This is a crucial budget cycle for Mayor Bill Finch in the worst economy (for most of us) in our lifetime.
I harp on the budget because mayors generally live and die by their budgets. In a few weeks the mayor’s proposed budget goes to the Bridgeport City Council with major wage and benefit concessions achieved from municipal unions which makes budgeting this cycle not as large a leap of faith as last year when he budgeted givebacks that had not already been ironed out.
This cycle is still extraordinarily fragile given the economic conditions and a state legislature working its way through Governor Rell’s proposed budget. The budget that Finch submits will likely be tweaked by the council based on actions in Hartford. The council will not set the final mil rate until June. The new budget year begins July 1.
The mayor doesn’t want to get sacked with two consecutive likewise tax hikes because the mayor’s zero-wage-increase trade-off with unions provides sizable pay increases in the outer years as he heads toward reelection in 2011.
Several Bridgeport mayors in recent history were bounced by voters even though they did not raise taxes in an election year. John Mandanici, Lenny Paoletta and Tom Bucci were all defeated in years they did not raise taxes. Mandy had major political problems, particularly with the black community that led to his defeat. In the case of Paoletta and Bucci they had already taxed the electorate beyond their breaking point.
Revaluation kicking in places an added wrinkle for Finch. The mil rate will come down, but by how much? Some homeowners will be happy, some not based on the new assessed values of homes.
Best Of Bridgeport
A lot going on in the city this week led by SportsFest. Big-time NCAA hockey comes to the city: Yale, Air Force, Michigan & Vermont. Who says those elitists from New Haven are sports wimps? Shoot, between hockey and Skull & Bones they’re tough enough for me.
We’re launching a new feature today on OIB called The Best of Bridgeport. Why? Why not! Each week, we’ll profile a community leader, an unsung hero, a destination point, a tourist attraction, a restaurant. And I’m looking forward to your suggestions. Post them here or send me an email.
Bridgeport is loaded with amazing folk. Let’s spread the word. First up … Zoo Director Gregg Dancho.
When I was a snot-nosed kid working for Mayor Tom Bucci in 1985 I got to know Gregg Dancho. Gregg was a guy on a mission. He wanted the Beardsley Zoo, today called Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, crowned by the national organization that conveys accreditation on zoos and aquariums.
Such a designation does not come easy, especially when the state’s only zoo is financially challenged. The place must be clean and staff must hold a level of expertise with conditions unquestionably safe for patrons. That means a monkey cannot run free and rip someone to pieces.
The zoo earned national accreditation in 1986, and with it lots of respect and lots more visitors; and it wouldn’t have happened without Dancho. Long ago, with the help of the Connecticut Zoological Society, the zoo’s governing board, a decision was made to focus exhibits on North and South America, with a smattering of exhibits such as the tigers that help drive people through the gates. Gregg is a prince of a guy, accessible, always engaged, great with school groups.
He understands that the zoo is only as good as its customers and relationships. Every year is a battle financially to keep the zoo staffed and modern. But the improvements keep on coming. One of the items on Gregg’s plate is the creation of a jaguar exhibit.
And the thing about Gregg I really like is his tolerance for my stupid curiosities–basically they’re bar-fight questions–such as hey Gregg, if a tiger and lion square off, who wins? Gregg would say a tiger, with a complete explanation. Yeah, baby, a tiger in your tank. Hey Gregg, what about a fight between a tiger and a polar bear?
Gregg Dancho, the Best of Bridgeport.
Yo Gregg, what’s that you’re holding? What City Council member could that be in an earlier life?
Two OIB friends from Black Rock, Bruce Hubler and Mary-Jane Foster, have joined the board of the Fairfield County Community Foundation which supports a number of educational and social services causes in the city. www.fccfoundation.org.
Mary-Jane, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, and graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law, was an original member of the Fund for Women and Girls Advisory Board, a sub-fund of FCCF that supported affordable housing initiatives in the city and programs for girls such as Ralphola Taylor Center, Center for Women and Families as well as summer science programs at Housatonic Community College.
Bruce served as corporate senior vice president and an executive officer at Dun & Bradstreet Corporation. A graduate of the University of Bridgeport, Bruce earned his M.A. degree from Fairfield University and M.B.A. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Bruce has also served on a variety of local nonprofit boards such as the Discovery Museum, St. Vincent’s Hospital Foundation and the Burroughs Community Center.