Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez writes in a commentary “This state take-over envisioned by Jeff Kohut might–just might–allow Bridgeport to finally access its untapped potential. To do so, the takeover legislation in a new “Ripper Bill” will have to include land-use bodies, development and legal representation, as well as taxation and finance.”
If a contest was held, to determine the most vocal and enthusiastic Bridgeport booster on OIB, Jeff Kohut would be the clear winner. Often to the annoyance of many, Jeff has downplayed and minimized Bridgeport’s endemic corruption, while casting blame on the “Gold Coast” and our suburban neighbors.
Therefore, when Jeff Kohut becomes so outraged and frustrated by Bridgeport’s systemic political cronyism and corruption that he suggests in an OIB post, a state takeover of municipal government, attention must be paid.
Kohut’s idea of a state takeover is not without precedent, and does have a basis in law, as a review of City history reveals.
In 1925, after Republican and Democratic administrations combined to produce a bi-partisan fiscal calamity in Bridgeport, the Connecticut General Assembly enacted the so-called “Ripper Bill.” The legislation carried that moniker, because it ‘ripped’ Home Rule from the City of Bridgeport and placed appointment of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, the Tax Collector, and the Tax Attorney under State Control. The Governor was authorized to set the mil rate.
Only the unflinching personal honesty, frugality, and integrity of Mayor Jasper McLevy, proved sufficient to bring about the end of state control.
If the Connecticut’s General Assembly has not considered advancing a 2020 version of the “Ripper Bill,” I encourage it to do so.
It is both sad and tragic that entrenched corruption in Bridgeport requires that a remedy which was once unthinkable, must now be given serious consideration. However, when City Taxpayers are asked to pay for criminal defense attorneys to represent Mayor Ganim, his Chief of Staff, Chief of Police Perez, and Personnel Director David Dunn, concerning a criminal grand jury proceeding, and that fact is concealed from the public by the City Attorney for nearly a year, extreme action may be called for.
I want to believe that Bridgeport is poised for a revival. If President Trump’s goal of bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores proves successful, regardless of who is president, Bridgeport will be well-positioned to take advantage of the boon.
We all know the geographic, economic and infrastructure advantages Bridgeport enjoys. The City is fifty-five (55) miles from New York City, and arguably has the best deep-water port between NY and Boston. A rail line runs through the City and it is the junction of two highways.
Solid residential neighborhoods complement a commercial tax base. These neighborhoods may now prove attractive to those fleeing the chaos of New York City.
A potential airport expansion will serve as an impetus for further growth and development.
Brownfields are available for remediation and redevelopment to create jobs. This pandemic has proven that our country can no longer be dependent upon an overseas supply chain, as a matter of national security.
Bridgeport blew it thirty (30) years ago and we cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
During the 1990s “pay to play” political corruption robbed Bridgeport and its people of the best years for economic development in our lifetime.
This time, we cannot permit development to stop at Ash Creek, then make a left turn through Fairfield, Trumbull, Shelton and Stratford in order to circumvent Bridgeport’s culture of corruption.
A state takeover might induce those with dollars to invest to bring money to Bridgeport, without the fear of a political shakedown or the re-emergence of ‘pay to play.’
This City will never make progress if we are consigned to rely upon corporate welfare, crony capitalism, and tax break bonanzas to connected developers, who insist on guaranteed ‘no fail’ contracts as the price for doing business in Bridgeport.
Many of us vigorously and financially opposed the state takeover of our schools, orchestrated behind closed doors by Mayor Finch and City Attorney Mark Anastasi. We did so out of a sincere conviction that self-government was preferable to rule by an outside oligarchy.
However, since the Connecticut Supreme Court restored self-governance, Bridgeport has squandered the opportunity through boycotts and political machinations. This we cannot blame on Fairfield, Shelton, Trumbull or Stratford.
This state take-over envisioned by Jeff Kohut might–just might–allow Bridgeport to finally access its untapped potential. To do so, the takeover legislation in a new “Ripper Bill” will have to include land-use bodies, development and legal representation, as well as taxation and finance.
This scenario might actually allow Bridgeport to grow its grand list and cleanse its political process, in spite of our elected leaders.