Jodi’s Jail Deadline, Plus: The City Budget, And What About Shays?

Okay kids, 10 days left to meet Jodi’s Jail deadline.

Governor Jodi Rell wants to place a $20 million juvenile detention center for girls in a residential area of the Upper East Side. Neighbors don’t want it there so after ear-splitting noise Jodi gave the city 30 days to find a less-impacted location.

On Wednesday a key meeting is scheduled to take place when Mayor Bill Finch shares prospective alternate locations with members of the city’s legislation delegation. This is a wise move by the mayor. You don’t want to propose alternate sites and risk another neighborhood freak-out without checking with the peeps’ state-elected representatives.

Clearly hizzoner didn’t have a problem with Jodi’s proposed location but with neighborhood opposition soaring has reinvented his position. So too State Senator Anthony Musto of Trumbull, who had kicked out a press release extolling the governor’s proposal, then said, wait, time out. Anthony, you cannot say, as he told the Connecticut Post, that you didn’t know about it, then supported it, and then proclaim it’s not the right location. That tells me he didn’t do his district homework. Musto’s senate district represents half of Monroe, Trumbull and a portion of Bridgeport. Gee, do ya think Anthony would have paid closer attention if Jodi wanted to stick it in Trumbull? Yup.

State Rep. Chris Caruso has led the jihad against the governor’s proposed site. The Big Wave, no doubt, will weigh in on a new location during the Wednesday meeting.

My suggestion? Build it in Brookfield, Jodi’s home town, but in lieu of my suburban misdirection the city will offer locations with the least impact on city neighborhoods. Finch is trying to balance the governor’s needs with what he may need from her on other projects. Former Bridgeport Director of Economic Development Nancy Hadley, who resides downtown several blocks from the state’s detention center for boys, says that location on the Pequonnock River could be fit up to accommodate the girls’ facility as well. We’ll see what the city proposes and what the state accepts.

The Budget, Always The Budget

The city budget, according to a report that was handed out at the last City Council meeting, shows a current year deficit of $2.5 million, most of it due say city budget staff to reduced funds from the state for slot revenues from gaming operations and payments in lieu of taxes for tax-exempt properties. The state, as part of an agreement signed under then-Governor Lowell Weicker, receives 25 percent of the slot take and shares a portion with cities and towns. The budget year ends June 30, and city bean counters are looking for ways to close that gap.

Meanwhile, bean counters are preparing a new budget for submission to the City Council in April for the budget year that begins July 1. This is Mayor Bill Finch’s third budget since taking office December 2007, and most critical to his reelection effort in 2011. His first budget had a sizable tax increase, second one a mixed bag as reval kicked in. This budget will determine whether he taxes the electorate beyond its breaking point or stays in the game.

Will Shays Play?

If former Congressman Chris Shays enters the race for governor, it’s a game changer. But will he? The chatter has begun and state political columnists are speculating. Right now the GOP side has two leading candidates, Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele and former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley who has lots of his own loot to spend. Neither is well known yet. If Shays enters he becomes a Republican front runner for the gubernatorial nomination by bringing a voter base to the table. Shays’ electoral standing, despite losing his Congressional seat to Jim Himes in Barack’s 2008 election tsunami, is excellent with Republicans. Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District that Shays served has the highest concentration of Republicans in the state.

Shays’ hard position in support of the war provided an opening for Himes riding voter enthusiasm for Barack. The game has changed, however. Connecticut voters are now worried about spending in Washington and spending in Connecticut. Shays was always at his best when he was a Washington budget hawk. Didn’t matter what president occupied the office or the party in control, he was a critic of nutty spending. If Shays gets in he’ll be making a transition from legislative mind to that of a chief executive. It’s been done before. Shays will be in Connecticut on Wednesday as the guest of honor for a roast and toast to benefit Shays sold his home in Bridgeport several months ago, for residence in Maryland, but could he make a return?

Russo’s Flight Pattern

Nice to be a pilot. Bridgeport resident and Congressional candidate Rob Russo received a plea for help for Haiti supplies and responded. See excerpt from a Journal Register publication in Pennsylvania:

By Toni Di Domizio, Journal Register News Service

When more than 750 pounds of medical supplies land in Santo Domingo this weekend, the American Red Cross and people of Haiti have Angel Flight East to thank.

The Whitpain organization is assisting a team of physicians from Lourdes Health System in Camden, N.J., and Virtua Hospital in Marlton, N.J., that are calling themselves “Team Ange,” the Haitian name for angel.

The supplies include orthopaedic surgical equipment, an anesthesia machine, a generator, casting equipment and necessary medications. All supplies have been donated by Shriners and local medical facilities.

“The doctors that reach out to us did a search and found us,” said Maureen Schmidt, executive director of Angel Flight East, which is headquartered at Wings Field in Whitpain. “We have pilots that volunteer their plane, time and fuel expenses so we can transport medical supplies in a disaster time.”

Team Ange has arranged for transportation from Wings Field to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and then on to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Supplies will then be taken to Jacmel, Haiti, by either plane or boat.

The pilots taking part are Rob Russo from Connecticut and Jochen Spengler from New Jersey.

“Over three days, we have been trying to work out the logistics, with clearances and being able to get in and out of ports and finding places where planes can fuel. We put a plea out to our volunteer pilots, and two were willing to do it,” Schmidt said.

Haiti Relief pickup
Rob Russo and friends

Promote The Arts, Good Stuff

From Phyllis Boros, Connecticut Post

Bridgeport, long devoid of a marketing arm to promote its quality-of-life assets, finally has an Arts & Cultural Council — and a Washington, D.C., marketing veteran to head the fledgling organization.

Penny Harrison, who for more than 25 years has specialized in the management of nonprofit agencies, has been chosen from among 40 candidates to lead the council, according to Robbin Zella, director of the Housatonic Museum of Art and one of the community activists instrumental in the group’s formation.

The appointment — made by Zella and other members of the council’s steering committee — is effective immediately. Contacted in Virginia, where she has homes in Charlottesville and White Stone, Harrison said her primary responsibility as executive director will be to organize and enlarge the city’s arts and cultural community so that it can play a larger role in the city’s economic growth and renaissance.

The part-time position comes with a $30,000 salary; Harrison has a one-year contract that is renewable.

“There is so much potential here; it’s so ripe for development. In fact, anytime you have a community located on the water, it should be the focus of a lot of tourism.”

Jump-starting Bridgeport’s economy through the arts will be “a big challenge . . . and I want to be a part of that.”

Harrison said that she is aware that Bridgeport has had to deal with corrupt public officials, empty promises and bad luck, but does not intend to dwell on the past.

“There are enough good people here to make this work. I’m going to keep the blinders on and concentrate on moving forward. I’m starting out with a blank canvas.”

Her appointment follows more than four years of planning, during which a cultural assessment was completed, in part, with U.S. Small Business Administration funding.

That study, done by Massachusetts-based community planning consultant Dr. Craig Dreeszen, determined that the city desperately needed to better promote its individual artists and nonprofit groups, noting that a vibrant arts/culture scene is important to any community as a economic engine and is essential for Bridgeport in particular as a draw for investors, developers and young professionals.

Housatonic Community College President Anita Gliniecki will formally introduce Harrison to Bridgeport at a free, public reception Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at the college’s Housatonic Museum of Art. HCC is serving as the fiscal agent for the council and is donating office space for two years.

Providing the first-year funding

Securing start-up monies, especially with the implosion of the economy, was especially challenging, Zella noted, but was made possible because the funders “understand how important this is to Bridgeport and its future.” Providing first-year funding are the Fairfield County Community Foundation, $25,000; the Werth Family Foundation of Woodbridge, $15,000; the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, $5,000; and the City of Bridgeport, $2,000.

Harrison, who is a self-taught mixed-media artist, will continue to live in Virginia with her husband, Joe Latham, a maker of stringed instruments — and their chocolate Labrador, Indie.

The couple have two sons in their 20s who are both musicians. In Bridgeport, Harrison is renting a furnished apartment from a friend; she plans to spend a minimum of 10 days per month in the Park City and to “also will work remotely” from Virginia.

Her first and most pressing job will be to secure nonprofit status (tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code available to religious, educational, charitable, scientific and literary groups among others), which would aid the group in its fundraising goals, she said.

not a cultural wasteland

As executive director, Harrison said she also will work to combat the notion, rife in suburbia, that Bridgeport continues to be an arts/cultural wasteland, when in fact the city boasts several nonprofits that many American cities of similar size would be overjoyed to have — gems such as the Barnum Museum, Housatonic Museum of Art (with one of the largest art collections owned by a two-year college in America, valued at more than $11 million); Discovery Museum, Greater Bridgeport Symphony, the Klein Memorial Auditorium, Playhouse on the Green, City Lights Gallery, Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Bridgeport Public Library and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. And given its proximity to Manhattan, the Park City is home to numerous individual visual artists, musicians, dancers and actors as well, she added.

Harrison pointed out that she has worked in nonprofit management in various capacities — such as president, executive director, senior manager, project director, fundraiser, event producer, writer and public speaker — and has produced arts events at the United States Capitol, Smithsonian Institution, Kennedy Center and National Science Foundation, all in Washington, D.C.

Her resume also notes that she is the founder of Hispanic Designers Inc., a national nonprofit that she managed for 18 years, where she was responsible for raising hundreds of thousand of dollars, providing scholarships for young clothing designers and producing live runway shows.

She also ran a $7 million public service campaign for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developing a campaign for AIDS education. She also is an Emmy Award-winning creative director for more than 50 public service announcements.

Harrison’s professional certificates include those from the Fund Raising School at Indiana University. She received an associate’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C., and also studied at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

She is now completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she intends to pursue a master’s degree in arts administration.

Tapping into the ‘creative workers’

“I believe the arts can mean prosperity for Bridgeport,” Harrison said.

According to Harrison, author Richard Florida points out in his book, “Cities and the Creative Class,” that more than 5 million “creative workers” live in the Boston-to-Washington D.C., corridor.

And Bridgeport, she said, is becoming well-positioned “to draw some of those workers to our city with reasonable rents, condo sales, factory space, studio space, tax credits” and a host of other enticements.

“Maybe I’m being very naive, but I think it’s time that we go for it.”



  1. Touching on a few subjects. Read with interest the story in the CT Post about the girls’ detention center slated to be built on Virginia Ave. This administration was well aware of the state plans for this site. We have a former mayoral aide Ruben Felipe who was well aware of the state plan and did nothing. We have a state rep Clemons who was on the judiciary committee who states that he may have missed the meeting where this project was discussed. That’s pure BS. Curwen knew about this project for over a year.
    This is just a prime example of people trying to dodge a bullet on this issue. They all knew and chose to ignore it. They could have had a sound plan in place to fight this location but as is the wont of this administration let’s ignore it and it will go away. How many other things affecting Bridgeport has the administration ignored?
    Like I said many times without effective leadership and without competent managers we the people of Bridgeport are screwed.
    Deficit of $2.5 million? Could this have been avoided if we stopped hiring all these retread Democrats as consultants or to new positions created by this administration? Some examples:
    Dennis Murphy, Debbie Sims, Winterbottom, David Dunn, New women in the mayor’s office (by the way how many work in this office) CitiStat (produced not a damn thing) special projects coordinator in PF, New part time job in sealer of weights and measures, soon to be part time job in the FD collecting laundry, new hire at the airport ( councilmen). New assistant chief in the PD and the list goes on and on. I also hear there will be an $85K hiring of another council person in Public facilities. If you know of more I encourage OIB readers to list them.
    Minus out all of these jobs I have listed and the ones I have missed and there is your deficit. The unions stood up and gave back big time and look how they have been screwed. It’s time for a change.

    1. TC, you forgot the new MUNIS financial system they brought in which, with consultants, costs well over $2 million. It replaces the always troublesome, yet workable, Advantage system. We struggled with Advantage for years and when the employees finally got the hang of it, we switched to MUNIS. Go figure! You also missed the new management hires in IT. Not sure what they all do but there are all chiefs and no Indians. Notice I’m not saying anything about the #1 waste-of-a-position @ $65,000 CC’s girlfriend. Whoops I just did!

  2. A couple of random thoughts in response to today’s post:

    Brookfield is a silly choice because Rell has already announced the jail’s coming Bridgeport. She’s talking about a jail within city limits and not another town. You heard it here last.

    Lennie finally applauded a move by Mayor Finch. Can a bear hug & words of praise be far behind? I detect a sea change in our leader’s emotions.

    However, the diatribe has merely changed direction. For the purpose of sensationalism, State Senator Musto was unnecessarily thrown under the bus. I hope he recovers.

    If Lennie can make the transition from adviser to blogger, then Shays can make the switch from legislator to executive. Enough said.

    Lennie mentioned it concerning Bridgeport so here it is: <–

  3. A few thoughts on the Post story in yesterday’s edition (“… a trail of e-mails and transcripts of state legislative committee meetings shows that Mayor Bill Finch and local legislators knew — or should have known — the state planned to build the center on Virginia Avenue at least two years before the project came to the public’s attention and sparked a political firestorm”).

    Looks to me as though Mayor Finch knew about it and was going to bend over and spread for the governor. That is, ’til the residents of the neighborhood got up in arms about it. That is, until State Representative Christopher Caruso started to garner headline ink at his expense.

    State Senator Musto didn’t know of the exact location? Lennie’s correct: if it had been proposed for Trumbull he would’ve been standing with the villagers carrying flaming torches.

      1. You tell me there’s an angel in your tree
        Did he say he’d come to call on me
        For things are getting desperate in our home
        Living in the parish of the restless folks I know
        Everybody now bring your family down to the riverside
        Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide
        Behind four walls of stone the rich man sleeps
        It’s time we put the flame torch to their keep

        Burn down the mission
        If we’re gonna stay alive
        Watch the black smoke fly to heaven
        See the red flame light the sky

        Burn down the mission
        Burn it down to stay alive
        It’s our only chance of living
        Take all you need to live inside

        Deep in the woods the squirrels are out today
        My wife cried when they came to take me away
        But what more could I do just to keep her warm
        Than burn burn burn burn down the mission walls

  4. Please tell me that Teflon Bill won’t get out of this one. Bill knew of this more than a year ago. He didn’t care that he was screwing the East Side. Santiago knew too, he worked in his office. Grogins knew too, as she is all over Bill like white on rice. And Mr. “I don’t know if I went to an Appropriations committee meeting or not” Clemons knew it too. I mean friggin’ really??? Finch had to tell McCarthy and Curwen too. In fact a third of the people in Hartford knew it. Russo knew about it too as it was decided when he was Senator! I am pretty sure Ken Dixon and the press knew it. AND what about our conflict of interest do-nothing Lobbyist he surely knew it. Wood, Rubin and even Tyrone knew it. Why isn’t there more outrage here Lennie?!

    He was caught red-handed in another LIE. His office has become the revolving door of political flunkies. I guess he feels he needs to buy off everybody and their brother by handing out jobs to incompetents. Bill fires the people who disagree with him or Wood and hires sycophants to lick his shoes. I am surprised someone else was hired in the Mayor’s office, there is barely any room with Finch and Wood’s egos.

    1. I’m suspicious of Mr. Finch’s language. “I have held a consistent stance on the location of the juvenile facility for girls in Bridgeport from the beginning,” Finch said. “While this facility is needed, I believe that this is the wrong location, and that it should be located at a more appropriate site.” Look at the soft spots here. “… it should be located at a more appropriate site.”

      Did he make that position clear to representatives of the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families? Or is this just an exercise in disingenuousness?

  5. johnb: Until the people of this city wake up we will keep sending these incompetents to Hartford. We will keep electing city employees and mayoral kiss-asses to the council.
    We have a city of 147,000 and all we keep hiring are political retreads. No new faces except the BOE they have their own hiring coop. You hire mine I will hire yours. Just retreads.
    What other city do you know that hires an economic developer that lives out of state and commutes 60-plus miles a day (one way)?
    Look at the list of mayoral candidates lining up for 2 years from now. Other than Carmen Lopez & Chris Caruso has anyone heard a word from these people. No.
    This is the most backward city in America.

  6. The New American Dream is maintaining a reasonable standard of living while enjoying the work you do.

    Some people note the importance of other successful people in the formation of a happy loop. This can never be underscored. We all need other productive people or taxpayers to complete the loop. Life is simple: there are only two kinds of people in this world. THOSE in the loop and OTHERS less fortunate. Local Eyes thinks economic development is all about getting people in the loop and not about buildings, taxes or foolish incentives designed to lure out-of-town companies.

    Take care of people and those other things will fall into place.


      1. Back on the campaign trail Obama said something to the effect that he had nothing against rich people, that “we all ought to be rich.” I agree with that. The economy hasn’t been very good for a long, long time. It can be described as robust only when everyone is cleaning up, not just the suits on Wall Street (in lower Manhattan, not south Norwalk).

  7. Isn’t work a logical pathway to the glory of wealth?

    Unfortunately, 45 years of deficit spending and inflation have undermined the value of work. We live in the world created by those two things. It’s our biggest problem.

    In 2010, The O.P.I.C. or One Person Internet Company is the remedy of choice.

    Here’s the best part: grab your keyboard, IT’S ON!

  8. *** Back in Dec. “09”, I blogged about a possible outreach for those active Dem. voters interested in participating in a District town committee slate race against the current dictatorship. Well, nothing was heard from the person organizing this possibility ’til last Friday (Jan. 22, 2010). Today I find out that this Weds. (Jan. 27, 2010) is the deadline for the signed petitions with min. of 214 names! As much as I personally would like to see a challenge, I believe its “too little, too late”! *** This year’s budget will be full of “financial smoke and mirrors” to cover the borrow from Paul to pay Peter, Budgets 101 from last year. ***


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