I was looking to create a little trouble Wednesday afternoon. (Yeah, I can’t help myself.)
So I called Jim O’Donnell, the genial president of the Bridgeport Library Board, to elicit an update on the November referendum to determine library funding. Voters will decide whether one mil shall be appropriated to fund library services.
Basically, one mil in the current city budget represents roughly $6.9 million. O’Donnell says current library costs, soup to nuts, including salaries, books, fringe benefits, maintenance, utilities, debt, all the expenses cover to cover are roughly $6 million.
In making a case to voters to approve the referendum O’Donnell says “We’re going to do what the Board of Education has failed to do.” That means tell voters precisely how their money will be spent. I like the BOE comparison. Do you think Superintendent of Schools John Ramos, who makes roughly a quarter of a million a year, has done an adequate job explaining where one third of the overall city budget is spent? Shoot, Ramos had a hard time explaining last week how he lost track of $2 million that ended up back in the general budget and not spent on the kids.
O’Donnell called the library an economic driver that can be an asset to recruiting business, adding it’s the highest trafficked city department. (Unless, of course, it’s tax time.) No argument here. I’d like to see the Historical Collections of the Bridgeport Public Library finally land an adequate air conditioning system before the reservoir of artifacts, photos, news clippings, diaries, etc. melt into oblivion.
During the course of our conversation, Jim said by the way I met with the mayor a few weeks ago right after the state judge paved the way for the referendum question law–that Mayor Bill Finch’s city attorney opposed–be decided by voters. O’Donnell, a lawyer, argued that a little-known piece of state law allowed voters to decide the question. The judge agreed with Jim.
O’Donnell said the mayor told him that he was a big supporter of the library and would vote yes in the referendum.
I’ve spoken with a few pols who say they’ll tell their peeps to vote no to the question in November, the city cannot afford it. So I reached out to City Hall. Hey, what’s the mayor’s position on this?
The mayor confirmed that it’s for the voters to decide. “I am a strong believer in the public library system and I encourage everyone to vote on this issue. I also realize we are living in very financially challenging times and understand the concerns that taxpayers have about additional spending–even spending for such a noble purpose.”
Okay, now we’re talking. That is the response of a professional politician, and as far as I’m concerned we can use a little more of that from the mayor. Even if the mayor wants this thing to sink he does it in a way that does not pit library against taxpayer. And that’s a good thing whether you agree with giving the library more moolah or not.
I Can’t Abate!
The Water Pollution Control Authority fired long-time Director Andrew Abate Wednesday night saying, according to the Connecticut Post, he was negligent in his duties involving sewage flow into Long Island Sound. Abate has been a controversial figure covering several mayors. I’ve got some catching up to do on this story. From Keila Torres of the CT Post:
BRIDGEPORT — After nearly 20 years on the job, Water Pollution Control Authority Director Andrew Abate was fired Wednesday night amidst claims that his “negligence of duties as general manager” allowed for billions of gallons of mixed sewage and storm water to be illegally dumped into Long Island Sound.
The unanimous decision was reached after less than a half hour of deliberation by board members of the WPCA, which runs the city’s sewage treatment plants. The discussion was held in executive session, which even Abate was not allowed to sit in for.
“We found he failed in his duties. We’ve decided we wanted to go a different direction with management,” said Michael Feeney, chairman of the board and the city’s chief financial officer.
Feeney said there were a “host of reasons” why Abate was fired, including his failure to monitor monthly operating reports and his failure to ensure compliance of environmental regulations and of present and past consent orders issued by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Abate, who sported a look of defeat after the decision was announced, said he was surprised by the board’s vote and claimed it was “not true” that the city’s past environmental violations had been, at least in part, his fault.
His attorney, former mayor Thomas Bucci, said he wouldn’t comment on the “reasons they are manufacturing” for the firing, but claimed his client was innocent. “He’s done nothing wrong. A bunch of amateurs are sitting in judgment when their own consulting engineer has stated in writing this week that he has done nothing wrong,” Bucci said.
Feeney said the investigation into Abate’s role in the environmental law violations began after the city and the DEP agreed on a consent order which waived up to $1 million in past penalties that had been slapped on the city.