is that the city of Bridgeport desperately needs the pension relief,” Finch said Monday afternoon in the Capitol. “Unfortunately, legislators from Stratford have decided to hold it hostage to prevent a safety zone at the airport that is mandated by the federal government and good conscience.”

Congress Street Bridgeport dough, news release from Mayor Finch

BRIDGEPORT, CT (June 1, 2009) – The City of Bridgeport is receiving $883,094 in U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Recovery Funds, $600,000 of which is targeted for costs associated with demolishing the bascule leaves of the broken Congress St. Bridge. The City has already been granted $1.2 million in federal Recovery Act funds, which, together with the $600,000 HUD CDBG funds, will cover the $1.8 million cost of demolishing the bridge.

“These additional funds will allow the City to move forward on many fronts, most importantly tearing down the City’s most visible reminder of infrastructure neglect – the Congress St. Bridge,” said Mayor Bill Finch, in lauding the Council’s vote to approve the 11 programs to be funded with the monies from HUD.

“HUD is providing the City with the means to preserve and create jobs as well as promoting economic recovery by assisting those who have been most impacted by the recession,” Finch said. “I’m also pleased that this funding will help the City move forward on its B-Green 2020 initiative. The $95,000 dollars allocated to create an Energy Conservation Corps will educate and empower City residents to learn to recycle more, divert rainwater and avail themselves of a Home Energy Audit to make their homes more energy efficient – saving them money and, overall reducing the City’s carbon footprint.”

“After years of lobbying to solve the problem posed by the broken Congress St. Bridge, the Council is excited that we are able to take the first step in taking down that very visible eyesore. Through the leadership of the Economic and Community Development Committee, chaired by Council members Angel DePara and Robert Curwen, we found a creative solution to utilize stimulus funding to finally tear down the bridge,” said City Council President Tom McCarthy.

In addition to the Congress St. Bridge, the $883 thousand in funds will be used for the following programs:

· City of Bridgeport Lighthouse Program – Energy Conservation Corps, $95,000

· Bridgeport Area Youth Ministry Re-Manufacturing and Youth Development Program, $5,000

· CT Free Shakespeare Intern Training Program Scholarships, $12,464

· City of Bridgeport Small and Minority Business Development Office, $10,000

· Original Works Inc./ East End Youth Art Works, $5,000

· Playhouse on the Green Project Broadway & Playhouse, $5,000

· City of Bridgeport Public Facilities – Congress St. Bridge, $600,000

· City of Bridgeport Parks Department – Tree Program, $20,000

· City of Bridgeport Parks Department – Newfield Park Improvements, $22,321

· City of Bridgeport Public Facilities – Hollow ADA Improvements, $20,000

· City of Bridgeport/Central Grants and Administration, $88,309

Annual Party Bash

Anyone attend the state Dems annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner Monday night in Hartford? Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who’s a hoot, was the featured speaker. This is where a collection of great and near-great Dems meet annually to raise a boatload of dough for party efforts and trade rumors. Bridgeport is always well represented.

Wonder what the chatter was about for Chris Dodd, his primary opponent Merrick Alpert and the gubernatorial race next year?

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • town committee

    I would like to know just how many full-time jobs have been created by this infusion of monies from HUD. By the dollar amounts I would guess very few jobs. Bill, stop blowing smoke on the job front. The monies are going to good causes but JOBS???
    The money is here to demolish the Bridge. Is the money here to replace the Bridge? Or are we just going to protect the opening with jersey barriers? How many people from Bridgeport will be employed when the bridge is being demolished? My guess is ZERO.
    On the election front I am hoping that more people would come out and challenge the incumbents; god knows it’s TIME FOR A CHANGE!!!
    We can sit around in our favorite coffee shops and watering holes and bitch and moan about change or we can really do something to help Bridgeport by challenging the system. Without that challenge these incumbents have no reason to really work for us. Challenges win or lose serve notice on the do-nothing incumbent that they need to do a better job representing their constituents. It seems to me that many of our council people think they work for the mayor and not their constituents. Time will tell.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Chris Caruso’s primary campaign slogan was “Change–Caruso!” It ought to be amended to “Change Caruso, please.” It is one thing to sit around in a local tavern or café (or the local blog) and bitch, moan, complain, piss, whine, and otherwise gripe about how things pretty much just suck. No need to state the obvious. We all know that Bridgeport’s political culture is dominated by an obsolete party apparatus that is noisy and clunky and doesn’t produce much in the way of positive results for the people of the city. If it ever did at all, it ain’t doing it now. It is also fine and good to campaign for change. Change is good, but only if it is a change for the better. Will a new City Council and a new mayor in City Hall truly make a difference? There has been a fairly steady turnover in both branches of the local government. The problem is not the motivations and ideals of the candidates that achieve electoral success; the problem is dealing with a municipal government packed with the friends, relatives, in-laws, third cousins five times removed and wayward scion-like nieces and nephews of well-connected players. Too many of these folks were hired to repay political favors. John “I’ll pee into a cup anytime” Fabrizi added his signature to a few documents that made it much more difficult for future administrations to remove the dead weight.

  • barney

    I just read that Achievement First will purchase the former Barnum and Garfield schools from the city for $350,000, and then relinquish control over the former Waltersville School. Yet Achievement first managed to afford $4.5 million to purchase a former school in New Haven. You mean to tell me we can’t do better than $350,000 for two buildings?

    • Bob Walsh

      And Achievement First has lined up $30 million from the state to fix up the building that they are buying from New Haven.
      But in Bridgeport the city refused to even put the two schools out to bid to find their true market value.

  • HereWeGo

    A question for Town Committee–As a resident looking to run for office, and a retired City employee who collects a City pension, I’d like to hear your input on the pension crisis here in the City.

    Do you feel it wise and prudent for the City to defer pension payments and wait (pray) for the market to get better? Are employees going to stop getting pension payments or stop retiring in this time period to stop drawing from an already underfunded plan? Who is going to have to make up the difference 2 years from now if this plan gets approval?

    Your input is appreciated.

  • town committee

    Here we go: There are 2 pension systems in effect for the PD & FD. The first is the unfunded pension system that covers the people who have the 20-and-out pension. These pension monies as I understand it come directly from the general fund. If the city funded this pension I am unaware of it.
    The other pension fund is pension plan A which covers the present-day firefighters and police officers. These people were hired under the new rule of 25 years for pension eligibility.
    The group under Plan A contributes at least 8% of their pay that goes into a controlled fund to be matched by the city. (I believe the city may put in more than the 8%.) This was to be a dedicated fund that was to be invested and allowed to grow. If done right this fund would have expanded and covered pension costs plus.
    I don’t believe anyone wishing to retire will have a problem in doing so. While the plan has lost considerable assets it is far from bankrupt.
    I understand why the mayor wants to defer the city’s contribution in these tough economic times; however when politicians see a large amount of money sitting around they are tempted to want to get at it. A perfect example is social security. If the market improves the fund will somewhat replenish. I am not privy to any of the real data so that is a guess.
    The people that were monitoring the fund and its investments fell down on the job and should have seen what has been happening these last few years and moved the pension funds into a safe investment zone albeit for less profit.

  • MCAT

    Hi Lennie, Stratford’s filibuster technique is not a new strategy. Two years ago when I was trying to get the bill passed that would force the trash to energy plant to pay Bridgeport around $7 million in new property taxes annually, everything looked good to go the day before the last session. Jim Amann had promised to call the bill, we had the numbers in the House and Senate. Then in the dying hours of the last night there was a halt to the progress by Stratford. They wanted the original moratorium to delay the expansion of Sikorsky Memorial Airport and if they didn’t get their way they would to kill the trash to energy bill. Terry Backer and Bob Frankel former Rep. from Stratford and Chief of Staff for Amann cooked up that little “joke,” as Frankel referred to it later on in a conversation with me the next session. Bob Keeley was a big help in keeping me informed on what was happening. I believe he saw that giving Stratford what it wanted would be the best way to get Bridgeport’s bill past. Ultimately, that’s what happened. As it turned out no one would have been able to get a shovel in the ground at the airport within a year of the moratorium because of the length of time needed to get the necessary permits, so it wasn’t a huge win. This time I don’t know if there as been further movement on this time table, but I doubt it. If that is the case let Stratford have its way again and get the pension fund legislation passed, if that is what is best for Bridgeport. I have no comment there. It is too bad the City doesn’t have a constant, respected presence by staff in Hartford anymore and relies mostly on their paid lobbyists, which wouldn’t be necessary if they had a staff person who could do the job.

  • MCAT

    JJB Report

    I also attended the JJB last night. I went in a show of support for Dan Malloy for Governor. I also spent some time with my First Selectman Tom Buzi, Senator Anthony Musto and Congressman Himes. It was lovely to catch up a bit with Dottie Guman and see a number of Bridgeport people like John Fabrizi, Fletta Hudson, Bob Curwen, and Michelle Lyons. Mayor Finch decided to skip the event for a council meeting, but Sonya Finch and her sister Sherri were there. All the usual suspects attended; Constitutional officers, gubernatorial candidates, congressmen, Nancy Dinardo, Speaker of the House Donovan and other Representatives including Bridgeport’s Rep. Santiago was there as well. It was extremely bad timing for the event and State Representatives and Senators, as the General Assembly was still in session. Many Senators came in shifts, presumably not to leave the candy store unattended. Most House members did not come or only stayed a short while.

    For those who stayed it was well worth it to hear Governor Brian Schweitzer, a farmer and rancher who held no elected office prior to being elected as the first Democratic Governor to serve Montana in 20 years. It was a fantastic speech, informative, funny, personal and touching. It was a political speech masked in personal narrative that by way of parables showed us the flaws in current policies. I hope my friend CTblogger at My Left Nutmeg runs it on his blog. I will have more later if you want it, right now I am late for a meeting.

  • yahooy

    Airport expansion doesn’t seem to be too dead. The main terminal has been torn down with significant restructuring work planned. Also, there is a considerable amount of surveying and repositioning of storm drains in the area of Main Street that Bridgeport wants to take to add more runway space.

    I would like to ask Terry Backer why he isn’t raising hell over the work that is being done on Main Street obviously in preparation for the runway extension that, supposedly, has not been agreed too.

    What is going on?

    The PEOPLE of Stratford do not want further airport expansion. They have loudly spoken. Their elected representatives have voted accordingly.

    Why has work commenced to accommodate Bridgeport’s airport expansion plans?

  • HereWeGo

    The FAA has also spoken loudly:

    … The destruction of the airplane and the resulting occupant injuries were a direct result of the collision with the blast fence. FAA interaction & communication with local communities, although persistent, were unsuccessful in gaining support for runway safety area improvements and for the installation of approach lighting for runway 6 …

    Taken from the NTSB crash report of the 4/27/1994 incident that killed 8 of 9 aboard.

    • yahooy

      If the FAA had its way, all runways would be 5X the required length. They (the FAA) are doing the same thing in a small community down south. This airport had the land and agreed to the expansion with assurances that the airport would be restricted to pre-expansion plane size limits. Prior to the runway expansion, landings and takeoffs were limited to a certain class of aircraft. We now have multi-engine jets coming and going at all hours and the noise is deafening. The airport managers found it difficult to resist the higher landing fees generated by larger aircraft.

      I spoke with a pilot recently who flies out of Bridgeport. He stated categorically that the runway in question is sufficiently long to accommodate a C5 private jet with a full load.

      Furthermore, Bridgeport is classified by a Pilot’s Association as having sufficient runway space to easily permit the most inexperienced of pilots ample safe access.

      In other words, there is no compelling need to expand.

      If you will continue your reading of the reports of that crash you will clearly see that the pilot landed the plane too far onto the tarmac to ensure a safe landing.

      That runway is safe to aviators as is. I don’t trust the City of Bridgeport to merely expand the runway for “safety” reasons alone. Once expanded, much larger commercial jets can begin using the field. We have ample service in New Haven and West Chester. Even Hartford isn’t that far away.

  • Up On Bridgeport

    To Jim Miron:

    Here’s the Long and Short of it, Cupid.
    Don’t come to a gunfight with a bow and arrow.

  • yahooy

    “I went in a show of support for Dan Malloy for Governor.” a la MCAT.

    Amazing.

  • bridgeportnow

    Tuesday June 2, 2009
    “Bridgeport Now” LIVE Tuesdays at 8pm on Ch 77
    Netcast: 216.41.34.230/svorg/svtheater.html

    8 to 8:3pm
    A Bridgeport city council person will be on to discuss 1) city budget issues, 2) today’s CT Post article regarding the no-bid sale of two city buildings to AF, Achievement First, 3) we will play a clip from Bob Curwen at the 5/11 city council hearing and discuss. How much is the city privatizing its services; what is impact on “unknowns” in the budget?

    8:30 to 9pm
    Someone from the BRHA, Black Rock Home Owner’s Association will be on our live TV program to discuss the coming meeting’s topics with Nancy Hadley at the newly renovated Black Rock Library (meeting on Wed 6/3 at 7pm at 2705 FFLD Ave)

    BRHA flyer:
    “There are three strategic propoerties in Black Rock with development potential that will have significant impact on our community. Join us for an open and positive discussion on the possibilities for quality development at each of these sites:
    1) Black Rock Art Center – City owned and located at 2838 FFLD Ave.

    2) St. Marks Evangelical Lutheran Church – property borders Jetland and Brewster Streets.

    3) The Chimney’s – located at the summit of Grover’s Hill.

    “Bridgeport Now” is a weekly live TV program dedicated to improving quality of life in the city.

  • Mojo

    *** Whether it’s HUD or FED, Recovery Act monies, etc. it’s not enough to break down & rebuild the Congress St. Bridge period. It’s a start mind you but not the “whole thing”! Maybe they can put tables with umbrellas and open up a small pizzeria nearby to watch whatever boats happen to wander by & wave to them; talk about half-stepping. I wonder who’s going to get the construction part of the jobs, the usual probably so I don’t think they’ll be a whole lot of new, long-lasting jobs for local Bpt. residents either. *** And Bpt. should sell their portion of the Airport if possible & be done with it along with Stratford Politics altogether; both can’t see eye to eye & Bpt. has no money to invest into the Airport whether in the past, now or ever! *** As far as the city council is concerned, at least 60% must go to be able to start a different trend towards local Bpt. politics, however the same goes for the D.T.C. members as well. ***

  • donj

    What???!!! No election in the Black Rock district???!!! Black Rock’s 2 Council members need to go. Let’s get a primary.

  • town committee

    Stratford Reps want a delay in implementing the enlargement of the safety zone. Fine. If they sign a letter accepting liability for the the safety zone not being enlarged then give them the moratorium.
    Has anyone thought about the liability issues involved if there is another fatal crash (god forbid)? Everyone knows that the FAA states that this enlargement is necessary. A strong Bpt delegation should be able to put a stop to Backer’s Blackmail.

  • S.O.B.

    Not to change the subject, but I am, anyone have a update on the Kocher Frank who traded bulbs for pastrami? Or is this a typical city of Bpt let’s let it die and sweep it under the rug again? I know if I were in the BOE and someone tried to reprimand me I would laugh in their faces, and I’m sure my union would too. Calling Doc Hinds, where’re your cojones?

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