9:30 a.m. update: Lots of stuff today including the state budget impact on Bridgeport and an announcement by Mayor Bill Finch and the developer for Steelpointe Harbor, a 52-acre mixed-use redevelopment of the lower East Side, that establishes some common ground to move the languishing project forward albeit without any news that specific retailers have signed on for the first phase of the project.
But it’s a start. Developer Bob Christoph Sr. has pledged a $500,000 non-refundable deposit to the city once the City Council has approved the revised plan and the mayor signs the deal.
The $500k is a far cry from the $4 million the city had budgeted for two consecutive budget cycles in anticipated revenue from transfer of land from the city to the developer that was not realized, forcing the city to make up the loss in revenue by cutting city departments. The deal is structured so that land is transferred based on developer performance.
Christoph projected store openings in 2012. David Smith and Steve Krauchick from www.doingitlocal.com provided the following feed from the event including interviews with Finch and Christoph.
Meanwhile the budget passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature is headed for passage following the announcement by Republican Governor Jodi Rell that she will neither sign nor veto the budget, except for some selected social service line items she says are loaded with pork. The budget becomes law in five days failing a gubernatorial signature.
Rell, in exasperated comments in her news release, says she doesn’t like the spending package but won’t get in its way after months of exhaustive negotiations with Dems.
Tucked inside the Democratic budget approved on Tuesday is some good news for the city: a moratorium on city pension contributions to police and fire retirees saving millions in the short term and restoration of autonomy for the Bridgeport Port Authority that was the subject of a lot of hostility and led to the termination of Joe Riccio as port authority director.
There’s $400k for the Discovery Museum, $380k for the zoo, $100k for the Boys and Girls Club in the state budget.
City beancounters are feeling pretty good that the pension moratorium was passed. The city had not budgeted its state-mandated pension obligation on the leap of faith that the legislature would come to the rescue during this difficult economic climate. Now the city has some breathing room as it waits for the economy to turn around and make those payments in the future.
Several news releases below starting with Gov. Rell regarding the budget and Mayor Finch’s release about Steelpointe
Governor Rell: Budget Will Become Law Without Her Signature – and Without Pork-Barrel Spending
Governor Will Not Sign Bill, But Will Line-Item Veto $8 Million in Earmarks, Other Spending Added at Last-Minute
Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that she will neither sign nor veto the state budget given final approval by legislative Democrats early Tuesday morning, allowing the bill to become law without her signature according to the state Constitution. However, Governor Rell said she will exercise her line-item veto power to remove new earmarks and new “pork-barrel” spending items added to the bill.
“Democrats have repeatedly called this budget a ‘compromise,'” Governor Rell said. “It is hardly a compromise. Last week I put a new budget proposal on the table – my fourth – in which I accepted tax increases I did not want in return for cuts in state spending. The Democrats just could not cut, once again showing they are unwilling – or simply unable – to make meaningful reductions. They refuse to accept the reality that families and businesses accepted months ago: We must live within our means.
“Instead, this budget calls for more borrowing and vague plans for future savings,” the Governor said. “Worse still, in the hours before this budget was brought to a vote the Democrats had the audacity to add more spending. It is as if they believe the people of Connecticut do not care, are not watching and will not notice.
“Because of this complete disregard for our taxpayers, I will be using my line-item veto to eliminate all of the new earmarks and pork-barrel spending. The total is some $8 million – not an overwhelming amount in the scheme of the two-year budget. But this spending is an insult – a slap in the face of our taxpayers.
“I will not veto the entire budget,” Governor Rell said. “However, I will not sign it into law, because I do not believe in this budget. I do not want, by my signature, to put a stamp of approval on their spending, their inability to make cuts or their levels of borrowing, revenues and taxes.
“But a veto will not bring significantly different results, I fear – and the people of Connecticut are starting to truly feel the effects of our stalemate. This budget crisis has lingered longer than any in state history. Struggling families, people who have lost their job or their home, people with disabilities, cities and towns, schools, state agencies and non-profits – all have been left wondering about the future. They need to know state resources are in place and available. Now they will know.
“Let me repeat: This budget is not the compromise I sought – but it is a fight that has saved our taxpayers billions of dollars,” Governor Rell said. “By digging in my heels, I have forced the Democrats to sharply lower their demand for new taxes. They went from $3.3 billion in new taxes in their April budget to $2.5 billion in the June budget, dropping to $1.8 billion in their July budget – and $900 million in the current proposal.
“This budget reduces the corporate surcharge that the Democrats first proposed at 30 percent to 10 percent over the next three years, and excludes nearly all small- and medium-sized businesses in the state. This budget makes significant changes and reductions in the inheritance tax and requires the state sales tax to drop. And it does cut some state spending. Most importantly: This budget crisis must be resolved. For the good of our state, this crisis is now resolved.”
Under the state Constitution, the bill automatically becomes law without the Governor’s signature five days after passage.
News release from State Senators Anthony Musto and Ed Gomes
SENS. MUSTO, GOMES: TWO MEASURES IN BUDGET BILL WILL DIRECTLY BENEFIT CITY OF BRIDGEPORT
Urge governor to sign bill that preserves vital services and helps the state’s largest city
Hartford – Two measures included in the biennial budget bill approved by the General Assembly last night and supported by state Senators Anthony Musto (D-Trumbull) and Edwin Gomes (D-Bridgeport) would not only preserve vital services for low-income and working families but also would have direct financial and operational impact on the city of Bridgeport.
The legislation would relieve Bridgeport of its pension obligation to police and firefighters for the next two fiscal years under conditional oversight from the state-a move that would spare city residents a substantial property tax increase and that will preserve city jobs. The measure has local support from the police and fire unions. The bill also restored local government control to port authorities.
Following the state Senate’s 22-to-13 approval of the bill-House Bill 6802, An Act Concerning Expenditures and Revenue for the Biennium Ending June 30, 2011-early this morning, the senators urged Governor M. Jodi Rell to sign the bill.
“This was not a perfect budget, but it’s a budget that reflects the realities of our current situation,” Senator Musto said. “Beyond preserving things like Family Resource Centers and services for seniors, this budget puts in place language that will help save Bridgeport tens of millions of dollars over the next two years on its pension obligations while moving the city toward a long-term plan. Without this legislation, taxpayers in Bridgeport would have been forced to absorb several million dollars in property tax increases-something that unfathomable right now.”
Senator Musto continued, “In addition, we’ve returned port authority control to local governments and fixed a problem that developed at the end of the session. I would strongly urge the governor to sign this bill.”
“This is good for Bridgeport, it’s good for working families, it’s good for seniors and it’s good for children,” said Senator Gomes. “This bill makes smart cuts and puts things in place that will help protect jobs and programs in our city. We will come out of this economic downturn, but these things will help us out along the way there.”
News release from State Rep. Don Clemons
Bridgeport Lawmakers Tout City Benefits of State Budget
The Chairman of Bridgeport’s legislative delegation Representative Charles “Don” Clemons Jr. (D-124) said the new state budget adopted by the General Assembly has many benefits for the Park City. Despite cuts to numerous state funding programs, Clemons said Bridgeport fared well citing $164.2 million of state aid for local education, a special pension contribution exemption, grants for various city institutions, and retention of an autonomous Port Authority.
“The delegation successfully combined efforts to ensure Bridgeport earned our fair share of the state budget pie,” said Clemons, who also serves as chairman of the Legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and is a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committees. “I’m proud of our work to help solve this budget crisis, but most importantly we were able to minimize the potential negative impact on Bridgeport residents.”
The budget contains a $406,125 grant for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum as well as $380,000 for Beardsley Zoo. Clemons also highlighted a $100,000 matching grant for Bridgeport Boys & Girls Club.
The pension exemption will allow the city to save tens of millions of dollars by suspending 2009-11 payments to the policemen and firefighters retirement funds by arranging for long term financing for the liability. “This is a huge savings for city taxpayers, without compromising the integrity of the pension fund,” said Clemons, a retired firefighter.
Overall, the $37.6 billion budget for 2010-11 represents a compromise with Governor Rell that erases an $8.5 billion deficit with a combination of spending cuts, borrowing and new revenues, mainly from an income tax increase on the wealthy. The plan also calls for a small reduction in the state sales tax, which will benefit all state residents, Clemons noted.
News release from Mayor Finch re: Steelpointe Harbor
City, Steelpointe Harbor Developers Announce Tentative Agreement for 52-Acre Development Site on the Harbor
Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport Landing principal Bob Christoph Sr., today announced a tentative agreement for Steelpointe Harbor, a nearly 3 million square-foot development on 52 acres in the City’s East Side.
The plan will be the biggest and most important economic development project in the City’s history, encompassing 1.1 million square feet of commercial space and 1.5 million square feet of residential and 250,000 square feet of residential or hotel space. The City retains ownership of the property and will allow the developer to acquire it in phases as they meet specific milestones as delineated in the agreement.
“We have crafted an agreement that addresses the City’s most important objectives in creating this development – growing the City’s tax base, creating jobs for Bridgeport residents and reclaiming the waterfront for public access and use,” said Mayor Finch.
“The national economic situation has left many cities with stalled or forgotten developments, but Mr. Christoph is willing to use his own resources to kickstart this development. The city of Bridgeport is very lucky to be working with Bob Christoph and Bridgeport Landing Development,” Finch added.
The work on the site will be done in phases, and the developer has agreed to work with the City in the short term to create waterfront access to the site for the public, something that has not existed on the peninsula for more than a century.
“This care and planning has paid off. Today this project, Steelpointe Harbor, is poised to move forward. The intense and lengthy process of study, interviews, analysis and evaluation have resulted in a development program that is structured to anticipate and capitalize on opportunities that this economy presents. This development agreement and plan can be successfully developed and become the catalyst for additional development that is contemplated in Bridgeport’s Master Plan.”, said Bob Christoph Sr., Principal of Bridgeport Landing Development LLC.
“During the past 18 months, despite the economy and all the hardships its has presented, Mayor Finch and his administration have worked together with the my team to understand, position and re-align the Steelpointe Harbor project so it can move ahead and succeed,” Christoph added.
“The Steelpointe Harbor agreement is a great step forward in our efforts to revitalize Bridgeport’s economy,” said Congressman Jim Himes, D-4. “Steelpointe will create good-paying local jobs and help transform the waterfront into an accessible, vibrant, exciting center for development.”
The development agreement will be presented for referral to the Committee on Economic and Community Development and Environment at the City Council meeting on Sept. 8.
About Steelpointe Harbor
Steelpointe Harbor is an urban mixed-use development. Its design uniquely captures and embodies the most desirable characteristics of a modern, harbor-side neighborhood. Its balanced mix of retail, restaurant, entertainment, commercial and residential uses will allow its residents, visitors and the public to stroll, participate and enjoy the waterside and other activities through a planned network of streets, broad sidewalks, plazas and a continuous harbor walk. Steelpointe Harbor will deliver a complete, one of a kind waterside experience and destination for the citizens of Bridgeport and the region at large.