Sound the sirens, bang the bells, kick the cans. Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa met with Mayor Bill Finch in city hall on Monday to discuss a variety of issues as the Bridgeport City Council moves closer to taking official action on Finch’s proposed budget that calls for drastic cuts and a tax increase.
Finch and Testa have had little contact since Mario defeated John Stafstrom, Finch’s candidate for party leadership in March. Envoys from the mayor’s office visited Testa at his restaurant last week to extend an invitation in an effort to create something of a conversation between the two. What they discussed is unclear. Fact is, Testa has more juice–and regular contact–with council members than does Finch who has not figured out how to leverage the stature of his office to move legislation.
Most of the ideas floated by council members to restore Finch’s cuts–$1 surcharge on arena ticket sales, folding the Bridgeport Port Authority under the umbrella of the administration, privatizing city health clinics–have come about from council member suggestions with Testa’s input.
Finch and Testa don’t have to greet each other with smooches, but it is better they find some common ground. Otherwise, Finch could be blindsided by council decisions at every turn. Finch is not popular with the council. His lack of outreach is perplexing, especially from someone who served 9 years himself on the council. Ignoring the council would not be such a problem if Finch had strong standing with the public and political community. He has neither.
And judging by the 200 or so protesters–agonizing over Finch’s proposed job cuts–that showed up first on the steps of city hall Monday night and then the City Council Chambers, he’s far from winning over people. The boo birds were in force to greet Finch when he showed up to chair the council meeting, and then many of them turned their back on him and walked out.
Finch issued the following statement regarding the school-based health clinics that initially were on his chopping block:
“I have two children who have gone through the Bridgeport public school system and two younger ones who are about to enter it, so I have a personal interest in making sure that all of our children are safe and healthy in their schools. My staff and I have found solutions to keep school based health centers open, and possibly expand them so that even more children can benefit from them.
“During difficult times like these, we all need to work together and find ways to keep important city services while not stretching our budget too thin.
“What’s really important here are the children and I’m fighting for them because I want these services to continue; I just don’t want to have them at the expense of our already overburdened taxpayers. New Haven, Hartford and Norwich have excellent school-based health centers that operate with state grant funding and minimal or no city funding. We are moving towards this model. These health clinics provide the same services and quality of care that we offer here in Bridgeport but with less expense to the taxpayer. I have directed my administration to cut costs to our taxpayers while continuing to provide these services.”
City Hall News Release:
Mayor Finch Announces Committee to Keep School Based Health Centers in Bridgeport
Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) today announced the formation of a committee to oversee the Request for Qualification (RFQ) or Request for Proposal (RFP) process for selecting an outside operator for school-based health centers in Bridgeport. The committee will also evaluate the responses to the RFQ/RFP over the next two- to three-week period. The committee will be looking at both long- and short-term plans for keeping the centers in operation.
“My administration’s main goal is to protect the interests of our City’s children,” said Mayor Finch. “I see this process as an opportunity to provide the same, if not better, health services to children in our schools while lowering the cost to our taxpayers. Similar models already exist in Norwalk, New Haven, Hartford, Norwich, and Stamford. My job as Mayor is to deliver the same or better services to our community with less of a burden to the taxpayers. Sometimes, out of adversity comes innovation.”
“This could be a real win-win situation for Bridgeport,” added City Council President Thomas McCarthy. “Opening this process up to bid and utilizing the skills of this committee puts the focus back where it belongs: on the children.”
The Mayor also outlined that the expected outcome of this process will: provide all the services currently offered in school based health centers; maintain current school locations; result in no interruption of services; not jeopardize any grant funds; offer an option to laid-off employees to apply to work in similar capacities with the new operator.
The committee members include:
. Timothy J. Callahan, M.P.H., R.S., Director of the Department of Health for the City of Norwalk, former Director of Health for the City of Bridgeport
. Dr. Marian Evans, M.D., Director of Health and Social Services for the City of Bridgeport
. Susan Brannelly, R.N., B.S.N., Operations Manager for Collins IV Care Bridgeport and City Council Member from the 130th District
. Alanna Kabel, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Bridgeport
. Kristin duBay Horton, Principal partner from duBay Horton Associates (dHA) community-based public health consulting firm
. Rev. Dr. Simon Castillo, Pastor from Good Shepherd Christian Church
The committee will also include a representative from the State Department of Public Health.
Din Din With Me!
Sometime on Wednesday OIB will hit the 50,000 pageview mark since the launch of our new site in mid-March. Thank you all. In gratitude–or punishment, depending on your perspective–OIB’s technical genius (that would be my cousin, a Wesleyan alumnus) will alert me to the poster that cracks the 50,000 PV mark. That person and guest is invited to dinner with me and my wife Mo. We pick nice places. Just ask The Nose, winner of our last dinner party for coming closest to Finch’s general election victory number. So post and pig out with us. Meanwhile don’t forget the blog party May 15, 6 p.m. at Captain’s Cove.
CT Secretary of State Urges Caruso Action. See release below:
Bysiewicz to Rep. Caruso: Please Help Pass Voter Privacy Bill in House
Secretary of the State Says Voter Privacy at Stake
Hartford: Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today May 5, 2008 called on State Representative Christopher Caruso, the chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, to bring S.B. #444 to a vote in House of Representatives. Provisions of S.B. #444 touted by the Secretary of the State and passed by the State Senate codifies critical safeguards to guarantee every voter’s fundamental Constitutional right to vote privately and independently at the polls.
“We have less than 72 hours before the end of the 2008 legislative session,” Bysiewicz said. “After conducting hearings in every Congressional district in the state, it is clear Connecticut citizens want more privacy protections in place with our new optical scan voting system.”
In a letter to Rep. Caruso Sec. Bysiewicz wrote, “We are preparing for a record turnout in November and it is critical that we provide local election officials with concrete guidance about how best to safeguard voter privacy. Voters in our state have a right to expect that we will protect their most fundamental civil right and this bill provides a good framework to do just that.”
Among other provisions, SB #444 guarantees the following:
(Voters zone of privacy) Registrars of voters shall ensure that each voting booth is placed so that they are in plain view of all election officials and electors waiting to vote and so that there are at least three feet between each voting booth. Each voting booth shall be so placed so that no person outside the booth can determine how an individual voted.
(Zone of privacy around voting machines) The voting machine shall be placed at least three feet from any wall, partition or guardrail and at least four feet from the checkers’ table. The registrars of voters shall place a guardrail or other marking device around such machine so as to prevent electors waiting in line from encroaching upon an elector who is submitting their ballot into the voting machine. Such guardrail or other marking device shall be placed at least three feet from the voting machine and shall be arranged in such a manner as to prevent voters from determining the votes cast on each ballot submitted to the machine.
(Privacy sleeve) The registrars of voters shall ensure that each ballot clerk offer every voter a privacy sleeve into which the ballot can be inserted so that the markings on the ballot cannot be seen or it may be placed in every voting booth for the elector’s use. The voter shall not be required to accept a privacy sleeve.
SB #444 passed the Senate overwhelmingly on April 24, 2008 and awaits action in the House. It must be approved by Wednesday May 7th at midnight in order to go to Governor M. Jodi Rell for her signature.