Robert Walsh, the curmudgeonly former City Council member who railed against political elite while serving Bridgeport’s West Side for more than a decade passed away on Sunday, according to several of his friends. He was 71.
An accountant by trade with a keen nose for BS, Walsh often used his financial background to challenge the municipal budget numbers presented by city officials during a variety of mayoral administrations, often a lone voice awash in “all those in favor say aye.”
Several years ago he moved to Branford with his wife Judith, but was still engaged in city politics.
Squatty, with a mischievous elfin incantation speaking often in a monotone pitch, Walsh took it with a badge of honor when his long-time friend, the late State Senator Ed Gomes, tagged him with the nickname “Troll.” Walsh lurked, whether under a bridge to torment his adversaries or spinning a rejoinder that embraced tasty editorial copy.
If he had an argument to make he rarely gave up the point. Rolling over and playing dead was not in his vocabulary. When it came to establishment politicians, lawyers and developers doing business with the city, his disposition was resoundingly sour.
Tops among his list of grievances were free tickets to City Council members attending events at city-owned assets be it Seaside Park or the arena. Council members argued it gave them a chance to see what they voted to approve.
For Walsh, it was nothing but a conflict of interest.
“You give them a free ticket they don’t care about anything else,” he wrote in the comments section of OIB where he was a regular contributor for years. “They will give you whatever you want and more. No free tickets.”
Tax breaks for developmers? Forget about it. For Walsh, that was nothing but corporate welfare.
And if a council member took a free junket from a developer to size up a like-minded project for Bridgeport, be prepared for a stinging rejoinder.
Such was the case more than a decade ago when his council partner Evette Brantley accompanied a majority of the council on a trip to Miami on behalf of a developer. Walsh left her a pointed phone message that she, a Black woman, sold out to her “masta.”
It was a hard swallow for Walsh to apologize publicly at a council meeting after a big hullabaloo was made of the call, the audio recording making the rounds, but he did so. For those of us who knew Walsh, he was no racist and no bigot, but an equal opportunity scorner when ethical sensibilities violated.
And just about no one was safe from his editorial jabs in the OIB comments section, be it friends, candidates he had supported for public office or scribes he knew for decades. If you wrote something even remotely sappy, his take on a column I wrote last year, he responded with this:
“For Lennie’s next book he is going to write a book of free form poetry. It kind of makes me want to weep 😢 Or throw up 🤮”