Board Of Ed Dough, Plus: Russo’s Viewpoint

Get a load of this: late Tuesday afternoon I spoke to Bob Curwen, co-chair of the City Council Budget and Appropriations Committee, and he says city budget officials notified him that Board of Education bean counters are reporting an approximate $3 million surplus from the budget year that ended July 1.

A state education review apparently turned up the unspent money. Curwen is not happy, especially in light of the angst over the budget process the council and Mayor Bill Finch just endured, with Board of Ed officials urging more funding and implementing layoffs. “What happened to the money they requested?” Curwen asked. “Why are they laying off people? This is not fiscally prudent.”

Curwen said he was told that the BOE wants to apply $800,000 to a health benefits line and the rest for textbooks. In the BOE’s defense it’s limited in how surplus money can be spent and can’t just spend it on personnel. This story is timely as result of the $250,000 in state money that will be applied to a full forensic audit of the BOE books. Where is the money being spent, or in this case not being spent? On the positive side, it beats a deficit.

Begging Rights

I need to do a better job at begging. A collection of great (and near-great) Nutmeg pols will welcome House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this Saturday in Westport when she stumps for Democratic Congressional candidate Jim Himes.

Get a load of this line up: Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, State Treasurer Denise Nappier, State Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo, Mayor Bill Finch, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, State Senator Andrew McDonald.

Funny, my name’s not on the list. I’ve been a complete failure persuading Himes’ folks to plug me in. Now that Maura Keaney is no longer campaign manager I must suck up to new guy Dana. Yo, Dana, I’ll bring the cannoli. Hey, Con Filardi, how about bringing the sfogliatelle?

Speaking of failure, have any of you heard about Bob Woodward’s new book War Within that gets inside the head of Bushy’s bungled war? In one of the president’s interview sessions with Woody he actually breaks down and admits a failure, his inability to change the tone in Washington. How’s that for a ringtone?

Are you tired of hearing this crap about us winning the war? Winning what? Attacking a country that didn’t attack us? So, Bushy has announced bringing home 8,000 troops in February. BFD. Still more than 100,000 troops over there.

Russo Speaks

We’re starting something new today, a guest commentary by a political candidate. Republican State Senator Rob Russo kicks it off. Russo was elected in March in a special election for the seat once occupied by Mayor Bill Finch. The 22nd State Senate District includes Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe. Russo lives in the Brooklawn section of Bridgeport. Democrat Anthony Musto is challenging Russo. Every candidate is welcome to send in a guest column to me. (I’m looking forward to Republican State Rep. candidate Joel “Speedy” Gonzalez’ bombshell.) If you have questions for Russo — whether taxes, budget, education — post them in the commentary section and he promises to respond. Russo’s commentary starts now.

Hello Only In Bridgeport! I’m a regular reader and I was thrilled when Lennie offered me the opportunity to be a guest host. I read this blog every day and always enjoy it, even when you’re calling me names – some of which are quite creative!

I thought I’d take this opportunity to map out a few important observations from my first months as a State Senator. If you’d like to learn more or support my campaign, please check out my website at

 I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have. Please post them in the comments section and I’ll post my answers there as well.

It’s been an honor being the Senator for the 22nd district for the last five months and I hope this post gives you a better idea of what my concerns are for the district and Connecticut.

Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe have a lot more in common than most people think. I’m often asked: How do you represent all three towns equally when some decisions may be good for one town and not for another? I really see their diversity as a strength. Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe really have a lot they can learn from each other. “Property taxes” is the number one issue in all three towns. Each town feels the state overburdens it with unfunded mandates that are either unnecessary or simply the state passing its responsibility on to the towns and cities.

My job is to focus on the issues we have in common and find solutions.

1. Education is the most important issue in the world; let’s start treating it that way. We could fix every other problem in the world today but if we don’t educate our children, how will they know how to maintain what we’ve accomplished? Unfortunately, we as a state don’t treat education as a top priority and neither does the City of Bridgeport. It’s time to change that and to begin putting our money where our priorities should be. I want the state’s education cost sharing formula re-written so that towns get the funding their children deserve.

I believe we need a strong public school system in every town – especially our inner cities, and we need to bring our school systems into the 21st Century. By this I mean a lot more than just new buildings. We need to make sure our children have access to computers and that they’re learning what they need to be successful in all facets of life. We need to teach our kids more than just reading, math and science. They need to learn about nutrition, health care, money, retirement, mortgages and credit cards too.

If I’m reelected State Senator I will immediately request appointment to the Education Committee to fill the seat vacated by a retiring member of the General Assembly. I want to play a roll in strengthening our public schools for the 21st Century and making sure our towns and cities have the funding they need to do it.

2. The Audit of the Bridgeport Board of Education. My number one goal for this session was to obtain the funds from the State necessary to audit the Bridgeport Board of Education. The first thing the Governor and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney heard out of my mouth was how important the audit is. They allowed me to plead my case and the City of Bridgeport won a $250,000 grant.

The money will fund the four-phase independent management and operational study of the Bridgeport Board of Education. This is the plan that the Board of Education, the City and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council have all agreed to support. 

After the study is completed, they will be responsible for implementing its findings and building the consensus to do so. I am counting on the members of the committee overseeing it such as Committee Chair Merle Berke-Schlessel of the United Way and Bruce Hubler to make sure that every aspect of Bridgeport Education is looked at and that the final report is an unbiased and frank look at our schools and how to fix them.

3. The State of Connecticut doesn’t have a limitless supply of money. The State of Connecticut doesn’t have a large rainy day fund, and too much of the budget is already taken up by debt service. Yet everyday in Hartford there are 169 towns all crying for more. If we’re going to seriously increase funding for education and transportation we must thin the bureaucracy and cut out a lot of the pork. Raising taxes really shouldn’t be an option. When we tax our businesses, they leave; when we tax the rich, they move their residency to their vacation homes; and the middle class is already taxed to the limit.

4. Connecticut’s too expensive, especially for our seniors. The cost of living in Connecticut is way too high. We have the second highest priced gas in the U.S., the second highest priced electricity in the U.S., and property taxes through the roof. The people that this is toughest on are our seniors and they need relief immediately. The constantly rising property taxes can be terrifying to seniors who are trying to get by on fixed incomes. It’s time we seriously considered across the board tax relief for seniors on their main residence as long as it’s under a certain value. I would like to see a freeze for seniors on their property taxes on up to $600,000.00 of their home’s value.

5. A Property Tax Cap makes sense. When it’s working successfully in 40+ other states it’s not a gimmick. Our towns need to start thinking about doing more with less.  Governor Rell has increased municipal aid by over 60% since she became Governor, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the individual towns. A cap on property tax increases will encourage towns to start budgeting better and looking for more efficient and effective ways to govern.

6. The income gap in Connecticut is disgraceful. We can shrink the income gap by recruiting new businesses. CT Voices for Children released a study this spring that says that Connecticut has the fastest growing income gap in the country. This means the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, at a quicker rate here than anywhere else. Ultimately, it means we as a state are failing at making the American Dream available to everyone.

Why is this? I don’t think it’s because we don’t tax enough and I don’t think it’s because we don’t have a substantial enough social safety net in Connecticut. It’s because we do not host the same caliber of businesses that we used to. Connecticut offered numerous entry-level jobs, with upward mobility, when it was a manufacturing powerhouse. Plenty of factory presidents in Connecticut started on the shop floor. We lost, however, most of our manufacturing industry and much of what it has been replaced with offers only dead-end entry-level jobs or executive level positions.

We as a state need to focus on bringing businesses to Connecticut that offer jobs that allow people to move up the socio-economic ladder. We need to be prepared to cut their taxes and offer them incentives to come here. I cannot think of a better way to close the income gap in Connecticut.

7. Good Government is directly related to the amount of Democracy in town. In Trumbull this year the First Selectman proposed an 11.6% increase. The Town Council and Board of Finance, made up of both Democrats and Republicans, cut it down to a little more than 7%. In Monroe the First Selectman proposed a 4.5% increase and the people through referendum reduced it to 3.75%. In Bridgeport, a town run by one political party, the proposed increase was 10% and was shaved by a few percentage points. The better representation the people have in the process, the lower the taxes.  Enough said.

Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I hope this has given you a better idea of what I’m all about. If you have questions, please post them in the comments section, e-mail me at, or call me at home at (203) 333-2538.




  1. I think most posters here would rather wallow in their own feces plugging pols who aren’t in office yet. There is no real value to their statements, and no one can say that they are wrong, because it hasn’t happened yet. Once the pols get elected, there’s no longer any fun in the “sport”. Why talk about a lack of progress and change? It’s all about the chase, right?

    I like to hear clear dialogue and action on the audit for the BOE, as well as a frank statement about the truth that a town run by a single-party machine gets nowhere and rolls on unchecked.

    Thank you Mr. Russo.

  2. Thank you Sen. Russo. I appreciate your comments and wish you well.

    As to the one-party city, I have to say that I think the dem party is, in reality, 2 different parties. The factions get so contentious that it’s easy to believe they are 2 parties. The problem is that although they may look and act different, they are the same in that the goal is self preservation and self enrichment. Very little is done to help the greater city community.

    Imagine a maverick type democrat who could be an agent of change. I think I just did an oxymoron…at least in b’port.

  3. Regarding my post of a couple of days ago referring to the PhotoShopped images of Sarah Palin as a cheap shot, the following excerpt from underscores my point.

    CNN got duped! The supposed photo of Sarah Palin in an American flag bikini holding a rifle is a proven PhotoShop.

    But Lola Ogunnaike, entertainment reporter for CNN’s American Morning, seems to believe the image is authentic. Yesterday she told Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz that Palin should maybe avoid posing with guns like this, because it might come back to bite her in the ass.

    I mean, McCain has been really good about painting Obama as this lightweight, using the word “celebrity” as a pejorative. They don’t want to have a boomerang effect. They don’t want that to come back on Sarah Palin, and people say, yes, she looks good in a bikini clutching an AK-47, but is she equipped to run the country?

    This from a respected news organization like CNN. Similarly my kids and their friends rely upon the Jon Stewart Show as legitimate news.

    Unfortunately too many people are gullible (or stupid).

    Kind of scary when you consider they vote!

  4. Solid,
    Not at all. Just that the young people I know rarely read newspapers or view network news, cable news etc. In my son’s case, Jon Stewart is their news source and that’s scary.

    Just wish people utilized more than one news source. Blogs are great but essentially it’s the Wild West, anything goes.

    All too often, people will see things that are absolutely untrue on a conservative blog and declare it gospel. Same thing with liberal blogs.

    A CNN reporter picking up the GOP VP Bikini photo makes my point.

  5. Sen. Russo, I enjoyed your posting. I agree that it seems common problems are hurting Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe. But I was hoping for more specific comments about Bridgeport. Specifically, Bridgeporters have been watching projects like Steel Point and the Magic Johnson project teeter for years. Why are this projects failing to be accomplished? What is your plan to see that they succeed?

  6. New winner trait: statement-based conversation. Statements give you a chance to be clever, smart, funny or informative. Questions expose your (momentary) ignorance. Discover the joy of not asking questions. It’s like anything else worthwhile: hard at first; easier later on. It’s a trend with teeth (chomp).

  7. “Here We Go” and “Independent Soul” thanks for your kind words. HWG, I do truly believe that this audit of the BOE is going to be a seminal moment in the history of Bridgeport and is going to have a profoundly positive effect on our future. Grin, thanks for stating what was at least obvious to me…

    Ratzenberger, I am happy to answer any specific questions regarding Bridgeport you might have. With regards to the two large developments you referenced, we can’t discount the fact that the real estate market is incredibly weak in town and they aren’t going to move forward until the market’s strong again. But let’s ask why the market in Bridgeport is weaker than other Connecticut towns, including ones that have to face many of the same uniquely urban issues. It’s because our property taxes are so high and our schools frankly aren’t up to many people’s standards.

    A $300k condo in Fairfield County with a waterview is a steal, but when you add Bridgeport’s property taxes you take away a lot of the value there. I think it’s great that the city is putting effort into attracting large developments like Steel Point and the Canyon Johnson development, however, it doesn’t change the fact that we need to fix the fudamentals in town before we see a truly revitalized Bridgeport.

    The best thing I can do to help major projects like these is work on fixing Bridgeport’s fundamentals. That means an increased focus on education and fighting to get our property taxes down. The first I hope to accomplish with the audit, making sure the money is going to the children. We can then use the results of the audit to fix whatever problems exist and as an illustration we can use to make our case to the state for more state aid. With regards to lowering our property taxes, the best thing I can do is support Governor Rell’s 3% property tax cap and force local governments to live within their means. Her plan will also remove many of the unecessary unfunded mandates that are burdening our local budget.

    Thanks for the question Ratzenbergers Rebels!!

    Now as for the rest of you, where are your questions??

  8. Lennie, to answer your question: lots.

    And yes, I’m a lot better at it than you. Everyone who knows me, including the Governor and John McKinney, know that Bridgeport Schools are one of my top concerns. After I was elected it was clear to me that by getting this money and insuring that a comprehensive audit and management study would take place was the best thing I could do for the city schools in my first term.

  9. Municipalities are almost totally dependent on property taxes. More than half of CT municipalities rely 75% (check CCM statistics) or more on property taxes to run their town. State aid to cities is decreasing, the state keeps decreasing its funding for education, it is less than it was in 2002! CT decreases PILOT payments every year as well. You say you want better education, yet you support the state taking away money from towns, cutting off alternate sources of revenue to towns (one million to Bridgeport, $200,000 to Monroe and $350,000 to Trumbull) and now you want to put a cap on property taxes because big brother state know better than all 169 municipalities as how much money they need to perform vital services, including education! Municipalities’ hands would be tied as the investments they could make and therefore limit tax incentives to encourage economic growth. It is a tough buyer’s market out there and contractors have lots of options as to where they go. You want towns to tighten their belts, so you would be for more cuts in policeman, fireman, library staff, education, road maintenance, garbage pick up and emergency protection, forced by big brother State? This is a complete lack of understanding of finance and economic growth. So if you are for a cap do you want higher income taxes, the money has to come from somewhere Mr. Russo or should people in the richest county in America be allowed to freeze, not eat, not have access to vital services and health care? It is easy to say, “it is too expensive to live in Connecticut,” that’s just a platitude and campaign slogan. So instead of proposing ideas on to increase revenue, such as regional tax incentives and more aid to municipalities, and ways to increase economic growth you throw out the Governor’s line about belt tightening. That basically translates to LET THEM EAT CAKE.

  10. And my good Senator what if an audit of the BOE determines that there are misspent funds which get corrected but as a whole the city needs to be spending more on education if we are to provide one at the same level as the communities with million dollar condos with a view of the sound? What then?

  11. Rob Russo, as you know I was a Moore supporter and I went on to support Musto but I still have my doubts about him and as of last week I’m back to an undecided voter for this race. The reason is education and as a person who just graduated from a Bridgeport public high school I can tell you it sucks. And Trumbull Monroe and Bridgeport should be on the same level but they’re not. A student in Bridgeport is less likely to do better in life than students in the rest of the towns. And that’s why I might vote for Russo because of education and it is a key in life. Also Rob Russo who are you voting for, Obama or McCain??? Your answer will let me support you more or less.

  12. Johnnb Your post is right on the money. Mr. Russo so that you know Connecticut ranks 45 th in aid to cities and towns. Thats not good. the folks in Hartford also decreased or kept the payment the same for Pilot. We in Bridgport have 53 % of our taxable property covered by Pilot that leaves 47% of us to pay for everything that needs to be paid for. So before you push for a cap or any other belt tightening you had beeter take a closer look at Bridgeport.

  13. Johnb-

    You are correct that many towns primarily fund themselves with the property tax, however, that is not necessarily true in Bridgeport where over 85% of the education budget is funded by the State of Connecticut. In most towns, 70% of the property taxes raised go to the Board of Education, in Bridgeport it’s about 20% of your property taxes that go to the Board of Ed.

    You are incorrect when you say the state has been cutting education funding. State education funding for Bridgeport increased by $10 million in the 2007-2008 school year and by $7 million in the 2008-2009 school year. Sadly, I can’t even take credit for this hike in funding, this budget passed before I was elected!!

    I do not agree with your analysis of the Property Tax cap. State funding for our City has gone up, our taxes have gone up and still they need more money? Costs have gone up substantially for everyone in the last few years. However, personally and at our places of work we have all been fighting to do more with less; to live within our means. Our governments on the other hand, have made no such effort. And why should they when they can arbitrarily raise your taxes? We need to force them to live within their means.

    I’m sick and tired of the kneejerk response that the property tax will lead to cutting vital services, it won’t and it hasn’t in the other 40 states where it’s already been implemented. It will force government to focus on its priorities just like all of us who can’t arbitrarily raise our income have to. Any local government that cuts funding for education or public safety before reducing waste in other areas should be replaced. All I’m asking is that government live within its means like the rest of us.

    Johnb, you make reference to my vote to not extend the additional conveyance tax on the sales of homes. This was a temporary tax passed in 2001 to help address a budget deficit. It was only supposed to be around for one year but the state keeps extending it. Government made a promise that this would be a temporary tax and the government should keep its promise. As you said, the housing market is terrible out there and favors the buyers. This is a tax on the sellers. Can you imagine selling your home in today’s market and having to pay this additional tax on top of it? And you have to pay it even if you’re narrowly avoiding foreclosure or upside down on your mortgage. I voted for amendments this year to exempt both of these but the Democrat majority shot them both down.

    Also, I believe your estimates about how much each town would take in are grossly inflated. They were probably accurate when the market was still strong. Needless to say, no town should be counting revenue from a temporary tax that was supposed to sunset as part of its budget. As I’m sure you know, I was on the losing end of this vote and the tax was extended for another year.

    Thanks for posting johnb.

  14. Grin-

    Let’s not be afraid of what the audit’s going to find. Let’s just assume it’s going to find some waste and probably one or two things that are going to be shocking. We’re going to clean it up and make sure that we never let our education finances get out of hand again. Then we can honestly represent to everyone that we’re spending our money on education as best we can. This is the best way to get Bridgeport Education moving forward in a positive light.

    You asked about the City needing to spend more to compete with the richer towns. How about the city needing to spend more to compete with the poorer towns? That’s right, New Haven and Hartford which both have about the same population as Bridgeport but with significantly smaller taxable grand lists spend significantly more of their property tax dollars on education. On average Hartford and New Haven spend $4,200 per student from what they raise on a local level whereas Bridgeport only spends $2,830 per student despite the fact that we have over a billion dollars more in taxable property on our grand list than they do. We may have more money but we haven’t made education a priority like they do. Now if you ask me where the money’s going I couldn’t tell you but I’d love to know. Remember that we generally pay more in property taxes than they do too…

  15. donj, I’m only going to use one McCain quote all fall and it’s “education is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century.” I’m upset about property taxes but education is my passion and I don’t see how we can have a strong Bridgeport in the future without first building a strong school system.

    As for McCain/Obama, I’ll admit it’s a tough one for me. I’m a 33-year-old Republican from Bridgeport who frankly finds Barack Obama’s message more exciting than Sarah Palin. However, I’ve met John McCain many times and I’ve always admired his independence. For the moment I’d say I’m a “Lean McCain” when it comes to the Presidential race.

  16. Rob Russo, at least you’re truthful about the election. I am shocked when you say you lean McCain, I thought you would have said totally Obama. Well honestly Rob I can say you must be the most popular Republican in Bridgeport because you did very well in Bridgeport against Mulligan. Well I’m gonna say this Russo, it’s going to be hard to win Bridgeport because of a record turnout in Bridgeport come November. I suggest you work hard in the city and then can we start seeing your yard signs around Bridgeport. I might just have Obama Himes and Russo yard signs on my lawn well I should say my parent’s lawn lol. But Rob, what is this I hear, you voted against minimum wage??? That was the reason I wasn’t supporting you at first but I am an undecided voter in this state senate race now. Musto has some work to do to get my vote.

  17. Rob Russo you were the first person I ever voted for and that was in March. I am a recent new voter and I find it hard to vote for you again because of the change Dems are talking about. I cannot see myself when I go up to the Central precinct voting for a Republican in November but you are a nice guy and who knows what I will do from here ’til November. The Obama effect might just be real bad news for you. I can’t see myself voting for a man like McCain who doesn’t know how many houses he has and is for the rich people and not for the working class like the people who live in Bpt. And I think if you support the McCain ticket too much you will lose big time in Bridgeport. Well I respect you very much and trust me I don’t respect Republicans at all but you seem to be a nice person maybe the do-nothing Chris Shays can take you as a example as a great Republican who actually cares about the city because Shays is the complete opposite of you. Shays is for the people in Darien and New Canaan.

  18. Rob Russo:

    After news broke regarding the $250,000 funding for the four-phase independent management and operational study of the Bridgeport Board of Education, the City made public their previously unknown ongoing effort to do just that. Phase I was completed and they were moving on to phase II.

    Q. 1) Was Committee Chair Merle Berke-Schlessel of the United Way and Bruce Hubler participants in phase I or did they start from scratch?

    You mentioned that Bridgeport is managed under a one-party system. The Board of Education is part of that one-party system.

    Q. 2) What makes you so sure that the Democratic-controlled Board of Education is going to go along with whatever changes the auditing committee suggests?

    I believe Education to be a top priority. The education issues are lost or totaly ignored in the local election process as it is always eclipsed by the tax issue.

    Q. 3) Do you think that holding separate elections for Board of Education members should be a part of Education reform?

  19. I have had enough from Mr. Russo and I am addressing your latest addittion to the blog Lennie. I believe that the education budget and the Board of Ed should come directly under the mayor and not a bunch of elected robots who really don’t answer to anyone. If the mayor is going to get the blame at least let him and his administration run the show. This is for any mayor and not just Finch.
    The BOE has proven that they can not get the job done under the present system. A 68% dropout rate says it all. Nothing else needs to be quoted 68% and we have not heard a damn thing about that number from those idiots running the BOE.

  20. Wondering! Great to hear from you! But your wrong: PILOT funding to Bridgeport has INCREASED from $10.5 million in 2004 to $14 million in 2007.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this is inadequate, we provide resources for the entire region. However, one of the biggest problems we have in this city is finding the facts amongst all the innuendo. If everyone thinks the state is cutting the funding, they’ll be distracted from asking a rather important question: what are we spending it on. We cannot expect the state to give us more until we can properly account for what we already get.

    Another interesting fact: New Haven gets $42.5 million in PILOT funding. That’s up from $36.5 million in 2004. They get so much more because Yale is worth billions and doesn’t pay taxes. Don’t we wish we had that problem… Now New Haven does get more PILOT funding than we do but remember that we have over one billion more in taxable grand list than they do. Bridgeport has a total grand list of $6.9 billion, only $4.5 billion is taxable. In comparison, New Haven has a grand list of $6.4 billion but only $3.4 billion is taxable. That means that we would only have to tax our extra billion at a mil rate of a little over 20 mils to make up that difference in funding… But wait a minute, our mil rate is a lot higher… Where’s the money folks??

  21. Bob Walsh, I hope you’re checking out all my numbers and will post if I’ve got anything wrong.

    Yahooy, where are you? I’m waiting for your questions, I want a crack at POTW.

  22. donj,
    Remember, I work for you. All politicians work for you and you should treat us that way (and hopefully with the respect you would treat any employee). If you need to know more about me, ask questions on the blog or call me. My home number is posted here (333-2538). You have every right to ask me for a meeting and get to know me. Same with my opponent I’m sure.

    Who I choose for President is an incredibly personal decision, but I’ve decided to share my views here because I am having a lot of conflicting thoughts in this department. Trust me, my friends on both sides are giving me a hard time and don’t even get me started on what my girlfriend thinks about the race …

    I’m a Republican for a reason. I believe government can help people by providing them with opportunities, not outcomes. However, in the last eight years I feel the national party has really lost sight of what it means to be a Republican in the image of Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, or even Ronald Reagan.

    As for Chris Shays, he’s a big boy and can fight his own battles. However, as you may know, I used to work for him. And I know of no more honest, independent person in politics. Most of the time I agree with him, sometimes I don’t but I always trust he’s given it his all. And remember, he moved to Bridgeport 10 years ago and he’s not going anywhere.

    I know this isn’t the most popular view on this blog, but in the end “If loving Chris Shays is wrong, I don’t want to be right!!!”

  23. Rob I could never get a response to simple questions and comments from Bob Walsh and others here. I doubt they will respond to yours but, I know they are reading.
    Yahooy was seen getting off exit 34 on I-95 north.

  24. Joel:

    1) Merle was, Bruce hadn’t been appointed yet. Bruce was just recently appointed at my suggestion.

    2) I believe we have amazing people on our Board of Ed but they need our support and the resources to do their job. This audit will provide the guidance they need.

    3) I’m not sure I understand this one.

  25. It’s 8pm and I’m going to go eat a bowl of chicken soup and then I’ll be back. I will continue to answer your questions until I go to bed tonight.

    Tomorrow, I’ll return to being an ordinary OIB reader. If you have any questions after tonight, call me or e-mail me. As much as I love posting here, if I do this all the time I’m afraid I’ll never get any work done.

  26. Russo, I am sick and tired of a newborn Senator who only knows what they have been spoon-fed. First of all, saying that funding for education has increased is wrong, wrong, wrong. Let’s talk about the state since you represent 3 different municipalities. The ECS grant did increase, however you don’t measure it against the costs that also increased. State spending on Education K-12 actually decreased this past year from 43% to 41%. Money for Priority School Districts (Bridgeport being one) actually decreased by 4.5% and others are flat lined or disappeared, most notably Early Reading Success money. The money for the Pequot-Mohegan Grant is even at its 2002 levels. You might be too young to remember that gambling money was supposed to take care of CT’s education needs. PILOT payments are decreasing or disappearing. SO your analysis is like saying “Hey, good news you got a raise of 5%, bad news the cost of living is up 8%.” Don’t make arguments in a vacuum, or are you too inexperienced to look at the big picture, since you have no finance background? So the state increased the educational cost-sharing formula (the ECS) 4.4% in 2008 with NO increase in 2009 but what about health care costs rose by 6.3%, Salaries have risen more than 30% from 2001 – 2006, the cost of energy is rising so fast that it is hard to calculate. All that comes out of the ECS grant too. How can you be all about education when you don’t even understand it?

    Other states where caps have worked have regional forms of government, higher income tax, more state aid, and local and higher sales tax. Remember how everyone screamed about a suggested local penny sales tax? Caps have been known to affect Bond Ratings, in N.J. Moody’s Investor Services said reducing the financial flexibility of municipalities would cause greater reliance on the fund balance, (of which Bridgeport has almost none), and cause an increase on interest on bonded indebtedness. (Quick diversion, Our Rainy day fund is 1.7 billion dollars — and it is pouring in case you haven’t noticed.) There is also much evidence linking caps to reduction in services (Mass. and Penn.) and tax increases somewhere else. Caps also discourage regional cooperation, starving the beast doesn’t work.

    I’d rather be a knee jerk with knowledge than a jerk without.

    Plus who are you kidding? You bleed McCain and would NEVER support Obama. The republicans, including Gov. M. Jodi who is a huge McCain/Palin supporter, would have your head.

  27. Rob Russo said my friends on both sides are giving me a hard time and don’t even get me started on what my Girlfriend thinks about the race…

    Seems that your Girlfriend is voting for Obama and that’s a smart thing.

    I am voting for Obama and Himes as a Bridgeport Resident I feel Shays has been involved with Bush too much and the only reason he lives in Bridgeport is to get votes. This year he won’t even get 25% of the vote in Bridgeport.

    Now back to Russo…I must say you are one of the few republicans who really cares about the middle class. I really don’t know much about Musto but I was planning on voting for him but I took a look at you and even when you lost 2 elections you never stop fighting for the city and personally I admire that. As a African American I feel that the Republican party has done nothing good for the middle class people but I must say you are a different type of republican ’cause you have been very involved in issues that I care about like education but I keep on hearing you voted against minimum wage and I want to know the truth about that because people are struggling to survive in the city. As for me I am not sure who I will vote for yet my mind tells me to vote for Russo then I say to myself I cant vote for a republican because it’s all about change this year I just don’t know who to vote for in this race. And all my family are democrats and voting for Obama and Himes but they also don’t know who to vote for. Well Russo are you going to put up the big sign on Main street?

  28. Solid as Barack; Shays will lose big in Bridgeport. Obama ’08 Himes ’08 Russo ’08…I am leaning Russo but not sure yet it will take a lot out of me to vote for a republican.

  29. P.S. Lincoln was at first a member of the Whigs, but when the Whig party dissolved, Lincoln became a member of the Republican Party which bears no resemblance to today’s Republican. You can google it for the details. Try “The Republican Charade, Lincoln and his Party.” I am sick and tired of the Republican myth that Lincoln and his agenda are what we think of today as Republican. Think about it.

  30. johnb–you sure wrote a lot of heavy material and I agree with you. donj, how can you even think for one second Russo is voting for anyone but MCSAME??? He also worked for Shays so he learned his political lessons from him. Are you forgetting he’s a Republican? Think about that next time you or somebody you might be friends with can’t get a raise in minimum wage. The Republicans make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.

  31. Johnb-

    How you can call a $17 million dollar increase a cut is beyond me. As for the Early Reading Success money, that was cut out of the budget last year…by the Democrats who control the General Assemby. Senator McKinney and I tried no less than three times to add it back into the budget this year. At one point I stood up and talked about how much it would mean to Bridgeport, that it would mean that over 300 kids would get to attend full-time Kindergarten. The Democrat chair of the Education Committee stood up, dismissed my comments and told me that the $17 million increase Bridgeport had gotten was more than enough.

    I’m sorry you think I’m too young and inexperienced, I thought the whole idea was that we end “Business as Usual”. I think you call it “Change”…

  32. Robert Russo – New Haven is way ahead of Bridgeport getting handouts from the state and it can’t be just because of Yale. The least the state could do was to give you money for a board of ed audit. We have UB and Housatonic CC here – we should be getting much more money than we are. I don’t even know you so it’s not personal, but to tell the truth, I want your Senate seat to go back to a democrat, we are democrats here in Bridgeport and I think we would be better off with Musto the democrat. Just because you live in Bridgeport and he lives in Trumbull doesn’t mean you are the better choice. I’ve had enough of all republicans to last me a lifetime, Bush and his oil men, Shays, McSame – everyone of you.

  33. City Kitty-

    Reread point 6 in my original post. I think the income gap in Connecticut is disgraceful. The only way I can see to close it is to attract good jobs to Connecticut and Bridgeport. The only way we are going to do so is to make this state more business friendly. We need to attract new industries that provide jobs with upward mobility. Not just service jobs and professional jobs.

    We’ve used tax credits to attract the movie industry. Why aren’t we using tax credits to attract the “Green” industry. The paper towels and garbage bags I now buy are eco-friendly and biodegradable. They’re made in Vermont instead of overseas like their competitors. I’d love to use tax credits to bring businesses like this to Bridgeport.

    Raising the minimum wage in times of economic trouble doesn’t send the right message.

  34. City Kitty-

    You call McCain “McSame” yet you argue for more of the same in Bridgeport. Bridgeport’s been predominantly Democrat for pretty much my entire life and where has it got us?

    Why does New Haven get more? For one they have a better legislative delegation. One that reaches out to the surrounding towns and plays a leadership role in the General Assembly.

    And just to correct something you said, HCC and UB are amazing treasures but their combined properties don’t even come close the value of Yale’s properties in New Haven. PILOT money from the state is given to pay property taxes on Government buildings, hospitals and universities that don’t otherwise pay taxes. The amount you receive is based on what they would pay in property taxes if they were required to do so. That makes Yale a really valuable gem for New Haven.

  35. One more thought to Rob Russo and I’ll go away for the rest of tonight. This isn’t just blaming you, I blame all the state reps and senators from Bridgeport. Why does gas cost more here than in Fairfield, Milford or Orange? The people that live there have much more money than the average person who lives here, so why do we pay more than them? I don’t buy gas here anymore, I go to another town and it’s 10-15 cents cheaper per gallon and everyone knows it. It’s not fair, plus the republican governer Rell won’t bring the gas tax down either and it’s the 2nd or 3rd highest in the USA. She wouldn’t even do it just for a few months in the summer and I don’t think she’ll ever get re-elected. Everywhere around us – NJ, MA, RI, NH, etc are all cheaper than we are. What do they think – we are made out of money? It makes me mad to no end. I got gas in Milford and paid $3.67; just go up Main St. and it costs $3.79 and up. Why? Who is going to fix that?

  36. Rob. Let’s put the blame on the budget where it belongs. Rell. Your budget attempts were also turned down by the governor. Too many proven flaws. Johnb is right on.

  37. Also rob you had nothing to do with any so-called increase that doesn’t increase this coming year ’cause you weren’t there. Ok bed for me. If you’re still up johnb you take over.

  38. I have to say that even though we don’t all agree on political stuff, it sure beats reading all that Tony, union, etc. postings. I’ll bet we all agree on that!

  39. Amen City Kitty. Finally, a good knowledgeable exchange of ideas on Bridgeport. People may not agree at the end of tonight, but I’ve certainly learned a whole heck of a lot today. This is what this blog should be about more and less of the sniping about Tony. Sen. Russo, your knowledge of the issues impresses me. I’ve been a supporter, tonight only reaffirmed it. I’m sure a lot of people are having the same problem as donj, but when it comes down to it, I think people should vote Bridgeport first, and you certainly know this city well. Good luck to you.

  40. “Raising the minimum wage in times of economic trouble doesn’t send the right message.”

    …and that my friend is why I am a Democrat and you are a Republican. I believe the Federal minimum wage law was enacted in 1938 during the Great Depression – a time of considerable “economic trouble.” If Roosevelt had followed your logic there would have been no minimum wage to increase. Fortunately, he chose another course.

    Rob, you’re a good guy and a friend, but on this issue we part company.

  41. John from Black Rock, are you saying the minimum wage law brought us out of the Great Depression? I think World War II will have to take credit for doing that. The United States actually went into another recession in 1937; I think minimum wage had been around for a few years then but wasn’t national until 1938. Also, remember there was a great fear and likelihood that after WWII we were going to fall back into a Depression. We had vastly overproduced. Luckily, we came up with the Marshall Plan and we didn’t take that expected dive. I’m not saying raising the minimum wage is bad, I just think in our current situation, I agree with Sen. Russo. It’s not the right time.

  42. Good evening everyone – very brilliant & savvy postings from johnb and John from Black Rock. You guys know your stuff! I enjoyed reading tonight without any Tony pollution, and yes, I think we all agree on that aspect.

    As for New Haven, yes, a much better delegation without a doubt. As a result, Bridgeport does come up short-changed when Hartford is handing out the goodies. There are two hospitals and two universities, indeed miniscule in comparision to Yale, St. Raphael, etc., but let’s face it, your legislators don’t bring back enough bacon to Bridgeport. As far as your gas being more expensive, it is unfair without a doubt. I believe they blame it on “zone pricing” whatever the hell that is. It makes little sense, the per capita income in Bridgeport is without question less than that of Fairfield, etc. Your delegation should be fighting for equality and fair market prices to put gas prices on par with surrounding towns. Above all, what is the Republican governor doing about it? Time to cry foul Bridgeporters!

  43. Chris Russo–No, the minimum wage, by itself, did not bring us out of the Depression, but it helped by increasing the purchasing power of millions of workers.

    Now I really am going to bed. Good night to all.

  44. Citty Kitty drives 30 miles to save $1. It (yes, I said it) hasn’t figured out that it costs $4 to save $1.
    Had the Democrats elected a potato to run against Rob Russo, City Kitty would vote for an Onion.

  45. City Kitty-
    Gas is so much more expensive in CT because our gas tax is a percentage tax whereas the surrounding states have a fixed tax. My Republican colleagues and I tried repeatedly to cut the gas tax this summer and the Democrats wouldn’t even give us a vote. During the special session a few weeks ago we proposed that we have another special session to consider reducing the gas tax. The Democrats voted against it, they wouldn’t even allow us to debate the issue.

    As for gas being more expensive in Bridgeport, I hadn’t really noticed it because it’s so much more expensive in Trumbull and Monroe. The Freedom Fuels by my house usually does a good job of keeping prices down. I do agree though that the Cumberland Farms in Stratford usually does a great job of being the cheapest around.

  46. Crackberry1-

    Remember all budgets are ultimately written by the General Assembly. The Governor can make proposals and she can veto bills, but the power to levy taxes and allocate funds originates with the General Assembly.

    As for education funding, I have never tried to take credit for the $17 million increase Bridgeport received, it did happen before my time. I admitted that already in an earlier post.

  47. John from Black Rock!! Great to hear from you and I’m pleased that my last post of the night is in response to you.

    I know we disagree on the minimum wage and I don’t expect that to change. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in a minimum wage and I also understand that the minimum wage as it currently stands is a paltry sum when compared to the cost of living around here. However, we need to think not only about the rate of the minimum wage but how to provide people who are making the minimum wage the opportunity for upward advancement where they will make more.

    Connecticut is in constant competition with the other 49 states to keep our businesses and our workforce here. Yet every year we are losing thousands of businesses to other states that are more friendly to business. When we lose those businesses we also lose residents to those states as well. I am amazed at the numbers of Bridgeporters I talk to who have residents who have left the city for North Carolina because either their job moved there or they found a better job down there. We have to stop this slow bleed.

    The minimum wage is an important safeguard, but when “Expansion Management” magazine is rating us the most anti-business state in the country, this isn’t the time to make our minimum wage the highest in the country. Ultimately all it will result in is driving out businesses and raising costs for the rest of us.

    This isn’t an easy decision. I understand that getting by on $7.50 an hour in Bridgeport is near impossible. But raising it to $8.00 won’t make it much easier. Neither would raising it to $10. To truly help people making minimum wage we need to be innovative and find ways of attracting good businesses that offer entry-level jobs with lots of opportunity for advancement. That will have a much more positive outcome on our working poor than an increase in the minimum wage.

  48. Joel – you jackass, I live about 3 miles away from a station in Fairfield! So it does save money. And you are so right, if you were running for office in the area I live in, I would rather vote for an onion. You will be fried like an onion ring when you lose the election, maybe then you will wise up and disappear.

  49. City Kitty:

    The Senator asked you a good question. I’m waiting to hear your answer!

    Rob Russo // Sep 9, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    City Kitty-

    You call McCain “McSame” yet you argue for more of the same in Bridgeport. Bridgeport’s been predominantly Democrat for pretty much my entire life and where has it got us?


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