Often a lonely voice, citizen fiscal scrutineer John Marshall Lee had plenty of speaking support at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Text of his remarks, including an emperor reference to Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa.
Today is July 5, 2016. It is the first day of the 241st year of our “American experiment in democratic government.” In Bridgeport CT we are present for the 30 minutes of time designated by the Council before each of 22 meetings so that members of the public may come forth to express their thoughts to you 20 members who represent our 10 City districts. Will you hear our words tonight?
In the past quarter the Mayoral budget proposals, for operating and capital, along with lots of other routine matters happened. But the Taxable Grand List showed a decrease of $1 Billion, or more than 14% down from the previous $7 Billion value. THAT was the first public outrage. The second was a unanimous vote of the CC in early May to approve a 2016-17 budget of $558 Million. Outrage three? The mil rate, which rose 29% from 42.2 mils to 54.37 mils.
Tax bills for property owners who pay their taxes personally have been received. Tax bills that go to mortgage holders have not become known to all yet. And so, the community is still learning about the impact of your decisions. There is palpable anger and outrage. This past Saturday, a meeting was held in the 130 District. It revealed that your Council votes were expected by leadership, even though the budget data provided to you was erroneous, difficult to understand in places, and incomplete regarding current employment numbers. A departmental chart totaling city and BOE employees was missing from this year’s budget document. No Table of Organization, no listing of employees, no indication of priorities from our “second chance” Mayor. Is this the Open, Accountable and Transparent government they promised during the campaign?
“Royal councilors,” you have had a choice for years. If you did not get the information you wished, you could have voted NO, and let the Mayor’s budget take place. All the blame is on him, none on you. Such a vote would have shown some backbone. Has your Lord Councilor McCarthy guided you bravely or steered you into financial quicksand? What do you do now? Perhaps a negative response to everything from City Hall crossing your desk until you begin to get ALL the fiscal information is one patriotic way against this tyranny? Right now it is your “boots” on the necks of many property owners, especially those elderly long-term residents who scrape by on fixed incomes. Without proper representation by you, they are seeing their property values decline and their purses empty. Shame on you.
Taxation without genuine taxpayer representation is our problem today. Taxes increased on 96% of commercial property. What does that say to ongoing efforts of Economic Development in step with those 20, 30 and 40 year abatements of recent years? And examples of “walking away” from or abandonment of overtaxed property is not just a problem in a few neighborhoods. Blight can be pointed out in all neighborhoods.
Our “royal emperor” does not sit on a throne. He is not elected by an open election. He is a retail food business owner who enjoys politics. I cannot tell you where he really lives, although he has a lovely home in Monroe. The power in our system is Emperor Mario and the 89 Democratic Town Committee representatives of his royal court. Democrats elect them, and then they select 93% of our political representation for residents on municipal and State levels. Is there a party platform? A set of goals that indicates concern for all of Bridgeport’s people? Does their leadership speak on the important issues? How do they feel about the 29% mil rate increase? How do they feel about level funding the 22,000 youth in public schools? What are they saying about it, as many of them work for the BOE?
Emperor Mario, come out of the kitchen or the caucus chamber and answer the questions that Mayor Ganim II will not. We are not gathered to discover the secrets of your restaurant business or your true town of residence. We are seriously curious about the burdensome tax increase and the huge increase in funding of public safety without the full story provided on paper. Why are 350 employees who mostly live outside Bridgeport the object of so much fiscal reward when 22,000 resident youth are left hanging? Time will tell.