Phil Kuchma, developer of Bijou Square downtown, is making a big stink over a proposed residential project in Monroe that could back up the city’s sewage treatment load.
This deal involves relocation of the Jewish Home for the Elderly from Fairfield to Monroe with a new residential development that would pipe into the town of Trumbull that is already piped into the city’s download system. I spoke to Kuchma over the weekend and he wonders whether the revenue number the city is weighing to open its pipeline isn’t nearly enough to cover the millions in sewage treatment upgrades the city must make for its strained facility.
A number of businesses in the city, including leadership at Bridgeport Hospital, have voiced concern about nightmarish capacity overloads for the business community and residents.
Once you start the shit flow into the city’s system, Kuchma fears, there’s no letting up. It’s gotta go someplace and the city, he says, isn’t equipped to handle the projected flow. Kuchma’s not opposed to regional cooperation–he just wants to make sure the city’s getting its pound of flesh for the flow.
This proposal, engineered by Shelton-based developer extraordinaire Bob Scinto, began on the watch of former Mayor John Fabrizi. Fabs says the deal he was negotiating (for shared tax revenue and user fees) before he left office is better than the one currently on the table. Final figures haven’t been released by the city as it weighs its revenue options.
Mayor Bill Finch, staring at a nasty deficit almost six months into the budget year with another on the horizon next year, may want to frontload as much money as possible to help stem the flow of red ink, without full consideration for the continuous revenue flow in years ahead.
This is a major story that could turn out to be a cash cow for the city or a major stinker. Stay tuned.
Throw The Book At Me
Hey, come see us at the Barnum Museum on Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 to mark the publication of my book Bow Tie Banker, a biography of David Carson, retired chief executive of People’s Bank, that chronicles his efforts to save the state’s largest bank from the financial avalanche that wiped out local financial institutions such as Citytrust and Mechanics & Farmers.
In honor of Carson’s British heritage the Royal Tea Company will serve tasty tea and gourmet goodies. C’mon, Leonard, tea instead of tequila? Hey, if you’re drinking and driving we’d rather it be tea!
One Year Down
Mayor Bill Finch has completed one full year in office. Time to take inventory.
His second-half performance was much better than the first half. (No shit, Leonard.) Winner of a tight primary over State Rep. Chris Caruso, followed by a large general election victory over Republican Mike Garrett, Finch had a lot of difficulty gaining his footing in the initial months, understandable given the complexity of governing the state’s largest city.
If an elected official’s effectiveness is based on judgment, temperament and results, Finch got off to the worst start of any mayor I covered or worked for in Bridgeport in the last 30 years. And it had nothing to do with the economy. His judgment and temperament were awful.
Finch had boxed himself in during his primary by promising to cut taxes $600, damn the credibility consequences, an impossible task. This one promise was measured against all his early decisions. His biggest early gaffe however, in an official capacity, was trying to double-dip his newly elected position along with his state senate seat. Finch is not a man of wealth. He raised two boys (both great kids) from his first marriage and has two young boys in his second. Understandably, he wants to provide for his family. But he offered every possible reason and excuse to keep both positions except the actual truth. His reason to hold both positions was financial, even though his mayoral pay is by far the most he’s ever earned in his life.
He stubbornly held out until a series of news articles and public criticism (and a reminder from the Connecticut Post that he promised to give up the senate seat if elected) forced him to resign the senate seat two months into his new role.
He then spent a good part of February and March politicking to preserve John Stafstrom as titular head of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee when he should have been paying attention to city business. (Mario Testa was returned to party power instead of Stafstrom.)
In those early months, Finch–a credible legislative mind thrown into a chief executive’s role–hadn’t a clue, a position validated by his constant harangue: I didn’t know the job was so hard. In those early months Finch was like a bronco bouncing all over the place. Many solid citizens such as OIB friend Bruce Hubler, a retired executive with Dun & Bradstreet, the world’s leading supplier of business information, research, and decision support services, offered to help Finch get his arms around managing so many disparate sections of government. They were ignored. It took Finch six months to hire a new economic development director after blowing out Nancy Hadley, who had that role, and by many accounts got things done under John Fabrizi.
Finch’s first budget had a $600 tax increase rather than a $600 cut.
In Finch’s defense, he’s a good guy, the core of him is decent and caring. Serving as mayor of the state’s largest city is a tall task. It’s a monumental adjustment from voting in the state legislature.
Finch has been much better the last six months. He appears to be paying attention to business, ironing out union contracts, feeling more secure in the position in the face of an awful economic tsunami. Finch is only as strong as his focus. My grade, first six months (D), second six (B-)
What About Bob?
State Rep. Bob Keeley, defeated by the blonde banshee from Black Rock Auden Grogins in an August primary, has cut a deal with the Downtown Special Services District to remain on the payroll into March. Keeley had submitted his resignation to the special taxing district in anticipation of receiving a teaching job from the Bridgeport Board of Education. No final word on when, and if, that will happen.
Meanwhile, any ideas for Keeley’s replacement?