Keep Your Eyes On the Shiny Object

26Mar14
Copy of Harkins Speech

Copy of Harkins Speech

“STRATFORD — Many longstanding issues are finally being resolved and the town’s grand list is growing, Mayor John Harkins told local officials and business owners…In the last year, the town’s grand list grew by $29 million and is poised to grow even further with new projects coming up.” http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Harkins-touts-building-projects-grand-list-5348778.php#photo-6072108

$29 million? Out of $4.5 BILLION the year before? Does anyone realize that if this $29 million were taxed at the full mill rate, which it is definitely not, that this would only justify a $1 million increase in taxes? Certainly not the $11.5 million Harkins is asking for. Yes, we know some of these big numbers are confusing…maybe even boring…to most readers. But hold on. There’s more.

“And several projects will soon be underway.”
Oh yeah? Like what?

“Town zoning officials recently approved a 45,000-square-foot addition to Connecticut Distributors on Lordship Boulevard”
Isn’t that what Zoning is supposed to do? After all, we are paying the Planning and Zoning Administrator $97,416/year plus full benefits.

“new 500,000-square-foot building of “high-tech flex space for companies” in the Stratford Executive Park, Harkins said.”
Err…isn’t that already there?

“And plans are moving forward on runway safety improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport after the Harkins administration reached a deal with Bridgeport officials last year.”
“Deal”? What deal? Oh right, the one were we give Bridgeport more land and make access to 1,400 homes more inconvenient. That deal.

“Point Stratford Renewal, LLC. The development team is seeking both a special taxing district from the state Legislature and a zoning overlay from town officials in order to redevelop the 77-acre “
“Special taxing district” is the way politicians say “tax-free”.

“And a newly created Redevelopment Agency is now working on ways to bring foreclosed and contaminated properties back on the tax rolls.”
This may be my personal favorite. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, it has been a rough few years for many homeowners in Stratford. The result is foreclosed homes. Harkins will begin the process by doling out legal work on the homes to…wait for it…Kevin Kelly and Jackson Associates (Town Attorney Tim Bishop’s former partners). And who will pay these legal fees? Hint: it rhymes with “you and me”. Maybe Harkins will put that in the WPCA budget where he puts everything else.

“Although he made no mention of what next year’s budget would look like when presented next month, Harkins did note there are still challenges lying ahead.”
Challenges? Maybe we could sell off a sewer plant or a few school buildings. Did the reporter not notice that Harkins had already posted the budget on the Town website? You know, the budget with the enormous raises for almost every single non-union Town employee and hikes in the Sewer Use “Fee”? That budget.

“Taxes are always a concern for our residents,” Harkins said. “It is my job as your mayor to always seek ways to better run our government and invest our resources wisely. We will always look for opportunities for our town and question and analyze the way we conduct business and deliver services to the public.”
Well John, taxes are a concern because you keep raising them. We question and analyze the way you conduct business all the time. The results haven’t been so good, have they? Holding up shiny objects to keep our minds off the pain being inflicted becomes less effective if that is your only trick.

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21 Responses to “Keep Your Eyes On the Shiny Object”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    Just a little perspective: If Harkins gets his $11.5 million increase in taxes (as if the Council wouldn’t approve it 9-1) that would be the equivalent of funding an entire Police Department. Maybe even a whole ‘nother Fire Department.

    $11.5 million is a lot of money.

  2. 2 jezebel282

    Speaking of shiny objects, the BOE budget has finally been published.

    http://stratfordk12.org/images/customer-files/BoardofEducation/MasterBudgetFY14.15Version.IBA15.pdf

    This one is even more unclear than the Municipal Budget. Why are we paying four “ADM-Drivers/Transportation” $56,000/year each? Or is the total cost of Kindergarten Supplies for Lordship School really only $382 for the entire year? You would think a Kindergarten class would go through $382 worth of paper towels once a week. And as far as we can tell, the Assistant Principal at Wooster is the lowest paid at a mere $108,585/year. And there are TEN of those. The costs of line items over the years seem to go up, then down, then up, then down again with no explanation at all.

  3. 3 1cyclops

    Jezebel, you should make arrangements to publicly deliver the rebuttal to the mayor’s state of the town address representing Mr & Ms & Mrs taxpayer. This is awful. What is going to become of the town?

  4. 4 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “you should make arrangements to publicly deliver”

    I think I just did.

  5. 5 1cyclops

    No, no, to a newspaper or on the radio or television – you need equal time, you make a lot of sense and have a handle on it all.

  6. 6 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    This is my forum. It is every citizen’s forum. That’s why it’s here.

    The Stratford Star had a chance to question Harkins about the outrageous raises and merely printed Harkins silly comment about being as “competitive” as any Town in Connecticut. As if it’s a contest to pay appointees the most.

    The CT Post had a chance too when they attended Harkins’ Vaudeville Act in Oronoque yesterday. Not a single question of an $11.5 million tax increase or the burying of pension funds in the WPCA budget.

    The Stratford Patch? You couldn’t find more irrelevant content if you tried.

    Maybe the once a month public forum at the Town Council? They wouldn’t even let Matt Catalano (a Councilman) speak for another 5 minutes. Five minutes! And he’s a Republican!

    I think the best thing a citizen can do is cut & paste (if you think our words are better) or write your own and send a letter or email to Harkins &/or your Councilman. At the moment, the budget rests in the hands of the Republican Town Committee dominated Council.

  7. 7 jezebel282

    Update:

    Stratford taxes a crushing weight
    Published 5:31 pm, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Stratford-taxes-a-crushing-weight-5351801.php

    “Have you noticed that there has been very little “bad” publicity about Stratford?
    Even with the recent release about the potential 5.7 percent tax increase, there has been very little public outcry. I hope Stratford taxpayers realize what a bad idea selling off the WPCA is.
    I also hope that Stratford taxpayers went on to the town’s website and reviewed the proposed budget. If you haven’t, you should.
    You will see the across-the-board pay raises to non-union department heads and employees at Town Hall. Some scream about the union, but their increases are contract driven — some years they get none.
    If you look at some of the increases proposed in Mayor Harkins’ proposed budget, the increase percentages are sickening.
    So, our taxes will go up, and so will their pay. There should be a moratorium on any increases until the town starts coming out from behind the eight ball. All I see when I look around is more homes “for sale,” foreclosed or in pre-foreclosure. Our seniors are being choked out, having to choose between their medicines or food, and paying their taxes and ever increasing utilities.

    Don’t believe what is coming out of one side of the Mayor’s face, because when it’s turned, it’s a whole different ballgame.

    Patricia Clark Sperling

    Stratford”

    Without meaning to offend readers, it is obvious that Ms. Sperling has more balls than any member of the RTC or DTC.

  8. 8 appalledandamused

    “Without meaning to offend readers, it is obvious that Ms. Sperling has more balls than any member of the RTC or DTC.”

    Perhaps you’d be correct if she’d run for office and make her voice count. Well-meaning words aren’t enough.

  9. 9 jezebel282

    Appalled,

    “make her voice count”

    She’d certainly have my vote.

  10. 10 appalledandamused

    mine too. Run, Patricia, run.

  11. 11 jezebel282

    While I have been out and about in the actual world, I have heard plenty of outrage at this budget increase. Especially concerning the non-union wage increases. The voters and taxpayers seem to feel helpless and victimized. We are certainly victimized; we are working harder and longer and we keep sinking. Instead of a life preserver, Harkins has thrown us a concrete block.

    Aside from the enormous cash contribution to the pension fund, Harkins has found it necessary to insult us as well by making non-union town employees’ lives easier at our expense with lavish raises. Let’s make no mistake here. These 8%-45% raises come straight out of our food budgets.

    Now, you may notice that Harkins name features prominently in these comments. There is a reason for that and it has nothing at all to do Republicans or Democrats. It has to do with the mistake we made by voting to change our Charter in favor of a “strong” mayor. Harkins has almost total control over all budget areas. We decided to make it so. Oh sure, there is a Council that needs to approve it, but we also decided to give Harkins a 9-1 majority there.

    This is the result.

  12. 12 1cyclops

    Could not say it any better. If the Council does not adjust this budget and ask serious questions regarding these outrageous salary increases and in a single fiscal year and the mayor’s proposal to sell the Water Pollution Plant, all we can do is smile and pay the increase in July. Goes to state, be careful what you wish for!

  13. 13 ronmoreau

    What disturbs me the most is the Harkins quote at the end of the Post article.
    “”Taxes are always a concern for our residents,” Harkins said. “It is my job as your mayor to always seek ways to better run our government and invest our resources wisely. We will always look for opportunities for our town and question and analyze the way we conduct business and deliver services to the public.”
    A “faux pas’ maybe. But shouldn’t it read “…and analyze the way we conduct business (TO) deliver services to the public.”?

  14. 14 jezebel282

    Ron,

    “”Taxes are always a concern for our residents,”

    That is the true part of the statement. The rest is, well, not.

    You might not be aware that a claim was filed in Small Claims Court against the Town this week concerning non-payment by the Town of compensatory time. It was filed in Small Claims Court because the amount was under $5,000.

    In any other Town, someone from Human Resources would appear in Court, state the Town’s position and be done with it. Total cost to the Town (plus the amount the Town is going to lose anyway) less than $50 including parking.

    In fact, both sides were contacted by the producers of the television show “The People’s Court”. The deal would be they would pay any amount of the judgement up to $5,000. Total cost to the taxpayer: $0.00.

    But not with our Town Attorney! Oh no. Instead the Town filed a motion to move the case to from Small Claims Court to Civil Court where the Town Attorney could then file motion after motion and bill the Town for hundreds of hours of legal fees. http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/CaseDetail/PublicCaseDetail.aspx?DocketNo=AANCV145011025S

    Apparently, no amount of money is too much for our Town Attorney to be paid.

  15. 15 stfdprofessor1

    bend over and grimace…here it comes again

  16. 16 jezebel282

    Speaking of shiny objects, how about a new high school?

    After all, it’s only going to cost $90 million. Does anyone at all believe that number? That’s about as believable as any number found in the BOE budget.

    That is not to say that it won’t have the support of the PTA parents that show up at every budget hearing demanding more money for the children. Never mind that it never goes to educating students. It always goes to administrators. Or maybe to those Kindergarten teachers at Franklin who make $103K each? After all, that’s what it says in the Budget.

    And where to put it? Why not pick the most expensive place we can find? Longbrook Park.

    There are two other options, of course. Now bear with us for a moment.

    Option 1: Move all of the employees of Town Hall to the Birdseye Municipal Complex and convert Town Hall into Stratford High Annex. Something productive might actually get done in the building.

    Option 2. Build a new high school at Short Beach Golf Course. There’s PLENTY of room there. There are athletic fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and parking. Just by not having the golf course we would save $175,000/year. That’s almost two Kindergarten teachers at Franklin School.

    In the meantime, no arguments or debates should take place over the BOE budget until it is completely reworked and resubmitted as if taxpayers were being asked to pay for it. Oh wait! We are!

  17. 17 mikereynolds

    Exactly where in Longbrook Park? In the ballfields on Glendale Ave and Charlton St?

  18. 18 jezebel282

    Mike,

    Does it matter?

    It is quite obvious that neither the Town nor the BOE give a hoot what voters think.

  19. 19 mikereynolds

    Jesus, sorry for asking a fucking question your highness.

    As a resident of the area I’d like to know where in the park the proposal puts the high school.

  20. 20 jezebel282

    Mike,

    “asking a f******g question your highness.”

    What’s with the attitude? In the only forum that actually discusses the matter? But, we’ll answer anyway.

    I’m going to go with logic and reason (I know, I know. It’s a silly thing to do in Stratford). The only area that is not already private property (with homes) is along East Parkway and Allyndale. Not that that would stop the BOE or the Town from declaring eminent domain and driving up the expense.

    But the whole issue is the same as the one about “growing” the Grand List. Stratford’s land is 98% developed. So unless you put it in an already vacant lot like the one just south of Bridgeport Fittings or opposite Public Works on Frog Pond Lane, you are left with re-purposing already utilized land. I’d go with Short Beach Golf Course myself. I’m sure the dozen or so paying golfers who go can find an alternative.

  21. 21 jezebel282

    Update:

    Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the humor that presents itself. Occasionally it appears in print and online and you can go back and enjoy it at leisure over and over again.

    We are, of course, talking about Lou Decilio’s (Republican Registrar of Voters) latest nasty letter to the Stratford Star. http://www.stratfordstar.com/20218/different-definitions-for-who-are-good-people/

    On April 17th, the Star published a letter from Henry Bruce (President of the Old Stratford Neighborhood Association and by all accounts a private civic minded Stratford citizen and taxpayer) decrying the personal attacks Mr. Decilio has a penchant for making on any Democrat in Stratford.
    Mr. Bruce’s “crime” against Mr. Decilio? Hosting a candidate for mayor debate which John Harkins declined to attend.

    Never one to disappoint, on April 24th the newly enriched (at taxpayer expense of course) Mr. Decilio wrote the above response (click on link) attacking no less than five (Count ’em. 5!) political opponents. Including the evil Henry Bruce. Mr. Decilio apparently just loves to dredge up old and usually irrelevant half-truths, innuendos and conjecture about whoever voices any position not to Mr. Decilio’s liking.

    Diverting for a moment from Mr. Decilio’s dark world, we would think that the Republican Town Committee Chairman would at least spend a sentence or two defending the Republican mayor’s insulting 2014-2015 budget. You know, the one with the enormous pension blunder, artificially inflated WPCA expense and ludicrous raises for non-union appointees all at the same time. Not a word. Not one. Could it be that not even The Chairman of the Republican Town Committee can defend this budget? Probably.

    Our advice to Mr. Bruce would be to copy the letter by Mr. Decilio and carry it around in his wallet. Whenever Mr. Bruce wonders whether or not his efforts are worth it he can look at Mr. Decilio’s letter and be reassured that it certainly is.


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