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Oh City Council, Just One More Thing–Boots Made For Talking

August 20th, 2017 · 21 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council

Lee red boots 2017

John Marshall Lee and boots.

It’s disquieting for some City Council members to endure citizen budget hawk John Marshall Lee’s observations. He’s the Lieutenant Columbo of government watchdogs, coming back loaded with unnerving, bone-to-pick questions about financial issues. Columbo persists with uncanny observations, rumpled jacket and neck tie. Lee weighs in with signature bow tie and red boots, his symbolism for a city sinking financially. For city officials Lee’s a pain in the ass. For transparency embraced, Lee’s the antidote to government decision making under the sheets. And, if it’s sheets you want, says Lee, tell us about these financial sheets?

Some council members wish the ol’ dog would stick his tale between legs and go away. This dog ain’t going away.

The City Council meets in full generally the first and third Mondays of the month, except for July and August solely first Monday of the month. Prior to the session, the public is allowed to speak. But as Lee points out, most of the detailed work is done at the committee level. “That’s where the factual back and forth occurs.” By the time it reaches the full council for a vote the deed is generally done. So Lee’s made entreaties for speaking allotment at committee meetings. Each time he’s ignored.

CT Post reporter Brain Lockhart has more:

John Marshall Lee sat quietly, patiently, his hand raised high in the air, waiting to be called upon.

Lee, a budget watchdog and one of the few residents who regularly attends City Council meetings, has been wary of a pension proposal by Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration that, proponents believe, will save the city tens-of-millions of dollars.

That proposal was before the council’s budget committee and Lee had something to say. The minutes ticked away–eight total. The committee ignored Lee’s raised hand, wrapped up its discussion with Ganim aides, and voted in favor of the pension changes.

Full story here.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Steven Auerbach

    Did the council feel his comments would be “Best ignored”?

  • John Marshall Lee

    Best ignored or ignorant? Or something else?

    I have a question for OIB readers. I asked this question of Lennie Grimaldi earlier this week. And then I asked Brian Lockhart. Lennie sent be an OIB comment from Andy Fardy that deals with the issue but had no $$$$ amount. Brian Lockhart must still be doing research as he has not provided an answer from the files of the CT Post.

    MY QUESTION:
    In 2015 the City came to new contracts with Fire and Police personnel retroactive to 2012. Part of the agreement was approval of Plan B City pension rolling into CT MERS plan (that by the way caused retirement incomes to be based on highest three year earnings including overtime.) Who can tell me what the price-tag for that adoption of MERS has been to City taxpayers??? Is there a lump sum answer? Is there a continuing cost beyond a lump sum answer? How much? When was this communicated to the taxpaying public? Time will tell.

  • Steven Auerbach

    JML I had asked a question of you from a previous post. I asked you what Pete Spain and his partner were going to address the funding of schools and taxes. How they figured the city would be able to survive without tax increases and without economic development. I know the people that are paying 35,000 a year in taxes believe that fighting for Sanctuary city status was a priority- NOT- I know Black Rockers support major economic development. I am curious what Spains plan is. I know you would most likely know as not only are you his supporter and spokesperson but he also ran your campaign so I assume they must be the same plan- no?

    • Lisa Parziale

      Steve, in the event you don’t now, Pete Spain and the other three candidates will be participating in a question and answer forum at the Black Rock Library on Tuesday at 7:30. Please double check the time since I’m posting without looking at my calendar. I’m sure this will be an interesting forum. I believe anyone willing to attend will be welcome, and unlike committee meeting, questions will be taken and answered by the candidates. I know you’ll love this.

    • John Marshall Lee

      I am not an official of the Smith-Spain campaign and cannot answer your question therefore. But you have not answered mine which has nothing to do with a current campaign. It has to do with Labor Negotiations during the Finch regime. Remember how he was your Mayor? In 2015 a labor contract was formed with Police and Fire retroactive to 2012. It terminated contributions for active employees to Plan B Fire and Plan B Police and got them sent to CT Municipal Employee Retirement System instead.
      Very little was said. Even less was reported as to a price tag for the transfer. Remember that the advantage to the switch was that retirement benefits under MERS would include overtime earnings for highest three years. Was that cost or potential expense ever communicated to Bridgeport taxpayers? Was that price tag covered by a lump sum? By annual payments of shortfalls in the range of several million per year? Or does it take both a lump sum to be paid over 28 years PLUS annual payments of several million per year to form such a price tag?
      Cat got your tongue? Fur ball caught somewhere? Ask Mayor Joe? Representative Stafstrom? Others? Time will tell.

      • Steven Auerbach

        JML He was our Mayor. I was not on his payroll,nor was I a spokesmen for his administration. Any question you had could only be answered by them or yourself!

  • Lisa Parziale

    Ooops, the typo police are going to get me. (know), (meetings)

  • Jeff Kohut

    Ignoring the respectful, non-disruptive request to speak at any city-government meeting by an elector of the city is outrageous. It would be a good thing if the membership of the Budget Committee, as well as the list of City Council members in attendance at the meeting of reference, along with the minutes of the meeting of reference, were to be published on this blog and in the “Gold Coast Gazette” (formerly the Connecticut Post — formerly the BRIDGEPORT Post…).

    John: I think that you should retire the red boots and replace them with brown hip-waders… Perhaps you might want to collaborate with Cecil Young and have his sound system set up to broadcast a taped, prepared question and statement for the benefit of the media and ambient public in the vicinity of City Hall for the next Budget Committee and City Council meetings… And perhaps be prepared to video-record the meetings (for obvious reasons) to share with the media and public via the web/social media…

    To be dismissive of JML in such an off-handed manner is worthy of public censure of the Budget Committee… The City Council has shown itself to be a cowed, largely-mindless body, and has been such for perhaps the last 35 years… (Please note that I said “largely” mindless; there are always 3-4 members willing to think and fight… Unfortunately we need 15-16 members (preferably 20) willing (and capable) to think and fight… (Unfortunately, this will likely not happen before the Millenials are becoming great-grandparents…)

  • Lisa Parziale

    Jeff I didn’t want to go into another hopeless piece of past council practice and procedures because those who should read it wouldn’t. The Chair of any Council committee meeting does not have the authority to prevent a person present at the meeting from asking a question or adding information. If the person is credible, ie. JML, and would ask to briefly state relevant information, it is the decision of all members of the committee to vote to make the decision to allow it or not. This dictatorship behavior is not Council policy, but was implemented when Fabrizi was CC, and has been perpetuated ever since. Just a bunch of uninformed, close-minded, fake-elected officials flexing their limited, mental muscles.

  • Frank Gyure

    I have one very simple question? Why do we not have public comments at subcommittee meetings? In the big picture,there will probably not be a lot of public comments at sub=committee meetings but there is the possibility that,on certain subjects, the people of Bridgeport would want to address the subcommittees that are dealing with more more specific issues and,usually,these meeting are done in a smaller room where “physical presence” plays a greater role than in the Large City Council Chamber. I think and I hope that every single person who is seeking to be a part of the City Council should be asked this question;Will you support and allow public comments at sub-committee meetings. The fact that any group of City Council members have a meeting and the people of Bridgeport are not allowed to speak to that group of CC members is,simply, WRONG.

    • Ron Mackey

      When Bob Walsh, Ed Gomes and later on Andres Ayala were on the City Council I able to give them by concerns and questions ahead of time and I would sit in the committee meeting and if there was something more that needed to given they would ask me.

  • Frank Gyure

    Let’s face it. Not a single person on The present city Council even listens to JML(or any public speaker). I would have some respect for CC reps who might listen,,but the present TWENTY don’t listen-in one ear and out the other. The question is-should (ineffective)public statements to CC members be gotten rid of or should CC members ,who don’t listen to public comments, need to be gotten rid of. Excuse my vernacular English/ American grammar etc….

    • John Marshall Lee

      Frank, With respect to you who have also spoken in the past year to the City Council on matters that concern you, and with basic human respect to the Council persons who are afraid to deal further with the very material and accurate questions I raise, we see where reality contrasts with responsibility, and most members of the CC are poorly informed of the Charter, ordinances and their own Council rules. Tom McCarthy has been a poor leader of the Council if taxpayer concerns have any meaning. When the public is being poorly served by a City Hall that has allowed public spending for police and fire pension current contributions, bond obligations, past service obligations to total $75 Million or more currently without any public comment by the Mayor or by the Council? And Council member are watching the State maintain ECS but make other BOE cuts where they City only maintained the cash contribution to BOE last year and therefore only increased the BOE by $400,000 and not the $3.1 Million increase claimed, what is going on? Why is Ganim2 administration so cozy with Police Department and so distant from the plight of the classrooms in this City? There is a major justice issue that he is ignoring…..and so is a Council that trusts more in what they are told than what they might discover with a little research from their own staffing!! Combination of purposeful ignorance, status quo motivation and momentum, and failure to fully outline, explain and provide benchmarks that can be compared from time to time leaves municipal government UNaccountable. How do you stop that? Time will tell.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    The City Council regards the public speaking portion of its regular meetings as a pain in the ass. I’ve attended several Council meetings, spoken at one (against extending Joseph Celli’s lease of the Black Rock Bank & Trust building). Less than half of the members were in attendence at any time. Thank you for your concerns for the people of the city of Bridgeport.

    Living in Bridgeport will give one a rather cynical opinion of public office holders. We have a mayor, a convicted felon that served seven years of a nine-year sentence for corruption and racketeering. Joseph Ganim was disbarred, a decision upheld by a panel of three superior court judges because Mr. Ganim is unwilling or unable to admit, under oath, that he fucked up.

    Meanwhile, the City Council doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anything the public has to say.

  • John Marshall Lee

    The leasing activities of the City probably have a few chapters to contribute to Len Grimaldi’s next book on Bridgeport City Scams: Now You See $$$$, Now You Don’t!

    The old Black Rock Bank and Trust would like be worth a few paragraphs since the City paid almost $640,000 for it, holding it for more than ten years and then selling it for nearly $350,000 less?? Does it take a government, using taxpayer funds to blunder in such way? Please include a paragraph or two on the role of Dan Roach, an occasional advisor on contractors to use for renovations (with funds Celli could not raise for said renovations with the lease the City provided). Think of Dan Roach, as a mini-Mario in training? No contractor, no contract, and ten years of maintenance, and ten years without taxable Grand List position?

    Are things better today? Many questions come to mind but just consider the Bluefish ballfield. Leased to someone. Questions raised as to rent paid or not? Answer usually that it was in negotiation and the lawyers were working on it. How does that work out? Well look at Revenue Line Item regarding Miscellaneous PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) that shows a negative number approaching $400,000 as of June 30, 2017……It indicates that Rent Revenue ACCRUED under Finch(?) for one or more years never was paid. Therefore it must be ERASED as revenue by all of you good taxpayers who have asked questions, been given a tap dance, and who ultimately get to a balanced budget because of bad calls before Ganim2. Why is he so reticent to list all of these? Is Tom Sherwood employed or a consultant to Ganim2 at this time? What’s the story? Time will tell.

  • Donald Day

    The remaining firefighters and officers that are left from Pension Plan A went to MERS as well. The Pension Plan B people threw millions in the MERS pot, but who paid for Pension Plan A people?

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    The city of Bridgeport has been horribly mismanaged for decades by an entrenched political party machine that makes Tammany Hall look like the Fairfield County Ladies’ Sewing Circle & Temperance Society. Previous administrations were so greedy to attract industrial investment large corporations were given multi millennial tax abatements for properties that are now vacant, abandoned, cluttering the skyline. From I-95 Bridgeport looks as if God Himself has forsaken it. Many are contaminated by industrial pollution. The GCI plant caught fire, AGAIN. It took an arsonist looking for kicks to force the city to do something about it. Many of these abandoned properties are untaxable due to the tax abatements passed out like candy on Hallowe’en. The city’s legal department has more than a few sharp-minded attorneys on staff. Surely they could suss out a way to revoke or rescind the tax abatements or take over the properties via eminent-domain laws. How many more need to burn? If the CDC did a study in Bridgeport it goes without question it would find high rates of cancer caused by industrial chemicals a la Love Canal. 

    Another problem is Mario Testa passing out jobs to satisfy political favors. How many incompetents are on the municipal payroll courtesy of his largesse?  How many actually have the intelligence and academic credentials to do the job? 10%? 5%? .08%? Trim the fat. If they needed that much help getting work they ought to apply for disability payments. Maybe Mr. Testa could hire them to wash dishes in his banquet hall on Madison Avenue.

  • Mojo

    *** Same song, different day, no ? ***

  • Tom White

    This posting touches on some important issues.

    When I chaired the budget committee on the city council, I welcomed the input of knowledgeable people. John Lee should be welcomed to speak at committee meetings on specific points.

    I agree with Judge Lopez, most council members do not want to be informed. Many have little understanding of what is being covered, nor do they care. That is why I say ‘All in favor’, etc. They have more important things to do such as attending political fundraisers, posing next to the mayor at media events, posting photos on their Facebook page, etc.

    McCarthy controls what is placed the city council agenda, what is presented to them and the reward system for their loyalty to the DTC and its chair. It is much easier to have approval of the city council if they are uninformed and feel no obligation to be informed. The robo parking meter debacle is a good example.

    The fact that the pool of people to serve on the city council is controlled by the Democrat Town Committee is the obvious problem. Some, over the years, have demonstrated concern for making the right decisions but rarely have they insisted on having the facts to make an informed decision. Why should they? They get rewarded for voting as they are expected, not for insisting on thorough research and informed decisions.

    The bonding for pensions in G1, and the move of Plan B to MERS would not have taken place, nor wood the current proposal be considered if the Financial Review Board had been or was currently in place.
    The fact that the final decision on long-term financial matters are made by the city council, few of whom have the education, work experience or sense of obligation to understand what they are voting for suggests the need for a different structure or a better pool of talent to choose from.

    Let’s hope the upcoming elections provides better choices.

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