Should City Council Membership Be Halved From 20 To 10?

It’s been 10 years since voters were asked to amend the City Charter lancing a ballot question proposing mayoral appointment of Board of Education members.

That was the 2012 reelection of Barack Obama in a high-turnout presidential cycle. It was easy for opponents to stand in front of polling places rallying electors to preserve their liberty to choose school board members.

This came of the heels of the Bill Finch mayoral administration’s move for a state takeover of schools, eventually ruled illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

City Council President Aidee Nieves is contemplating a Charter Revision Commission to examine a broader reform look at the City Charter. Unclear if it will move forward with a tight timeline to place it on the ballot for this November general election. Or, perhaps, it can be formed for ballot consideration in November 2023.

Some ideas under consideration include the council president replacing the mayor as chair of full council meetings, transitioning from an appointed zoning board to an elected body and installation of one elected council member per district instead of two.

Arguments for one council member per district include eliminating the feeble cripples who rely heavily on a council partner to perform the bulk of the work and forcing a complete understanding of the district, eliminating the mantra: you handle the upper half of the district I’ll take care of the lower. It happens. In addition, for those anathema of $9,000 council stipends, possibly rising in the future, this move saves money. Also, the council leader and mayor have 10 personalities to balance instead of 20.

How about 10 council members with four-year terms?

Voter-approved charter changes over the last 35 years or so include granting budget authority to the City Council, eliminating the old Board of Apportionment and Taxation that had the responsibility and mayoral appointment of police and fire chiefs to five-year contracts serving no more than 10 years.

The city is currently in the midst of a national search for a new top cop whose appointment will be completed the second half of the 2022.



  1. Interesting idea. First off let’s compare the 9 member board of education and the 20 member city council on a few points.

    One number of committees. Each has 9.

    Two cost of stipends
    City council $180,000
    Board of Ed $0

    Three meeting access

    City council: live regular meetings, no online access
    Committee meetings online only not recorded for later viewing

    BOE: All meetings in person, live-streamed and recorded. No quorum issues in about two years.

    Cost of proposed travel account
    City Council $40k
    BOE $0

    Proposed additional staff to read documents and support City Council because people are too busy to read the documents they were elected to vote for

    City Council estimated up to 500k
    BOE $0

    So yes I totally agree that reducing the number of city council is a great idea. Maybe then it would be easier to find people that show up to do committee meetings, take the time to research and are willing to learn to question what they’ve been told.

  2. Just what Bridgeport needs; a REDUCTION in neighborhood representation!

    Whoever came up with this idea is up to no-good… We waste far more money on labor and other incompetence-based civil lawsuits than the paltry pennies that would be saved by creating a more tightly-rigged city government via halving our neighborhood representation… Whoever buys into this idea… Well; there is nothing charitable to say about such hypothetical individuals…

    (But then, maybe the real question regarding CC representation in Bridgeport is; will it take only 10, vs. 20 pall bearers to finally bury this poor city?)

  3. What a joke!
    Bridgeport should be adding Council members and cutting the size of districts with one member per district who can really know the residents and the local situation,

    New Haven has 30 members of its Board of Alders, 1 per ward.
    Stamford has more than 30.
    Even Trumbull has 21 with the minority party guaranteed 7 seats.

    If by some miracle a non-Democrat got elected in Bridgeport, how could that person cover every committee meeting? Each party would be entitled to representation on every committee.

    The only good suggestion in the article is removing the Mayor as Chair of Council Meetings. The Executive Branch should not run the legislative branch of government. What happened to Separation of Powers?

  4. I’m kind of torn by this. People are getting elected with 45 votes to represent a district of thousands. Doesn’t mean your a great candidate just means you swayed 45 people with your influence.

    I also think the more people you add, the more prone you are to corruption collusion. A lot of these council members are addicts to the power and so called pedestal they sit on in their districts. Very few are there to actually do something for the city.

    I’m more of a fan of smaller government, because it’s more transparent and there is less opportunity for them to pass the buck when things go wrong. Just my opinion, but I can see why people want to split districts. City is looking more and more like the slums of Baltimore by the day.

  5. Jo,
    Respectfully disagree with a couple of your assumptions. But I do agree with your calling out folks who are registered to vote but do not become informed and do not regularly vote with exception of Presidential race.

    There is mega detail changing annually in most City departments. If you expect competent and responsive oversight by your liaison assignments, increase each district by 1 candidate, and no one will be as overburdened with assignments as happens currently. Post attendance and participation at all CC committee meetings along with agendas and minutes. See who is doing the work. Talk to them at district meetings that they ought to be happy to organize. Perhaps the new council person per district can be Council at large to deal with genuine City wide sore spots that the Mayor does not get round to: Appointments and re-appointments to Boards and Commissions; economic development results over five year period based on priority; overview of youth programming-school and after school opportunity trends?

    Yes to smaller government, ideally, but that is departmental effectiveness and efficiency. If In Plant Printing is costing more for actual output and we are paying for lots of outside printing. Why? If Police Overtime External is paid by contractors (but not for the increased retirement benefits provided by MERS pension) why keep trained and certified public safety officers doing those jobs at time and one-half with a four hour minimum when a new civil corps could be sought, trained and out on the streets comprised of younger residents of the City, equipped for good communications as are school security personnel, with their own, benefits including comprehensive healthcare, a 401k retirement plan, etc.

    But why get the decision makers, our representatives, more stressed with fewer of them, without support personnel, and very private about what they do with the stipends (neither Open nor Transparent) or Accountable for that matter. How many reports have you read from CC members on fire with an idea they heard at a conference and brought home to work in Bridgeport? But we keep allowing them to travel, room and board, and register for meetings, the subject of which are unknown to us. Why? Time will tell.

    1. John,

      I can also agree with a lot of it and makes sense. The part I contest is in regard to the external overtime for cops. As you may have noticed cops have not become popular. There is a significant decrease in applicants across the country and specifically Bridgeport . Other towns or cities who don’t calculate the overtime in pension or have a lack of overtime are obliged to pay their cops well over 85k a year at minimum.

      Bridgeport can’t retain cops and now it can’t recruit them either. So if you want to take away construction jobs and their pension benefits, get ready to pay them 90k a year or more base salary. It’s easy for Hamden, Norwalk, Stamford to do it. But BPD is I believe supposed to be a 400 person department. Imagine paying 90k a year at the very least to 400 cops?! At least with the road jobs it keeps their salary low and they have to work extensively to hit that 90k mark.

  6. First of all, any changes to the City Charter should be serious and thoughtful but this trial balloon of an idea has disaster written all over it. Also, charter revision should not be taken up, by corrupt administrations like this one. There should be no elimination of any representation, from any of the districts, without the full and appropriate involvement of the people of Bridgeport. In my opinion, representation probably needs to be increased not decreased. I live in the 138 district and I have two knuckleheads as my city council members. So, in effect, I have none. What we do need, is to purge three quarters of these incompetent, self-serving, council members and also find a better mayor than our current, incompetent, lying sack of shit, convicted felon. When are we going to start organize ourselves? How can we expect to make any changes around here, if we don’t organize ourselves, work together and vote in better candidates for mayor and city council? Voting just ain’t that hard. Organizing takes a bit of work but it would be worth it, wouldn’t it? There must be a few people out there who are willing and able to take on leadership roles in a city wide, political grassroots, get out the vote effort. If you’re interested in organizing, let me know. Organize and Vote !!!

      1. If you’re talking to me, it’s Jon not Jim and moving out of Bridgeport is an option for some people, if they so choose, but that’s not going to help us rid Bridgeport of corrupt, self-serving politicians. Political grassroots organizing, fielding better candidates and voting in honest, capable leadership is the best way I know to straighten out this mess in Bridgeport or anywhere else for that matter. If you’re the Tom White I think you are, you’re a smart fella and if you were tilting at windmills for decades, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Why don’t you get in touch with me on Facebook, I’d like to talk with you. The next evolution of democracy is waiting for people like you to act. Organize and Vote !!!

  7. Reasons to Attend at City Council Meeting
    Listen to the perspective of others in the community. I was interested is hearing what some of the constructions workers had to say about the 400 units of market rate housing going up at Steal Point that were approved on the East End and the Sheet Metal Workers, and all in favor of the project, some of them mentioned that they would be employed by the developer only to find out later that 80%, of the project will be fabricated off site and others mentioned that they wanted to live in one of the new units. But
    Then I watch the district City Council members say nothing about the Flucking project when it came time for a Flucking vote and slam the door on calling for affordable housing, knowing well his people could use more.

    Get to Hear exactly what’s going on in the community. The day after the new precise plan was approved, I saw online that some people were talking about things that were incorrect, or falsely stated, but since I was present at the meeting, I knew that they were wrong. It feels good to be in-the-know and not have to rely on someone else to filter the information for you.

    Get to know council members. I’m sure you already know most of them, and you probably see them all the time at community events like the amphitheater sucking down food and beer at the taxpayers expense while using the stipend or purchasing Phish tickets for their kids, but until you actually see them vote on issues, and listen to them speak at council meeting, you don’t really know what they’re thinking that way we need the flucking City attorneys office to fill their heads with false information for the confused bastards .
    You’ll also remember what each of them are like the next time you go to your polling district.

    Share your opinion. You don’t get to vote on most issues; that’s what the elected officials are supposed to be doing, voting on behalf of the residents that elected them. But, you are certainly welcome to stand up during the “oral communications part” and let your voice be heard. ( you only have 5 minutes to speak while most of the council members are out of the room and could careless about your horse shit project or complaint!
    Get involved. Decide how involved you want to become by listening to what the different projects the city advisory committees are working on. You’ll find the perfect niche for yourself and you’ll learn about the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee , the Visual Arts Committee, and the Senior Advisory Committee, just to name a few. OH WAIT! That’s Flucking Trumbull!

    Meet other community-minded residents. The audience at city council meetings is full of leaders-in-the-community and people who are incredibly involved. Whether you just moved here, or you were born and raised in Bridgeport, we all want to find a group of people who are passionate about the same things we are and city council meetings are a great place to connect with people who want to have a positive impact on our community,like the same old flucking slugs inhaling the fluckin Mic at every meeting!
    Better understand local politics. Attending meetings will provide you with deeper insight into whats in Mario’s flucking head or the workings of are one- sided local government, including how proposals move down the pipeline (or don’t) and how the various departments interact with one another, sure they do.

    Learn about new developments and projects on Steal Point and how the taxpayers won’t see a dime for another 30 years and $400 million plan by New York-based Exact Capital, approved by the City Council, so whats going on with that? I love knowing what’s happening and
    hear presentations about organizations in the community.
    A few tips that will make your council meeting more comfortable: Learn the official procedure for addressing the council maybe you can be one of five flucking Mic Hoggers some day.Feel free to bring a knitting project or something similar to do, as it sometimes goes on for hours and hours. You can leave anytime you like.
    Our City Council meetings are on the first floor Council Chambers at City Hall. Enjoy getting to know more about Bridgeport. It’s good to be connected and informed.

  8. Jim Fox, thank you for providing practical ‘tips’ (Trustworthy Information on Public Service) to citizens who wish to become more relevant going forward, more informed, and serving others in the public square over the long term.
    One change should be noted in the past two years is that Public Speaking, before a City Council meeting has its own protocol maintained by the City Clerk office, including signing up by late Wednesdays previous to a first or third of the month Monday Council session and submitting a form. When acknowledged, your name goes on the formal speaker list which now can accommodate 10 speakers @ 3 minute sessions rather than formerly 6 speakers @five minute sessions. When early signups are less than full, a sheet is set out on the public lectern for in person signups for the evening.
    Three minutes passes rapidly. Prepare. And provide a copy to Francis Ortiz at City Clerk office to be used in the archive if you wish. Oversight is necessary for good governance. I have read the comments of Joe Sokolovic when comparing members and resources of the BOE to the City Council, but personally I think that the more serious effort is to increase the checks and balance strength of the Council. Time will tell.


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