Monday, June 4, 2007

Bridgeport must stop Arena pursuit

Maybe now the message is finally getting through.
Bridgeport was rejected once again in its bid to get out of paying a contractor for final work on the Arena at Harbor Yard. The city, claiming that the contract was obtained through corruption and that therefore should not have to be paid, has turned a $4.8 million argument into an $8 million-plus problem.
Interest and legal fees have continued to pile onto the original sum in question, and the city has been stymied every step of the way. Officials are of course entitled to seek legal remedy for actions they deem questionable, but the signs have been pointing against them for a long time.
The contractor, C.R. Klewin Northeast, was informed in 2001 that it was not a target in the federal corruption probe that ensnared former Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, but the city continued its pursuit despite receiving that knowledge two years later.
Now, finally, it’s time to stop. When the state Supreme Court ruled against Bridgeport in April, it was difficult for some city officials to take, but that was the time to fold up the tent. Instead, they asked the court to reconsider, which they last week declined to do. Now, the city says it will confer with the City Council on how to proceed, but there’s really only one choice — pay the bill.
It’s not as though the city has millions of dollars lying around to spend on quixotic legal campaigns. The mill rate is out of control, schools are underperforming and property owners are looking for relief. No one wants to see more money wasted on this lost cause.
The city is still picking up the pieces from the disastrous aftermath of the Ganim years, and it is looking for help anywhere it can think of. The courts have proven, though, that this is not the place to look. There are no federal issues at stake, so turning to the federal Supreme Court is out of the question. Painful as it may be after so much time and money spent, it’s time to get on with it and pay the money that is owed. There is, at this point, no other choice.

Involve the state in building's plans

It was disappointing news, but hardly a great shock. Plans for the abandoned building at 333 State St. in downtown Bridgeport fell apart, again. Now it’s up to the city to finally make sure something is done about the lingering eyesore.
Officials announced a year ago that a Norwalk developer had reached a deal to turn the former office building into apartments. The proposal fell apart when an agreement could not be reached on parking, leaving the city searching for a return on its investment. Bridgeport gained title to the structure last year in lieu of back taxes, and now needs something to show for the $3 million it forgave to the former owner.
The building, on the corner of State Street and Lafayette Boulevard, sits in the midst of Housatonic Community College, one of the city’s true bright spots. The city should try to find a way to sell the building to the state and push for it to be incorporated into the HCC layout, adding luster to the school and removing a blight on its entryways. Gov. M. Jodi Rell should give any proposed state takeover serious consideration.
Bridgeport says it will be sending out a new round of requests for proposals on the building, with possible plans coming back this summer. An office building could make sense, because the apartment plans fell through on the parking considerations. Any similar housing plan would face the same problems, so unless there’s an alternate approach in store, the city should take a different tack.
But the best plan would be to get the state involved. Whether they then decide to implode the building or take it down to its steel frame or somehow work with what’s there now, something has got to be done about it.
Bridgeport has seen its share of downtown projects come near to fruition in recent years, so it’s disappointing that this long-festering dark spot continues to blight the landscape. Out of respect for the students and faculty at HCC, and for anyone who goes downtown, we implore the city — get this done. We’re all tired of looking at it.

Shays, Lieberman: Please stop talking

Maybe Messrs. Shays and Lieberman can clear up a few things.
Those two esteemed congressional representatives are recently back from trips to the never-ending war in Iraq, but neither of them seems especially downbeat. U.S. troop deaths are reaching all-time highs, but, apparently, there’s reason for optimism. Who would’ve guessed!
Here’s Sen. Lieberman: "Overall, I would say that what I see here today is progress. Significant progress from the last time I was here."
Shays, never one to contradict his Best Friend Forever, concurred. But just to make sure he was covered on all fronts, he made sure to temper his enthusiasm. "We have just encouraged the insurgents to throw everything they have at us. [U.S. officials] think it will be a very hot summer."
One can only wonder what in the world he’s talking about. If the insurgents aren’t "throw[ing] everything they have at us," then what to make of recent developments?
l May 28, 2007 — 10 U.S. troops killed;
l May 26, 2007 — eight U.S. troops killed;
l May 19, 2007 — nine U.S. troops killed.
It goes on and on. No one has failed to notice that American deaths in Iraq have spiked in the past several months, and no one has been able to see a return for our losses. Men and women are dying every day, men and women in the primes of their lives, dying far from home and away from family. And yet still, we have no idea why. We have no indication of when it will stop.
Conventional wisdom has it that Republicans, while sticking with the Bush-Lieberman-Shays line for now, were chastened by last November’s election losses, and will not tolerate another election cycle of continued war without end.
Don’t bet on it. The president has shown no sign he is pulling out troops — none. Instead, he’s busy high-fiving himself after Democrats rescinded a demand for timelines to leave that country.
As for Shays and Lieberman, their credibility on Iraq is so shot that it hardly matters what they say. They’ve been wrong over and over, time after time, year after year. Why should anyone possibly care what they have to say?