New mayor must revise City Charter

Published on March 27, 2011 by

In November, Bridgeport residents will have the opportunity to elect a mayor for the next four years. It’s difficult to know the candidate with the best intentions. But if any candidate clearly states he or she is willing to review the City Charter, it’s a start.

The revision of the City Charter is a paramount decision to begin the repair of Bridgeport government infrastructure.

The revision of the City Charter is of such importance for Bridgeport’s prosperity because it determines, for example, who can work for the city, the composition of the City Council, composition and eligibility of the city’s commissions.

This is just to mention some of the important components of such a document, which if correctly handled, could positively influence the city’s governance and we can ultimately get a more prosperous city.

Rather than who can work for the city, let’s suggest who shouldn’t work for it, and why: None of the council members should qualify for a city job. The reasoning behind this is that council members in essence supervise the mayor and the administration. If they become city employees, there is a conflict of interest because they will be supervising each other.

Eventually, the one with more power could neutralize the responsibility of the other. That will lead to either poor management of the city’s affairs or lack of positive/fair legislation.

Although normally members of city commissions do not get direct economic benefits, it’s been demonstrated for years that administrations have selected people they control to be appointed. That means if the administration could offer some type of benefit, chosen commissioners will decide on issues based in the instructions received, rather than in fairness or residents’ best interests. For that and other reasons, no commissioner should work for the city.

Finally, a balanced composition of the council will encourage transparency and a fairer government. Bridgeport’s City Council consists of 20 members, all of them Democrats. Under a fair system, that lack of balance would not represent a threat to productive and balanced actions. But because there are jobs, commissionerships and other benefits, for years we have seen poor practices and bad decisions.

The next mayor should assure voters that the incorporation of other parties’ representation on the council is a good practice that would create debate on ideas and issues. Because of that the probabilities of better legislation are higher.

There are many other factors such as education, economic development and housing, to which any mayor should assign priority. But the commitment to change such a document could be perceived it as a good intention to eliminating an adverse mentality to taxpayers’ interest.

If any mayoral wannabe can articulate clearly to constituents that he or she will make as a priority the review of the City Charter, and address those important issues, that will be the beginning of running the city the right way. But it also shows he/she is willing to get detached from the special interests that for decades have interfered with the city’s governance.

It’s the responsibility of the voters to make sure the elected or re-elected mayor follows through with the promise.