City Council observer John Marshall Lee addressed the legislative body Tuesday night urging them to put their time, talent and resources to work. (And don’t forget about Karaoke.)
When you approached the voters you may have known some issues dear to them, had a good reputation in your district, or were considered someone who would stand for the community and have its back. Great. Congratulations!! Because now you are about proving that.
You all have equal time … that is 24/7 for the serious work of representation. Talent … skills, experience, knowledge, and relationships to come up with creative solutions. And resources … that is the TAXPAYER money in an operating budget or in a capital budget, already borrowed, the people who are employed in municipal work and the Charter, rules and policy of Bridgeport.
Let’s talk about time first; the time committed by you to Council work and Committee meetings. I have been surprised at the number of recent cancelled Committee Meetings of the new Council. A comment overheard suggests that the City had not set out much for you to deliberate, discuss or decide so meetings were eliminated. Does this make good sense for the community at large, I ask you?
There is much to be learned by the newest members, not only about how the City Council operates twice per month when you all come together, but specifically about each Committee, the nature of its work and background info necessary to pick up where the old committee left off. I am most familiar with the way Budget and Appropriations has worked for years. What discussions are they having on the CAFR released last week, a document that provides a wonderful overall view for you? Read the narrative. Puzzle out the financial illustrations. What plans does the administration have for the departments for you to review during budget sessions? What information can you review today so as to fully understand Capital budgeting plans? Have you discussed what professional assistance may be useful for more than the few weeks on operating budget formation annually? There are 5 rookies on this Committee. Don’t they need every chance to get up to speed before decisions are facing them?
Public Safety and Transportation did not meet in December or yet in January as a meeting was canceled. More than half the members of this group are newly elected to the Council. The budgets for Police and Fire have grown faster than average in recent years and overtime budgets have been reasons for negative variances, yet there is nothing to learn, discuss, review, or have basic conversations about? Do you realize that the fringe benefit line for Police costs more than the salary line? Why is that? Know any private business that operates that way?
Perhaps Public Safety Comm. might consult the monthly operating budget to see that budgeted fringe benefits exceed basic compensation for the department. How did that happen? Was it planned? Would they also like to know how the year closed with the final June 30 report used in the Audit which had revisions and adjustments? Has a request been made to the Finance Director for the document?
Times are scheduled for you to respond to City actions, but that does not stop you from scheduling your own activities other than a Karaoke benefit and inviting the public to participate. How much benefit came from your fund raiser by the way? That is news, by the way.
Your talents will shine if you do the time and let the public in to see, ask questions, and learn with you. You must learn to question more frequently. Where is the fund for Lighthouse shown in City records? Where is the income from In-Plant Printing since last summer? Are they charging outsiders to gain revenue? Just examples of questions. Your opportunity. Time will tell.