When Red Ink Flows, The Trapdoors Of Election-Year Budgets

In 2007, mayoral candidate Bill Finch promised a dubious $600 tax cut as a strategic edge in his Democratic primary struggle over party outsider Chris Caruso with the winner inheriting an election-year budget crafted by incumbent John Fabrizi who had opted out of reelection in the spring following revelations of cocaine use and then seeking leniency in court on behalf of a sexual offender. Finch squeaked out the primary on his way to a general election win while the financial bomb was ticking in Fabrizi’s budget.

Election-year budgets in Bridgeport have a heralded history of spewing red ink. Fudge the tax collection rate, plug in a phony number over here, inflate revenues over there. Isn’t it amazing, Fabs did not raise taxes in his election year, Finch did not raise taxes in his first election year. Then taxes rise the following year. When you become mayor one of the first things you do is call in the budget director, in this case Tom Sherwood, and ask, are we in the red and by how much?

Finch assumed office December 1, 2007, but as winter turned to spring in preparation of his first budget as mayor Finch said little about the financial bleeding he had inherited from the budget year that started July 1 although he had plenty of time to cry foul. Then Finch four months into his mayoralty submitted his budget with a walloping tax increase and lo and behold he blamed Fabrizi, declaring there’s a $16 million deficit!

If you’re going to blame your predecessor it’s best to do it right out of the box rather than waiting four months for fear voters will blame you for not addressing the problem sooner and hold you accountable. Finch stumbled out of the gate on a number of measures following his 2007 election that prevented him from building good will with voters. Finch never found a governmental comfort zone with taxpayers irrespective of winning a second four-year term because they felt he often did not come clean about things that impacted their lives.

Joe Ganim will receive the oath of office December 1. One of the first things he will do–if he doesn’t learn it sooner–is call in the bean counters and ask, okay kids what’s the status of the budget?

Three weeks from his inauguration Ganim is contemplating a number of governmental items including who’ll be City Council president.

Ganim had the mayor’s job for more than 11 years so he knows the reality. If there’s bad news, it’s best to trot it out as soon as possible, otherwise you risk owning it.

Soon enough, we’ll find out about Finch’s election-year budget.



  1. When considering the current City Council composition and looking at the lay of the political land, my first guess would be Lyons. Second guess, Martinez-Walker.

  2. He’s got a key to the trapdoor. I hope JML maintains his “job” as chief protagonist for fiscal matters. If money is mankind’s most accurate measuring device, JML is Bridgeport’s chief forensic accountant. He puts a spotlight on misplaced dollars.

  3. Local Eyes,
    Looking after public dollars, those raised by various levels of government through taxes and fees, and thus removed from individuals or businesses spending in other pursuits, has been an interest of mine for some years now.

    It is not a “job” since I was never hired by a “boss” and I receive no worldly compensation for the efforts I make. One comes to see dollars used for intended purpose, but without accomplishing anything. At least they were honestly spent, though it can be reasonably argues that these were wasted. Many other dollars disappear from the public purse with little or no accountability or transparency, so the public is left in the dark, with empty pockets and spirits. Enough of that happened in the Finch years in office that a tremendous resentment formed, the anti-Finch movement.

    But when one looks at the election results, it can be seen the forces of process status quo won the day. It was not a revolt of principle, but of persons and personality. Has OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST process and governance been moved one step forward with Joe Ganim’s win? Time will tell.

  4. NEVER has the world made a collar strong enough to restrain the watchdog named John Marshall Lee. The voters didn’t give him a bite so the status quo should prepare for his bark.
    Add “wise” and “convincing” to the adjectives JML brings to the discussion of political accountability.
    Bonus: www .newser.com

  5. Going back to when Joe was initially mayor, he was very content with dealing with the council president directly and letting the president line up the votes. He would occasionally meet directly with committee chairs/vice chairs to discuss specific items but not at the exclusion of the council president.
    When Joe became more intimately involved with items before the council that were personally important to him (if you know what I mean), he started going behind the president’s back and negotiating with individual council members.
    I think it will be a telling sign if Joe gets deeply involved in the question of who is going to be the council prez.

  6. On a similar note, has anyone else noticed the composition of Joe’s posse when it comes to public appearances? Am I the only one who sees the lack of females among his close and trusted advisers?
    This is but another small sign as to how much or how little Joe has really changed.

    1. Bob Walsh // Nov 9, 2015 at 5:10 pm
      To your post
      Get over it. There is no lack of women among Joe’s closest advisers. Quick lesson for you. It’s known men do not generally like to use the words “woman” or “women” because they accord women an equality men do not want to give. No need to protest this. If you had used the word “women” in your initial observation, it would have been a thought worth my consideration.

      1. Carol,
        The word females is offensive to you and women is not???
        Please, you know I am right and you are simply try to deflect the point.
        Please name all the WOMEN who held a position of Director or Deputy Director during the 12 years of G1.

  7. When Joe Ganim became mayor in late 1991, Bridgeport’s finances were scrutinized by the State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management as part of oversight in return for guaranteeing $58 million in bonding the city issued in the Bucci administration.
    The city council’s budget committee was lead by an attorney with an accounting degree and a bank officer with an MBA.
    Other than John Lee, what has been the budget oversight in recent years? Tom Sherwood has been called upon to balance budgets often using the shell game approach.
    I believe the challenges for G2 (second Ganim administration) are more complex than when he became Mayor in 1991. The challenge back then was balancing a budget. The challenge now is dealing with so many unknowns including property revaluation. Austerity measures will be needed, something Finch and McCarthy ignored.


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