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CONNECTICUT OFFICIALS SAY BRIDGEPORT HAS NO RIGHT TO DECLARE BANKRUPTCY

This once-bustling industrial hub, struggling to stay afloat as factories close and neighborhoods crumble, became the largest city ever to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. and state Attorney Richard Blumenthal, however, said Friday that the city cannot declare bankruptcy on its own."The view of the attorney general and the state of Connecticut is that the city of Bridgeport cannot declare bankruptcy without the permission of the state and the financial review board," said Weicker's press secretary, Avice Meehan. "Needless to say, that permission has not been granted."

City officials filed a Chapter 9 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court late Thursday after weeks of futile attempts to close a $12 million budget gap without gutting the police force or drastically raising taxes.

"I come before you tonight with what is perhaps the most significant action in Bridgeport's history," Mayor Mary Moran told an emergency meeting of the city's Common Council.

The mayor, a political novice when she took office two years ago, said daily services would not be disrupted while Bridgeport attempts to reorganize its finances.

The city was to present a balanced budget to the Bridgeport Financial Review Board today or face a board-imposed plan. But city officials chose to file for bankruptcy instead.

The board was still scheduled to meet this afternoon, but it was not immediately clear what action it might take.

The panel had told Moran not to pursue bankruptcy proceedings when she raised the possibility in January. Its chairman, Francisco L. Borges, who is also the state treasurer, criticized the drastic step on Thursday.

"Bankruptcy is an imprudent action," he said.

The city of 142,000, 60 miles northeast of New York City, is Connecticut's largest. It was once the area's manufacturing hub, but in the 1950s factories began to close and welfare rolls swelled.

With 61 murders last year, it had the state's highest homicide rate. It's also home to what federal housing officials have called some of the most decrepit housing projects in the nation.