Put On A Pot Of Coffee, The Mayor’s Annual Address

Mayor Bill Finch delivered his annual address to the City Council Monday night. His speech touched on all the usual stuff in the best possible light: the budget, economic development, education, CitiStat. On a day layoffs of several city employees were rescinded as a result of department head screaming, the mayor emphasized that it has been a difficult year for the city regarding finances, the loss of two firefighters, and a tornado strike.

The mayor also crows about reducing current budget expenditures by $3.3 million from last year. Of course he doesn’t mention that this was possible because the city put off millions in fire pension obligations in the hope of a stock market turnaround. He also knighted the government-efficiency CitiStat program a success, despite terminating the two leading staffers for the department John Gomes and Carolanne Curry. He had stated it was great when they ran the department, until a falling out. Gomes is now a candidate for mayor.

So put on a pot of coffee, grab a cup of joe and read the entire address:

This past year has been a tough one for our City.

But with Bridgeport’s typical resiliency we have managed to weather many storms – some figurative and others literal.

A string of unfortunate incidents propelled the City into the regional and national spotlight – torrential rains and flooding in March, a terrorist in our midst in April, a tornado in June, and a month later, our fire department suffered an unimaginable loss when two of its bravest died in the line of duty.

Lt. Velasquez and Firefighter Baik were doing their jobs when fate stepped in. Please join me in a moment of silence in honor of our two fallen firefighters.

With each of these unfortunate incidents, the media was on our doorstep waiting to record each moment and broadcast it to the masses.

What hasn’t made the news, is the considerable devotion to duty that all our City employees (not the least of which are our firefighters), display day in and day out, providing essential City services to all our residents. I want to congratulate each and every one of them for their dedication to their work – what they do helps make this City a great place to live, and as many others are realizing, a great place to do business.

If anything, all these events have shown us that, in Bridgeport, we know how to face a challenge head-on.

For the past three years, we’ve had to make the difficult decisions needed to meet these budget challenges in order to keep our budget on track and to avoid raising taxes on our already overburdened taxpayers. We’re in the midst of negotiations with nearly all of our City unions to close the $8 million gap in the current year’s budget.

We know it’s difficult for anyone working today to give back a portion of their salary or their vacation time, but the alternative is to lose their job during a very challenging economic time. We as a City are trying to be as flexible and creative as possible when dealing with this situation, but the bottom line is – we don’t want to raise taxes!

Two major factors drove the decisions made in the 2011 budget:

• Declining revenues, particularly a substantial decline in state funding and,

• Increasing expenses outside of the City’s control such as healthcare and pension plan contributions.

These two factors have combined to create a very difficult environment for city operations. We did what no other city did – we reduced our budget by $3.3 million this year.

During my tenure in office, we have created a zero-tolerance policy on tax scofflaws. When people don’t pay their taxes, they are cheating all those who work hard and play by the rules. Because of our efforts, the City of Bridgeport has a historically high collection rate, and we are going after every dollar owed to the City in back taxes.

Despite this very aggressive stance on collections, revenues continue to decline in this economic environment at the local, state and federal level. Interest on investment income has also decreased. At the same time, expenses are on the rise, including health care costs, unsustainable pension payments, and a projected huge decline in state revenues.

As an example of how pension contributions have increased due to losses in the stock market: in 2006, the City contributed 13.6 percent of payroll into Fire pension Plan B compared to our current contribution of 27.3 percent. During that same timeframe, our contribution to Police pension Plan B increased from 14 percent to 25.38 percent.

How long can these increases be sustained?

Closing the budget gaps in previous years required extraordinary efforts on the part of all city departments, including concessions and givebacks, departmental budget cuts and reductions in staff to realize approximately $8 million in savings in the 2008-09 budget, and in 2009-10, we presented a budget which, for the first time in recent memory, reduced expenditures by $2 million dollars, all of which came from the City side of the budget. In order to balance our budget this year, we are seeking, and in some cases, have already received some (not all), major concessions from our city’s workforce.

And, for the first time, me, as your Mayor, who has child in the public schools, as well as two graduates, together with the Superintendent of Schools, has been working to create a better climate of understanding and cooperation. While much remains to be done, education reform is necessary if our schools are to improve and be the bastions of learning that I know they can be for our city’s youth.

Our challenges are many, but I am cheered by the many advances we have been able to record while working together “doing more with less.” Following are some of the highlights of the past year. I’ll start with Economic Development, followed by Central Grants and Community Development, Sustainability, CitiStat, Technology and Transparency, and Public Safety.

Economic Development:

In the past year, Bridgeport has shown real vitality while other cities development projects have stalled.

Following are a few examples:

• Urban Green Phase II is moving ahead with $3 million in Housing Trust Fund financing, which will help fit out retail spaces in 144 Golden Hill and the Arcade Hotel, as well as attract a grocery store to the Arcade.

• Bijou Square Apartments – Last spring this project resumed after a yearlong setback due to the difficult lending climate. The project garnered $25 million in new construction dollars, and will mean 84 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space – the first new construction project downtown in nearly 20 years.

• 333 State St., is back on track with funding provided by CHFA and

• GE Money Bank. This adaptive reuse project will convert this long-vacant former office building into 65 apartments.

•The Franklin and The Eleanor – The Housing Authority and the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development worked together to create 110 new units of affordable housing in two distinct facilities in the former Park City Hospital. The $33 million project provides 62 apartments for senior citizens in the Eleanor, and 48 units for low-income and disabled households in the Franklin. The City provided $300,000 of its federal HOME allocation to partially fund the supportive housing component of this development. As Mayor, I also worked with the City Council to use some of our CDBG funds to help provide new sidewalks.

• Price Rite and Food Bazaar – Earlier this year, Price Rite opened its second store at 4425 Main St. – the 45,000 square foot store generated 100 jobs. In May, we helped cut the ribbon at the first Food Bazaar store in Connecticut. The 61,000 square foot store created 175 new jobs in the City.

• And, during the next year, the City is embarking on a multi-million dollar beautification and road paving program, which I have been proud to work with all of you to establish.

Central Grants and Community Development

The City received $19 million of grants during the last fiscal year. These grants funded a wide variety of initiatives and programs all aimed at improving the quality of life for our residents, including:

· $7,819,958 million of public safety funds, including $4.8 million in COPS grant funds in outreach and recruiting to hire a new recruit class, and $1.6 million in DOJ funding for equipment and new “green” police cars;

· $1,900,000 of Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds;

· $8 million of community and economic development funds including CDBG Recovery Act funding to enable the City to demolish the Congress Street Bridge and HOME funds to help Phil Kuchma develop Bijou Square;

· Over $1 million health and social services funding to provide a vast array of health and social service related services to our community

· Sustainability funding including $1,257,600 million of Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant funding which will implement many of the initiatives highlighted in my BGreen 2020 report

In addition, the City is applying for a number of extremely competitive grants, which if awarded, will transform the City and the region in the years to come.

For example:

· The City is joining with New York City in a bi-state regional consortium, which includes New York City, Long Island, Southwestern Connecticut and New Haven to address transit-oriented planning around the Long Island and Metro North rail lines and has applied for $6 million which includes feasibility study funding for an additional Bridgeport train station in the East Side of the City;

· The City partnered with Bridgeport Land Development and applied for $20,000,000 TIGER II infrastructure funding through the U.S. DOT to support the Steele Point Development

· The City also applied for a TIGER II Planning and HUD Community Challenge grant in the amount of $1,500,000 to further the East Side transit enhancements which will help increase development and create jobs.

· Under the auspices of United Way and with numerous public and private partners on board, the City applied for a $446,719 Promise Neighborhoods planning grant to improve the educational outcomes of students attending school in the East Side of the City. These funds will be matched by $241,007 cash and in-kind contributions from public and private sources.

· We are submitting applications for Brownfields Assessment and Clean-Up Grants totaling up to $600,000.

· And two weeks ago, HUD’s regional administrator, Richard Walega, announced the City is going to receive $1.2 million of NSP III funds which will enable us to continue to address the after-effects of the foreclosure crisis here in Bridgeport

· In addition, the City has received a $475,000 federal earmark to assist FSW in implementing a comprehensive foreclosure initiative to support the on-going efforts of our non-profits who are working so diligently on this issue


It’s been nearly two years since I issued my Executive Order on Sustainability, and I’m pleased to report that we have made great progress on many fronts in our efforts to reduce the City’s carbon footprint, consolidating municipal operations, and increasing the public’s awareness of the need to recycle, conserve energy and weatherization.

For its efforts, the City was recognized in 2010 by the Department of Environmental Protection with the Connecticut Climate Change Communities Award. IN 2008, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund recognized Bridgeport as one of its Connecticut Clean Energy Communities.

Since the beginning of 2010, we have:

• Enacted a green procurement policy for all City departments to follow

• Interviewed more than 10 firms to produce the Park City’s first Parks Master Plan in over 100 years

• Moved our Biomass Gassification, Green Energy Park and Energy performance contracting plans for all City buildings forward through an RFQ process, and we look forward to bringing them to you within the next year

• Completed first phase of municipal consolidation plan – Environmental Health and Housing Code have moved into their new space in 999 Broad St.; plans are complete for Vital Statistics and Registrars of Voters, construction to start soon, and the Probate Court design move forward.

• Last July, we launched the Mayor’s Conservation Corps, a group of young adults who go door-to-door in our neighborhoods raising awareness about recycling, energy conservation and stormwater management. They have knocked on more than 14,000 doors throughout the city, taken requests for more than 1,000 recycling bins and rain barrels, provided leads for more than 300 energy audits through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund partners and retrofitted more than 400 donated food barrels into rain barrels, which will help our residents recycle clean rain water, rather than letting it flow into our sewer system where we have to pay to separate it from the wastewater.

Technology and transparency

We have changed our budgeting process to make it clearer and easier to understand, as well as more transparent to all involved, and for two years running have been recognized for our efforts by the Government Finance Officers Association for our budgeting process.

In addition, this year, we re-launched the City’s web site with enhanced features and more information presented in a clearer manner.

We’ve created a Facebook supporters page for the Mayor’s office, which updates its “friends” on a regular basis.

In addition, I use Twitter, which updates directly to the homepage of the City’s website, to allow all our users to see what the Mayor is doing on a daily basis.

This summer, I opened my doors to the community by hosting a weekly Brown Bag Lunch to hear the community’s concerns and ideas about the City. And, each month, members of the community can attend an open forum to share ideas and concerns.


CitiStat continues to move forward with the use of new technology which will help us track customer input and concerns and have real data to show for our efforts. We’re using a web-based program called QAlert, a citizen service request management software to track the many citizen requests we receive every day.

· Earlier this year, we launched the 203.576-1311 Citizens request line and the online component of QAlert called ‘Citizen Request.’ A formal, full roll-out with the City Council is planned for later this year.

· Residents can now go online and submit a Citizen Request to share an idea, report a pothole or other city service that needs attention. They will receive updates on the progression of service

· City employees and the public now account for more than 2,500 requests for service each month. Our CitiStat office tracks response and completion times and follows up with departments on the status of requests.

· Internal meetings are held every other week with various city departments to share reporting data to help identify areas of concern and to improve overall service delivery. 

Public Safety

Our police department has faced a tough year so far, but Acting Chief Gaudett and his team are working hard to engage the community and help residents find ways to settle disputes without resorting to violence.

While one homicide, is one too many, our department has worked swiftly to close the cases, with 16 of 19 solved so far.

A few weeks ago, I joined the Chief as he laid out the framework for his violent crime reduction plan. Since then, we have had three very successful Take Back Our Neighborhood Walks, with several more planned for the coming weeks.

• With $5,000 in seed money donated by the Bridgeport Housing Authority, the gun buyback program has taken nearly 100 firearms off the street. We need more donations so we can entice more people to give up their firearms.

• And, the Community Services division is working on expanding our block watch program – we have more than 30 block watches in the City, but that’s not enough – we want one in every neighborhood. And, I will work with each of you in the coming months to make sure we accomplish that goal.

• In addition, our police officers have seized 180 firearms resulting in 113 arrests this year.

• The Strategic Enforcement Team or SET has been working in all of our neighborhoods and with our residents to help prevent crime. While we have experienced this jump in the homicide rate, we still remain one of the safest cities in the state. Crime overall is down, and we remain one of the safest cities in the state. I also want to commend the officers who patrol our parks. Their efforts over the past months have helped improve the civility and cleanliness of our Park City.

• We’ve taken delivery of 30 new police cars and SUVs that are more fuel efficient, which will help cut down on the amount of fuel used each year.

• The department received $4.8 million in federal Community Oriented Policing money will pay salaries for 20 new police officers for 3 years. Before you can put 20 new officers on the street, you need to recruit them. This summer, more than 2,000 potential recruits started the process, 650 made it through the initial rounds of physical and mental testing, took the written exam, and 415 passed to the next level. We hope to have a class seated by the end of the year. 

Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Our Emergency Operations Center has been activated 47 times this year – 10 of those for major incidents – the March nor’easter, NYC terrorist suspect in May, a June tornado, a hazardous materials fire and high-rise fire on the same day in July, the Vibes, and the RemGrit fire, and the firefighters’ funerals, to name a few – all within 6 months.

We are, in fact, prepared and capable of responding to all types of hazards and calamities in a calm and orderly fashion here in the City of Bridgeport.

• Kicked off ‘Ready Bridgeport’ and will plan events in the coming months to encourage the public to be better prepared for all types of hazards and emergencies by making a plan, staying informed and getting involved.

• Planning for registration for Reverse 911 – Reverse 911 is an invaluable tool that can alert residents with instructions for emergencies before, during and after an incident. Residents can register by downloading forms from the Emergency Management section of the City’s website.

Fire Department

The department continues its fire safety education and prevention efforts through its wildly successful Safe Asleep program, run in conjunction with AmeriCorps and the American Red Cross. Since the program began in 2005, more than 26,000 smoke detectors have been installed in city residences. 

• This summer the department partnered with Domino’s Pizza and Crossroads pizza to spread the word door-to-door bearing food about the importance of smoke detectors.

• And, in June (on the same day the tornado hit), the Fire Chief and I joined Ron Kilcoyne in unveiling a wrapped GBT bus that promotes the Safe Asleep program.

Moreover, I want to salute all our men and women in uniform who have worked hard to do more with less in a difficult economic environment.

We have had a trying year, but I want to applaud the City Council and our City managers and employees for their efforts. This level of commitment to keeping Bridgeport safe, improve our services, maximize our revenue, and do more with less is working, and we are getting through these challenging times.

When I was elected, I promised to make Bridgeport the cleanest, greenest, safest, most affordable city, with schools and neighborhoods that improve each year. While I believe we’ve done much to satisfy those goals, much remains to be done. I ask that we all work together to make Bridgeport a better place for all of us to live work, and play.



  1. What makes it difficult for the employees to give back for the second year in a row is that you blatantly give out raises to your cronies, create new depts and hire a hundred of your friends at the same time you are asking for concessions.

  2. *** For every one step forward this admin has taken, the city as a whole has taken two steps backward. Frankly, I don’t believe the political “HYPE!” *** When smoke gets in your eyes, the only reflection you see is in your mind. ***

  3. “… to avoid raising taxes on our already overburdened taxpayers. We’re in the midst of negotiations with nearly all of our City unions to close the $8 million gap in the current year’s budget …”

    Notice how the speech writer connects “raising taxes” with negotiating Union concessions.

    “… the considerable devotion to duty that all our City employees (not the least of which are our firefighters), display day in and day out, providing essential City services to all our residents. I want to congratulate each and every one of them for their dedication to their work – what they do helps make this City a great place to live …”

    If the Unions don’t give concessions, some of the above mentioned has to go–unless you prefer a tax increase. Then again, the City had layoffs in the past and you still got a tax increase.

    “… a projected huge decline in state revenues.”

    This statement says a lot about the effectiveness of the Bridgeport delegation in Hartford. Why are the Democrats campaigning on the promise of more state revenue? They wouldn’t be saying lies?

    “… in 2006, the City contributed 13.6 percent of payroll into Fire pension Plan B compared to our current contribution of 27.3 percent. During that same time-frame, our contribution to Police pension Plan B increased from 14 percent to 25.38 percent …”

    What do these increases have to do with civilian Secretaries and Janitors? Start by firing those who manage the fund investments. Once employees agree to pay more for their pensions, they will always continue to do so even if the Dow Jones hits 18,000.

    “we helped cut the ribbon at the first Food Bazaar store in Connecticut. The 61,000 square foot store created 175 new jobs in the City.”

    Is this accurate Lennie? How many of these jobs are part time? How many jobs were lost when the former tenant at this location closed? It sound like recovered jobs to me!

    I can go on and on, my OIB friends. For example:

    “… retrofitted more than 400 donated food barrels into rain barrels, which will help our residents recycle clean rain water, rather than letting it flow into our sewer system where we have to pay to separate it from the wastewater …”

    It doesn’t matter if the Sewage Treatment plant gets more or less water. Not long ago the WPCA raised their water pollution rate because they didn’t get enough water and waste.

  4. While I personally think Bill Finch is a good, decent person; as Mayor much is lacking.

    We needed the physical aspects of the City to improve so outside developers and future homeowners could envision why it made sense to invest in Bridgeport. Clean up the exit ramps, the downtown, issue summons to property owners who do not do the same, streamline the permit process, etc.

    With a big budget gap and needing union givebacks, all appointed heads from the Mayor downwards should have taken a 10% pay cut and new hires kept to an absolute minimum. It’s called leadership.

    Since the City workforce and associated benefits are such a huge part of the budget, Mayor Finch should have made this a key platform plank … Improve productivity. That means working to the letter of the contract regarding sick-time abuse, workmen’s comp abuse, day’s work for a day’s pay, etc.

    Both the City and the BOE should bring in an HR/Benefits administrator who knows how to do this. Instead we get warmed-over 2nd-raters or in the BOE’s case the daughter of a councilperson who is in way over her head with a personality that should have her flying a broom rather than ruining a vital department.

    The Labor department should be much more responsive to city managers. The Council president should decide whether he wants to be a labor lawyer or a politician … Can’t be both and be effective. Too much kowtowing to employees because he needs the votes from them and their families.

    This term called for fixing what is broken with the City. Triage–Address the biggest problems first, not calling for pie-in-the-sky greenest city, lowest carbon footprint, rain-barrel nonsense.

    Here’s the dilemma we face; who else is out there to run for Mayor?

    This is really depressing.

    1. Frustrated Bridgeport Democrat // Sep 21, 2010 at 9:35 am
      Responding to your posting.

      I think maybe you may be too depressed. I want to cheer you up.

      Within Bridgeport there are capable, competent, credible and compassionate individuals who could lead this City as her Mayor. And do it well.

      I know I have met, worked with and now support such an individual. At the same time I assure you I know without a doubt there are others in Bridgeport with equal capacity to administer and care for this City, but the public-service arena in Bridgeport is an uninviting arena where public service has become an enterprise of personal gain.

      Few people want to be burdened with the tremendous clean-up and clean-out that must first occur, and the question often is: “where do we start?”

      My candidate knows where to start on the FIRST DAY. As former Director of CitiStat, John M. Gomes had a first-hand view of City of Bridgeport governance gone terribly wrong.

      Is it good or bad that the machine doesn’t bless him? Is it good or bad that the incident at 235 Linen Avenue last Halloween meant to discredit John only confirmed how paranoid the current administration is about John speaking out directly to each voter he meets in his door-to-door?

      Now give it some thought … wouldn’t you rather do something positive here and give us a hand?


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