Bridgeport cut out of regional merger
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Feb 14, 2014
BRIDGEPORT -- Who knew municipal governance was like high school?
Southwestern Connecticut towns and Danbury and its neighbors have formed a big club, and Bridgeport is the kid they don't want to pal around with.
That's what some believe is essentially going on behind-the-scenes as state officials try to encourage more regional cooperation among a number of cities and towns around Connecticut.
And it angers long-time Bridgeport boosters who say the situation reveals an unfair and outdated bias toward the state's largest city, with all of its potential and its challenges.
"It's embarrassing thinking and absolutely outrageous," said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy and programs for the Business Council of Fairfield County and an ex-executive with Bridgeport-based People's Bank. "The economic vitality of Fairfield County depends on healthy communities. We cannot have Bridgeport isolated ¦ if this county is to grow."
The controversy stems from a state-led effort to better consolidate the thirteen, 1950s-era groupings of cities and towns that for the past decades have collaborated on economic, environmental, safety and other issues facing their regions.
Connecticut has 169 individual municipalities and no county governments.
"They provide a forum for communities to come up with ways to solve regional problems or provide services ¦ that might be too expensive if every community has to do it on its own," said Gian-Carl Casa, with the state's Office of Policy and Management.
So last year, backed by the legislature, OPM began encouraging those existing thirteen planning organizations to merge, mirroring larger states than Connecticut which have at best a handful of such groups dotting the landscape.
"Look, Connecticut has a history of local government, local control and we're a land of steady habits," Casa said. "People need to get used to the idea of working with one another."
To OPM and many other observers, there was a natural pairing in combining the existing Greater Bridgeport Regional Council (Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford, Trumbull) with the Southwestern Regional Planning Agency (Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, Weston, Westport and Wilton).
Those cities and towns have much in common -- economic development, transportation infrastructure, emergency management and the coastline.
Instead, the southwestern club banded together with Danbury and its nine neighbors in the Housatonic Valley, and left Bridgeport on its own.
"What I think is wrong is that all three are not merging," said Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, a Republican, who in December was elected chairman of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council and is eying a run for statewide office.
"We can continue developing Stamford, as we should, but Bridgeport from an infrastructure standpoint has tremendous potential with its harbor and (the) Steel Point (waterfront redevelopment site)," Herbst said. "The better Bridgeport does, the better Fairfield County does and the region does."
Why the Bridgeport snub? Critics say it's for all the wrong reasons.
"It has to do with parochialism, politics and the ability of people to come to grips with reality," said Paul Timpanelli, who heads Bridgeport's business council. "To continue to get hung up on our municipal borders the way we do is one reason our economy in Connecticut lags behind."
Herbst said in conversations he has had with elected leaders in the Southwestern towns they have made one thing very clear: "They don't want to affiliate or associate with the City of Bridgeport."
Some of that, Herbst said, has to do with money. The smaller towns fear that any dollars that come to the larger regional planning group will get sucked up by the Park City and its urban needs.
read more....http://www.ctpost.com/ local/article/Bridgport-cut-ou t-of-regional-merger-5236592.p hp#page-2
#2 Feb 14, 2014
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