Mayor Tells Business Leaders He Wants Charter Focus On Appointed Board Of Education

Mayor Bill Finch on Thursday briefed several members of the executive committee of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council on his priority for the Charter Revision Commission he empaneled: an appointed Board of Education with little or no room for anything else.

It appears, from impressions of those at the meeting, the mayor doesn’t want charter issues raised that could potentially distract what he plans to lobby voters to approve in November. The mayor was joined last Thursday at the business community inner circle by Chief of Staff Adam Wood, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Alanna Kabel. The business community could play an active role raising money to help the mayor win approval of his charter initiative.

Finch wants voters to approve an appointed board similar to the setup in New York City where the majority of school board members are selected by the mayor.

In response to a question, the mayor said term limits for City Council members would not be on the table (there is also some question whether state statute would even allow it). It is the council that ultimately approves the charter revision questions presented to voters. The mayor doesn’t want to present anything to the council that could alienate his BOE goal.

The mayor is concerned that the Connecticut Supreme Court could overturn the state takeover of city schools. Allowing a charter change for an appointed BOE would negate BOE elections.

There is an appetite among some council members, however, to allow compensation for serving on the legislative body. Council members are researching whether the charter already gives them authorization to approve compensation for members or if a charter change is required. The council cannot craft questions for the ballot. It can only accept or reject questions posed by the charter review panel so whether the charter panel submits a question about compensation is another matter.

In 1998, when voters approved a four-year term for mayor it was feared also including a four-year term for council members would drag down the question. Assuming the mayor can shepherd the central question about an appointed BOE he is expected to go to work lobbying voters for approval.

The campaign in 1998 to pass the four-year term for mayor was accompanied by citywide voter outreach that included radio, direct mail and phone banks financed heavily by a business community fundraising effort led by then-Mayor Joe Ganim who was popular with voters before a conviction on public corruption charges in 2003 derailed his mayoralty.

Finch is expected to put his prestige on the line with voters to win approval of an appointed BOE. With Barack Obama on the ballot in a presidential cycle the turnout should exceed 50 percent. It remains to be seen what kind of organized opposition will develop over the question.

For a refresher on the Charter Revision Commission members see here.



  1. Why hasn’t the Supreme Court ruled on this already? Are they deliberately stalling until the City gets the charter change and then there’s no need for them to rule? Why is it taking so long?

    Isn’t the whole point of a Charter Revision Commission to review and update the entire Charter?

  2. The Charter Review process is fascinating in what is ultimately accomplished (or not) and what was intended by the Mayor in calling for a panel, selling it to the Council (and indicating how much the Council would be informed about and party to the process–perhaps there was fear or concern there?) in order to gain whatever advantage in added power over the educational process he sees may come from new Charter language.

    We already know Adam Wood’s statement that only 10 people showed interest in serving on the Review Board is false, but if the City does not put out a list of those who offered but were ignored, overlooked or avoided, then the select nature of the group is speculative only.

    But several of the seven have already indicated they are aware their fast and focused meeting schedule and personal investment of time, talent and experience will need to show their independence and work on behalf of the entire community. So they may be more open than at first guessed. And they have also talked about added opportunities for the public to hear, to comment and to question at locations other than City Hall. Let’s see those materialize. Words connected to meaningful actions with public input are novel experiences here in Bridgeport.

    Well the Mayor comes up to bat this Tuesday on Valentine’s Day. So we should hear details about his big issue and maybe catch the research that leads him to think educational matters will work better by giving him (and all future Mayors) the power over education too. The various departments (covered in Chapters of the Charter) will get to speak only if the administration calls for it.

    For starters I disagree with the Mayor on how much he and his administration understand OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT behavior, activity and process. Using the words as he does in a televised interview this week, without real action or notable content does not cut it for me. As a ‘green’ example, and now I am talking about money and fiscal sustainability, the City Charter has required a “monthly” financial report for more than 20 years. Let’s use this as an example of administrative “law-abiding behavior”:
    * How did the City Council, Budget & Appropriations, and the City Clerk get into accepting anything less frequent than 12 monthly reports from the administration of an incumbent Mayor? As recently as 2010-11 fiscal year, there were only 3 ‘quarterly’ reports from Finance to the City Council covering a total of 11 months. You do the math. It is not quarterly! It is not 12 reports. It fails the Charter language!
    * How has the Finance Department, after reading the Charter language calling for a report to be presented monthly, a certain number of days after a prior month, decided it will not file a June report, THE FINAL MONTH OF THE FISCAL YEAR WHERE THE PUBLIC MAY LEARN THE SUBSTANCE BEHIND ENJOYING A SURPLUS YEAR OR THE TRAGEDY OF A DEFICIT YEAR? The Finance Department (unless they have a contrary opinion on file from the City Attorney) has ignored the Charter language!!! Is that legal? Does it confirm the integrity of administrations living up to present laws and rules?
    * The missing 12-month report would show year-end variances (that may need to be changed before the external audit subsequently) but that can be otherwise compared to the ultimate external audit. Without that report, how does our Budget & Appropriations group see what was the variance between budget and spend in each line item? And do they ever compare their info from the Comprehensive Annual Financial report to the monthly financials? Has anyone looked at their minutes in the past three years to see whether that watchdog function is present?

    Isn’t it likely the B&A watchdogs have become lapdogs, so comfortable with the finance office holders they have a very limited notion of the comprehensive year-’round duties of fiscal oversight? And if you are in a comfort zone, you fail to do any extra research, ignore asking for reports that give you more detail, and overall feel you are ‘well fed’ and therefore are doing a good job, while the administration squanders millions in areas unseen and unaccounted for. Where is the curiosity? Courage? Questions?

    And how does the Charter encourage talented, substantial and responsible fiscal oversight that might spend less money in areas that are not a Mayor’s high priority while focusing more on high-priority projects that will make the City stronger fiscally going forward??? Mayor Finch has not significantly increased the ‘unrestricted fund balance’ although he has talked about it. In fact what are his fiscal accomplishments other than starving the education budget for several years to avoid wrestling with real choices, with real expertise behind goals, with real dialogues in which the public can participate and learn? Perhaps only one, and that is a status quo on property taxation. But that cannot last for long. Time will tell.

    1. Beacon, do you talk yourself to sleep? Nothing personal, you make intelligent points, but did you ever hear the words “long winded?”
      Please come to your point.

      1. Black Rockin’, nothing personal; I sleep well, how about you? The point(s) are in the article. If “long winded” is your problem, stop reading! After all there are many “short-winded” points that are posted on the blog every day, though frequently they are not described as intelligent.

        I do not strive for longer. But I do strive for honest, accurate, and comprehensive so those who appreciate factual, intelligent and common sense may have a place to see the areas that need attention, see how they connect to other issues present and on the table at this time, and see how far we are in this City from OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT.

        So, quiz time B.R.! What were the intelligent points I made? Why do they speak to you? What are you going to do about them, other than complain about the messenger? How about you attend the Charter Review meeting on Tuesday February 14 5:30 PM I think, at City Hall when Mayor Finch will address the group? I expect to be there. How about you? Maybe you will find someone who is “longer winded” and equally intelligent? Maybe not? Time will tell.

  3. Finch will appoint the members of the BOE, isn’t that just great? He has something like 87 board and commission spots he won’t fill so why should we think he would keep the BOE board filled?
    An appointed BOE would be made up of mayoral toadies who will have Finch’s interests at heart instead of the kids’ interests.
    Finch has not done anything to help Bridgeport school children since he has been in office. I don’t care if his kids go to Bridgeport schools. Do you think they would be there if he weren’t mayor?
    This charter revision is going to be a cluster fuck and we the citizens are going to get screwed by this hand-picked group the mayor put together.

  4. Finch needs to get his own late-night show. All he wants is a monologue.
    No discussion about a blended board? Five elected and four appointed??

    This charter deal is going to crash and burn when Finch has to raise taxes and the voters find out this effort is being fueled by Paul Timpanelli and the BRBC. Just Say NO!

  5. Maybe someone could help me with this because I am a little slow, but Mayor Bill Finch wants the voters and taxpayers of Bridgeport to “TRUST” him with appointing the members of the Board of Education. Do I have that right, Mayor Bill Finch wants us to “TRUST” him?

  6. Bill Finch will live to regret this.
    Not having any other questions on the ballot can easily become a reason to vote no.
    The mayor wants to appoint a Board of Education but won’t allow the taxpayer the right to recall a corrupt public official.
    The mayor wants to appoint a Board of Education but won’t allow for term limits on city elected officials.
    The mayor wants to appoint a Board of Education but won’t allow the taxpayer the right to vote on a city budget.
    Tell the mayor when he is ready to talk real change then let’s have that conversation.
    Otherwise, just vote NO!

  7. Bill Finch has been mayor for four years and during that time:

    He did not give more money to the BOE
    He did not work with the BOE
    He did not introduce new initiatives for education in the city

    As a matter of fact, all he ever did was try to get the state of CT to take over the BOE so he would have greater control (emphasis on trol).
    Tell Bill Finch when he shows a real commitment to the children in Bridgeport’s public schools then the public might show a real interest in his proposal.
    Until then, just vote NO!

    1. Mayor Finch thinks he is showing ‘common cause’ with parents of school-age children when he indicates in talk after talk in public he has children in the Bridgeport school system. Mr. Mayor, it isn’t having your kids in the public school system that shows you are fit and should be empowered to manage the educational system.

      It could have been early and immediate attention to OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT behavior of the school system during your first term. You flat-funded the system, counting on $215 Million of local and State funds to do the job, knowing for at least two years Federal funds would be available. But otherwise there would be chaos.

      You might also, as a former BRBC employee and former State legislator, have known about the community interest in opening up the staffing, spending and overall finances of the BOE. The famous audit process in multiple stages rolled forward year after year and may still await the last segment becoming public.

      Anyway, Acting Superintendent Paul Vallas comes to Bridgeport, having dealt with larger cities (population and area), with special political issues (New Orleans and Chicago), poor minority populations with history of underservice (Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans) and greater budget problems, and begins to drill down. Maybe tonight we will know how big the 2011-12 problem was in truth. And have a plan to deal with it. What concerning the work done by the Vallas team since they got here, is something a serious Mayor could not have accomplished 2-3 years ago? And if he couldn’t see it, is he really the visionary leader who should have more direct power and influence over the educational process?

      And if he is unwilling to allow some really knowledgeable, independent and energetic volunteers with fiscal experience to augment our current City watchdog fiscal representation, then his words are truly empty, just as others see his suit!

      Paul Vallas has negotiated some concessions from the City for handling buildings, facility services, perhaps security needs, etc. And he has negotiated equipment, curriculum support immediately, and/or services from outside providers, he indicates. Finally, he is a credible face in Hartford for the necessary changes he and his team are establishing, so perhaps money from the State as well as foundation grants may begin to flow.

      However, looking at the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for June 30, 2011 just released, it shows the Mayor received on the City side of the budget an added $2.2 Million of funds for education cost-sharing that did not go to BOE last year. And if the City Council funded 60 unfilled positions on the City side, what does the record show for the BOE budget in that area? Where is the O.A.T. behavior??? Time will tell.

  8. Why the hell does the BRBC find out what the mayor’s master plan is before the voters of Bridgeport???
    He refused to make public his plan prior to the first public hearing so no one could address his specifics.
    Beacon carries on about open and transparent.
    This guy is as transparent as a one-dimensional empty suit. He simply believes the public won’t care.

    1. It’s all about school contracts, that’s what the City of Bridgeport lives on, school contracts.
      $250 Million here $300 Million there, that’s the industry that pays the most in kickbacks to the DTC and Mario Testa/Bill Finch and the Machine.
      Fixing up schools, replacing schools; that’s the ticket!
      NBC moves to Stamford with 500 jobs, so who cares; right, Mario/Finch?
      NBC, GE, Modern Plastics, Derecktor jobs, who cares?
      And CT Post feeds off the Machine, and the FBI sits on their ass …
      Control the BOE and you control Millions.
      That’s been the industry of Bridgeport for the past 30 years.
      Keep the taxes high, you keep manufacturing out of Bridgeport, right Mario/Finch?
      See who’s writing checks to the Finch Camp & DTC, the same venders and contractors that work on the schools.
      If you have control of the BOE Members, you control the school bids, right Mario/Finch?
      DTC needs the State BOE to get out of the way before the next school projects.

      Question: How will a Charter change help the Bridgeport BOE?
      Answer: It can’t! Finch’s new appointed BOE members will control all school contracts and budgets.

      Removing elected BOE members over appointed puts the Bridgeport BOE back on the road to corruption.
      Will the Supreme Court allow this to happen?
      Will the Supreme Court question the Mayor’s motive for a charter change at this time? (Appointed Vs. Elected Board BOE)
      So if the Supreme Court overrules the taking of the BOE by the State BOE, Finch will have in place a New Charter.
      So if the Supreme Court orders a new election and to reinstate all past members for the BOE, the Charter change will null and void the Supreme Court’s order.
      Is that what Finch thinks? God help us!

      1. Jim,
        It would be an interesting analysis to see who is being hired by the BOE to provide goods and services and to whom do these same vendors provide similar goods and services to local Bridgeport enterprises especially in the food services industry.

        1. In the 2010-11 budget year it appeared “food services industry” may have more than one meaning. First you may think of the kids with breakfast and lunch nutrition needs. I have not studied the programs or the numbers.
          Second you might look at expenses logged in the BOE Grants budget for that year. About $188,700 shows for Line Item 394 Food – Restaurant, Catering & ?? something else in the title that does not show. Some 328 different 2011 disbursements averaging almost $600 per invoice were spent. By whom? For what purpose? What was the payback for the City and State funds so spent?
          What about the goods and services covered under the Construction Management Services area? What accountability has the Mayor shown in this regard, other than to retreat to support of the Minority Business Enterprise program.

          What is interesting is how little real work is being done to provide citizenry, State and Federal funders, and anyone who is curious the City is spending money wisely, per budget, getting great efficiency out of the dollars and greater effectiveness because of the choices made by Mayor Finch and his cabinet in putting the budget together. Do we see that currently? Not at all. Time will tell.

  9. Given the June reporting deadline established by the City Council, there just isn’t enough time for this Charter Revision Commission to do the comprehensive, objective, review of the entire charter.

    For that reason, I’m OK with them addressing just the election of the Board of Education (and maybe some strictly technical amendments) and putting that issue on the ballot this year. That gives the voters an up or down on that proposal, which, as Bob Walsh has suggested, is not without some risk to the Mayor.

    If they follow that course, I would hope the Commission would recommend, and the City Council would approve, the creation of a successor Commission to undertake a much-needed review of the entire Charter.

    1. Phil,
      The problem with addressing only the BOE from my perspective is a recommendation to create a successor Commission is just that, a recommendation. Finch has shown no interest in a Charter Revision Commission until he made the mistake regarding the disbanding of the elected BOE. Now he is rushing to fix that mistake. The City needs a Board of Finance; it needs the Charter to prohibit city employees from being elected to the City Council and the Council should have minority representation. Just deciding on the BOE puts the other three issues in the ozone. I will vote against the change in the Charter if it only deals with the BOE.

      1. countdown,
        That could all be true. Unless (1) the Mayor wants a clean vote on the Board of Education badly enough to agree to a new commission; or (2) the Council insists on it. If they don’t that should tell you something.

        Remember, as a practical matter, without support from the Council, charter amendments never get to the voters.

        1. I haven’t seen much pushback or independent thinking from the majority of this council. It seems there is less than a handful who have demonstrated some level of independent thinking. I don’t subscribe to the school of ‘let’s agree to agree at some point in the future.’ These are now issues. It was the mistake of the current administration that caused this rush to a charter change.

  10. I was wondering why Timpanelli and the so-called BRBC advisory board was consulted as to Fincharioanelli’s plans to ‘appoint’ a BOE. Then I remembered the city and state entrusted the audit Russo arranged to Timpanelli. How’d that work out for us?

  11. I know it is beyond the capacity of many posters here to grant the voters of the city are not upset with Mayor Finch. He won the primary and the general election in a satisfactory manner. OIB polling showed voter concerns. They were not enough to dump him. The tally showed that.

    The mayor did not win by overwhelming numbers. I’m guessing he’s getting the benefit of the doubt on education because everyone else has already thrown up their hands.

    The voters, however, are not as asleep as you folks make it appear. The juvie jail proposal was stopped cold. That South End halfway house is a bad idea that may or may not go through. The mayor better hope he gets beat on that one.

    I’m fascinated the proposal to free the library from the city budget went through despite administration opposition. I’m told constantly the city has changed from my time covering politics. I see the changes. I have trouble calibrating the vote changes from afar. The library vote was an “old Bridgeport” vote for an institution the community trusts and don’t want pols messing with. Even Mandy was gun shy of the library and no one accused him of being a shrinking violet.

    Messing with the charter historically raises the ears of voters. The mayor–and it will have to be the mayor–will have to make a strong pitch. Bob Walsh above banged out a series of questions. A few other questions were rattled around. If proposed changes do not appear solid an anvil could be dropped on the process. That’s historically how it goes and the library vote indicates to me elements of Bridgeport’s personality haven’t changed completely.

    1. Jim,
      You bring up some good points here.
      More importantly, the mayor picked a presidential election year to test the voters’ confidence in him. As you pointed out above, when his name was on the ballot they did not come out in droves to vote for him so even if the Finch Administration says the voters love him the numbers don’t.
      And although he may try to turn an appointed Board of Education into a referendum on the schools, the voters may look at it as a referendum on Bill Finch and the schools.

  12. A couple of things about the BOE, but a little off topic. First there was a big meeting today for the people at the admin building at 948 Main Street. Rumors are people are being laid off.
    Also, much to my amazement, I work in a school where the Pledge of Allegiance is NOT said. I think, but am not 100% sure, the pledge is not said in our building because of the religious affiliation of the principal. However, we had to have a moment of silence today for Whitney Houston. You can’t make this stuff up!

  13. Tonight’s Agenda:
    1. Approval of Central High School, Teacher Grades 9-12 trip to Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT Campus for 10 students and one (1) Chaperone on Friday, March 16 – Saturday, March 17, 2012

    2. Approval of FY 2012 – 13 Capital Budget

    3. FY 2011 – 12 Budget Deficit Reduction Plan

  14. As I’ve always said, “you may reside in Bpt, but you haven’t lived in Bpt.” I am a true Bridgeporter and have been followed the city BS forever– this administration appoints people who are not competent in most cases–it’s all about favors and votes … stay tuned for breaking news …


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