Financial watchdog John Marshal Lee reports on the Community March in Solidarity With Our Police Department held Saturday, and questions the absence of support for education.
SHOW ME THE MONEY???!!!
This afternoon a “Community March in Solidarity With Our Police Department” walked a few blocks from New Hope Missionary Baptist Church at 100 Park Ave. to 300 Congress Street, Police HQ. The invitational message was “If you are in support of our Police Department, please come and show your support.” I had no idea why they staged this underwhelming walk with perhaps 125 people participating aside from the number of police personnel and vehicles used. (Were Department members in uniform doing overtime duty?) I compare it to a walk in the spring where 300 or more marchers, with home-made signs featuring a variety of messages, including Black Lives Matter, lots of chanting from a variety of voices and even a steady drum beat. In contrast this was a passionless procession.
Councilwoman Rev. Mary McBride-Lee was the contact person and was supported by Council persons Tom McCarthy, Mary Evette Brantley, John Olson, and Rob Paoletto among others. Mayor Ganim was not present and other members of the City Council were on the sidelines just watching, though also listed as sponsors along with Bridgeport Guardians, Firebirds, Religious Leaders, Town Committee members, etc. Members of the Mayor’s closest advisors including John Gomes and Angel DePara walked. An underpowered loudspeaker kept speakers’ words from public ears mostly. I am left with a lingering question of why this was done. I support the Police Department as a taxpayer since they are almost one-third of our City Operating Budget for reasons Mayors have not disclosed in full for years. I also support efforts and am actively engaged to build community engagement and understanding between the Police and the people in the neighborhoods, especially where public housing predominates.
But where is a walk, a march, a procession, or a quiet five minutes to contemplate the situation of the public schools that did not get funded for increases in normal operating costs as the Police Department did this year? For instance in 2015 the Mayor requested almost $88 Million for the Police Department that was undermanned at the time and this was also a time where the City was negotiating the 2012-16 contract. In the current year FY2017 Police are funded at over $103 Million with fewer than 400 employees. In 2016 the Board of Education shows an unaudited expenditure of $227 million and are shown in the FY2017 budget for a very similar $227 Million for a payroll that stood around 2300 persons.
What is the story? Education was not a promise of Ganim2 as a campaigner. Ganim2 has allowed eyes to wander from the issue of school resources. Where is a “parents’ march” on the City Council to allow the Superintendent to restore what it was necessary to cut? Where are Ganim’s priorities? How do you support Police programs and ignore youth programs until the last minute this summer and still provide no evidence of what happened to $250,000 approved by the Council? Where are Council priorities in evidence?
Were parents and fair-minded taxpayers to come together to ask for answers on such subjects, will leadership remain quiet and unresponsive? Where do City property tax revenues from the first half of the year stand at August closing? Is there a quiet resistance to the tax increase ongoing? The Ganim2 administration is in the final quarter of their first year. What do they have to show for Fiscal support, Police and Fire support, and Educational support? Or economic development achievements this year? Or consequences for the serious fiscal mishandling of the last administration? Time will tell.