We believe the collective responsibility of a free and just society is to ensure that civil and human rights are preserved, protected, and celebrated for each individual regardless of gender, race, color, ethnicity, nation of origin, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, class, physical or mental ability, and age.

Bridgeport Generation Now is committed to a future in which diverse groups and individuals can collaborate with each other, community-based organizations, civic leaders, and governmental agencies to solve the wide range of civil rights and other related social justice issues affecting the residents of Bridgeport.

For more on this explanation of Justice and Equity click here:

There are four issues in Justice and Equity:

Racial Equity In Education
WPCA Foreclosures
Sanctuary City and Immigrants Rights
Police Accountability

Please continue reading below for the research and policy recommendations.

Racial Equity in Education

Though segregation is often written about in a way which makes it seem like a temporary stain on American history, racial inequity has survived the test of time nationwide through legislation and funding. Brown v. Board of Education ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional in 1954, and in the decade to follow, Connecticut acknowledged the existence of these racial disparities. Yet nearly sixty years later, Connecticut, one of the most affluent states in the country, boasts one of the largest opportunity gaps, and Bridgeport students continue to languish in the void.

With the decline of manufacturing in Bridgeport, came white flight and a spike in crime rate due to these hardships and fortified housing discrimination in Fairfield County. Bridgeport’s public education system crumbled under the competing pressures and strained tax dollars, and students have been left dramatically underserved for decades. San Antonio v. Rodriguez (1972) ruled that there is no fundamental right to education guaranteed in the Constitution, so although we are heavily taxed, property-poor Bridgeport is unable to keep up with the demands of its high-need student population.

Core Members Takina Pollock, Isa Mujahid, Kyle Langan, and Isaiah Thergood researched the history of racial injustice and inequity in education in Bridgeport and Connecticut. While there is no easy answer, their research highlights the immediate need for collective local leadership that puts racial equity in education first.

RESEARCH AND POLICY

Racial Equity In Education Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS For Mayor’s Office, City Council, BOE, and State Delegation:

  • Set up an Equity in Education Commission, on which sits members of City Council, BOE, the Superintendent and our state delegation, as well as parents, teachers, students, and policymakers. This commission could develop a cohesive vision and 5 year plan for Bridgeport Public Schools, as well as advise the Mayor, the Superintendent, and the Board of Education on education equity issues and policies.
  • Analyze and ask whether school culture in Bridgeport Public Schools creates a supportive, nurturing, and liberated space for children of color. Release the report’s findings to the public.
  • Analyze and ask why BOE Food Service and Special Ed Transportation keep growing every year in the city’s budget. Release the report’s findings to the public.
  • The Mayor’s Office and City Council should commit to fully funding Bridgeport Public Schools at requested levels. Think of that money as “economic development” dollars!
  • Attend CTCORE-Organize Now! “Education Equity Issue Forum” on September 23rd in Bridgeport.

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
City Council Members openly discussed the need for more teachers that reflect the community they serve, as well as improved standards for the BOE.

WPCA Foreclosures

There are many impediments to prosperity for Bridgeport. But among the most unfair and prejudicial practices in our city is the placement of liens on homes by the WPCA, many triggered by less than $1000 owed. Worse than the absurdity of foreclosing on a property valued at hundreds of times more than the amount owed are the allegations of bias on the basis of race, age and the location of the home. Further, in cases where foreclosure proceedings have occurred, it has been alleged that agents working on behalf of the WPCA have either purchased or been party to the purchase of these homes at a significantly reduced value, only to turn around and resell at a significant profit.

It is imperative that there be increased oversight of the WPCA to prevent such things from happening. Further, the Bridgeport City Council and Connecticut State Legislators must seek legislation that protects city taxpayers from being unduly foreclosed on.

Core Members Ashli Giles-Perkins and John Torres investigated this history of these fore-closings and researched how we can demand transparency, accountability, and public oversight of this unjust practice.

RESEARCH AND POLICY

WPCA Foreclosure Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for City Council and State Delegation:

  • There must be increased transparency of the foreclosure process and that data/demographics need to be documented and open to the public. Data is important at this stage because of the allegations of discrimination against people of color and/or certain neighborhoods.
  • We need to have an active participant on the WPCA Commission. We believe members of the WPCA commissioning board are serving past their terms expiration, but are still awaiting confirmation. Having a BPT GEN NOW member attend these meetings, or better, be appointed to the commission would go a long way to fixing this problem.
  • The City Council should pass the resolution to halt all foreclosures until a review of the process is undertaken. Council Member Eneida Martinez put forth this ordinance and it has been tabled at every Ordinance Committee meeting since February.
  • BPT GEN NOW members should support the 3 state bills pertaining to the reform of the WPCA. These state bills are as follows:
    HB 5288: An Act Concerning Water Pollution Control Authority Foreclosure Proceedings
    HB 6676: An Act Concerning Interest Due on Delinquent Sewer Assessments
    SB 559: An Act Concerning the Restriction of Municipal Sewage System Assignees

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
City Council members acknowledged this issue as very problematic and discussed the Moratorium currently in the Ordinance Committee.

Sanctuary City and Immigrants Rights

There’s no legal definition of a sanctuary city. It generally refers to any city, town, or county that doesn’t fully cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency in charge of deporting immigrants. Not cooperating could take the form of a city ordinance or police department policy that explicitly prohibits cops from asking about someone’s immigration status.

The Major Cities Chiefs Association has been clear that entanglement between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities “undermines the trust and cooperation with immigrant communities which are essential elements of community oriented policing.” When immigrants see the criminal justice system as the gateway to detention and deportation, witnesses and victims of crimes are simply too afraid to cooperate with police. Sanctuary policies make clear that everyone feels safe working with local police, thereby making all of us safer.

On May 15th, 2017 after 3 months of advocacy and organizing led by members of Make The Road CT, Bridgeport City Council passed a “Welcoming City” resolution (pg. 151), which states that Bridgeport police are not, nor have they ever been, immigration enforcers. This resolution expresses the opinion or will of the Council but it is not an ordinance, or local law.

Core Members Luis Luna and Ellie Angerame thoughtfully analyzed the next step forward for Bridgeport, towards protecting the civil and human rights of our immigrant community.

RESEARCH AND POLICY

Sanctuary City Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for Mayor’s Office and City Council:

  • Push for the “Welcoming City” resolution (pg. 151) to be an ordinance.
  • San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs outlines their city ordinance here and can serve as an example.
  • Roll out a publicity campaign for Bridgeport’s Municipal ID program. Get the information up on the City’s website. See Hartford for inspiration.

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
All seven city council members present at our June Member Meeting support a Welcoming City ordinance.

Police Accountability

On May 9th, 2017, Jayson Negron – an unarmed 15 year-old – was shot by Bridgeport police and left handcuffed on the ground face-down to die. His body was left in the street for 6 hours. In response to this tragic and unnecessary killing, we started to try and peel back the murky layers of our police department.

Through our research, we learned that strong civilian oversight of our police force benefits the entire community and makes us all safer. Robust civilian oversight makes police accountable to the people they serve, which helps build strong and transparent community-oriented policing. And we learned that civilian oversight functions best when the group is seen as independent of the police department and trusted by the public. In Bridgeport, our only civilian oversight body is our Police Commission, which we discovered holds its monthly meetings in the Chief’s office. We also found that 4 of the 7 people on it are serving expired terms – some for over 10 years! Civilian oversight of our police in Bridgeport is currently inadequate. The potential, however, for our Police Commission to be a successful and sustainable, 21st Century civic structure is there.

State law grants Police Commissions more powers than are in our City Charter, which means that the Commission has the potential to be a stronger civilian oversight body, if the people appointed to the Commission and the Mayor want it that way. It could, for example, subpoena people in its own investigation into Jayson’s killing. We attended the May Police Commission meeting after Jayson’s killing to learn more, but the Commission did not discuss his killing publicly. We do not know of any independent investigation into Jayson’s killing on the part of the Police Commission at this time.

In addition, when we met with City Council members at our June Meeting, we learned that our Police Department is not accredited! Pushing for accreditation is important because it would improve the training and standard for officers, but it could also save us money – giving us access to more grants and better insurance policies.

Core members Isa Mujahid and Callie Heilmann continue to research police accountability in Bridgeport, in the hopes that our community can train and develop a police force that is effective, inclusive, equitable, and transparent.

RESEARCH AND POLICY

Police Accountability Research

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for City Council, Police Department, and Mayor’s Office:

  • We need to have an active participant at the Police Commission. Having a BPT GEN NOW member attend these meetings, or better, be appointed to the commission would go a long way to building an empowered oversight body that is accountable to the public.
  • We must demand our Police Department receive accreditation. BPD is taking up more and more of taxpayers dollars, growing at a rate far higher than the budget itself, without citizens receiving adequate public safety in return.
  • Align with and push for the concrete demands made by CTCORE-Organize Now! and CONECT, in the wake of Jayson’s killing, including:
    a. The public release of the video from Walgreens
    b. Regular updates from the State Police’s investigation
    c. Continuous de-escalation and anti-bias training for all officers
    d. Body cameras and dashboard cameras for all officers
    e. The suspension of Officer James Boulay without pay

City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
City Council Members openly and freely discussed the need for improved de-escalation training, higher professional standards, and accreditation of our police force.