1 p.m. update: Former Republican State Senator Rob Russo officially declared his candidacy for U.S. Representative calling Democrat Jim Himes a rubber stamp for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and vowing to end crisis spending by Congressional Democrats.
Russo made his announcement on Sherman Green in Fairfield, using health care as the centerpiece of his announcement saying government intrusion is destroying America’s health care system. He called the relationship between a doctor and patient “sacred, and I’m going to fight to make sure it stays that way.” Both Russo’s father Robert and brother Greg are physicians.
Russo, a Bridgeport resident, joins Republican State Senator Dan Debicella in the race to face Himes in November 2010. The question is: which GOP candidate can raise the dough to run a competitive race? No money, no chance. Himes will have millions to spend.
Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District covers 17 communities including cities Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, and also features the state’s gold coast towns Greenwich, Darien, Westport and Fairfield, running inland to take in suburban towns such as Easton, Trumbull and Monroe.
See full text of Russo speech below:
Good afternoon. I want to thank you all for joining us. We are at a critical moment in this country.
We are facing great challenges – our economy is struggling, our deficit ballooning and our future uncertain.
Yet we have a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi – and robotically followed by Jim Himes that keeps making the wrong choices.
They raise our taxes in a recession. Explode spending. Borrow against our children and grandchildren’s future to bail out the banks and the automobile companies.
Now they want the government to take over our health care.
This is wrong. We can’t afford it. And they must be stopped.
My name is Rob Russo, and I am running for Congress to stop Nancy Pelosi and Jim Himes from suffocating our economy. And although no one can deny our health insurance system needs reform, I won’t let them destroy the best health care system in the world.
I am running for Congress to give the people the kind of independent, thoughtful leadership they deserve.
I am running for Congress because we can’t afford a rubber stamp whose solutions to our every problem is more spending and higher taxes.
Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District has always had an independent voice in Congress. Whether it was Stewart McKinney or Chris Shays, we’ve elected independent, outspoken leaders to represent us.
They always took the time to listen and learn from their constituents. They didn’t march in lock step with their party bosses.
They told us what they believed and sometimes we disagreed, but we know that our interests came first.
We’ve never had a rubber stamp representing us in Congress, but we do now.
Jim Himes is marching in lock step with Nancy Pelosi … on the economy, on health care, on taxes and spending.
Jim Himes wants you to believe that he is independent because he ONLY votes with Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership 95 percent of the time.
Do you agree with your spouse 95 percent of the time?
Do you agree with your kids, your friends, with anyone 95 percent of the time? Do you agree with your boss 95 percent of the time?
Well Jim Himes agrees with his boss 95 percent of the time.
Jim Himes actually announced a little while ago that he was the most independent Congressman in Connecticut. Compared to whom? Rosa DeLauro?
That’s like Bernie Madoff saying he’s more trustworthy than Charles Ponzi …
And I have news for Mr. 95 Percent. Agreeing with Nancy Pelosi 95 percent of the time is not independent. It’s is partisan. It is liberal. And it is wrong.
It is wrong to address every question with the same answer: spend more of our money, raise more of our taxes, and government will solve all of our problems.
We need to change our direction now.
The economic crisis hit a lot of families in Connecticut pretty hard. A lot of folks lost jobs. The unemployment rate is still climbing.
Jim Himes and the Democrats in Congress came to the American people and they said, “We have the answer.”
What was the answer? They told us to look the other way, and they picked our pockets. Trillions, literally trillions of dollars in new spending.
They took our money and they used it to take over the banks.
They took more of our money, and they used it to take over the auto industry.
Their prescription to revive the economy was a so-called stimulus package bloated with earmarks and pork-barrel spending.
The ringleader of this Democratic Congress, Nancy Pelosi, got $30 million to bail out a mouse habitat in her district.
They exploded the deficit to more than a trillion dollars.
The national debt is nearing 12 trillion dollars. That’s a debt our children and grandchildren will be forced to repay.
Believe it or not, the government has a credit limit, just like we do. If you or I reach the limit on our credit card, we put the credit card away.
For Jim Himes and the Democratic Congress, that’s the wrong answer – they’re about to raise the limit on the government’s credit card, yet again.
It’s time we held them accountable.
There’s no question our health care system is in crisis.
We have a crisis of affordability. Health care is too expensive. There are people without health care because they can’t afford health care.
But Jim Himes and the Democrats keep making the wrong choices.
Their plan ignores the crisis of rising costs. After all, they can just keep coming back for more of our money.
We can’t let that happen.
Health care is very personal for me.
If you know me, you know that my family has been practicing medicine in Connecticut for over 50 years. My grandfather devoted his life to the health of this community. My father, and my brother Greg both regularly counsel patients and help them make informed choices about their care.
The relationship between a doctor and patient is sacred, and I’m going to fight to make sure it stays that way.
If we are going to reform health care, we need to keep four goals in mind:
It should remain personal, and honor the doctor-patient relationship.
It should be portable – when you change your job, you shouldn’t have to change your doctor.
It should be accessible, for all Americans – regardless of income, or pre-existing conditions.
That why we need to focus on making it affordable – we cannot let costs be a barrier to care. We need to pass tort reform, and decrease unnecessary mandates, and invest in information technology that makes it easier to share knowledge.
We don’t need yet another government takeover.
Let me tell you why, with your help, I can win this race.
I’ve worked side by side with Congressman Chris Shays and Governor Jodi Rell, two sincere, common-sense public servants, who taught me volumes about public service.
We may have disagreed with Chris Shays from time to time, but he always took the time to listen to the people of the Fourth Congressional District.
I put those lessons to work as a Republican representing Bridgeport, Trumbull, and Monroe in the State Senate, and I achieved results.
In Hartford, I fought to cut the gas tax and cap property tax increases.
I helped strike down unfunded mandates that place a burden on local taxpayers, and I spearheaded an audit of the way Bridgeport’s public schools spend the state’s money.
As the economy began to falter, I found a way to save good manufacturing jobs from leaving Connecticut.
I learned what it takes to bring our Republican message into the bluest part of this blue state, and go head-to-head with the Democrats and win.
With your help, I can’t wait to take on Jim Himes and the liberal Democrats who give him his marching orders.
This is an important campaign, and I look forward to the debate over the coming months.
I’m Rob Russo, and I’m running to be your representative in Congress. Because it is time we replaced a liberal rubber stamp.
It is time we end one-party rule.
It is time we take back this country, take back this Congress, and stop mortgaging our children and our grandchildren’s future.
Be It Resolved
Yes, lots of reading material today. Yeah, I know I like to keep stuff short, but every now and then we need to stretch things out.
We start with two resolutions submitted by City Councilman Bob Troll Walsh to the Miscellaneous Matters Committee at Monday’s council meeting. Troll has his back up over city residency, particularly Civil Service Commission President Eleanor Guedes who couldn’t tell me point blank whether she actually lives at her place of business that she claims as her voting residency. Eleanor owns a house in Trumbull.
Troll also wants the City Council to relax regulations on the public addressing the legislative body. Council members Andre Baker and Evette Brantley signed on to Walsh’s resolutions. See Troll’s two resolutions below.
Following the Troll is Mayor Bill Finch’s State of the City address which he delivered Monday night to the City Council. The mayor’s speech runs in its entirety. I figure if I’m gonna rant about this and that I must allow the mayor his full dissertation for the state of the city.
Walsh’s resolutions …
RE: A resolution requesting proof of residency of a member of a city board which otherwise might bar the person from continuing to serve on a city board
Whereas, recent media reports have raised serious questions as to the bona fide residents of Eleanor Guedes, a member of the city of Bridgeport Civil Service Commission; and
Whereas, the City Charter of the city of Bridgeport clearly states that “except as otherwise provided in this charter, no person shall be appointed to any board or commission established by this charter who is not a resident and registered voter of the city”; and
Whereas, published reports indicate that her stated residency at 1425 Noble Avenue contains no residential component per the city of Bridgeport Tax Assessor’s records on file on-line with the city of Bridgeport; and
Whereas, published reports indicate that Ms. Guedes owns a residential property in Trumbull at 48 Teller Road; and
Whereas, published reports indicate that Ms. Guedes failed to unequivocally acknowledge her bona fide residence as 1425 Nobel Avenue, Bridgeport, CT when approached by the media;
Be it therefore resolved that the City Council directs Ms. Guedes to file with the City Clerk a sworn and notarized affidavit acknowledging her residence as 1425 Noble Ave, Bridgeport, CT in accordance with the Residence for Voting Purposes Definition per the Secretary of State.
Be it further resolved that should Ms. Guedes fail to file such a sworn affidavit with the City Clerk then the matter should be referred to the Ethics Commission of the City of Bridgeport for appropriate action.
Resolution regarding public speaking portion of City Council session
Whereas, current rules allow to have 6 speakers address the City Council for a period of time not to exceed 5 minutes before the start of any council meeting; and
Whereas, current rules require that said speakers must register to speak with the City Clerk’s office at least 5 days prior to said meeting; and
Whereas, it is common not to have all 6 time slots filled prior to publishing the City Council Agenda; and
Whereas, this extended time line prevents the public from addressing pressing issues that come to light after this arbitrary deadline
Be it therefore resolved that the City Council amends rule XXV to allow for speakers to sign up at 6:30 PM on the evening of the council meeting if all six slots have not been previously scheduled or in the event that a previously scheduled speakers fails to be present at the start of the Public Hearing Forum.
Public Hearing Forum
There shall be a public hearing forum before the City Council on each night that the City Council meets in regular session commencing one-half hour prior to the scheduled commencement of the Council meeting. Anyone desiring to speak at said hearing shall be given 5 minutes to speak. In order to be eligible to speak, one must contact the City Council, through the City Clerk’s Office no later than 4:30 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding the City Council meeting. Such requests shall be honored on a first come, first serve basis, and no more than a maximum of 6 speakers will be allowed during the public hearing forum.
The minutes of said hearing shall be recorded by the Council stenographer and attendance of the Councilpersons at said hearing shall be taken prior to the convening of said hearing.
Mayor Finch’s State of the City address:
Mayor’s Annual Report to the City Council
Sept. 21, 2009
Mayor Bill Finch
The past year has been a difficult one, but look at how far we’ve come – we’ve weathered an economic downturn that scuttled several large banks and investment houses, but here in Bridgeport we worked through a $20 million deficit, balanced the budget, and for the first time in memory, the current year’s budget is $2 million less than last year.
We’ve also reformed our budgeting process, so for the first time we have an accurate picture of what our revenues and expenditures actually will entail. We’ve ended the practice of utilizing one-time revenues and expect to end the year with a balanced budget. Our budgeting process is so improved, that two international government associations recognized our efforts: We received a certificate of excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officer Association, and, the City was one of only 20 across the United States to be recognized for its long-term performance measurement efforts by the International City/County Managers Association.
I am here tonight with a hopeful tone and guarded optimism. Our City is filled with pride and hope, and I truly believe we are about to turn a corner in many areas.
However, we face more challenges ahead – double digit unemployment, increases in foreclosures and more people who need social services than ever before, but we will continue to work together in a spirit of cooperation to find ways to keep our City moving forward.
Before I get into details of this annual report, I want to stress four themes that the people of Bridgeport, our City employees, the City Council and, me, as your Mayor, should all be proud.
1. In a trying period, we as a city, and we as a city government, rose to the challenge. We tightened our belts, we made difficult decisions, we worked together, and we delivered a balanced budget without dipping into our meager reserve funds. And we made the hard decisions to change and trim spending in certain areas that were previously thought to be untouchable. We were creative, fair, balanced and determined, and for that we should all be proud and feel a sense of accomplishment.
A year ago I stood here and told you we would have to do more with less, and we have.
2. City unions and management worked together in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to preserve vital services, make difficult job cuts and hold the line on salaries in order to position our city for the future.
3. The state pension legislation was adopted, which will save the City millions in payments for two years while we have an opportunity to shore up pension finances.
4. And I save the best for last. As we all know, in order to deliver more city services, including improving education services for our children, while not placing an excessive burden on our taxpayers, there is only one mathematical answer: Attracting more business to Bridgeport and adding to our tax base. And I am pleased to report that we have two key projects that are moving forward.
Within the past month, we have solidified a proposal with the developers of Steelpointe, which, with City Council approval, will finally begin moving forward in phases –a more realistic approach to development in these tight economic times.
In addition, just a week or so ago, the City and the Port Authority announced that developers have been chosen for the former Carpenter Tech site in the East End. Simon Konover and Tate George are teaming up to bring a commercial/retail development to a site that until a year or so ago everyone believed should only house another industrial use. Their plan will bring new retail opportunities, offices and public access to the waterfront in a section of the city that has long been under-served.
While those are the two largest development projects on the drawing board, several other of what we like to call our “singles and doubles” have continued to move forward.
· United Rentals, the largest equipment rental company in the world, has constructed a 40,000 square foot rental and leasing operation in Bridgeport, successfully reclaiming a brownfields site. This will be their biggest site in the Northeast and represents about $7 million in personal property.
· American Fabrics — what was once a defunct factory in the East End, is now an example of what can happen when we think outside the box about what to do with brownfields. The developer has invested about $5 million to create 150,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space. He’s also made room for a burgeoning artists’ community, including painters, sculptors and a musical instrument company, among others. This project will bring much-needed jobs and activity to a long neglected piece of property in the City’s East End.
· B&E Juices, a local soft drink and juice distributor, found themselves outgrowing their home on Connecticut Avenue, and were considering their options. They saw the progress the City was making and wanted to remain a part of it. They are now taking an underutilized brownfields site on Knowlton Avenue, cleaning it up and expanding their business.
All of these projects will fit into the City’s Master Plan of Development, recently approved by the City Council and the Planning & Zoning Commission. This plan, many years in the making, charts a course for development in the city that will allow us to foster transit-oriented development in the downtown and denser development along already-established commercial corridors.
Speaking of transit-oriented development – the Citytrust building and the Arcade apartments are now fully leased. Our City’s proximity to I-95, Metro-North, bus and ferry service makes it an ideal location for the numbers of young professionals who are attracted to living in our downtown. Among the attractions to those who want to live downtown are the Arena and the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, which have drawn thousands of visitors to our area for sporting events and concerts. Our successful American Hockey League franchise Sound Tigers pulls hockey fans from near and far, and our hometown baseball team – the Bluefish, have attracted nearly 3 million fans since the ballpark opened more than 10 years ago.
This influx of new residents also has helped fuel the growth of retail and restaurants in our downtown. A number of new restaurants have joined our established eateries to form a restaurant district that is attracting regional attention. If you haven’t tried them yet, I encourage you to have lunch or dinner at places such as Épernay, Fraiche Burger, Amici Miei, and Café Lulu.
As I mentioned earlier, the past year has been a challenging one for our City. I believe we’ve met the challenge by thinking creatively and bringing a more professional approach to City government. In order to balance our budget, tough decisions were made:
· We have become more efficient. Over the last two fiscal years, the city has eliminated more than 200 positions; we worked hard with labor unions to achieve fair compromises, saving the City as much money as possible while preserving as many jobs and services as we could. We took voluntary furloughs, including my own, and saved a half-million dollars. We reduced take-home cars by 43 percent, an area previously thought to be untouchable. We implemented a ban on non-essential travel. And, we worked hard to enhance revenues.
· We’ve raised $2.4 million dollars with the sale of city-owned property this year, and I will be recommending more sales in the coming year.
· We increased revenue from our Bootfinder program by nearly $1 million dollars and adopted a new “get tough” attitude toward tax delinquents.
· We increased collection of personal property and real estate tax delinquents and in the case of the top 50 offenders, as I promised, we have either collected the money that is owed us, foreclosed on property, or we are in court on behalf of our taxpayers.
· We have also instilled a new sense of honesty and integrity into the way we do business. I have hired people who believe in service to the common good and you are seeing this in action. Honest, open government is going to be central to our success.
· One major step we’ve taken toward this goal was the creation of the Small and Minority Business Resource Office, which has become the main point of entry for small, minority and women-owned businesses seeking opportunities with the City of Bridgeport. Of the more than $18 million dollars of primary contracts that Bridgeport awarded in the past year, more than $5 million or about 30 percent, were awarded to minority-owned businesses.
In the area of education, two notable public works projects are moving forward. The Discovery K-8 Magnet School and the Interdistrict Magnet High School. Both will help reduce class sizes while creating much needed jobs. Both of these schools, I might add, will have a high Leadership in Environment and Energy Design, known as a LEED rating. This will save money on the operation of the schools and lower our carbon footprint.
This past year, I recommended the City sell two of its decommissioned public schools to Achievement First to expand their charter school operation in the City. Achievement First will ultimately educate almost a 1,000 Bridgeport children in public charter schools, giving our parents more choice in their children’s education.
CitiStat continues to move forward with the use of new technology which will help us track customer input and concerns and have real data to show for our efforts. We’re using a web-based program called QAlert, a citizen service request management software to track the many citizen requests we receive every day. This technology will help every employee in the “chain of action” to be plugged in and know where a request stands and when it gets resolved. This technology will also help us track budget items, for example the amount of cold patch we might need to fill potholes, on a year-to-year basis.
I heard from the Council, and I agreed that it was time for us to tackle the blight problem in our City. Our anti-blight initiative is moving forward – in the last two months we’ve been able to take down 6 buildings, some of which had been sitting vacant, burned-out or boarded up for more than 3 years. There are plans to demolish at least another half-dozen before the end of the year. And, we hope to include funds in next year’s budget to be able to take down several more. Our sustainability committee is looking into how the city might be able to recycle the building material, rather than sending it to a landfill. It is my hope that we will be able to turn some of these lots over to Habitat for Humanity, or a similar group, that will provide reasonably priced housing for those who need it most.
Having a strong background in housing myself, I initiated a program to help forestall the growing foreclosure problem in our City. The economic downturn is being felt most keenly in the places where we can least afford it. Last year we established the Homeownership Opportunity Preservation Effort or HOPE, a program that addresses issues of mortgage foreclosure. The HOPE program works to:
· help homeowners who are going through foreclosures
· assist tenants to become homeowners, or to preserve their rental units,
· ensures that foreclosed property doesn’t become blighted property.
This past spring, we announced the award of $6 million in Neighborhood Stabilization funds to the City. These funds will be leveraged to acquire and fix foreclosed properties. The City is partnering with the Housing Development Fund of Lower Fairfield County (HDF) to execute the program, leveraging the $6 million with an additional $26.2 million of HDF funds. Other community partners include Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, Fairfield ‘08, and the Bridgeport Redevelopment Agency.
When President Obama announced his economic stimulus plans, we were already hard at work on a comprehensive list of “shovel-ready” projects, which will now create hundreds of jobs. We have met with Congressman Jim Himes several times to impress upon him the importance of stimulus funding to our City. His office has been most helpful in advancing our cause at the Capitol for these most crucial projects.
I’m pleased to report that to date, we’ve received more than $11 million in direct awards, with another nearly $6 million in pass-through monies from the state and other funding sources, and we have an additional $90 million in grant applications under review. While this money doesn’t get applied to our budget for relief, it does create jobs and associated economic benefits, as well as repair infrastructure in our city.
We have already earmarked $2.1 million to begin demolishing the Congress Street Bridge – the most glaring example of government neglect and lack of funding to our city.
Other stimulus project funding highlights include:
· homelessness prevention and housing creation
· salary offsets for up to 20 new police officers, and
· though we haven’t received it yet, $1.3 million in Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grants, which will help fund our sustainability efforts
Finally, our Sustainability efforts are gaining momentum. This is not just an effort to be “green”, though we call our initiative B-Green 2020, but an effort to save money for our taxpayers and join the rest of the world in protecting and preserving our nation and our planet.
Less than a year ago, I signed an Executive Order on Sustainability laying the groundwork for projects such as:
· The development of an Energy Improvement District that will generate renewable energy and develop strategies to save energy for the city.
· The use of stimulus funds to provide training and jobs for two dozen young adults who canvassed city neighborhoods as part of the Mayor’s Conservation Corps. They knocked on more than 8,500 doors and talked to more than 3,700 residents in our city to help promote recycling, home energy efficiency programs and storm water management. Through their work, more than 1,600 people requested a recycling bin, and we’ve been able to deliver about half that number. In just a short time, we’re already seeing results — nearly 3 tons more of recyclable materials have already been diverted from our waste stream.
· We are promoting the use of mass transit and transit-oriented development.
We have more than 100 citizens involved in advisory boards and committees, and they are looking at a variety of energy conservation initiatives, the creation of a green energy park, green jobs and green jobs training, and the use of “green” cleaning products in all City buildings.
Our sustainability efforts are beginning to take off and to pay off. Bridgeport soon will be a model for other cities in the state, and the nation. “Green” is “green” and all these efforts not only save our planet, but put some green in our wallets.
Public safety is one of the City’s top priorities, and I am very proud of our police and fire departments and their leadership.
Our fire department has worked very hard to promote its Safe Asleep program. Since its inception nearly 4 years ago, they have helped install more than 20,000 smoke alarms in city residences – more than any other town or city in the country.
Our police chief has been working with his leadership team to help rein in overtime while paying attention to the basics and keeping crime down.
The Strategic Enforcement Team or SET has been working in all of our neighborhoods and with our residents to help prevent crime. Crime overall is down, and we remain one of the safest cities in the state. I also want to commend the officers who patrol our parks. Their efforts over the past months have helped improve the civility and cleanliness of our Park City.
Moreover, I want to salute all our men and women in uniform who have worked hard to do more with less in a difficult economic environment.
We have had a trying year, but I want to applaud the City Council and our City managers and employees for their efforts. This level of commitment to keeping Bridgeport safe, improve our services, maximize our revenue, and do more with less is working, and we are getting through these challenging times. I see light at the end of this tunnel, which means a better and brighter future for ourselves and our children.