Go Figure – Turns out Bridgeport voters aren’t the only ones who appreciate the right to vote

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch…Upon hearing the news that his proposal to do away with a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one made up of people appointed by him, Bridgeport’s Mayor said, “While I believe that the New York, Boston and Providence model would have ensured greater progress for our schools and better results for our students, I will devote an equal amount of energy to improving our schools, accepting that the current model of government means that I have no legal authority to direct our school system.”

Although there is absolutely no evidence that cities with boards of education that are appointed by mayors have better academic results than do cities that have boards elected by the people, clearly Bridgeport’s mayor is upset that his record-breaking campaign to wrestle control of the board away from the voters was unsuccessful.

Finch may find it comforting to know that he wasn’t the only mayor to get slapped around on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Obama’s initial chief of staff, also got a wake-up call from his constituents on Election Day.

In a little known advisory referendum, some Chicago voters had the opportunity to cast their ballot in favor of an effort to turn the Chicago Board of Education into an elected board, rather than one appointed by the Mayor.

And incredible 87 percent of the voters who had the opportunity to vote came down on the side of an elected school board for Chicago, rejecting the Mayor’s demand that only he have the authority to determine who could be on Chicago’s school board.

The Raise Your Hand Coalition, a group of parents and public school advocates, were able to collect enough signatures to get the ballot question listed in 327 of Chicago’s 2,000 voting districts.

When the results were announced, 65,763 Chicago residents voted in favor of having an elected board of education while 10,174 voted in favor of maintaining Mayoral control.

The primary criticism has been that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has packed the Chicago Board of Education with pro-charter school, anti-union, anti-teacher, corporate elite, people who pro-education activists claim are, “out of touch with the public schools and should not be making decisions about them.”

As was the case here in Connecticut, Mayor Emanuel has claimed that, “an elected board would only inject more politics into an already political system,” a truly bizarre argument, considering the right to choose one’s representatives not only resulted in the election of Mayors Emanuel and Finch in the first place, but it is the very inalienable right to voting and selecting one’s representatives that many of us claim makes the United States the greatest democracy in the world.

In Chicago, the pro-elected board forces say that their next goal is to hold a citywide referendum on the subject.

One wonders if Mayor Emanuel will ask Mayor Finch to come to Chicago and help campaign against democratic rights in the Windy City.

More at http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=3761&section=Article or check out the pro-democracy effort in Chicago at:  www.ilraiseyourhand.org

Rejection of “education reform” proposal in Bridgeport will have repercussions

The defeat of Mayor Finch’s charter revision proposal that would have done away with an elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by himself will have significant repercussions within Bridgeport and across the State of Connecticut.

While the move toward mayoral control of boards of education has been far more limited than the Finch operation claimed during the recent campaign, the national “education reformers” have made it a high priority and have had a string of successes.  Bridgeport was widely expected to be their next big win.

But the “education reformers” were wall0pped yesterday as the voters of Bridgeport rejected their mayor and the City’s incumbent democratic apparatus.

The defeat was especially relevant since this year Connecticut found itself as one of the new battleground states in the effort to privatize America’s public education system.

As many of us watched in disbelief and disgust, the education reform debate began to take shape last February when Democratic Governor Malloy proposed the most anti-union, anti-teacher, “education reform” bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

In such an environment, Democratic Mayor Bill Finch’s charter revision effort was far more than simply a debate about whether Bridgeport should have an elected board of education or one appointed by the city’s mayor.

The battle was actually part of the broader charter school and privatization effort that is sweeping Connecticut and the nation.

In Bridgeport, the “Vote Yes” forces engaged in a historic effort and their corresponding level of campaign spending was truly unprecedented.

Taken together, Residents for a Better Bridgeport, StudentsFirst and Excel Bridgeport, a corporate sponsored education reform group,  appear to have spent more than half a million dollars to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to choose  who should serve on the local Board of Education.

And vast sums of the money behind the “Vote Yes” campaign came from out-of-state organizations or from major Connecticut corporations, most of who would never get involved in a local squabble, if they didn’t believe that this battle was tied to important players and forces far beyond the Bridgeport City borders.

Despite the sophisticated and extensive campaign the “Vote Yes” forces implemented, all three of the major funders managed to engage in extensive campaign finance violations, actions that will mean that all three groups will probably face significant civil, or even criminal, fines, in the near future.

[In addition to the campaign finance complaint that I’ve already filed against Residents for a Better Bridgeport, I’ll be filing an updated complaint against that group, and corresponding complaints against Excel Bridgeport and StudentsFirst].

One of the most striking developments in the entire campaign was the arrival of Michelle Rhee’s national education reform advocacy organization, StudentsFirst, although here, in Connecticut, they’ve created a front-group called GNEPSA.  Just a couple of weeks before the Bridgeport vote Rhee dropped $100,000 into the effort to pass Finch’s proposal, and that doesn’t even count the tens of thousands more that they failed to reveal in their campaign finance reports.  New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, added his own $20,000 to the effort.

In addition, Rhee’s husband, a former NBA star, who presently serves as the Mayor of Sacramento, California, also came into Connecticut to join Mayor Finch and Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas, to push the anti-democracy proposal.

With yesterday’s defeat, the question on the minds of many observers now is what happens next in the effort to improve Bridgeport’s school system?

That is certainly a fair and important question, and both sides will have to commit themselves to working together, but the more important underlying question is really what will Mayor Finch do as the real issues and challenges facing Bridgeport’s schools become apparent?

For example, there still hasn’t been an investigation into how Bridgeport Superintendent Vallas was allowed to sign more than $12 million in illegal no-bid contracts.

Furthermore, the Board of Education has failed to discuss the fact that Bridgeport’s school budget is not balanced, as Superintendent Vallas has claimed, and a growing deficit will soon be appearing on the City’s books.

And finally, although neither Finch nor Vallas have acknowledged the issue, Bridgeport is facing serious financial penalties and repercussions due to their failure to meet the State of Connecticut’s minimum expenditure requirement law.

Equally interesting will be to see what happens next with the “education reformers.”  Rhee, Vallas and the rest of the national “reformers” have plenty of other irons in the fire and places to go where they can make money.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see many of them head for the state line, but regardless, the political and financial fallout of their failed policies and politics will land squarely on Mayor Finch and his administration.

With a democratically elected board of education in place, rather than an appointed board, the primary difference is that voters will now learn of the problems sooner and will, undoubtedly, be demanding answers.

With a board made up of democratically elected members, those board members will have to respond to those concerns, even if the Mayor would prefer that they duck the problems.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here is a flyer that the Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate campaign has been handing out in Bridgeport.

Of course, the piece is highly misleading.  Neither McMahon, nor anyone associated with her campaign, did anything meaningful to support the effort to defeat Mayor Finch’s proposal to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education.

In fact, this piece is so misleading that it proves, yet again, that McMahon will say or do anything to get elected — even lie.

So I’ll cast my ballot as I had originally intended, because I appreciate that maintaining control of the United States Senate is vital to the success of an Obama second term.

That said, the fact that Connecticut’s Democratic leadership, including Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman, either supported or remained silent as Mayor Finch and the “education reformers” worked to remove the fundamental right of Bridgeport’s citizens to choose members of their Board of Education is a sad and disgusting reminder that for some, principles and values are a thing of the past – fallen by the wayside – in the face of political expediency.

The result is that here in Connecticut we’ve learned that the effort to undermine citizen participation in their government is not a practice reserved to the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party.

The core message of the anti-democracy forces in Bridgeport is that since an earlier elected board of education was “dysfunctional,” Mayor Finch’s desire to appoint all the members of the Board of Education is warranted and appropriate.

Meanwhile, in the face of a dysfunctional United States Senate and House of Representatives, if a sitting President of the United States moved to do away with an elected Congress and sought to replace it with one appointed by himself, we’d call it Unconstitutional, and if necessary, take up arms to end the treasonous action.

But in this case it is only a Board of Education, it is only Bridgeport, and neither the federal or State Constitution actually prohibit the change, so who really cares?

In a nation in which we call dying to protect our country and its principles, the “supreme sacrifice,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. words echo particularly loudly – “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

Bridgeport’s critical care hospitals are among biggest funders to Bridgeport’s anti-democracy effort

On Tuesday, thanks to Mayor Bill Finch and his team of advisers and associates, the voters of Bridgeport will be asked to give up their democratic rights to choose the members of Bridgeport’s Board of Education.  Instead, the Mayor will take over that task.

A coalition of “education reformers” and corporate executives in Fairfield Country are spending a record amount of money to convince Bridgeport voters that it is in their interest to VOTE YES on Question 1, although they go out of their way to make sure that voters don’t understand that a YES vote on Question #1 actually means the people give up their right to select who should oversee Bridgeport’s schools.

QUESTION #1 (misleading language reads):

“SHALL THE CITY OF BRIDGEPORT APPROVE AND ADOPT THE CHARTER CHANGES AS RECOMMENDED BY THE CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION AND APPROVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL, INCLUDING EDUCATION GOVERNANCE REFORMS?”

Residents for a Better Bridgeport, is the Political Action Committee that is leading the Mayor’s effort.  Along with the corporate advocacy group Excel Bridgeport, Inc. and the national “education reform” group StudentsFirst, the Mayor’s operation will break all spending records on a charter reform vote.

Bridgeport Hospital and St. Vincent Medical Center are two of the largest corporate donors to Residents for a Better Bridgeport.

Bridgeport Hospital donated $14,422.90

St. Vincent Medical Center donated $14,400

Bridgeport has two major urban hospitals that are dedicated to providing emergency and critical care to the people Bridgeport and Fairfield County.  However, apparently they both have the financial resources to make maximum donations to an effort to undermine democracy in the city that they call home.

And yet, every year, these two hospitals beg the Governor and General Assembly for financial support to stay in business.

Last year, Bridgeport Hospital provided $13.6 million in care to people who had no health insurance.  Add in the bad debts from people who couldn’t pay their full bill, and Bridgeport’s total level of uncompensated care exceeded $41.9 million

Meanwhile, St. Francis provided $9 million in care to those with no health insurance.  Add in their bad patient debts and St. Vincent’s total uncompensated care was $41.8 million.

So how do these hospitals stay in business?

The State of Connecticut provides these hospitals with major subsidies, using taxpayer funds.

Think of it this way… Without your knowledge or support, some of your tax dollars are going to fund Mayor Finch’s power grab.  Of course, when it comes to using scarce resources, the corporate executives as these two hospitals find other favorite areas of expenditures:

Bridgeport Hospital:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO William Jennings:          $764,770

Senior Vice President of Finance/CFO:          $688,999

Senior VP of Human Resources:          $468,241

Senior VP/COO:          $458,001

Vice President:          $452,611

 

St. Vincent Medical Center:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO Susan David:          $1,484,755

Senior VP of Finance/CFO:          $567,478

Senior VP:          $456,215

Vice President:          $455,920

So next time you pay your taxes, or write out your health insurance premium payment, take a moment to remember just where some of that money is going.

And it’s not like there is no one who could step in and stop this madness.  The following are the members of the Board of Trustees for Bridgeport Hospital and St. Vincent Medical Center, but then again, maybe they are just going along for the ride.

Bridgeport Hospital Board of Trustees:

David Bindelglass
Emily E. Blair
Gayle L. Capozzalo
George P. Carter
John Falconi
Robert S. Folman
Richard M. Freedman
Janet M. Hansen
Richard M. Hoyt
William G. Hulcher
Peter F. Hurst
William M. Jennings
Newman Marsilius, III
Patricia L. McDermott
Ronald B. Noren
Jeffrey P. Pino
Meredith B. Reuben
Howard L. Taubin
 

St. Vincent Medical Center Board of Trustees

Sr. Martha Beaudoin
Peter Boone
Susan L. Davis
George Goldfarb
Daniel Gottschall
Edward T. Grossman
Sr. Maura Hobart
Anthony Milano
Manuel Pun
Ruben Rodriguez
Charles Strauss
Anthony Vallillo
Brian Worrell

United Illuminating (UI): One of biggest donors to Mayor Finch’s effort to undermine democracy in Bridgeport

True the $10,000 donation from United Illuminating to Residents for a Better Bridgeport occurred before Hurricane Sandy hit.

And true an extra $10,000 wouldn’t allow a substantively different response by UI to this natural disaster.

But with 41,794 UI customers still out of power as of 11:00 a.m. today – November 3rd, 2012, – a week after the storm hit, the symbolism is – let’s just say – shocking!

UI is a Connecticut public utility company; it provides a public benefit so it is regulated by the State of Connecticut.  It exists because we, the people, allow it to exist.

Here we are, a state in which 10 percent of the people are unemployed and nearly 1 in 5 are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work. And UI, a company with some of the highest electric rates in the nation is siphoning off money to play politics in Bridgeport.

Next week we’ll investigate and learn whether the money they donated to undermine democracy in Bridgeport was “shareholder funds or “rate-payer funds, but quite frankly, the point is irrelevant.

The fact is we have a Connecticut Public utility company – taking Connecticut resident’s hard-earned money – to fund an effort to take away one of the most important American rights we have – the right of self-governance.

It’s time that our elected officials tell us what they are going to do about this outrage!

Click here to see the latest UI Outage map

On Oct. 29, 2012, UIL Holdings Corporation (NYSE: UIL), the company that owns UI,  announced that its Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.432 per share on its Common Stock at today’s Board meeting. This dividend is payable January 2, 2013 to shareowners of record at the close of business on December 19, 2012.

Oh, and on a related note, on October 29, 2012, as the storm closed in, Thelma Albright and William Murdy, both UI Directors, cashed in stock for $51,571 and $27,697 respectfully,

Finally, UI’s Board of Directors includes the following people.  If you happen to see one, ask them…. So, what about that $10,000 donation to Residents for a Better Bridgeport?  Is undermining democracy a position supported by the entire board?

UI Board of Directors  

Thelma R. Albright

Former President, Carter Products Division, Carter Wallace, Inc.

Arnold L. Chase

Member of the Board of Directors and President, Gemini Networks, Inc.; Executive Vice President, Chase Enterprises

Betsy Henley-Cohn

Chairperson of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Cohn & Son, Inc.

Suedeen G. Kelly

Partner, Patton Boggs L.L.P.

John L. Lahey

Non-Executive Chair, UIL Holdings Corporation; President, Quinnipiac University

Daniel J. Miglio

Former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of SNET Corporation and Southern New England Telecommunications

William F. Murdy

Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, Comfort Systems USA

Donald R. Shassian

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Frontier Communications Corporation

James P. Torgerson

President and Chief Executive Officer, UIL Holdings Corporation; Chief Executive Officer, The United Illuminating Company