Lotsa Questions–Does City Council Have Answers?

Citizen fiscal scrutineer John Marshall Lee speaks regularly during the public discussion portion of City Council meetings. He comes armed with numerous questions about spending. Lee’s Monday night address to the council:

When you listen to taxpayers complain about increasing taxes, or about big increases what is your gut reaction as a representative of the people? Whose money is “taxpayer money?” City property taxes pay about 50%, of City/BOE expenses, with thirty percent from the State of CT. Federal funds and local fees or sale revenues make up the difference. Bridgeport citizens contribute to each of these sources.

Once taxes are paid to the Tax Collector, what is reasonable for a taxpayer to expect as to the use of those dollars? Should he see them spent in certain basic ways that are announced as budget priorities? Should she see them accounted for in ways that make sense, that are accurate and also timely? Is that practice current in Bridgeport today? When budgets are presented, are they compared to several actual past years to show trends? Are they accompanied by statements telling how and where they will be measured by City managers, and seen on the City website?

Where are the reports with quantified measures that can be compared to other periods or other municipal best practices by local watchdogs? Actual reports monitoring police overtime, as an example?

Should we eliminate any expectation that a pre-election claim by a campaigner should be honored once he gains office? That would be silly wouldn’t it? Draining the swamp, for instance? Or closer to home, STOP RAISING TAXES? Or hiring 100 police in a year and hearing that it has likely taken more than two years, and the public is not yet informed about police retirements during that time period or the number of newer and younger public safety officers who have left the City for positions in other cities? 100 hires but what is the net effect to the Department? We don’t know, but the City will still crow about training 100 new officers. Does that make sense?

Who negotiates our contracts and agreements? Why aren’t we bragging about the way they show win-win-win for taxpayer, administration, and business contractor? If we have 30, 50 or 90 political appointments, untested and unofficial, or should we say political, what is that expense of salary and benefits? What priority is accomplished other than getting out the vote at election time?

What about handling funds in prudent manner where you show real savings, and can demonstrate that to taxpayers?!! Would that build a climate of trust in the system? When using taxpayer money, who is looking to come home with the best deal possible? Best possible compared to what? If it is poorly budgeted, that is, without a priority attached, does that mean it needs to be spent this year?

If the financial issues are genuinely public, then the anticipated value of a completed project can be compared to its total expense. But if the process is not OPEN and TRANSPARENT then little light is shown on such matter and expense and value can be very far apart. Lighthouse supposedly has a fund worth hundreds of thousands. It has come about from taxpayer contributions or parent fees over the years. Why is that lump sum held aside and not spent on the program during the year like other departments? Who will explain this concept and not showing the reserves in an operating budget? Is the City reporting all revenue expectations when it asks you to approve the operating budget?

And if a purchase does not consider all operating expenses, can you find yourself with greater expenses than one can obtain from outsourcing to a private taxpaying firm? Is that what has happened with In Plant Printing where no revenues were shown until this year and revenues stopped being reported after one month? Take a look and see that Finance Office revenue estimates are woefully off base. Why?

What body in the City of Bridgeport sees HONEST ACCOUNTABILITY as its task and duty to the taxpayer? Why does the Council have to fight to get info presented in a manner that makes it easier for comparisons to be made and progress to be discovered? Why does the Finance Director present narratives and financial reports for six months into a new year, sensing they are in error, but making no comment about the past year until the CAFR is published? Where is a CAFR meeting with the Council sharing results with taxpayers? Time will tell.



  1. Ron Mackey continues with crickets? No money at stake for that man. And no questions that are worth answering either, I suppose? Mutuality in answering? Mutuality in pursuing reasonable long term answers for the City where watchdogs are out of favor, though we have an official office of accountability?
    Ron, do you believe as some people of color recommend that you have to publicly perform twice as good as whites do in daily life to maintain your place? Or do you have a different spin on human equality, personal character and opportunities for growth and development. Just asking, as I learn about such philosophies of Booker T Washington, w.e.b.dubois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King to say nothing of the differing views of outstanding women of color? Teach man.
    By the way, perhaps these are not crickets, but locusts, consuming everything that is not tied down and guarded? Is that type of infestation equally worth sharing to that which the Bridgeport community does not know because it has not been shared widely? Time will tell.


Leave a Reply