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The Comings And Goings Of City Council Candidates

September 7th, 2017 · 25 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, City Politics, News and Events

Wednesday night’s City Council candidate forum hosted by Bridgeport Generation Now in the Bijou Theater featured a combination of the old, the young, the idealistic, the pragmatic, the misinformed and even the awkward that some argue was downright rude right out of the box. The ably moderated forum opened with each of the 20 or so council candidates, some incumbents, introducing themselves to a crowd of 150 and by extension a social media audience. James Holloway, the longest-tenured council member at 26 years of service discussed quality of life issues such as street paving and then said this, “I have to go campaign … because it’s a tight race, you guys have a good time tonight.” And he walked off the stage and out the door. Well, that’s a fine how do you do, albeit perhaps only a handful from his East End district present or watching on line. Still, why bother showing up?

Perhaps to Holloway’s way of thinking he was being respectful. Show up, pay your respects and bail. Folks do that at wakes, but a candidate forum? One of Holloway’s opponents Ernie Newton, who’s trying to regain his old seat in the 139th District, took notice, microphone in hand, declaring to the audience, “He doesn’t have the courtesy to stay and speak to the people … they don’t deserve to be elected.”

And that’s an argument that must always be made by a challenger, why the incumbent should be fired. On Tuesday, primary day, we’ll find out how many incumbent Democrats prevail and the impact of this new insurgency.

Moderators Natalie Pryce and John Torres did a nice job presenting questions, maintaining the pace and reminding the audience to be respectful. Bridgeport Generation Now is among the new organizations of young brain power involved in city politics where timing is key.

For the most part the past two decades City Council races have run largely under the radar, although the decisions made on the legislative body impact residents day-in and day-out. The forum covered some serious ground considering the size of the candidate pool on stage, such as helping children of color, the council needing its own legal counsel, budget issues, government checks and balances, city employees serving on the council, the police-involved fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jayson Negron under investigation by the State Police.

Two Republicans participated, Peter Perillo in the West Side 132nd District and John Rodriguez in the East End 139th, general election candidates. Some invited council candidates did not participate.

The forum was civil, with some passionate moments such as West Side challenger Kyle Langan, a charter school teacher, declaring the “Root cause of inequity is racism … We don’t need (more) police in our buildings. We need therapists and adults.”

On the subject of the City Council needing its own legal counsel to allow independent guidance from the executive branch, Langan’s partner Marcus Brown had a suggestion for funding it: slash in half the $9,000 annual stipend available to each member. Several council incumbents on the stage agreed they need their own legal counsel, although no meaningful effort has been made to make that happen on the budget-approving body. The co-chairs of the Budget and Appropriations Committee Scott Burns and Denese Taylor-Moye participated in the forum. The City Attorney’s Office has about 12 six-figure lawyers on staff, in addition to what it pays out for outside counsel. None of the candidates on stage said hey, they have 12. We’ll reduce you by one and budget the other for us.

City employees serving on the council? The majority of candidates agreed it’s a conflict of interest–as noted in the City Charter–for city employee councilors to approve their own wages and benefits. While a number of city employees had dotted the legislative body for years the practice has been reduced to two, as voter interest pounced on the issue. Holloway, a city employee, did not stick around to address that question. The other, East Side incumbent Milta Feliciano defended her independent voice.

The question of updating the City Charter was asked. The council has the authority to create a charter revision panel that makes recommendations voted on by the people. Most of the responses clung to enforcing the existing charter with a look at modernization. But no one floated an idea that would create more checks and balances in government: minority party representation featured in many communities, but not Bridgeport.

Of course, it’s not in the Democratic-controlled interest to do that, right? But if you’re preaching independent checks and balances what better way than to institutionalize minority-party representations where Republicans, the Working Families Party and even petitioning non-Democrats can have a say? It forces the executive branch to not take the body for granted.

Overall, insightful forum. Kudos to the organizers.

See video of forum above and continuation below.

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25 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    James Holloway did what he thought was right, hr didn’t see voters from his district so he said hi and goodbye. As for the candidates who stayed showed poor leadership by not knowing how to answer the question about charter revision. They have NO vision, to think that the current City Charter doesn’t need improvement is really sad but it also shows that they really don’t know much about the Bridgeport City Charter.

    • Jimfox

      Inexcusable Ron!

    • Frank Gyure

      Ron Mackey..what are you talking about charter change. There is a huge amount of change that independent and knowledgeable CC members can make without City Charter change. Why are you raising the standard of City Charter Change where it would be huge improvement if we had an informed,knowledgeable and active CC members instead of the twenty puppets that we have on the CC right now. Why are you raising the bar of “change” or “expertise of Charter Change” as the level of electing/re-electing( or my favorite–You’re Fired) for CC members. It would be nice if CC members even met the basic standards for representative government. We don’t necessarily need Charter Change. We need a City Council that will try to become an equal partner to the Executive(Mayor) instead of being twenty puppets for Joe Ganim and Mario Testa.

    • Frank Gyure

      Ron Mackey..I’ll be even more direct and “excuse the vernacular” but what the hell are you talking about charter change?How about having an independent,knowledgeable,informed,active City Council. That standard does not require City Charter Change.

  • Lisa Parziale

    Ron, to add to your comments, they have no knowledge surrounding the charter revision process and its purpose.

    • Ron Mackey

      The reformers and many on OIB think that the sun will shine on Bridgeport once Mario Testa is no longer the chairman of the Democratic Town Committee and that he is the main reason things are not going well for Bridgeport. Most of these people have never met Mario or even heard him talk or even had a conservation with him. Now, without a doubt Mario Testa knows how to control the majority of the DTC and his leadership is not helping to have a open and honest relationship with the DTC and voters of Bridgeport.

      Lisa, like you said, “they have no knowledge surrounding the charter revision process and its purpose.” The city charter is the bible of running the City of Bridgeport and there are a number of things in he charter that needs to be changed, deleted, to be rewritten and many other outdate items n the City Charter. This same group of people have no idea what the written polices are of the DTC.

      • Frank Gyure

        Ron Mackey..are you getting some help from Mario Testa???

        • Lisa Parziale

          Frank, I get what Ron means. First, most are not honoring the Charter where it still makes sense. I believe it’s been 25 years since the City Charter was reviewed and some changes made. A Charter Revision addressing updates, eliminating archaic dictates, and adding relevant ones, is necessary. I find it disappointing that the attempts made by a younger group of candidates are being criticized by some, and they’re being labeled inexperienced. I can’t even go into that. Who the heck came into any local political with past experience. First some complain about the same-ol-same ol, then they criticize conflicts, integrity, laziness, so a few new, motivated men and women take the plunge, and still no support by the complainers. Well I did what I said I would do, and I did it alone. No seasoned players stepped in to help or even encourage, some are now, but who knows if it’s too little too late. I say shut up to those I’m talking about. the blog will go on after Tuesday and you could all be Monday morning quarterbacks again.

          • Lisa Parziale

            “office”

          • Frank Gyure

            Lisa,I do absolutely agree that Charter Changes can and should be looked at and some on the panel suggested changes that would require charter change and possibly even other legal os financial advice. All I am saying is that The City Council itself has financial oversight if they are willing or capable of exercising that power. However,the present City Council has been a rubber stamp.Hopefully,enough people have gotten involved and we can ultimately see change on the CC. Come December we will have to see if and how many “Change” CC members would be present. I never thought that all twenty seats would become “Change” Democrats but anything would be a start. And we move on to other elections in the next couple of years.

    • Frank Gyure

      Why are we talking about charter change. How about if we have an independent,knowledgeable and informed City Council. That standard does not require City Charter Change. Why are we even talking about Charter Change. That just muddies the waters. How about if we raise the standards a little bit instead of the Twenty Puppets we have on the City Council right now.

    • Frank Gyure

      Who cares about charter change? How about if we bring up the standards of the city council to act to just basic,standard representative government instead of the twenty puppets working for Mario Testa,Joe Ganim,Dan Roach,Ralph Ford and all the other patronage princesses in BPT.

  • Joseph Sokolovic

    Having attended many recent political events and talking to some of the challenging candidates I notice one thing. They are very willing to listen and learn. It seems like there is plenty of advice from seasoned vets on OIB. In the interest of bettering this city are the political vets that have not already done so be willing to help educate those that seem to have the drive and energy to move this city that everybody seems to love into a new era of prosperity?

  • Frank Gyure

    I’ts unfortunate that we have these naysayers. ANY and ALL Charter Revision is am end-game political process.It would be nice if the City Council became an equal partner to the mayor’s office instead of being twenty puppets. It would be nice if the standard City Council Meetings become an actual discussion within CC members(even with Roberts) instead of being a mystery or the agenda would require a lot of footwork of The People of Bridgeport trying to understand what the CC is doing.It would also be nice if we have standard formal public time before sub-committee meetings. None of this requires Charter Change.The comments here are “too much focus on Charter Change” and there is less thought to making The City Council a viable and informed partner to the Executive(The Mayor). A tremendous amount of things can be accomplished if The City Council uses the power it already has under the present City Charter. The problem is that we have Twenty puppets who either don’t understand,can’t understand or do not even care about the role of the City Council. The present actions of The City Council affect present decisions but also create a precedent for future city councils.If any one is soooooo dissatisfied with the present field of candidates,they will have a chance to make a change in two years.

  • Frank Gyure

    Frankly,I am uncomfortable about electing a puppet for Charter Schools to The City Council even though this person is very impressive in his knowledge and passion for good government.

  • Ron Mackey

    Frank Gyure, here is a small list if items that the City Council never address, instead it took the State to come in and put in place the Bridgeport Financial Review Board (BFRB) in 1988. Now do you believe that any combination of candidates that are running for the City Council that you pick could address these issues?

    • Development of financial plan
    The Act requires the city, no later than 45 days after the effective date of he Act and thereafter,
    no later than 125 days prior to the start of each fiscal year, to develop a three-year financial plan.
    Each plan shall provide for (1) elimination of all deficits in the general fund; (2) restoration to all
    funds and accounts (including capital accounts) of any moneys from such funds and accounts
    that were used for purposes not within the purpose of such fund or accounts or borrowed from
    such funds and accounts; (3) balancing operating funds; (4) maintenance of current payments in
    all accounts; (5) estimation of the amount of bonds or notes to be issued by the city and debt
    service requirements; and (6) assumptions on which revenue and expenditure projections are
    based.

    • Powers of BFRB
    Not more than 30 days after submission of the plan by the city, the board determines whether the
    plan is complete and complies with the requirements, and approves of disapproves the plan.  If
    the board disapproves the plan the board formulates and adopts a plan which is effective until the
    board approves a financial plan submitted by the city.

    In addition, BFRB is granted a number of other powers:
    a. Consult with the city in the preparation of the annual budget and approve the budget and
    certify to the city general fund budget revenue estimates approved therein.
    b. Approve the terms of each proposed long and short-term borrowing by he city during the
    emergency period.
    c. Adopt regulations regarding its approval of city contracts during emergency period.
     7
    d. Review and analyze prior to their approval by the common (city) council, all collective
    bargaining agreements to determine their financial impact on the current budget and the three
    year financial plan.
    e. With respect to labor contracts in binding arbitration, at the request of either party, present
    testimony to the arbitration panel on the impact of the proposed contract provisions on the
    current year budgets and the three year financial plan.
    f. Review and analyze to determine compliance with the three year financial plan, all capital fund
    contracts and all bond ordinances and resolutions of the city involving amounts of over $250,000
    and all general fund contracts and water pollution control fund contracts including collective
    bargaining agreements, which anticipate the appropriation of money in a future budget year of
    over $100,000 or include termination penalties of over $100,000.
    g. BFRB shall from time to time, as it deems necessary:
    1. Review the efficiency and productivity of city operations and management and make reports
    to the finance director and mayor.
    2. Audit compliance with the financial plan and for the annual budget.
    3. Recommend to the city such measures relating to the efficiency and productivity of the city’s
    management as the board deems appropriate to reduce costs and improves services.  [footnote 2:
    In January 1991, the board ordered the city to lay off 100 employees unless the city can find
    other ways to balance its budget.  New York Times, January 20, 1991]
    4. Obtain information on the financial condition and needs of the city.
    h. BFRB shall receive from the city and review such financial statements and projections
    budgetary data and information as deemed necessary.
    i. Inspect, copy and audit books and records as deemed necessary.
     8
    j. Monitor monthly reports of the financial condition of the city, the status of the annual budget
    and progress of the financial plan.
    k. Monitor, along with the finance director, the city’s revenues and expenditures.
    • Financing powers
    The BFRB does not have any power to issue debt on behalf of Bridgeport.  However, the state
    legislation authorized the city to issue bonds supported by intercept revenues (local taxes held by
    a trustee) for the purpose of funding budget deficits through the period ending June 1988.  The
    legislation also provided a state guarantee for $35 million of these deficit bonds and notes.

    • Jimfox

      Ron,
      It’s imperative that the new City Council establish a Carter Revision Commission, and to hire outside legal council for that purpose.
      The charter should create an ( Elected board of Finance) also (Elected Planning and Zoning commission).
      Maybe not to rewrite the entire charter but to address those sections where potential issues have been identified.

    • Bob Walsh

      Holloway does the same thing at City Council meetings.
      When he gets tired or has other plans he just gets up and leaves.
      Sometime you get what you pay for.
      Do you hear me Joe?

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        When James Holloway left the room Ernie Newton took to the microphone to shout “He doesn’t have the courtesy to stay and speak to the people… they don’t deserve to be elected.”  Really Moses? A convicted felon doesn’t have the right to say who deserves to be elected. 

        This Bridgeport, go figure. The man convicted of pimping off city contracts, the man that a panel of Superior Court judges ruled, unanimously, he was unfit to practice law, was re-elected. He employed the same cynical campaign strategy that propelled Donald Trump to victory: appeal to a part if the community that feels disenfranchised.

        James Holloway abides by the same cynical approach to governance. If no one is there why bother?

    • Frank Gyure

      Ron…you are absolutely right that there are much more major legal implications IF a City Council/City Administration would want a Bridgeport Financial Review Board. I think a Board of Finance Board was mentioned which also would probably need a charter change. What I am suggesting is that the City Council as of now has financial oversight capabilities IF they want to use it AND if they have the capabilities(they may need some help from outside,legal or financial). However,this present City Council has been a rubber stamp.

  • Tom White

    Lennie’s posting seemed to suggest the forum was more beauty pageant than debate, but the few comments seem to reflect a concern for some serious changes on the city council.

    In my opinion, the non-incumbent challengers will improve the competence level of the city council if they are elected.

    Some comments suggest that charter revision is needed. I would agree that it is, but first there is a need to elect competent, educated, ethical people with critical thinking skills.

    These qualities would help them understand and fullfill the duties of city council members, something lacking overall now.

    Some feel the city council should have its own legal counsel. This point comes up every few years. I’ve been part of that debate and part of a process to address that concern as a staff member. Maybe Lennie can revisit the topic with another posting.

    • Lisa Parziale

      You’re right Tom. There was a Republican running in the 132nd district. He was one of the best who participated. It took me back to the Council when we had quality R’s, and you were one of them.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    I admire all the political neophytes angling for postions on the next citywide ballot, wish them good luck. Making substantial. Change to bridgeport government is an uphill battle, to say the least.

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