Lopez: City Council President Performs CPR On A Corpse

A wild week closed out the municipal budget season. Legislative body padding its own patronage while cutting the mayor’s people, Illegal meeting called by rogue City Council leadership, charges of job targeting for political purposes. In her latest commentary retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez declares “the President of the City Council wants to perform CPR on a corpse and resuscitate a dead budget recommendation.”

It is no secret that Bridgeport has often been described as the ‘city where the circus never left town.’

It is also, no secret, that Bridgeport’s Legislative Branch, the City Council, along with the Executive Branch, Mayor Joe Ganim, work very hard to make sure that the City lives down to its well-earned reputation.

During the budget process, we have been treated to an all-star performance of the ‘Gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

What a circus!

My husband, during times like these, often quotes former Republican State Party Chairman and State Representative, the late Dick Foley, with whom he served in the General Assembly. Foley had a great one-liner, “Don’t ever let the Good Government get in the way of the politics.”

My husband explains that this one-liner was a play on words and was meant to be ironic. It was an example of Foley’s quick wit and Hibernian charm, and was not meant as a serious statement about how government should work.

As I reflect on the budgetary follies here in Bridgeport, I see that our City Council and our Mayor have taken Foley’s wise crack and turned it into a blueprint for governing Bridgeport.

There is no question, that in Bridgeport, politics gets in the way of good government.

What a perfect line for this scenario!

Let’s look at what has occurred and the manner in which ‘politics’ has gotten in the way of good government.

The City Charter states that the Mayor must submit a proposed budget to the City Council by the first Tuesday in April of each year.

The City Council, acting through its Budget and Appropriations Committee, reviews the budget and using the powers given to it by Charter, reduces or increases any item in the proposed budget.

The Charter requires the City Council to adopt a budget by the second Tuesday in May, which this year was May 10, 2022.

According to published reports, the City Council failed to meet this deadline, therefore, the budget recommended by the Mayor, is the Official City Budget, and the one the City will operate under for the fiscal year, July 1, 2022.

The City Council engaged in a series of meetings starting on April 6, 2022 running through Wednesday May 4, 2022. These meetings were listed on a schedules of meetings distributed by the City Council. The schedule gives each department head an assigned date to present his/her budget to the Budget and Appropriations Committee and respond to the questions of the members of the Committee.

According to the schedule, the City Council anticipated meeting on either “May 9, Vote on General Fund Budget (Possible Full City Council Vote)” or “May 10, Vote on General Fund Budget (Tentative-if necessary)”

Apparently, based on past practices, the City Council relied on the Mayor to call the special meeting for May 10, and never verified with the Mayor, that in fact, a meeting had been called.

There is a lot of speculation by Council members that the Mayor was upset with the changes that the Committee had made to his budget, particularly cutting the Mayor’s patronage employees. Of course, the City Council also added three patronage positions of its own. In other words, a lot of petty politics.

In any event, by the time they realized what had happened, it was too late.

The Council President, and the Budget Co-Chairs realized that they had been outsmarted.

If the Mayor didn’t call a meeting, as he has done in prior years, shame on him!

If the City Attorney, who advises both the Mayor and the City Council, went along with this end-run around the City Council, shame on him!

However, if the City Council leadership didn’t verify that a special meeting would be called on either May 9 or May 10, before leaving for a political convention for the weekend before the supposed meeting, shame on them.

If they didn’t know that the City Charter, requires the Mayor to call a special meeting and that they are powerless to call a special meeting of their own, why didn’t they know?

Are we to understand, that on a matter as important as the adoption of the annual budget, the City Council abdicated its responsibility to do its due diligence and failed to insure that a special meeting was held to deal with the annual budget?

And why didn’t the City Attorney, as legal advisor to the City Council, inform the City Council president that the mayor must call any special meeting.

Was it really more important to be in Hartford over the weekend making speeches and hobnobbing with fellow politicians during a state convention, than tending to the people’s business in Bridgeport?

And, did everyone have to attend the Congressional Convention on May 9, pushing the City meeting to the eleventh hour on May 10, 2022?

And did the meeting that did not happen on the 10th, needed to be scheduled via zoom at 5:00 to make sure that everyone could make the senatorial conventions scheduled for that same evening?

Now, we are advised in its agenda for the City Council meeting on May 16, 2022, that the President of the City Council wants to perform CPR on a corpse and resuscitate a dead budget recommendation.

But that’s what happens when the politics gets in the way of the good government!

Ah Bridgeport, the City where the Circus never left town!

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10 comments

  1. It was a pleasure to see Judge Lopez at the Jack Hennessy fundraiser this evening and watch her eyes light up and a smile form as this post hit the blog. Apparently, we both saw it at the same time.

    There are too many names for the inept City Council leadership in Bridgeport. As it has been said: “if you don’t make the rules, don’t play the game.” If you are going to play, at least study and know the rules…….

    It seems the Council is so used to being told what to do, that when left to their own devices, they fall flat on their faces.

    Who suffers most from this ineptitude? The public schoolchildren of Bridgeport. It wasn’t much, but they just lost out on $500.000 the Council wanted to give them above the Mayor’s budgeted amount.

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    1. Thankfully, the additional 500k (although not much is something) has been promised to be added by Ganim through a budget transfer to be approved by the CC. See post article https://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Ganim-offers-to-raise-school-spending-in-17169282.php?t=013990ffdf&src=rdctpdensecp

      So no matter who’s budget wins the pissing contest the kids won’t be shortchanged any more than they already are.

      Why not have another pissing contest and see which group can come closest to adequately funding education? Ganim you saw the CC $500k why don’t you raise them an additional $500k and show them whose boss? CC you would have to one up JG and do $2 million for education.

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      1. @Joseph S
        I was reading a John Connolly novel this morning and a passage hit home when I think about Ganim and Co.

        “Money could not buy loyalty indefinitely, and the word of a politician was written in smoke.”

        If there is 500K in the budget that can be transferred to BOE, than why did JG2 shortchange the BOE that 500K in the first place?

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        1. Totally agree. I believe there could be millions more for adequately funding education if only there was the will of the Mayor and the CC. Both play the blame game, and the credit game dependent upon circumstances. They also, along with the state, scapegoat one another so much that the public holds neither accountable on Labor Day.

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  2. Judge Lopez thank you! They need to get some of those people out of there it need to be an uprising in the community to challenge some of these clowns! You know who they need to start with take a guess????

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  3. Un-Zero-based budgeting, go’s to show you how poorly we need a Board of Finance, when the Mayor can pull 500K out of his hat.
    The City Council still needs 500 K for a Consigliere!

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  4. The status quo for an explanation of the division of power was challenged this year. The City Council ordinarily sends in a report that adds or deletes budget items or budgeted amounts. There are four categories with entries resulting in a balanced budget. Additions to the budget in certain area and deletions in other positions were of significant difference this year to both parties. Worth a serious contest?
    So the CC completed a balanced budget with a fair amount of detail public about cuts to political patronage area, think of them as jobs that are not otherwise in a genuine budget but identified by him as necessary though he will make no argument for why or how that work is completed.
    It was time to have a meeting, and in the past everyone knew that and it was taken care of. For instance it was on the calendar of budget process. But during the few days between the completion of the Budget Committee work and the deadline date, somehow neither the CC nor the Mayor’s office confirmed and publicized a date. Were they even talking to each other?
    Perhaps on Monday at the regular Council meeting we will learn. Procedure becomes a habit too often perhaps. Will a State law or the common sense of the elected acknowledge the heavy work done by the Budget group on behalf of the Bridgeport taxpayer come to the rescue? Time will tell.

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