Searching For City Council Heroes

Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee Monday night addressed the City Council asking “Will you provide your constituents with one or two explanations why you hesitated to help those Kindergarten students and forced them to a lesser place in the education line at the beginning of their career journey?” From Lee:

What would you call an employee in a butcher shop who rested his thumb on a scale that adds weight to your sales slip but nothing to the content you were purchasing? A cheat? You got a shorted package but paid the full price.

What would you term an athletic event that allowed your competitors to gain an advantage (a shorter distance, an earlier start, etc.) over you that will have a significant difference in limiting your results, despite your best efforts and training? Crooked, rigged or fixed? How do you feel about such Rosy Ruiz “marathon moments?”

When the State asks parents to enter children of a certain age into public schools promising a safe place, providing professional instruction and staffing appropriate to urban challenges, will you, as representatives of all the constituents in the City see that need and expectation being met, or not? What should the public call each of you as the 20 members of the City Council who pretend to understand City finances when they vote on an annual budget but fail to reasonably monitor the public revenues and spending subsequently? Let’s defer an answer on that for a moment.

Several of you are employed within or have another close relation with City schools. You know the BOE budget no doubt and remember the school budget was reported $15.1 Million in excess of City and State revenues just to meet increases in normal costs. You probably understand over 170 positions had to be cut overall. You may know at a pre-K to 8 school there is one guidance counselor for 1130 students, less than 25% of what is recommended and only 1.4 Social worker. And do you remember my words about how 47 Kindergarten paraprofessionals are missing from the day-in and day-out formal and regular experience of perhaps 30% of kindergarten students who come to school without knowing alphabet letters or symbol sounds? If they don’t move up a full grade this year for want of patient, skilled and focused instruction, when will that youth learn to read? When will they understand problems in math, and projects in science? How will they advance as far as God-given gifts permit without you providing a fair start to their literacy ability?

Again, I share with you the fact the “corrected” August MFR (monthly financial report) shows a $6.6 Million surplus in the Sales Tax sharing funds from the State of CT for the first time this year. More than 10% of the school year is behind us, but young minds are flexible and adaptable when faced with smart educators who care. Give all of the kids of Bridgeport this opening fair start with all their “brothers and sisters” in other communities who have enjoyed quality pre-K experiences, family support in terms of  reading materials at home, family members to read the riches of print material, and conversation and vocabulary to advance the words stored and comprehended by young minds. Give a fair start to all!!!

The surplus variance of $6.6 Million is available on the Revenue side. Ask Finance Director Flatto to repair the errors in the Police report on the Appropriations side. In fact, perhaps Budget Director Nestor Nkwo might be asked to present you with a Police budget that identifies the exact number of FT officers and non-sworn personnel being budgeted. And the exact number of months they will serve. And provide hard numbers on internal overtime and external overtime, based on past experience and known adjustments. That is not what you have in front of you. Why was this not what was presented last spring? If it is not open, accountable, transparent and honest, please direct him to make it that way for your comprehension.

Will you act on this transfer of funds immediately? These 47 paraprofessionals are the highest priority on the Superintendent’s Budget Cut list for the 2016-17 year. Will you ignore this moment and let narratives about credit agencies and other Mayoral ideas influence your decision to ignore this injustice? Will you provide your constituents with one or two explanations why you hesitated to help those Kindergarten students and forced them to a lesser place in the education line at the beginning of their career journey? Will the public look at you as heroes, or not? Time will tell.



  1. There is a sense on the CC they must wait for Mayor Ganim or someone authorized by him before they can make a resolution. So they are about persuasion, or is it better to call it status quo?

    There are more than a handful of OIB readers who post responses regularly and who served on past City Councils. Will you please comment on this issue?

    If you believe as I do it is criminal for the City to allow the youngest and least-prepared youths attending our schools to fumble unnecessarily with the most basic learning while answers and dollars are available, suggest how this Tom McCarthy-led group of citizens can approach this issue quickly and with some hope of success.

    Mayor Joe Ganim was at United Way’s Bridgeport Prospers briefly this morning and his photos and message was he Supports “Bridgeport Prospers.” Nevertheless the elephant in the room appeared when someone else had to handle his address yet the money from City positive variances is there to restore some of the BOE cuts.

    Who cares about the several hundred kindergarten-age children who are not getting the extra help when it will do the most good? When learning can occur as physical development makes the big connections? And set those who are attended to on a positive course for lifetime learning and the potential careers that will be out there, if you can read, comprehend, reason problems that challenge, and express yourself in alternative ways? Isn’t this what we want for the children in school? Isn’t this avoiding a severe injustice continuing while the Courts and the State Legislature work out responsibilities and a new path to carry urban districts forward? Time will tell.

  2. JML, there’s not a member of that City Council who needs anyone’s permission to submit a resolution or ordinance, they are even empowered to form a special committee of the Council to look into a specific matter not being addressed by the Executive Branch. In addition, by Charter they have subpoena powers in the event a member of the administration refuses to impart information requested by the Council in the course of doing their duty. I’ve been saying for years they don’t know what their office involves, and therefore can’t perform their duties and responsibilities they swore to do under oath. After this election in November, the full attention of concerned citizens, groups, and hopefully the Young Dems will show up at Council meetings to observe the members, how much interest and knowledge they possess, and be ready to challenge them with competent candidates by the convention in July. The nomination means nothing, all that is needed for interested, qualified challengers is to have motivated, experienced, knowledgeable people supporting their campaigns, and we will see at least a 60% turnover.

  3. I had to juggle a BOE meeting and City Council Public comments at the same time. I did catch JML’s closing minutes in front of the City Council and then I ran back up to the BOE meeting on the third floor of City Hall. WE have a huge challenge. We have JML claiming there is excess monies available to possibly assist the BOE budget but we have a BOE board that is being held captive by Dennis Bradley. There may be an excess but the BOE board cannot move forward with one unified voice and use logic/pressure to lobby for funds to be used for Bridgeport schools because Dennis Bradley and whomever is behind him behind the scenes, are in lockstep with this strategy of cancelling/not scheduling regular BBOE meetings and ONLY scheduling special meetings. Dennis Bradley, and whomever is backing him behind the scenes, is not allowing the BOE to lobby for the so-called “excess funds.” WE HAVE A PROBLEM. In addition, this City Council is nothing more than 20 puppets. To give them more credit is a huge mistake. This City Council WILL DO NOTHING. People need to wake up and realize the next opportunity/possibility of any change in Bridgeport governance is to change the membership of the City Council. Unfortunately, I do no see any coalescing throughout Bridgeport to try to make any change on the City Council. VERY DISAPPOINTING!

  4. Lisa, I agree. This city council (and most others in recent years) wait to be told what to do. What JML is suggesting is beyond their comfort zone, which is to show up twice a month for a 20-minute meeting with all matters on a consent calendar. (All in favor? Aye.)
    When Rick Torres attempted to get information to make decisions and take action he was stifled by the Finch administration. He was told reference to the ‘city council’ and their ability to get information was limited to actions by council committees.
    What is the position of the Ganim administration?
    How does the city council assemble information and formulate decisions? Apparently they don’t. They may get instructions at committee meetings but more likely just show up at council meetings and record a vote. All in favor?

  5. Thanks to Lisa P. and Tom W., former CC members, for stating their understanding of the current Council practice and how it differs from what the Charter will allow and what voters may expect. How about a few comments from Bob W., Joel G., Robert H. and others? Better yet, why doesn’t this alumni group show up on a Monday night during public speaking to lay out for the current CC what is possible and necessary in your eyes? You have only five minutes to say something material and there is no party afterwards with food and drink. Isn’t that a sobering viewpoint on the current city governance? Time will tell.

  6. Here are things you hear coming out of the council. I should have voted for that item but did not. I would have voted for that item if I knew what it contained. I could vote for that item but McCarthy and Ganim told me not to.
    Anybody who thinks there are any heroes on the council believes in the tooth fairy. John, I don’t show up at the council meetings to speak but I talk to my broom and mop and I get the same results all the actual speakers get.
    I have two council people who don’t have a clue. They were shouting from the rooftops their support of a second-chance facility for convicts across from the new Harding High. Heroes, yeah right.

    1. Andy, JML, Tom, it wouldn’t make one bit of difference if we showed up. I feel bad lumping them all together, but I can’t identify one who shows any interest in their constituents needs, or the City in general. They sit there like deer in headlights, they open their mouths to say yea or nay, and even then they’re not sure what they voted for. Fabrizi, Finch and now Ganim want to keep them stupid, or at least look that way. I just provided over 50 AB applications to seniors, former constituents with disabilities and some who will be out of town. I also handle at least one problem a month from the residents of my district because they don’t know who else to call. I’m not a TC member or a council member, yet I’m the one they call, and I accommodate them with honor.

      1. At first, I also thought showing up at CC meetings makes a difference. I am having serious doubts about that. I still feel some amount of people showing up at CC meetings makes a small difference (it’s better than NO ONE showing up) but I am getting to the point that all 20 members (and Ganim as well) JUST DON’T CARE.

  7. So OIB readers, an amazing happening occurs in a future month wherein it’s discovered each and every City Council member in the previous 24 hours has suffered a strange malaise. They have lost the human power to hear, to see and to speak. In essence they have become disabled, or are regarded as unable to continue their legislative role. To some in the CC audience it may appear nothing much has changed but looking at 20 people gathered together for City duties, without these necessary human powers, there is such a lack of ability that the community rises up and says, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!!!
    Who will replace them? Who will instruct and train them as to their real and necessary duties? Who will hold them accountable? Will it cause the Mayor’s office any concerns? Do you have any thoughts about this special OIB PASSOVER event? Time will tell.


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