Big Mac Defends Council Mates, Poising Your Vote, And Thespian Magic

City Council President Tom McCarthy came to the defense of council members in how OIB has portrayed acceptance of free VIP passes to the Gathering of the Vibes, the annual hippie fest on the shores of Seaside Park.

Big Mac on Sunday told OIB that Vibes promoter Ken Hays has a contractual obligation to allow council members access to assess festival activities. He says council access was characterized incorrectly, in an email he sent to the legislative body, as “VIP ticket.” Instead, he says, council members are issued “official badges”  for event access for the four days. McCarthy says he uses the official badge for its intended purpose, to check out the scope of the Vibes events, what it means for the city and determine its future viability.

The council president wrote this to his peers in an email:

As you are aware, the Vibes concert is happening this weekend. The contract with the vendor calls for the City Council Members to have access to the concert all weekend. Each Council Member will get one VIP ticket for the weekend, plus one for a companion. I will let you all know the details of parking and how to get the tickets when I get those details. Most likely it will work like last year. Our names were on a list last year and you needed to bring ID’s. When you showed your ID you got your ticket. When I get info, I will share it.

Remember the purpose of this access is for Council Members to assess and see first-hand the Vibes to determine whether this is something we want to do on a going forward basis. Thanks. Tom Mc.

McCarthy stopped into the Vibes for 15 minutes on Friday after attending funerals of two city firefighters who died in the cause of duty.

“The Vibes is good for the city but it’s become a major operation,” says McCarthy. “It’s not my cup of tea. But I feel an obligation to check it out. After my 15 minutes I leave.”

Council members, and a companion, are offered entry to the Vibes that would cost hundreds of dollars to attend. If the intended purpose is for city business, how about council members (they don’t receive a city salary) paying for entry from their respective $9,000 expense stipend? McCarthy says it doesn’t make sense for council members to give public money back to Vibes promoter Ken Hays.

Why allow council members companion access? The Vibes music, enthusiastic hippies (that’s some good shit!)  and activities aren’t for everyone, says McCarthy, so companion access would make things more comfortable for a visiting council member.

The Bridgeport Republican Party has protested the council freebies and is threatening to file a complaint with the city’s Ethics Commission.

The Vibes has become a monster event, drawing weekend campers from throughout the northeast and more than 20,000 ticket buyers. Access to the city’s largest park is limited in the days leading up to the Vibes and for the four event days. Most city officials say it’s good for the city, but wonder if the city’s getting short-changed economically for turning over the park to Vibes promoters. Hays has donated tens of thousands back to the city for neighborhood upgrades. But just what the full economic impact is to the city is unclear beyond the approximate $50,000 fee.

“When the contract comes up we’ll insist on more money for the city and more participation from local vendors,”  says McCarthy.

Primary Madness

Well, Tsunami Tuesday is almost here. Are you yawning? Engaged? Excited? Who’s your horse? If you wanna talk about it with three political junkies stop by the Black Rock Library this Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Former Post scribes John Gilmore, Jim Callahan and I will blow some hot air about elections past and share our take on the Aug. 10 primaries. The Connecticut Post has endorsed Dan Malloy for governor on the Democratic side and Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele on the GOP side. Do newspaper endorsements matter? Not generally, but in tight races they can. The credibility of endorsements comes in the form of advertising the editorial backslaps. “That’s why (so and so) has been endorsed by the Connecticut Post, Hartford Courant,” yadda, yadda.

Bridgeport Theatre Company!

We had a sweet time Saturday night at the Playhouse On The Green for the inaugural show of the newly formed Bridgeport Theatre Company led by downtown residents, artistic director Eli Newsom and wife Christy McIntosh, who rallied regional theater friends to produce Out Tonight, a jammin’ night of musical numbers from a variety of shows including Rent, Tommy, The Wedding Singer, Mamma Mia and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Dozens of amazing thespians, including Broadway pros such as Ryan Duncan (Shrek)  entertained a packed Playhouse Saturday night. Bridgeport Theatre Company (BTC) is a  non-for-profit with a world of local talent. Want to get involved? Check out the audition workshop this Saturday Aug 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Open call for auditions for Rent is Aug. 10 and 11.

The first full production from the Bridgeport Theatre Company launches with Rent, October 15 to Nov. 7.

For more info and how to get involved go to These actors definitely come with a twisted sense of humor like …



  1. Tom McCarthy is full of baloney. Why didn’t he have this excuse ready when first asked about these free passes? The answer is simple he did not anticipate the fallout these freebies would cause.
    While the final contract may be approved by the council it is reviewed and passed by the Park Commission. They are the ones with the final say on what goes on in the parks.
    To me we don’t get enough payment for tying up a good portion of the park for as long as 2 weeks.

  2. McCarthy knows this is BS, but–with good reason–he thinks the public won’t care and once again he and his cronies can get away with dirty dealing. A 4-day, all-access VIP pass goes way beyond any reasonable person’s view of what’s necessary to “check out the scope” of the Vibes. And that pathetic explanation of why a companion ticket is necessary? How about going with another Council member, if you’re so afraid of the scary hippies, Tom? This is a huge gift from a business that cannot survive without the City Council’s favor. Pay to Play, plain and simple.

  3. So do all the parks commissioners get VIP passes for them and their guests too? What about the rest of the parks employees? Just how many free passes are there? Talk about public officials on the take! While they were monitoring the event, did they notice all the arrests for drug possession with intent to sell? Tom McCarthy and his fellow councilmen should check out the park tomorrow and see the utter destruction the Vibes causes.

  4. Nice legal move! No paper trail, except for the language on the contract. When are the City Council members going to use their badges to “assess” the working conditions and morale of the City’s workforce as well as other contracts?

  5. The “Big Wave” may just take on Big Mac on this issue.
    He is one of the few who can gather a large group of regular voters who care enough about these kinds of issues to show up at the next City Council meeting. It’s ironic that many of those who criticized Caruso for screaming “Corruption” are now sounding like him.

  6. Why is it when the mayor or Mr. Carrol speaks Mr. McCarthy’s lips move?

    These dudes are a joke and a disgrace to the fine history of Bridgeport. City is goin’ Down the drain like the dogs they flushed last year.

  7. The last time the Vibes contract was before the City Council, I sought a bonus payment for the city if and when the event is highly successful. When revenues exceed a predetermined amount then the city should receive a percent of the additional revenues. In retail this is referred to as percentage rent. In most malls when a store’s sales exceed $XXX they pay the mall a percentage of all sales over that amount.
    This seemed reasonable to me but not to Ken Hays and not to the members of the Contract Committee.
    Hays screamed in protest and the committee went along.
    Makes you wonder, eh?

  8. Gimme a break Tom! Do you think anyone actually believes this BS? Do you plan to release a list of the Council Members doing their official duty at the Vibes (and those doing it with them)? Just say “no, thanks.” Anything else is unethical.

  9. *** Quite a bit of “OIB” whining on this VIBES; to be or not to be an ethics violation? Let’s see how many sign up for public speaking or send a letter to the ethics committee concerning this issue. Seeing & doing is believing, otherwise it’s just more “hot summer air,” no? *** FORGETABOUTIT *** Oh don’t forget, the Bpt. “machine” backs Lamont for Gov. so who are you going to vote for come Aug. or what slice of the cake would voters like instead? The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same! *** Time will tell. ***

  10. I’ve been to at least 8 Super Bowls, 3 Rose Bowls, 8 NBA All-star games, 3 NBA Finals, 2 major-league all-star games, Professional Boxing matches, a couple of Kentucky Derbies and numerous other events (musical and sports). The Vibes rates up there among the best events I’ve attended. Mr. Hays and his staff have put together a “Great Event” and I for one would like to thank him for his positive contributions to Bridgeport’s economy, reputation among concert goers, etc. etc. etc.. The city should not try to extort any more $$$ from Mr. Hays. and instead find out why his event can draw such crowds while the “Steal” Point developers can’t get a single interested individual. Talk about the gypsy twist … look at this hand so you won’t SEE what I’m doing with the other. What’s next, are they are going to ask Mr. Hays to foot the whole bill for police? I can imagine a bright mind in the Mayors office suggesting that, that might help with the budget.

  11. There needs to be much more transparency with this VIBES deal. The city receives $40K for ten to fourteen days rental of prime waterfront property (which is then inaccessible to city residents). How much more does Hayes and the VIBES contribute for police protection (overtime?), fire, EMT, trash removal, monies given to local charities, how much and to which? It may be we are getting a good deal, but who knows? The explanations from McCarthy for the council members’ free passes is over the top. Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

  12. Hey Hector how much did this fest bring into Bridgeport merchants? Not that much when you look at how many people were at this event.
    They are given the rights to a majority of Seaside park for almost 2 weeks and we get $50K, big deal.
    The majority of people attending this event did not visit local restaurants. Stop in at Pops deli at the foot of Main Street and ask the owner how he did. You will be in for a surprise.
    Every event you named was not fenced in for 4 days and patrons were forced to use local businesses. Different venues than the Vibes.

    1. I would check with them (the merchants) before commenting positively or negatively. I’m sure the owners of the local hotels would have a different position from yours. We should ask the B.R.B.C. members how they did as a whole. I know for a fact the local gas stations made money as did Walmart and Stop&Shop. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been to any of the events I mentioned, but ALL of them were fenced in and the majority ran for about a week before the event and a day after. My comments are not based on “my hearing about them.” I WAS THERE.

  13. Thank you OIB!!!
    More info and opinion has been provided on this topic in the past several days then in the Post, but that is not a surprise to most.
    It is clear Hector is the “event expert” in the group today. I assume he funded his own attendance on these numerous occasions and those funds went to private producers who made a profit or suffered a loss, depending on their contracts and arrangements. Good deal … but that hasn’t been the major subject, here.
    Who received what VIP benefit, because of a contract by Ken (vetted by Bridgeport City Attorney it is assumed) along with a companion, lest they become lonely has had a number of commentators. The point is the appearance of conflict of interest is so present in this situation, one wonders who can miss it?
    But more importantly for a City with budget issues and problems is transparency on the agreement.
    Is the $50,000 or $40,000 gross from Ken? Does the promoter pay any expenses towards any City services, repair of venue, etc.??? What is the record in this regard??? Seaside Park is a great venue and public events should be held there, so if the public is excluded for a period of time, or if the expense to the City is greater than the revenue, what is the point? Other than entertainment … but if local businesses lose their entertainment business for four days what is the net effect? It is not good.
    So, City Council speaking and ethics complaint procedure has been highlighted and we’ll see how much the issue burns. Great weather, great site, lots of good music and 20,000 or more in attendance. Let’s look at the numbers … that’s a Council responsibility … don’t pass on it!

  14. Seaside Park is as peaceful as Mountain Grove Cemetery at this time of year. There is some activity to the west, but that is irrelevant to activities at the bandshell.

    If someone objects to the Vibes concert as a cultural event, that is a different discussion.

    An observation, however, about Bridgeport over the years is an almost stunning hostility to activity which seems “foreign.” The Vibes is an out-of-town event that has found an underutilized, if barely utilized, community asset. Some towns are happy to welcome outsiders–It stirs the place up and MAY develop into other activities. It shouldn’t be looked as a straight ledger event, although the city has an obligation to meet expenses and maybe throw a little money back into the park to make it hospitable for events in the future so it doesn’t run down.

    The key issue here is whether the Jolly McCarthy, AKA City Council, gets to sail free at such events. Let’s be frank: the reason Council Council President McCarthy is shocked at criticism over council freebies is that they’ve gotten away with so much in the past.

    I sympathize. How dare people complain now when they’ve been nickel-and-diming everyone for years? In other places, they call it petty graft. That is unfair. In Bridgeport, it’s merely the cost of doing business. Business people understand that. They don’t mind a stick-up if they still make money. It is merely an expense on the debit side of the ledger. City Council sounds like it comes pretty cheap, frankly, so who cares?

    Truth in advertising, however, is always the best policy in politics or business. Whether council is sucking up freebies to the Bluefish, the arena or the Vibes, a skull-and-crossbones flag should be hoisted over the councilmanic section so everyone knows their elected representatives are present, looking out for their welfare. Council deserves this recognition for its outstanding service to the community.

  15. Here is one city Council member who can do the math as opposed to Vibe Tribers who do the meth.
    20,000 people in attendance per Ken Hays.
    $80 ticket per day session OR $220 non-VIP weekend pass.
    Gross ticket sales = $1.6 million MINIMUM.
    20,000 people.
    $60 per person for food, souvenirs and other legal goods.
    $1.2 in concession sales.
    20% cut to Ken Hays = $240K.
    Gross revenue $1.840 million.
    City rent $40,000.
    Percent to gross 2%.
    City share shameless.

  16. Thank you, Bob. Haul down the skull and crossbones and raise the green flag with $$ signs.
    Two days ago I did the math with the value of VIP passes for Council and companion to the promoter. City rent + VIP treatment = less than 3% of gross. City share still shameless and grim testimony to poor negotiations (or worse). The event calls many visitors to the City. It is part of a diverse cultural spectrum. But why doesn’t the Park asset and the City’s experience in serving the venue bring in more $$?
    Perhaps a new Charter Commission might create another Commission, like the land use Boards, that meets regularly and enters presentation, discussion and facts into the public record. Or would that be taking “open government” too far?

  17. Free Vibes tickets, and how much has the city made on this event? Transparency and fiscal responsibility is a good thing in Bridgeport, and also on a national level.

    David Walker is special guest on “Bridgeport Now” tomorrow, Aug 3 at 8pm, to discuss topics of fiscal responsibility on a national level.

    Mr. Walker is President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and leads the Foundation’s efforts to promote federal financial responsibility today which is in dire need.

    He is author of “Comeback America,” a must-read book on what is really going on in this country. Congressman Himes told me he was reading the back. By the way, you may have seen Mr. Walker on C-Span this past weekend. He has also given a speech at the Black Rock Library, which Mayor Finch attended.

    Now it’s time for ‘Comeback Bridgeport.’

  18. This administration and the tail end of the Fabrizi administration are incapable of doing anything right when it comes to finances and land management.
    First we have steal point when it was first voted on McCarthy wanted to tie the hands of anyone interested in running the yet to be built hotel by having a clause that would have forced the company managing the hotel to deal with the SIEU union. That embarrassment was withdrawn when McCarthy saw the opposition.
    Now he is giving some lame-ass excuse for the council members getting free passes to the Vibes. Certain people are acting like it just dawned on them the city got screwed in these negotiations with the promoter. BTW where is the water park he promised to provide?
    This council and this administration should do us all a favor and resign en masse. Please!!!
    BTW did the developer of Steal Point pay the $500K he owes?

  19. *** Well, seems by having Bpt’s finest more involved in the VIBES security before, during & after has paid off in drug busts, disorderly conduct, ER visits, etc. Sends a big message to future “VIBES” concert-goers & city residents on rules & safety in general; well done. *** Also let’s not forget the big VIBES “discount” that’s given to documented city residents as part of the contract. 14 days of preparations, concert activities & exiting, then restoring this underused (GEM) “back to the future”! *** Has any “OIB” Vibes complainers stepped up to the public-speaking plate or ethics violations questions circle yet? *** Time will tell. ***

  20. I know everybody is looking forward to the incisive report of all the mates and their companions from the Jolly McCarthy on their cruise through the Vibes over the weekend.

    Dead Heads, let alone city residents, will benefit from their presentation and song favorites.

  21. Anybody know when the roads are gonna get paved??? All you worry about is when and where a politician farts or eats but yet the roads are horrendous and the sidewalks around the city aren’t any better. And the traffic lights. We spend more time waitin’ at lights because the timing sucks and we burn gas like it’s free.

  22. *** By all means let’s complain now about the same old pot-holed roads & slow traffic lights in Bpt. *** Plenty of “hot summer air” to go ’round, no! *** Try calling City Hall. ***

  23. I have a fantastic idea, how about instead of everyone bickering about whether or not to agree that the Vibes is detrimental to Bridgeport’s economy, you just wait until next year when Ken has Vibes back at home, this was my second year, and I’m sorry to say to the asshole who said us Vibe tribers do meth not math, why don’t you take a step back and realize that A: we outnumber you, it’s us that have been putting this pitiful city on the map for the past few years, if it weren’t for us no one would give a shit about Bridgeport Connecticut, people drive from states as far as California, and B: if you think about it, all the people, the 20-something thousand “losers” as you proclaim us to be make your paycheck at the end of those 4 glorious days, so next year try taking the time (more than 15 minutes) and REALLY check us out, you just might enjoy what you’re experiencing before you go talking shit about something that only makes Connecticut worth coming to, that’s all I have to say. Ken keep doing your thing man, thank you for everything.

  24. You have to be kidding me! Bridgeport gets fleeced every year by Ken Hayes. He occupies a city treasure for 10 days, uses a minimal amount of Bridgeport businesses, and pays the city less than it would cost to rent the Arena at Harbor Yard for one day.

    Has everyone forgotten about the drug scandal and the dead body? If the purpose of the passes to City Council and Parks Commissioners was so they could assess whether the event is good for Bridgeport, why can’t they tell you how many local businesses have benefited from the event? Does anyone on the City Council have any idea what the real economic impact of the event is?

    How in the world can any public official who is appointed or elected be a direct beneficiary of something they are supposed to be policing. Why should anyone believe these officials have best interests of the City of Bridgeport and its citizens in mind when their objectivity is tainted by two free passes.

    How anyone can try to defend that with a straight face is astonishing. It’s an insult to the intelligence of Bridgeport’s citizens and a tribute to arrogance of our officials. This whole thing is a JOKE, and they person laughing the hardest is Ken Hayes. He found a place to park his event when no other place wanted him for $50k a splash pad, and a bunch of free passes to city officials. I can almost hear the laughing now.


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