Former City Councilman Tom White, who also provided staff support for the budget and legislative body, shares in a commentary the city’s failure to provide financial oversight. “The missing ingredient, in my opinion, is members that have the education and work experience to handle this challenging role. Also missing is support staff to assist with this oversight.”
Mike Daly recently shared with Connecticut Post readers some advice attributed to “hard-boiled editors of the day.” They told young reporters “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
Mike went on to imply that this advice could have been helpful in the mayoral election last Fall which saw the return of Joe Ganim. After all, Ganim campaigned with the slogan “Stop Raising Taxes.”
The hundreds of angry taxpayers that filled the city council chambers on July 5th seemed betrayed by Ganim given the scale of the tax increases and how they were distributed to properties across the city. We know that property tax is regressive. The value of your property does not necessarily reflect your ability to pay.
Some learned taxpayers have suggested the problem is a lack of financial oversight of the city budget.
During the tenure of the Financial Review Board created by a special act of the State Legislature, some viewed their oversight of revenues and expenses as draconian, but few doubted the need for such control.
Does the City of Bridgeport need this level of financial oversight again?
The Financial Review Board had a significant role in charter revision of 1993. Knowing that State oversight would eventually end, they saw to it that the city council had the tools to assume this oversight role. Going forward the council was to receive monthly financial reports for review, they could establish their own office to compile and analyze budget information and they could budget for necessary expertise to assist them.
In essence, the Bridgeport City Council was to assume the role of the Financial Review Board and would have the tools to do it.
The question for some time has been whether the city council has the ability to execute this role. The missing ingredient, in my opinion, is members that have the education and work experience to handle this challenging role. Also missing is support staff to assist with this oversight.
We see city council members spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on junkets and other expenses with no benefit to taxpayers. We see council members engaging in social issues with one member, for example, apparently involved in an effort to make Bridgeport a sanctuary city to shelter ‘undocumented residents’ from federal immigration law. Others appear to be taken with their self-perceived celebrity status with appearances at media events. There appears to be more interest in spending city funds on a ‘progressive’ social agenda than executing budget oversight.
What is the solution to address this lack of knowledge and experience with oversight of the city budget?
We have seen John Lee’s efforts to bring important information to the attention of this government body with changing membership every two years. Are they educable? Will time tell?
Perhaps even more harmful than the absence of education and work experience, is the lack of independence of council members and of the city council as a body. As I say, city council members are appointed by the Democratic Town Committee. Enough said.
So, what is the solution? Oversight of the City’s finances by an independent entity? Not easy to make happen without the mayoral administration calling for it.
Perhaps someone can slip a resolution calling for it onto the consent calendar? Do any of the council members read it? All in favor? Aye!