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Transition Team Report Issues Government Reforms

February 10th, 2016 · 39 Comments · News and Events

Ganim, Bakalar

Ganim with transition team co-chairs at right. At left, Rina Bakalar who co-chaired with Mickey Herbert the Economic Development Committee.

Mayor Joe Ganim’s transition team on Wednesday shared recommendations to improve government efficiency and access to public information that included requiring mandatory freedom of information training for all department heads including the mayor and chief of staff, responding quickly to freedom of information requests, developing a standardized tax abatement policy with clear limits and transparency, modernizing parking meters, making the Police Department an accredited law enforcement organization, diversifying the police force and establishing initiatives for ex-offenders.

Ganim was joined by dozens of the 75-member transition task force, among them University of Bridgeport President Neil Salonen, State Representative Charlie Stallworth and former Bridgeport Town Clerk Alma Maya, all of whom served as co-chairs. The transition task force had seven committees.

“I am very proud of this team effort,” said Ganim. “After just eight weeks in office our administration has so many challenges. We are trying to close a $20 million budget deficit and negotiate more favorable labor contracts, while responding to storms and fires and focus on policing methods that make our neighborhoods safer. We are also reorganizing city government in a way that best serves the people of Bridgeport. This transition report will help serve as a guide for all of the things we want to accomplish. I am so grateful for the thorough work done by these diligent committees and the diverse array of voices active in our transition process to show us the way forward.  This report represents all communities, stakeholders, and socio-economic backgrounds in Bridgeport.”

The report recommends moving freedom of information requests away from the City Attorney’s Office to a new Office of Public Integrity and Accountability that would be headed by Ed Adams, the retired FBI agent who investigated Ganim during his first tenure as mayor. “Requests for information do not necessarily need to be completed in writing,” according to a recommendation. Requests for more sensitive information that could be exempt from disclosure may be referred to the City Attoney’s Office.

Among other recommendations of the transition task force:
· Government Operations
o Review vacancies and expired terms for Boards and Commissions
o  Establish an Office of Public Integrity and Accountability
o Modernize the building department processes and permitting

· Transparency
o Review the purchasing process for consolidated or bulk ordering potential
o Seek to implement Total Quality Management

· Economic Development
o Develop a standardized tax abatement policy with clear limits and transparency
o Remove or upgrade outdated parking meters

· Community and Neighborhood Services
o Establish initiatives for ex-offenders
o Improve city web site and expand public information
o Work to expand and seek more affordable housing

· Education
o Find creative ways to offer incentive programs to attract and maintain good quality teachers

· Public Safety
o Make Bridgeport Police Department an accredited law enforcement organization
o Diversify the Police Force
o Hire more officers

More from the report:
The Open Government, Accountability, and Transparency Task Force Committee has focused on the following areas:
1. Freedom of Information
2. Boards and Commissions
3. Ethics Ordinance and Policies
4. Open Forums for Constituent Involvement
5. Contracts and Purchasing
6. Budget Analysis
7. Constituent Services and City Responsiveness Provided by Transition Task Force Members For Use by the City of Bridgeport

Freedom of Information
Currently, Freedom of Information is handled through the City Attorney’s office. Reports from Task Force members and constituents have found that the process of obtaining public, nonexempt information from the City of Bridgeport to be extremely difficult and, at times, impossible.

This Task Force reviewed the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act as codified in Chapter 14 of the Connecticut General Statutes including the 2015 amendments.

Some highlights as summarized by this Task Force include:
a. Most records or files of state and local agencies, including minutes of all their meetings, are available to the public for inspection or copying including, but not limited to, information or data which is typed, handwritten, tape recorded, printed, photographed, or computer-stored and most inter-agency and intra-agency memoranda or letters.

b. There is a comprehensive list of exempt records recorded in CGS § 1-210.

c. Requests for information do not necessarily need to be completed in writing. This is especially true in an open and transparent environment.

d. When Freedom of Information requests are denied, they may be appealed to the State of Connecticut.

1. Require annual, mandatory training of all department heads including the Mayor and Chief of Staff by the State of Connecticut Office of Governmental Accountability Freedom of Information Commission. Click Here to view The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act as codified in Chapter 14 of CGS § 1-200 including 2012 Amendments.
a. tinyurl.com/gn9yv6v (URL)

2. Make the aforementioned training available to city council members, Board of Education officials, ethics commission members, and others who would benefit from such training.

3. Research the new ordinances and policies for implementation in the City of Bridgeport enacted by the New York City Open Data Legislation.
a. tinyurl.com/nbzhzyd (URL)

4. Move the Freedom of Information request processing to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, if so formed, and out of the City Attorney’s office except in cases noted in the below Tier III – Referral.

5. Post the following statement as suggested by this committee: Your Rights Under the Freedom of Information Act. You may freely request information from this governmental department. We will make every effort to provide information upon your request. At times, we will need to refer your request due to the sensitivity of data you are asking us to provide. Should your request be denied, you may submit a written request for information under the Freedom of Information Act to this department or the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability for further review.

6. Enact a Tiered System of Best Practices for Information Delivery as follows:
Tier III requires referral to the City attorney’s office due to the nature of the request. This tier would account for approximately 10% of all information requests.

Tier II requires a written FOI submission because the request may contain information exempt from public inspection. This tier would account for approximately 20% of all information request.

Tier I allows the City to provide any and all non-sensitive information to anyone who requests it. This Tier would include most information which should be made immediately available without an FOI Request. This tier would account for approximately 70% of all information requests.


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39 Comments so far ↓

  • Jimfox

    I was hoping for a Wraparound program for Bridgeport Schools, like Hartford and New Haven have.

    Wraparound services have the potential to help children, families, and teachers alike. The theory behind wraparound services suggests students whose health and wellness needs are attended to will be healthier, more focused, and better able to learn. Similarly, families engaged with schools and supportive services will have increased capacity to support child learning and health. Finally, for schools, having additional systems for confronting social challenges that impede learning, will allow teachers and administrators to focus on instruction.
    Well-designed wraparound programs provide some services directly within schools while providing others through careful coordination with external agencies. This is an important balance to strike. Providing comprehensive services inside schools may be logistically challenging or duplicative of existing programs. However, merely referring students and families to outside providers may not meet immediate or ongoing needs as effectively as offering services in the schools that see kids and families on a daily basis.

    Wraparound New Haven is an exciting opportunity to work with children and families who have significant needs – both medical and behavioral. And CBC is doing just that. Families in Wraparound New Haven have access to their own care coordinator who will
    · meet with families–in their homes
    · connect families to services covering a great variety of areas including medical, behavioral, housing, school and employment
    · help families define their family and individual goals, and
    · together with the family, develop a care plan with goals to be reached over a 6- to 12-month period.

    Connecticut Grant for wraparound Programs
    Within available appropriations, Section 10-265p of the Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) provides grant funding to educational reform districts, as defined in C.G.S. § 10-262u, pursuing comprehensive wraparound strategies, including social-emotional behavioral supports, family involvement and support, student engagement, physical health and wellness and social work and case management. All districts with Commissioner’s Network schools are “educational reform districts” except for Norwalk. Commissioner’s Network Schools are eligible to apply for 2014-15 Wraparound Services Grant funds. These funds are to be used to enhance coordination and implementation of wraparound services in alignment with the core academic program and school model. With the exception of Briggs High School in Norwalk, each Network School is eligible to apply for up to $100,000 in grant funding. There is limited funding and only a few Network Schools will receive funds based on available funding and the quality of the wraparound plans submitted.

    Cleveland Ohio
    Harvey Rice School Wraparound is a PreK-8 school and one of CMSD’s newest wraparound school programs, resources and services. Built in 2009, Harvey Rice is adjacent to the Harvey Rice Branch of the Cleveland Public Library where students have easy access to library programs, resources and services.
    Our high-quality preschool program readies 4-year-olds for kindergarten by enhancing their social/emotional development and academic achievement.

    • academic tutoring
    • art, music & drama
    • boys’ mentoring
    • boys’ and girls’ basketball
    • cheerleading, hi-steppers & intramurals

    Partners: Centers for Families and Children (lead agency)
    • Beh Brook (counseling services)
    • Greater Cleveland Food Bank (Kids’ Café program for after-school meals)
    • BackPack (provides students with healthy food to take home over the weekend)
    • Area churches provide students with coats, hats, gloves, undergarments and toiletries program

    • carolanne curry

      Give me permission to add this info to the transition report as part of its own transition.
      What a great piece.

      • Jimfox

        Carolanne, please use it, I strongly believe a Wraparound Program for Bridgeport Schools is something we greatly need for our kids and families. Carolanne, we owe it to ourselves to pursue this.

  • Mojo

    *** Well Joe, it looks like you have some good people on this transition team; keep up the good work. Remember Rome was not build in a day, it’s going to take some time to try some new things and then try again if they don’t work out as you would have liked. Personally I would like to see more city trash cans at busy public places like neighborhood parks, bus stops, playgrounds, downtown street corners where there are restaurants, coffee shops, places that sell items that have wrappers or papers, etc. that would need a trash can nearby! A local campaign ad on paper, radio or TV, promoting “KEEPING DA ‘PORT CLEAN”/”CLEANEST CITY IN CT”, ETC., FINES FOR DUMPING. NEIGHBORHOOD CLEAN-UP PICNICS WITH SNACKS, REFRESHMENTS AND MUSIC. *** WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, NO? ***

  • Bob Walsh

    Ho f’n Hum.
    This is super silly.
    I read more new creative ideas on Jim Fox’s post than what I saw in the transition report.

  • Bob Walsh

    If you wanted to change the way the city handles FOI requests, just order it done. You are the mayor, damn it.
    You need a transition team and 2-1/2 months to figures this out?
    It seems like most of the recommendations are your campaign promises.
    Just another PR fraud.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Actually Troll, Ganim has already implemented it. Everything I’ve requested so far I’ve received quickly without interference from the City Attorney’s Office, unlike the Finch administration that even in the early months did not share info regularly.

      • Bob Halstead

        Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good troll story, Lennie.

      • Bob Walsh

        My point exactly, Lennie. PR Fraud.
        You will have to wait for something a little more controversial before Joe slams the brakes on these things.
        Don’t you remember G1?
        Fought with the state over releasing phone bills, credit cards statements, etc.
        So he makes public a recommendation he has already implemented. Nonsense.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        Wait a minute, Lennie, you act like you’re an innocent victim or bystander. You were to Bill Finch what I am to Andrew C Fardy. You were a pain in the ass to Bill Finch and as such, you should have expected what came your way. Before you call me a liar, read this:

        • Joel Gonzalez

          Lennie, when you are done reading my above posting and the link, I call your attention to the bottom of the screen–OIB name droppings. No can help but to notice the BIG letters of “Bill Finch.” Knowing what we all know about the real Bill Finch, I call for an OIB Poll asking if Bill Finch’s name on the OIB name droppings should be deflated to very small letters. My name deserves to be bigger than Bill Finch’s, I’ve earned it.

      • Jose Reyes

        Lennie, just the opposite for me. I made an FOI request back in August of 2015 both by email and letter correspondence to then-City Attorney Mark Anastasi and only received a letter from the City Attorney’s office dated September 26, 2015 acknowledging my request but not the information I requested. I have emailed both newly appointed City Attorney Christopher Meyers and the Mayor’s office and not even an acknowledgement they received my email. The information I have been seeking is public information. Any suggestions as they seem to be treating my request as if it were top-secret information.

        • LennieGrimaldi

          Jose, what was the request, for what information? In the short term I would make the request directly to either Av Harris, Ganim’s communications director, or to Tom Gaudett who handles constituent services. Lawyers are not the most responsive industry when it comes to FOI requests. Nature of the beast.

          • Jose Reyes

            Info on a Police Pension Plan B pensioner. I will try your suggestions. Thank you.

  • carolanne curry

    Any positive suggestions?

    • Bob Walsh

      Sure, Carol. Let’s start with Boards and Commissions. This was a huge problem during the first Ganim administration. He started the practice of leaving commissioners serving expired terms. It provided him with significant leverage with getting approvals from the boards. Don’t vote my way, it’s the highway. Bye bye.
      Dig into the archives and you will find an ordinance I submitted back in the day that would establish a timeline for the mayor to submit nominees or the council gets to name the replacement. If the council fails within a specified period of time then the person serving the expired time is automatically reappointed.
      Pretty simple, Carol. But for some reason every mayor since G1 seems to love this pressure point. It’s very simple if you are truly committed to reform.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Bob, here is a perfect example of what you stated.
        When I was on the park commission there were nine members. There were two of us with unexpired terms and seven with expired terms.
        The subject before the board was the leasing of the golf course. Eight of the nine commissioners were against leasing THE COURSE. JOE GANIM the high and mighty one, came to a board meeting with seven new commissioners and replaced seven commissioners on the spot. The seven bought and paid for commissioners voted to lease the golf course. BTW Joe Ganim and the city did not collect one red cent from that lease and were forced to take the course back. You can bet he will operate the same way this time around.

        • Bob Walsh

          Political Alzheimer’s. He only remembers the good things from the past that make him look good in the present.
          If you were to ask him about something like this, he would grimace, make a face, shrug his shoulders and feign ignorance. Say something like I don’t remember that but who knows? That was a long time ago.

    • Bob Walsh

      Here’s another one concerning Boards and Commissions. The language in our charter states the boards should reflect the demographic make-up of our city.
      This was another proposal of mine back in the day.
      Plain and simple but whenever the mayor proposes a nominee for any board or commission there must be a statement indicating if the change will enhance the demographic make-up, maintain the current imbalance or create a greater imbalance.
      How’s that for progress, Carol?

    • Bob Walsh

      Oh, Carol.
      Here is yet another one for Boards and Commissions. During G1, the Ganim Administration had most if not all appointees sign an undated letter of resignation before being sworn in. Maybe you were not aware of this since you are not a Bridgeport resident and could serve on a board.
      You would be invited to the mayor’s office for a swearing in. Pat Coyne would take you to the side and hand you the resignation letter and tell you the swearing in will take place as soon as you sign. And conveniently, all of this done out of sight of the mayor.
      Maybe we can ban that practice via an ordinance.
      Or else people can do what I did. I sent a letter to an attorney with specific instructions not to open the letter unless I “resign” from a city board or commission. The instructions in the letter said if I did not mention this letter in my resignation then it was a pre-signed, undated resignation that I signed under duress.
      How’s that, Carol.

    • Bob Walsh

      And Carol, this just in under Boards and Commissions:
      City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer said Wednesday his office is checking to see whether some Library Board members were never approved by the City Council. But, Meyer said, enough are legitimate for the group to function.

      REALLY. We need the City Attorney’s office checking to see this? Sounds like political interference with a standing board. Sounds like Mark Anastasi to me. We are checking into this but there are enough legitimate members to function the way the mayor wants them to function.

      • Frank Gyure

        Is this possibly interwoven with the newly found out ruckus over City Library Director, Scott Hughes, who supported Ganim in the election?

  • Frank Gyure

    Lots of good stuff being proposed. Why are we still seeing secret Common Council/subcommittee meetings? This would be easy to get rid of right now. I would like to see immediate/current, on-time reports on overtime in the Police Department especially since AJ Perez is in charge of that. Why are we AGAIN using a BPD detective to drive Ganim around. A LOT OF WORK TO DO.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      AJ Perez has bigger fish to fry. AJ Perez has nothing to do with BPD overtime other than his own. Care to share what you believe are “the good stuff being proposed?”

      • Frank Gyure

        “The commanding officer of the mayor’s crime reduction task force will have overall authority for strategic appointment and overtime allocation.” Guess who is in charge of the Crime Reduction Force. None the other than AJ Perez. Give me a break. There is a lot of “nice” stuff in that list. The question is the implementation.

  • Local Eyes

    “Transition” is an active verb. All these recommendations are passive and costly. What Bridgeport needs is a fantastic money-making idea.
    In the ’50s and ’60s, Bridgeport exported products. Today, importing capital makes more sense. Why? Because capital is what we’ve been exporting since 1965.

  • Dave Walker

    Where are the serious recommendations of what is needed to grow the tax base, cut spending, hold the line on taxes, and put the City’s finances in order? If you don’t address these issues, the rest of the recommendations won’t matter much. It’s time to get serious, to tell the truth, and to make tough choices!

    • Ron Mackey

      Dave Walker, on this one I’m in agreement with you. Time will tell (JML).

    • Joel Gonzalez

      That’s the job of the City Council and administration. Stay tuned.

      • Frank Gyure

        It’s the job of the Mayor as well.

        • Bob Walsh

          Welcome to Bridgeport, Frank.

          Where rules are merely a point of view in the eyes of the Mayor and the City Attorney.

          • Frank Gyure

            Bob Walsh, thanks for the welcome but I have been a lifelong resident of Bridgeport, but rather a new resident to ONLYINBRIDGEPORT. I remember when I first got interested in politics and was devastated when Hugh Curran lost to Nick Panuzio by 6 or 9 votes! Anyway, the work continues to make Bridgeport a better place to live, etc.

  • Bob Walsh

    Paging Carolanne Curry …
    Paging Carolanne Curry …
    Paging Carolanne Curry …

    You asked for positive suggestions and I gave them. What’s a matter for you?

    Give me any topic and I will give you positive suggestions (most of which I previously made to the council).


  • Donald Day

    Carolanne Curry, you might want to add all entry level exams for the police and fire be stopped immediately until Bridgeport hires an experienced and knowledgeable Director of Civil Service. Every recommendation the Public Safety Committee addressed with respect to police and fire departments and their inability to hire blacks and women was done under David Dunn as the appointed director. Dunn lacked any knowledge or experience in the area of Civil Service and the abysmal hiring numbers reflect that. He has hired more suburban white males and fewer city residents for police and fire than any civil service director since Alan Cohen.

    Under the failed civil service policies of David Dunn every problem this committee address are his and his alone. It defies credulity to think the architect of failure with respect to these departments is still the head of Civil Service.

  • Bob Halstead

    Very healthy process with a key to success: involvement of the intellectual capital of Bridgeport. The EcDev report was particularly constructive.

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