In 2007, mayoral candidate Bill Finch promised a dubious $600 tax cut as a strategic edge in his Democratic primary struggle over party outsider Chris Caruso with the winner inheriting an election-year budget crafted by incumbent John Fabrizi who had opted out of reelection in the spring following revelations of cocaine use and then seeking leniency in court on behalf of a sexual offender. Finch squeaked out the primary on his way to a general election win while the financial bomb was ticking in Fabrizi’s budget.
Election-year budgets in Bridgeport have a heralded history of spewing red ink. Fudge the tax collection rate, plug in a phony number over here, inflate revenues over there. Isn’t it amazing, Fabs did not raise taxes in his election year, Finch did not raise taxes in his first election year. Then taxes rise the following year. When you become mayor one of the first things you do is call in the budget director, in this case Tom Sherwood, and ask, are we in the red and by how much?
Finch assumed office December 1, 2007, but as winter turned to spring in preparation of his first budget as mayor Finch said little about the financial bleeding he had inherited from the budget year that started July 1 although he had plenty of time to cry foul. Then Finch four months into his mayoralty submitted his budget with a walloping tax increase and lo and behold he blamed Fabrizi, declaring there’s a $16 million deficit!
If you’re going to blame your predecessor it’s best to do it right out of the box rather than waiting four months for fear voters will blame you for not addressing the problem sooner and hold you accountable. Finch stumbled out of the gate on a number of measures following his 2007 election that prevented him from building good will with voters. Finch never found a governmental comfort zone with taxpayers irrespective of winning a second four-year term because they felt he often did not come clean about things that impacted their lives.
Joe Ganim will receive the oath of office December 1. One of the first things he will do–if he doesn’t learn it sooner–is call in the bean counters and ask, okay kids what’s the status of the budget?
Three weeks from his inauguration Ganim is contemplating a number of governmental items including who’ll be City Council president.
Ganim had the mayor’s job for more than 11 years so he knows the reality. If there’s bad news, it’s best to trot it out as soon as possible, otherwise you risk owning it.
Soon enough, we’ll find out about Finch’s election-year budget.