Echoing the battle cry “Reverse cuts that hurt kids,” roughly 100 union and neighborhood activists protested on the steps of Bridgeport City Hall late Wednesday afternoon Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed job eliminations to library staff and school-based health clinics.
One by one, city employees such as school nurses and social workers impacted by Finch’s proposed cuts shared stories about the city kids they were treating. Paul Filson, a union official with the Service Employees International Union, told OIB that the union would also have a presence at Finch’s scheduled open house at the City Hall Annex on Saturday morning. “It seems strange that Finch is going after kids,” Filson said. “It’s generating an enormous amount of anger.”
The union that Filson represents had supported State Rep. Chris Caruso in his primary loss to Finch. The crowd erupted in cheers when someone remarked that the wrong person had been elected.
Bridgeport City Councilman Bob Walsh also addressed the crowd, urging the restoration of Finch’s proposed cuts. The council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee is currently reviewing Finch’s budget. The council will return the budget to Finch the week of May 5.
Pope And Hope
Anyone hanging out with Pope Benedict today? If so, maybe you can prevail upon the Holy Father to cast his hand across the city’s holy budget. Or maybe urge his dispensation for the library and health care layoffs proposed in Mayor Bill Finch’s first budget.
Psst. Just don’t tell Finch. His honor is not the religious type. Me, I believe in the Holy Father, Mother Goose, The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, The Bunny Rabbit and imaginary friends sitting on my shoulder. I believe in the power of protest, the power of persuasion, the muscle of demonstrations, the freedom of facts, the holy truth (especially when I’m on the witness stand) and the supremacy of the city council to do the right thing. Faith in the city council? Am I losing it? Not yet.
At the risk of Yahooy gifting me Philistine of the Week, I get the feeling that the shepherds on the city council will save the jobs that Finch’s budget whacks. Paging Father Tom McCarthy, Paging Father Bob Curwen. Seems like there’s more thought, more creative suggestions coming from the legislative body than the mayor’s office.
From discussions I’ve had with council members and the politically connected, here’s what’s going on:
Council members are examining a variety of options to save the jobs without adding to Finch’s proposed 3.7 mil tax increase. Those options range from trimming a little here, a little there from other departments; privatizing, consolidating or disbanding a few departments including the Bridgeport Port Authority that could be placed under the authority of the chief administrative officer; and redirecting the additional $1 million the mayor budgeted for Bridgeport schools.
The Port Authority, for instance, charges fees (related to the waterfront) that could go directly into the city’s general fund. As for the education department what’s the rationale for redirecting the $1 million? The Bridgeport Board of Education budget is more than $200 million (most of it funded by the state). The entire library budget is only a few million. The impact of the $1 million on the school system is far less dramatic than the benefit it would bring to save the library jobs. It’s possible that the council can find savings elsewhere without tampering with the ed money. Finch has allocated $1 million extra city dollars to education to try to deliver on his campaign pledge as the education mayor.
10 p.m. Wednesday–Bridgeport’s Syesha Mercado surives another round on American Idol! Six left.
City Hall news release:
Bridgeport Becomes a Clean Energy Community
Mayor Promotes Environmental Initiatives that Reap City Savings
BRIDGEPORT, CT April 16, 2008 – Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) today met with Bob Wall, Director of Energy Market Initiatives for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, to be presented with Bridgeport’s award as a Connecticut Clean Energy Community. Bridgeport joins 19 other Connecticut towns and cities who have qualified for this award. The Mayor also read a proclamation stating the City of Bridgeport commits to the 20 percent by 2010 campaign—the goal of obtaining at least 20 percent of municipal energy purchases from clean renewable energy resources by the year 2010—and that the City encourages all Bridgeport residents and businesses to support clean energy and practice energy conservation and efficiency in their homes and offices.
The Mayor was also joined by representatives from the Connecticut Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and the Connecticut Environmental Justice Network.
“The City of Bridgeport is certainly moving in the right direction to become truly sustainable,” said Mayor Finch “Since taking office, I have continued to expand the City’s alternative fuel vehicles in our fleet, signed a clean energy contract and begun a recycling campaign to boost our low recycling rates and save money on the City’s garbage fees. I’m proud to say that every department in Bridgeport City government is now equipped with recycling bins.”
Bob Wall added, “On behalf of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, I applaud Mayor Finch’s early efforts to make Bridgeport a Clean Energy Community. By supporting clean energy and promoting green initiatives like recycling, Bridgeport is helping to create cleaner air, a healthier environment and energy independence for its citizens.”
In becoming a Connecticut Clean Energy Community, Bridgeport now qualifies to receive a free 2 kilowatt solar PV system worth $20,000. The system will be accompanied by software that will allow students and residents to monitor the electricity generated, emissions avoided and costs saved by the City. In addition, the City will be eligible to participate in the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund’s learning for Clean Energy Innovation program featuring enhanced solar curriculum for 9th grade science teachers. The City also now qualifies for additional grants.