8:45 p.m. update: A testy crowd of more than 100 showed up at City Council Chambers for the public hearing conducted by the Ordinance Committee of the City Council featuring a number of speakers against the proposed pay raises for about 80 non-classified city employees. Speakers included 2011 mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster, city clerk candidate Marilyn Moore, former State Senator Ernie Newton, political science professor Don Greenberg and Mary Pat Healy, executive director of the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition.
The full City Council is expected to vote on the measure following the public hearing. It appears the votes are there for passage, but there was sentiment before the meeting among council members to eliminate the provision in the ordinance that authorizes the mayor to increase salaries by 15 percent beyond the outer range of the salary grid.
Tonight’s (Tuesday) public hearing before the City Council is a nice test for Mayor Bill Finch early in his second term, not necessarily for getting stuff passed but for how much effort goes into getting stuff passed. The mayor probably has the votes to pass his proposal to hike salaries for non-classified city personnel, many of them discretionary appointments. The mayor says the city must modernize salaries to attract the best candidates to city government. We’ll find out if residents are comatose, fired up or somewhere in between.
Government pay hikes for six-figure positions generally alarm residents of working-class communities, albeit for short spurts. A sparse turnout means the mayor can do just about anything he wants in molding government to meet his policies. It’s human nature. If residents don’t give a crap there’s less reason to schmooze through policies, whether communicating directly with residents or working council members to approve proposals. The mayor has become much more efficient at selling policies. He has a talent for sounding like he knows what he’s talking about even when he’s not sure about it.
City Council President Tom McCarthy is the mayor’s chief lieutenant for keeping council members on board. Big Mac will in fact receive a nice pay bump from the passage of this ordinance as deputy chief of the city’s Labor Relations Department. McCarthy has come a long way from his days as the freckle-faced kid working political campaigns. He’s popular in his council district, maintains a strong working relationship with most of his 20-member council and gets along with the mayor just fine. Big Mac’s dad is a butcher by trade. He’s learned a thing or two about what passes for red meat. If McCarthy realizes he doesn’t have the votes for passage he can pull back, table it for another day. If the votes are there just go for it and get it over with.
The pay-raise ordinance also creates opportunities for pols to show they’re trying to protect the little peeps. Former State Senator Ernie Newton, who’s expected to make a formal announcement later this month about seeking his old seat, says he plans to speak out at the public hearing.
“We can’t afford to put money into education, but we can give raises to top-tier appointments,” Newton says he’ll argue.
2011 mayoral candidates Mary-Jane Foster and John Gomes will also be attending as well as former City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh. So who else is showing up tonight?