The Budget, Always The Budget, Plus: The Best Of Bridgeport

This is a crucial budget cycle for Mayor Bill Finch in the worst economy (for most of us) in our lifetime.

I harp on the budget because mayors generally live and die by their budgets. In a few weeks the mayor’s proposed budget goes to the Bridgeport City Council with major wage and benefit concessions achieved from municipal unions which makes budgeting this cycle not as large a leap of faith as last year when he budgeted givebacks that had not already been ironed out.

This cycle is still extraordinarily fragile given the economic conditions and a state legislature working its way through Governor Rell’s proposed budget. The budget that Finch submits will likely be tweaked by the council based on actions in Hartford. The council will not set the final mil rate until June. The new budget year begins July 1.

The mayor doesn’t want to get sacked with two consecutive likewise tax hikes because the mayor’s zero-wage-increase trade-off with unions provides sizable pay increases in the outer years as he heads toward reelection in 2011.

Several Bridgeport mayors in recent history were bounced by voters even though they did not raise taxes in an election year. John Mandanici, Lenny Paoletta and Tom Bucci were all defeated in years they did not raise taxes. Mandy had major political problems, particularly with the black community that led to his defeat. In the case of Paoletta and Bucci they had already taxed the electorate beyond their breaking point.

Revaluation kicking in places an added wrinkle for Finch. The mil rate will come down, but by how much? Some homeowners will be happy, some not based on the new assessed values of homes.

Best Of Bridgeport

A lot going on in the city this week led by SportsFest. Big-time NCAA hockey comes to the city: Yale, Air Force, Michigan & Vermont. Who says those elitists from New Haven are sports wimps? Shoot, between hockey and Skull & Bones they’re tough enough for me.

We’re launching a new feature today on OIB called The Best of Bridgeport. Why? Why not! Each week, we’ll profile a community leader, an unsung hero, a destination point, a tourist attraction, a restaurant. And I’m looking forward to your suggestions. Post them here or send me an email.

Bridgeport is loaded with amazing folk. Let’s spread the word. First up … Zoo Director Gregg Dancho.

When I was a snot-nosed kid working for Mayor Tom Bucci in 1985 I got to know Gregg Dancho. Gregg was a guy on a mission. He wanted the Beardsley Zoo, today called Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, crowned by the national organization that conveys accreditation on zoos and aquariums.

Such a designation does not come easy, especially when the state’s only zoo is financially challenged. The place must be clean and staff must hold a level of expertise with conditions unquestionably safe for patrons. That means a monkey cannot run free and rip someone to pieces.

The zoo earned national accreditation in 1986, and with it lots of respect and lots more visitors; and it wouldn’t have happened without Dancho. Long ago, with the help of the Connecticut Zoological Society, the zoo’s governing board, a decision was made to focus exhibits on North and South America, with a smattering of exhibits such as the tigers that help drive people through the gates. Gregg is a prince of a guy, accessible, always engaged, great with school groups.

He understands that the zoo is only as good as its customers and relationships. Every year is a battle financially to keep the zoo staffed and modern. But the improvements keep on coming. One of the items on Gregg’s plate is the creation of a jaguar exhibit.

And the thing about Gregg I really like is his tolerance for my stupid curiosities–basically they’re bar-fight questions–such as hey Gregg, if a tiger and lion square off, who wins? Gregg would say a tiger, with a complete explanation. Yeah, baby, a tiger in your tank. Hey Gregg, what about a fight between a tiger and a polar bear?

Gregg Dancho, the Best of Bridgeport.

Gregg Dancho
Gregg Dancho

Yo Gregg, what’s that you’re holding? What City Council member could that be in an earlier life?

Fostering Alliances

Two OIB friends from Black Rock, Bruce Hubler and Mary-Jane Foster, have joined the board of the Fairfield County Community Foundation which supports a number of educational and social services causes in the city.

Mary-Jane, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, and graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law, was an original member of the Fund for Women and Girls Advisory Board, a sub-fund of FCCF that supported affordable housing initiatives in the city and programs for girls such as Ralphola Taylor Center, Center for Women and Families as well as summer science programs at Housatonic Community College.

Bruce served as corporate senior vice president and an executive officer at Dun & Bradstreet Corporation. A graduate of the University of Bridgeport, Bruce earned his M.A. degree from Fairfield University and M.B.A. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Bruce has also served on a variety of local nonprofit boards such as the Discovery Museum, St. Vincent’s Hospital Foundation and the Burroughs Community Center.



  1. THANK YOU Lennie for producing column that presents a positive side of B’port. It is so long overdue!!! I once asked the Post to set aside some print space for B’port positives. Ever see it?????????

    Let’s not stop the rumors, gossip, and sound bites that make B’port politics so much fun. But let’s also make sure the non-local, and I guess even some locals, know how truly great this city was and is striving to be again.

  2. I really have a great affection for the city of Bridgeport, its people, its places, the melting pot quality. So many of the city’s residents (or their forebears) come from somewhere else and bring something unique to the cultural mix, a rich stew of local and Latin flavors. Immigrants from all over the Spanish-speaking world call Bridgeport home, from Central and South America, Mexico; bringing the dialects, customs, culinary styles, arts and culture of their native lands. This is cross-pollinating with Bridgeport’s already rich history and cultural traditions. We celebrate Three Kings Day, Juneteenth, Kwanzaa; in addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Independence Day.

    Is this a great place, or what?

    1. Bridgeport Kid,
      Yes, these are all good forms of celebration that enrich the culture of the town.
      However, why doesn’t Bridgeport celebrate my favorite holiday “International Talk Like A Pirate Day”? It’s every September 19th.
      Here’s the weblink:

      Last Sept. 19th, my gal Lowtide Lola and I were up at Provincetown. Although it was chilly, I wore my green parrot Hawaiian shirt and talked the salty lingo to as many unsuspecting shopkeepers and tourists as I could without earning a disturbing the peace fine. Lowtide Lola wore an outfit that can best be described as Jolly Roger Meets June Cleaver with a side order of Bettie Page.
      We both wore Talk Like A Pirate Day buttons and generally sought out booty as far as the local ordinances allowed us.

      Bridgeport would be a perfect location to further promote International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Also perfect for Bridgeport would be excessive Arbor Day celebrations. We are the Park City, and have a HUGE Druid population in Black Rock and the Saint V’s area. In fact, wooden peg leg carving could be part of the Arbor Day festivities. Those peg legs could later be used for Talk Like A Pirate Day. You see … the circle of life … it’s all connected. Savvy?

      Mr. Barnum’s Bridgeport To Nowhere

  3. Lennie there is very little doubt that Finch will bring in a balanced budget with either no tax increase or a small reduction in taxes. He will use Tom Sherwood the man of many budgets to accomplish this goal. Sherwood has never seen a budget that he could not manipulate.
    Here is a list of excuses why the taxes either stayed the same or only decreased slightly:
    1. The Hartford delegation did not do their jobs.
    2. Connecticut is experiencing financial problems.
    3. The country is in an economic slowdown.
    4. While the unions cooperated they did not do enough.
    5. Sherwood lost the paperwork that would have given the citizens a tax break.

  4. Gregg is a great guy for sure. Other unsung heroes trying to help in their own way … Kathy Maher, Carmen Nieves, Wiley Mullins, Carla Miklos, Margie Powell, Marta Santiago, Marge Hiller, Andrea Kovacs, Angie Saltero, Edie Cassidy … just to name a few …

  5. What’s it like to be The Best of Bridgeport?

    Answer: You could ask Gregg Dancho, he’s today’s expert from Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and the first recipient of the new award. Congratulations, zoo dude.


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