Our discussion in the prior post about the impact of presidential visits had me thinking (always a confusing thing) back to 1994, a nutty year for me.
I managed Joe Ganim’s gubernatorial bid that year. We were cash rich but delegate poor. Those days you couldn’t wage a primary for governor without the support of 20 percent of the party insiders. No direct primaries, through registered voter signatures, like you have today. The young mayor, only in his second term, hadn’t been around long enough to build a statewide profile. We’d walk into town committee meetings in Litchfield and Tolland counties and the locals would look at us like we were from Mars.
One week before the Democratic Party convention I persuaded Joe to get out of the race and endorse the Democratic front runner for the party endorsement, State Senator John Larson, a good guy now in Congress. Joe wanted to be the candidate for lieutenant governor as a consolation, and I thought endorsing Larson was his best chance. Joe’s Bridgeport profile as a young mayor that pulled the city out of bankruptcy court and attacked crime by hiring 100 new cops would add spice to the ticket.
The day of the convention sucked. I had no juice with the Hartford-based party moguls (get away from me boy, you bother me) such as State Senator William DiBella whose shock of white hair and narrow facial features looked like he was straight out of a wax museum. Billy had that undertaker look about him. The bosses wanted an Italian on the ticket. Jesus, I said, Joe’s mother’s Italian. No, Leonard, they said, we want an Italian-sounding name.
In the hours prior to the lieutenant governor selection by Larson, Waterbury Mayor Ed Bergin and Hartford Mayor Mike Peters (God rest his soul) were getting absolutely hammered at a bar inside the Hartford Civic Center. I threw down a couple myself as we awaited word, but Bergin and Peters were practically going shot for shot.
So the call finally came. About 50 of the state party elite (I was Joe’s campaign manager so they let me in) crowded into a banquet room inside the Hartford Civic Center where Larson, who in fact had the endorsement locked up, announced that it was time to embrace State Rep. Rich Balducci, who also had been a candidate for governor, as his running mate. Everyone applauded politely. I thought it sucked. Rich, a fun guy, emerged from behind the curtain to proclaim that he would be an independent running mate. What did that mean?
Bridgeport Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa isn’t the kind of guy that will take shit. “Mr. Balducci,” he says, “are you supporting Larson or not?” Balducci paused. Well, he restated, I’m going to be an independent running mate.
“What the fuck is going on around here!” Bergin and Peters scream. Political madness consumed the room. Yelling, name calling, bewilderment. Hadn’t these guys talked this out? Bergin and Peters walk up to Larson … you couldn’t settle this so we will. Bergin and Peters grabbed Joe and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, all the mayors huddled. “Joe, do you want the second spot?”
And that was it. Bergin and Peters peeled off, walked up to Larson and said Joe’s the candidate for lieutenant governor. Larson said okay. If Mario doesn’t speak up, maybe if Bergin and Peters hadn’t stopped for a lube job, Balducci’s the guy. Little Joe, screamed the Sunday headlines, shocks the state. But a strange thing happened on the way to the general election against Republican John Rowland. Larson got his ass kicked by State Comptroller Bill Curry in a primary.
So the odd couple of politics, Joe Ganim, who supported a casino in Bridgeport, and Bill Curry, who did not, were thrown together because Curry challenged Larson without a running mate. The whole thing was surreal. Rowland, the Republican, supported a casino. Joe had more in common with Rowland than Curry. (Okay, save your wisecracks.)
Curry wouldn’t step foot in Bridgeport during the campaign. He felt it was better to stay away from a city that was rabidly pro casino. Curry was a hard sell in Bridgeport. Many Park City pols didn’t like him. (I’ll let town committee weigh in on this.) Curry had forced out Eddie Caldwell of Bridgeport as state comptroller. Not only had he kneecapped one of the elder statesman of the party, Curry was also anti-casino. I asked Curry to give me something to sell to city voters, a waterfront development proposal, something as governor he’d do for Bridgeport. Oh, he said, they’ll like my property tax relief proposal. Good grief, these voters wanted jobs. Anyone can talk about property tax relief.
So one day I get a call from Curry’s camp and they said we have good news and bad news. The good news is President Clinton’s coming to Bridgeport to support the ticket. The bad news, you’re organizing it. Great, Secret Service, presidential advance people, security issues, portable toilets. What a pain in the ass. At the time Clinton’s poll numbers were so beleaguered that a leper colony didn’t want him. But Bridgeport could be a receptive place for him, and better yet Curry was cash poor and needed Clinton’s profile to raise money.
Clinton flew into Sikorsky Memorial Airport on Marine 1 and for him it was nirvana, thousands of people showed up. Clinton had trouble filling a match box for most of his events. He was thrilled and Hillary came along for the ride. Next stop was the Holiday Inn ballroom downtown and it was jammed, including a private reception for big-money donors. Bill and Hillary charmed the city for a day. I was pooped.
Come November, Rowland becomes governor with less than 40 percent of the vote in a field that included Curry and Lowell Weicker’s Lieutenant Governor Eunice Groark.
Months pass and I wasn’t even thinking about Clinton’s visit. Holiday Inn owner Ernie Trefz calls me one day. Lennie, the Curry campaign stiffed us on the bill.
Eeeeeeeee! That was my one and only presidential event.
Special note: condolences to OIB friend Derek Brown, The Bridgeport Kid, whose mom passed away on Thursday.
News release from House Speaker Chris Donovon
BRIDGEPORT DELEGATION MEMBERS NAMED TO COMMISSION TO IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES FOR REGIONALISM, MUNICIPAL COST SAVINGS AND EFFICIENCIES
State Reps. Auden Grogins (D-Bridgeport), Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport), Andres Ayala (D-Bridgeport) and Don Clemons (D-Bridgeport) have been named by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden) and House Majority Leader Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield) to a new a commission that will seek to identify opportunities for more regional collaborations designed to create efficiencies and save money for municipalities. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies (MORE) will begin its work next Tuesday, January 19th with the goal of recommending legislation during the 2010 session.
“We can be doing more with less,” Speaker Donovan said. “These dedicated members of the Bridgeport Delegation and MORE will help us find these new ways to help our cities and towns. I am confident we can bring about real property tax reform by regionalizing certain activities that can both save money and improve the economic competitiveness of our state.”
“We’ve talked for a long time about restructuring government at all levels across the state,” said Rep. Merrill. “Now we’re going to take action. I’m excited about the chance to bring some relief to our cities and towns and to bring about the kind of structural change that can deliver benefits for years to come.”
The MORE Commission will be comprised of 45 Democratic members of the House of Representatives and representatives of municipalities, regional organizations, education, business, unions and non-profits.
The Commission will look at a wide spectrum of issues and opportunities facing municipalities: multi-town collaboratives, Board of Education functions, regionally-based organizations, collective bargaining, mandates, revenue sources, health care, and state grants. In each of these areas, commission subcommittees will investigate costs, benefits, resources, legal obstacles and opportunities, potential savings, consolidation, and results-based accountability (RBA) methods for tracking performance.
Nice to have a huge polling lead. From Richard Blumenthal:
The following is a statement from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on today’s release of the results of the latest Q-Poll:
“I am pleased that Connecticut residents consider me a worthy Senate candidate, but polls don’t vote, people do–and the only vote that counts is the one on Election Day. This campaign will be exciting and hard fought, and I fully expect that the polls will tighten as the race goes on. I plan to continue what I’ve done for the last 20 years–fighting hard for the people of Connecticut, listening to their ideas, earning their trust and, ultimately, continuing my public service.
“I take nothing for granted, and I will work like an underdog.”
From Mayor Finch
Mayor Finch Calls Roundtable Meeting to Support Relief Efforts in Haiti
WHAT: Mayor Bill Finch, along with representatives from the City’s Haitian community, and American Red Cross, Save the Children and other nongovernmental agencies that are assisting in the Haiti earthquake relief effort, will meet on Friday, Jan. 15 to rally relief efforts in the Bridgeport community.
“On behalf of the people of the city of Bridgeport, I extend my deepest sympathy to the families affected by this week’s tragic earthquake in Haiti. Our city has a large and growing Haitian community, and we share a profound concern for those who were injured or lost.
“I urge all residents to contribute what they can to the Haiti relief services by accessing www.whitehouse.gov/haitiearthquake. President Obama and the White House staff are supporting international relief efforts, but individuals can donate immediately by using the links on the President’s site.
“I ask everyone to keep the residents of Haiti, their families and their friends in our thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time,” said Mayor Finch.
WHO: Mayor Finch, City employees, Pierre D’Haiti, representatives from the American Red Cross and Save the Children.
WHERE: Mayor’s Conference Room, City Hall Annex, 999 Broad St., Bridgeport, CT
WHEN: Friday, January 15, 10:30 a.m.
From Jim Himes
Himes Expresses Condolences to Victims of Earthquake in Haiti, Provides Information on Relief Effort
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) released the following statement and information regarding the earthquake in Haiti.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and the thousands of my constituents who have family members in the region. This is an unimaginably devastating time in an already challenging environment, and we are committed to providing the assistance necessary to save and improve as many lives as possible.”
With the situation on the ground changing frequently, the best source of information about family members in Haiti is through the State Department Operations Center. Americans seeking information about missing family members in Haiti should call 1-888-407-4747 or visit the State Department website.
In response to the tragedy, Congressman Himes has also signed onto a proposal that will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians currently in the United States. TPS can be granted to nationals from a country where “there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster … resulting in a substantial, but temporary disruption of living conditions in the area affected.” Granting TPS status will help Haitian individuals work legally in the U.S. and send money back to family members affected by the crisis. Over time, these remittances from individuals often become more significant than foreign aid sent by governments.
Individuals and organizations wishing to assist the relief effort in Haiti are encouraged to make monetary donations as most organizations do not yet have the capacity to handle volunteers or in-kind contributions. Suggested methods of donations include:
· Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross charged through your cell phone bill.
· Visit www.savethechildren.org to make a donation to Save the Children’s on-the-ground relief effort in Haiti.
· Visit www.americares.org to make a donation to AmeriCares’ medical relief effort.
· Visit www.redcross.org to donate online to the Red Cross Haitian relief effort.
· Visit www.usaid.gov for a list of NGOs and instructions on how to help.
More from the mayor
Mayor Joins Charter Oak Challenge Scholars at Annual Reunion
Mayor Bill Finch joined scholars from the Charter Oak Challenge Scholarship program at their recent reunion held at the Holiday Inn. Every January, this group of Bridgeport high school students, who are either beginning their college career or former scholars who are returning as mentors and graduate students, gather to renew old friendships.
The Charter Oak Scholarship is awarded by the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation founded by Andy Boas. The Bridgeport Public Education Fund manages the program. Each scholar receives a $10,000 scholarship, a laptop and is paired with an adult mentor.
Read more about the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.
$150K to be Awarded in Third Round of Advancing Capacity Together FundingMayor Bill Finch and local partners in the Advancing Capacity Together (ACT) funding program will award the third round of funding to 14 area nonprofits on Friday, Jan. 15 during an event at City Hall Annex.The grants, totaling $150,000, will be used to build organizational capacity for local agencies serving Bridgeport’s homeless and at-risk population. “Advancing Capacity Together will enable these 14 nonprofits agencies to obtain the staff, training and infrastructure they need to help Bridgeport’s homeless and at-risk residents find shelter and well-being,” said Mayor Finch. “This program is instrumental in connecting grassroots organizations with federal funding that, without the help of the City and our partners, they would not be able to obtain.”The following agencies will receive grants ranging from $8,000 to $19,990: Applied Behavioral Rehabilitation Institute, Inc., Homes for the Brave; Area Congregations Together, Inc., Spooner House; Ark of Christ Ministries International; Burroughs Community Center, Inc.; Children in Placement, Inc.; Family ReEntry, Inc.; Greater Bridgeport Community Outreach for Economic Empowerment, Inc.; Healing Tree Economic Development, Inc., King’s Pantry; Helping Hand Center, Inc.; Jewish Center for Community Services, Inc., Community Closet; Spirit Led Ministries; The McGivney Community Center, Inc.; Universal Church of God Pantry; Women for Change, Inc.
Make a Home for Kids Who Don’t Have One of Their Own
Precious newborn Andrew is looking for a family who will be committed to helping him overcome hurdles he will face in life. This sweet little boy of Asian descent is legally free for adoption and needs a very special family to call his own. Andrew loves being cuddled, and a soft touch and a gentle voice eases him into contentment.
Due to complications prior to his birth, Andrew was born paralyzed from the chest down. Prospective adoptive families do not need a medical background or experience, but will need dedication and commitment to attend training, and be willing to learn how to care for him.
An ideal family would be able to provide him with a non-smoking, stay at home parent who has the time and energy to devote to working with numerous medical providers, as well as be on hand to take him to doctor’s appointments. Strong organizational and communication skills will be imperative for a parent to manage and advocate for all of his needs.
Although Andrew is not ready to be discharged from the hospital today, he is waiting for his family to come and learn about him. Love and comfort from a family would help Andrew overcome some obstacles and allow him to flourish.
For more information about Andrew please contact:
Office of Foster Care and Adoption Services,
Department of Children and Families,
505 Hudson Street,
Hartford, CT 06106
(860)550-6307 or 1-800-842-6348 or
For more information about the Heart Gallery, click here.
Give a shelter animal a good home – adopt a cat or dog!
Looking for a pet cat or dog? Then, please consider adopting one of the many cats, kittens and dogs available at Bridgeport Animal Control.
Adopting an animal who needs a home is easy. Applications are available at the Bridgeport Animal Control facility at 236 Evergreen St. Be sure to bring a state identification card or Driver’s License, and cash or check only for the adoption fee ($50 for intact animals and $5 for previously spayed/neutered animals).
If you’re a renter, please bring a notarized letter from your landlord giving you permission to house a pet; homeowners should bring a tax bill or mortgage bill to show proof of ownership. For more information on animal adoption, call Bridgeport Animal Control at 203.576.7727.
For more information log on to www.bptanimalcontrol.com