Cockfight Over The Budget

A feather-flying game of chicken is playing out between Mayor Bill Finch and city unions, particularly the police union, and the question is which one will be the first to lay an egg.

Cops, in general, don’t like anyone getting in their face, and this mayor–at least when it comes to the cops, so far–is living up to his words from several months ago that there’s a new sheriff in town.

The city budget is on the verge of blowing several pistons and if something isn’t done soon a whole lot of oil will be spewing from city departments. City finances haven’t been this shaky since 1991 when Mayor Joe Ganim managed to keep the levee from breaking on the heels of his predecessor Mary Moran’s federal bankruptcy filing, at the height of a catastrophic New England recession that resulted in institutional banks such as Citytrust folding. No mayor in the city’s history, other than Ganim, has secured the kind of union concessions that Finch must achieve to keep the city from financial meltdown.

The economy sucks, police overtime has gone bonkers and the mayor is looking at a major deficit just two months into the budget year following last year’s budget that was roughly $20 million in the tank, according to city officials. Every month that passes–without a definitive resolution–makes closing the budget gap that much more unreachable.

We have a bunch of accountants that read OIB. I hope they weigh in.

Finch is telling the unions, in general, I’ll give you job security in exchange for major concessions including a zero percent pay raise and one week unpaid furloughs. The police union, in particular, has said take a walk off the Pleasure Beach Bridge.

Which side will blink? Hard to say. It comes down to this: does the mayor have the stomach to actually lay off cops? It may take a wave of layoffs in some form for union leadership to appreciate the bomb ticking in the budget.

The mayor needs to set an example in his own shop, you say. Yes, but the mayor is down to maybe 50 discretionary appointments in government, hardly enough to make a dent under the circumstances. And he has offered to give up a week of his own pay to set that example.

Two Months Away

Two months before the general election, what’s hot, what’s not? Certainly Republican Congressman Chris Shays trying to fend off Jim Himes and Republican State Senator Rob Russo’s face-off with Anthony Musto are two of the highest profile local races. What else you hearing? Any potential upsets out there?

What A Hoot

Mo and I spent more than two hours at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on Monday and the place was jammed with thousands of visitors. Shit, we stood in line for 15 minutes to pay admission and that’s okay by me. I love seeing a mix of suburbanites and city residents fill the zoo and Beardsley Park. We saw the last showing of the bird exhibit and it was a hoot. Damn owl almost plucked my eye out. And, then, there was the parrot singing Old McDonald’s Farm. EEEEEEEEE! Zoo Director Gregg Dancho and company have built a nice tourist attraction. Pack up the kids, take them to the zoo.



  1. It is my opinion that the city, before demanding union concessions and zero pay raises, needs to take a long hard look at some of the strategies being used in other cities and towns and try to implement them here. Health insurance costs are rising at an alarming rate and perhaps the city should offer some real financial incentive for employees who can get coverage elsewhere (i.e. spouses employer) to do so. Maybe an audit of the health insurance costs is in order.
    It just seems to me that Bridgeport always attempts to balance the budget on the backs of the employees rather than doing any due diligence as to progressive fiscal policy.
    Many of the city employees being asked to give back and take zero pay raises are already some of the lowest-paid employees in their respective professions statewide.
    As far as the 50 or so appointed positions the Mayor has at his discretion…it is this blogger’s opinion that many of them are in over their heads and are simply not capable of doing the job. You claim that these 50 or so positions are hardly enough to “make a dent” … I beg to differ. These 50 or so positions have “made a dent” and some would argue that not only have they “made a dent” but come pretty damn close to crashing and burning. Let’s not forget that many of these same people are holdovers from the previous administration and are somewhat responsible for this shit sandwich that was waiting for Mayor Finch. Of course they’ll have you believe that the unions are to blame…smoke and mirrors boys, smoke and mirrors.

  2. The problem is that there really is no plan in place to fix the budget shortfall. The administration is asking the unions to take an unpaid leave and to take zero for a pay raise amongst other givebacks. The city then continues to create and hire new people. On one hand they are saying take and make concessions and on the other they are creating jobs. The 2 most recent new jobs are
    1. Police Commander who will oversee police overtime. This will be a non-union poition. If we hire this person why do we need 4 deputy Chiefs? Just what the hell do they do other than collect $90K salaries? We are being led to believe that this position will come from within the department. If the top administrators can’t do the job now how is a new title going to help?
    2. Legislative liaison with the common Council, this job will pay $38K to $48K. We already have a person doing this job why do we need 2 people? My undrstanding is this job is going to a niece of Mitch Robles.
    My suggestion to the administration is if you want credibility you have to start by cleaning your own house and stop creating new jobs.

  3. Lennie:
    Let me congratulate you on a comprehensive synopsis of Bridgeport’s fiscal calamity. And too, I have to agree with SOME parts of park city fan’s analysis of the situation.

    There is no question but that the Unions have to be reigned in before the City goes bankrupt and the overly taxed citizens take flight. I’ve made reference before to the plight that Mayor David Cicilline of Providence faced when he took over from Mayor Cianci (who took up residence in the same penitentiary that Joe Ganim occupies). Mayor Cicilline immediately furloughed 425 city employees and called in the unions to renegotiate contracts. He took the City of Providence from near bankruptcy to an “A” Moody rating within 14 months. And he has since furloughed another 25 employees. By the way, productivity of the remaining workforce increased substantially.

    If the private sector can do it, why can’t the City do the same? HOWEVER, the mayor needs to get his priorities straight. How can he justify a public relations position at $77,000 when the current public relations employee receives $44,000.00??? How can he justify paying Fabs $120,000.00 for a no-show job??? How many jobs has the mayor cut in his own office??? The Police Department is acknowledged to be out of control. CUTS MUST BE MADE FAIRLY ACROSS THE BOARD.

    park city fan makes reference to the fact that our city employees are already underpaid. They have the option of leaving City employment and seeking employment elsewhere. No one is holding a gun to their heads. I think that they will find that the private sector isn’t endowing its employees much better, if at all.

  4. Con Filardi–
    When I stated in my earlier post that most city union employees were underpaid I failed to mention that was in comparison to most every respective position in the state. That is not to say that these employees don’t appreciate the jobs or work very hard at them. The reason that most of these pay scales have lagged so far behind other cities and towns is that for years these union employees have agreed ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS to accept a zero% pay increase. How many times can the city keep coming back to the unions demanding more concessions without having demonstrated a real commitment on their end to get their house in order?
    The way I see it is that the city is like a chronic substance abuser, in this case the substance happens to be cash. By agreeing to givebacks and zero% pay increases, the unions have become nothing but enablers. Perhaps it’s time for a little tough love…when the city shows the willingness to stop using and abusing then, and only then, some good-faith negotiations can take place. In the meantime … JUST SAY NO!

  5. yahooy–While we may disagree, I am glad you chose not to resort to name calling and other childish antics which have seem to become your trademark on this blog.

  6. park city fan:
    Thanks for your response. Once again, I understand your position but this city has a serious money problem. Please look at the situation from the taxpayer’s perspective. To give you an idea of what I’m suggesting: I moved here eight years ago. At that time my taxes were $4,000.00. They are now $16,000.00. That’s an increase of 400% in eight years. Should I expect an increase of an additional 400% by 2016 and not complain about a $64,000.00 tax bill??? Something’s got to give.

    I anticipate your telling me to bail out (as I suggested for the city employees). That is the likelihood, but I shudder to think of what will happen to the city if the entire middle class pulls up stakes and leaves. This is why I have continually called for the State to come in in an oversight capacity or in the alternative, eliminate the city entirely by dividing it in three parts: giving one part to Fairfield, one part to Trumbull and one part to Stratford. Stratford wouldn’t necessarily be the loser if the slums of the whole east and south sides were razed and turned into a large park.

  7. If the Finch Admin. is serious about making more drastic cuts to the budget, and do not want to touch the depts. that serve the public “safety wise”, then they need to look @ the top salaried positions and at some of those “new” admin. positions made in the last #9 months, that are not essential positions! And close some libraries in the areas where there is a library in the schools that can help fill the gaps on a temp. basis. Also lay off the temp. workers earlier this year as well. Even the Mayor can show an incentive to the rest by taking a 10% pay cut ’til July 1st ’09. Lead by example and the rest will follow!

  8. Lennie wrote:

    “I love seeing a mix of suburbanites and city residents fill the zoo and Beardsley Park.”

    Sure, Lennie! Are you considering moving to Bridgeport?
    Few Bridgeport residents visit the Zoo. The majority of visitors at the Zoo are from the suburbs like you and Mo.

  9. Con Filardi–
    I can sympathize because I have also seen my tax bill grow at a rate that far exceeds my income growth. I make do by making sound financial decisions when it comes to my own household…i.e. lowering or raising the thermostat, forgo the morning coffee and bring my own mug to go, cancel magazine subscriptions … all little things that add up. I do all of these little things and find creative ways to save so I don’t have to make drastic cuts that could be devastating to my family.
    Anyway, I guess what I am saying is that I need to see the city doing some of the little things right before I could justify them going back to the unions for more concessions and zero% pay raises.

  10. News for you Lennie. I’ve spoken to 4 of the 8 unions whose contracts have expired and NONE of them have been offered job security in exchange for 0% and 5-day furloughs. None of them have had more than an introductory meeting with Labor Relations Director Larry Osborne or hatchet man Dave Ryan. There are no offers on the table. Guess Osborne has been too busy running the office while half of his staff are at the Democratic convention. Or maybe he’s still chasing his tail trying to explain how he botched the Tony DePrimo investigation. Speaking of DePrimo, there’s a job we don’t need in the middle of a budget crisis.

  11. ngk0325, seriously Joe Ganim was a great mayor his first 10 years in office. He worked with the unions, balanced the budget, got rid of the financial review board and the city looked clean and green. Granted he got greedy at the end. But he was a good mayor who brought in mostly good people. I would take him back in any capacity tomorrow.

    Look at Waterbury. Disgraced Gov Rowland is the new Director of Economic Development and he has the city buzzing again. Don’t discount their knowledge and contacts. Very powerful.

  12. Crystal Balls- I think you are confused about the clean and green program. It was really the cleaning of the green.

    JIm Himes is a Rhodes Scholar. Does that make Shays, Lieberman, McCain and Bush Road Scholars or Rogue Scholars?

  13. I still can’t get over McCain calling his wife the “c” word, that’s a disgrace. She should have dumped the old goat right on the spot. He can’t have much respect for women if he calls his own wife that. And by picking Sarah Palin, he put Obama right over the finish line. She was a stupid choice. He made it even easier for a democrat victory, maybe we should thank him. Go Obama!

  14. I agree Ganim did a lot for Bridgeport, up until he got greedy. He blew his whole political career up. What I don’t get is how he got so much jail time and Rowland got so much less.

  15. donj–Palin was a bad choice for him and the Republicans, but it works in favor of Obama; so for us, she was a good choice! 🙂 I’ll bet most Republicans aren’t happy with his pick. Where can I get an Obama button, I haven’t seen any around. Do you know?

  16. If the Republican Convention was a TV show it would be “All In The Family!”

    The Democrat’s would be “The Jeffersons!”

    I sure hope Palin is a better shot than Cheney!

  17. Good one Grin Ripper! She can’t be worse than Cheney, she has a shotgun wedding coming up for her daughter from what I’ve heard. All those polar bears better run for cover just in case she’s practicing.

  18. donj // Sep 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    John from Black Rock I was talking to my friend who votes at Black Rock and he says that come November there can be over two thousand people who vote there; do you think that’s possible??? Also did Shays beat Dianne in 2006 at Black Rock???

    donj–Currently, there are just about 3000 registered voters at Black Rock School. A 2000-voter turnout would be 66+%. That would be huge, but this year I’d say it’s not out of the question.

    As far as the 2006 Shays/Farrell race, Shays won at BR 814 – 756.

    Sorry I took so long responding, but I wanted to check with the Registrar’s office before posting anything.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to once again point out Joe Ganim was an arrogant little twerp who stole from one of the poorest cities in the state and retarded our economic development through his pay-to-play policy and got exactly what he deserved.

  19. Republicans need to mind their P’s and Cues!

    The co-chairwoman of the Republican Convention just gave a raving endorsement for Sarah Pawlenty. I guess she must have been hungry and got confused between Palin, Polenta, and Minny Governor Tim Pawlenty.

    Good thing Sarah’s name wasn’t Barb Von Ghoul.

  20. I’ve been on the fence in terms of voting for McCain or Obama & decided to wait and see “who” they would pick as a V/P running mate. Well, Obama’s pick of Joe Biden is a very good one, especially if something were to happen to the President! Biden has the experience & smarts to be President of this nation. However, McCain in my opinion picked the wrong candidate to be his V/P. Again, if Palin were to become President of this nation, I don’t believe she would be up to the job. Personally I believe McCain would have been better served if he would have picked Gov. Rell, if it had to be a woman pick! So unless something comes up between now & election day to make me change my mind, I’ll be voting for the Dem. “OBAMA”!

  21. The Republican Party is such a joke. They were the first ones to scream Clinton needs to be impeached because he got head in the oval office. Look at the crew they have now. A presidential candidate who cheated on and divorced his first, long-suffering, navy wife, with a 22-year-old beer heiress who he called the “C” word in public. He picked a running mate who is the poster child for gun toting, power abuser and has a kid who gets pregnant at 17 and forces a shotgun wedding. Not to mention all the right-wing preachers, Congressmen and Senators who have been caught in homosexual (not a problem, just hypocritical) relationships with underage people. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. They need to fall back on a reject democrat and someone who has had less experience than Bill Finch (Alaska population is barely that of Boston’s). What a sham, shame and shambles.

    PS I hope Finch and his wife and all the City employees who got a free ride to the convention enjoyed their drunken revelry and debachery. You can’t hide from the camera.

  22. Good choice Mojo. MCSAME really blew it when he picked her for VP. One of my best friends is a republican and she is now voting for Obama also because of the same reason you said.

  23. Damn I just watched a li’l piece of the Republican convention and damn that was boring as hell … Also I can’t believe Shays won Black Rock; do you think this will happen in November??? John, you should have showed the results from the 2004 race because that would have been a better result to look at because it was during a presidential election so I’m eager to see the results of that race to see if Shays won in ’04 at that precinct??? Also John from Black Rock do you know the exact numbers between Bush and Kerry there??? I really want to see if this precinct went for Bush. Anyway I think John you are a great blogger.

  24. Joel (#14)
    Unfortunately, Joel, I don’t have the figure you are asking for, i.e. the assessment of eight years ago. My house had just been built and Bridgeport had not been re-valued in many years. Since then we have had one valuation and the new one (if my memory serves me well). I recently put a solarium on the back of the house which will be valued in the new valuation. The current valuation would be on my tax bill which is filed away but if it is of critical importance to you I will look it up. Nevertheless, you can find it online.
    In any event I have given you ball-park figures with regard to the taxes I have paid over the past eight years. They are rounded off figures but within a couple of hundred dollars one way or the other of what actually has been paid.

  25. Joel you jerk, that shooting was in Bridgeport Illinois, not Bridgeport CT. Why do you always post articles from Chicago newpapers anyway? Haven’t you noticed you live in Bridgeport? And shouldn’t you be glued to the tube watching your republican friends?

  26. City Kitty on #40:

    If I’m a jerk what does that make you? The link begins with www Did you read it as www I never said it was Bridgeport CT.
    There are Dunkin’ Donuts all over the country you know.
    I read the suntimes simply because it’s the only newspaper covering the real facts about the real NObama and his friends. Will Tony Rezko testify against Obama? That’s the question you should be asking.

  27. Joel, you really are a total jerk — why would you post it in the first place if it didn’t happen here? I must have lost my mind for a minute even to read something you post and think it would make any sense. You should be working on your campaign unless you came to your senses and realized that nobody is gonna vote for you anyway. It’s gonna suck to be you on election day when you get your butt kicked, how embarrassing. Give up now and go away.

  28. donj, he just doesn’t get it, he’ll find out in November. Instead of trying to find out something right about MCSAME, he’s too busy trying to find something wrong with Obama. We shouldn’t even be talking to him, it’s a waste of time.

  29. Joel — say what??? That posting makes less sense than the one before. By the way — Nobody can hear a posting, you can read it but not hear it. Take a valium or something. You think I’m dumb? Dude, they don’t make them any dumber than you.

  30. LennieGrimaldi you should get the numbers for the 2004 election at all the precincts in Bridgeport and post the numbers on a blog coming up. We should not have wait for this. Every town has the votes by precinct in 2004 but Bridgeport does not!!! Please can you get the numbers Lennie you are the only one people who need to know local stuff can count on. Please please please I’m dying to see these results.

  31. Lennie asked:


    When is your first debate with Ezequiel?”

    Lennie, I don’t think he wants a debate. Besides, I don’t see what good it would do for the district. The debate would probably be packed by most of the clowns posting here. You read what Salcedo posted in the past regarding his request for a debate.
    Set one or a dozen up and I’ll be there.

  32. donj–I’ll see what I can do tomorrow about getting those ’04 numbers. The Registrar’s office and the Town Clerk’s office are not always the easiest to deal with. Getting info quickly often depends on who happens to answer the phone. Perhaps you could also give them a call and see how you make out.

    Oh, and thanks for the kind words.

  33. John from B.R.: A little twerp? That’s what what you call former Mayor Ganim? Shame on YOU! Is it now a better time for Bridgeport than it was during the “Ganim Administration”???

    Con Filardi: You say in 2000 your taxes were $4000. At that time the City did not have a revaluation in 18 years. Do the math. We had our next revaluation in 2003. That’s the reason for your increase in assessed value. The next revaluation is 2008 Grand List.

  34. Pia and Joel:
    My figures were based upon recollection. I’ve been delving into my files to come up with correct figures. So far my files reveal that my assessment in 2001 was 110,460, then went to 248,360, then to 354,343. As yet I don’t have the new assessment figure but should have it within several weeks.
    I can only offer the following explanation for 2001. My total tax (real property and car) was about $8,000.00 and half of that would have been $4,000.00 which would have been the amount I would have paid in halves. (Reasoning; why $4,000 sticks in my mind.)
    If this has caused you great consternation please excuse me.
    I can tell you that I’m now paying in excess of $16,000 (real and personal property – a VW). And I can tell you that with the new valuation I’ll be paying about 15% more (estimating and conjecturing). I’m expecting a tax bill of $18,400.00. Stay tuned.

  35. What about all those municipal vehicles assigned to department heads on a 24/7 basis??? Do an analysis on that one! As I stated before only 3 maybe 4 employees need cars on a 24-hour basis. The mayor, police and fire chiefs and maybe the public facilities director. That’s it!!!

  36. Funny thing is, union salaries have not gone up 400% in that same time period. Ganim already set union employee salaries back 10 years. How can you keep going to the well? The time is long past for windfall union concessions. Just because union employees make up a large amount of the City payroll, doesn’t mean that they are overpaid.

    You want to make things better–how do you improve production (or at least maintain) while saving money? Hire good people and show them that they are important to you.

    Believe me, if union employees leave, it will be the ones who can get employment elsewhere, and you would be left with what your “heroes” have done.

    You don’t want your good employees to leave–the ones that show up and work every day. You want the ones to leave that will NEVER leave–you know–the political lackeys and no-show-ers.

    Have better hiring practices, have better upper management, and you will have departments that run better, more efficiently and for LE$$. Yes, I said less.

    Yay for Joe Ganim! He got his bloodletting from the unions some time ago. And then he squandered it. park city fan has it right.

    Maybe the City or someone on this blog should do a salary analysis of all City employees–base salary, overtime, and pension parameters. Then maybe you all would see that labor is not Enemy Number One. They may not be innocent, but they aren’t raping and pillaging the City as many would think.

  37. Bridgeport is a rough city with lots of corruption that has never stopped over the years and just keeps on rolling into a bigger ball. Make no mistake about it, the police have it rough too, they deserve a raise after what they all go through, they do a good job dealing with what is left of this city, the chief seems like he is screwing them and so is the mayor, give them some help, they deserve that at least!


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