BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Before Mayor Joe Ganim showed up at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, a crowd angry about huge property tax increases in Bridgeport began to shout "Where's Joe? Where's Joe?"
It didn't get any friendlier when Ganim finally did arrive at the City Hall Council Chambers. About 300 people met him with a thunderous round of boos.
Property owners, especially many from the Black Rock neighborhood, stormed the meeting to demand answers to a 29 percent mill rate hike that will spell $2,000-and-up tax hikes for homeowners already stretched by a sagging Grand List and slow home sales. They took turns taking the microphone and speaking out during the public portion of the City Council meeting.
Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, who has lived in Black Rock for more than six years, said he believes the nearly 30 percent mill rate hike is the highest jump in a single year in Bridgeport history and may be the steepest in U.S. history.
At the meeting, Walker said that if city voters were allowed, they would recall the City Council and the mayor. He said his taxes have gone up 70 percent since 2008.
He’s calling for an independent financial control board to take over, saying that fiscal mismanagement and incompetence is to blame for the city’s budget woes.
At the meeting, city resident Jim Fox asked the City Council to resign and said that Black Rock should secede from Bridgeport.
Ganim, a Democrat, ran for office on a pledge that he would hold the line on taxes. Shortly after taking the oath, however, he announced his administration inherited a $20 million debt from former Mayor Bill Finch, another Democrat.
A recent property revaluation lowered the value of many Bridgeport homes, but owners in Black Rock didn’t see the major change that would offset the new mill rate’s effects.
In a letter to homeowners, Ganim said the 2016-17 budget “cuts and controls the spending of local government in several key areas, while also funding 100 new police officers and making important investments in (the) city’s future.”
He said his administration was continuing to streamline city services and cut costs.
The City Council heard from six speakers, took a break and then moved on with the regular meeting.
The crowd did not leave, with many shouting, "We're still here. Do you see us?"
The City Council took another break less than an hour into the meeting. It was not clear whether more speakers would be allowed to address the City Council.
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