BOE Battle Heats Up

Lots going on this week. Candidate endorsements, Gathering of the Vibes at Seaside Park and oh, yeah, the OIB party Thursday, 5:30 p.m. at Taco Loco in Black Rock. 

Candidates for Board of Education made their pitch Sunday night at Testo’s Restaurant to 10 district leaders that represent the 90-member Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee that will make endorsements Wednesday night. Candidates addressed the district leaders individually for about 15 minutes answering questions about motivating kids, prioritizing the BOE budget, etc.

Not since Mayor Bill Finch tried to keep former Democratic Town Chair John Stafstrom in power 16 months ago has he weighed in with party regulars this heavily to wire candidates on his behalf. Finch got his ass kicked trying to save Stafstrom. The party went for Mario Testa. But this is another fight. This latest battle also pits Finch against his political godmother party Vice Chair Dottie Guman, as did the Stafstrom-Testa contest.

Finch’s relationship with Guman has soured since he became mayor–she’s not thrilled with the way he’s governed the city, nor his streak of arrogance–and the rift seems to be growing deeper in this BOE battle.

Finch is working the party to endorse former City Councilman Pat Crossin and City Councilwoman Leticia Colon. Guman is not opposed to either, but would like to see retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez–a Guman friend and steady volunteer on behalf of many BOE issues–endorsed for a slot.

Also seeking BOE support is former City Councilman Keith Cougar Rodgerson. Joe Giaquinto who waged a strong primary in 2007 against 138th City Council incumbents Bob Curwen and Rich Paoletto has decided not to seek a BOE seat.

Three Dem slots are available but one does not appear to be in contention–the seat occupied by incumbent Bobby Simmons. That leaves two with five candidates.

Guman feels that Finch’s people are unfairly demonizing Lopez who had a squabble with Finch during the Puerto Rican Parade dinner 10 days ago (see prior post for details). Finch does not want Lopez on the BOE. He sees her in the mold of outgoing BOE President Max Medina with whom Finch has had a poor relationship over budget matters.

In Crossin, Finch has a friend he feels he can work with. In Colon he has someone who has been supportive on the council aligned with South End District Leader Mitch Robles who wields clout with Finch.

In random calls to town committee members it appears Crossin is acceptable in most districts. The battle appears over Colon and Lopez. But that could change between now and Wednesday night in the crazy world of city politics.

Could there be a primary? Yes, but there hasn’t been a good BOE primary in 10 years when anti-establishment pols such as OIB friend John Soltis challenged a slate of candidates pushed by Testa who survived by the skin of his sausage intestines (yeah, I know, not the kind of image you want on a Monday). Running a BOE primary requires a citywide effort.

So far, Mario’s not pushing hard for a particular candidate, possibly trying to stay above the battle to negotiate a compromise.

Why does any of this matter? The BOE budget represents roughly one third of the overall half-billion dollar city budget.

SuBy news release

Bysiewicz: First Half of 2009 Sets New Record High for Number of Businesses Shutting Down in Connecticut

Secretary of the State Says Glimmer of Hope Seen as Number of 2nd Quarter Shut-Downs Lower than First Quarter

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz reported today that in the first half of 2009, 6,944 businesses shut down, setting a new record for the first half of any year since these figures were first recorded in 2000. This represents a 17% percent increase in the number of business failures from the first two quarters of 2008. In the second quarter of 2009, 3,467 filed papers to dissolve, just under the 3,477 to shut their doors in the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, 6,937 new businesses incorporated between April 1st and June 30th of 2009, slightly less than the 6,941 start-ups in the first quarter. Business starts in the first half of 2009 declined 9.6% from 2008 figures.

“Obviously, this is still a difficult economic climate for our state’s entrepreneurs, but we may be starting to see the recession bottom out,” said Secretary Bysiewicz, Connecticut’s Chief Business Registrar. “While 2009 may yet set the record for most business failures, it appears the severity of both the number of closures and the decline of new business start-ups is lessening, so I see this as a glimmer of hope for our economy. Connecticut’s small businesses still need our help now to reduce costs and create a more favorable climate for profitability, particularly in areas such as health care and utilities. We also need to continue to hold down unnecessary taxes and fees, and continue to offer financial incentives to enter new areas of business such as green technologies, life sciences, and alternative energy sources.”

The monthly figures contained in the Business Starts Index released by the Secretary of the State’s Office are available online at The statistics show that in April 2009, 1,521 businesses filed paperwork to dissolve their company, followed by another 929 in May and 1,017 in June. Connecticut experienced a 13% increase in the number of business failures in the second quarter of 2009 over 2008 data.

The number of new business starts declined in comparison to previous years. In the second quarter of 2009, 4% fewer businesses filed incorporation papers than in the second quarter of 2008, when 7,224 businesses opened their doors. These figures represent the lowest number of 2nd quarter business start-ups since 2003. They show that in April 2009, some 2,412 companies filed incorporation papers in Connecticut, followed by 2,152 in May and 2,363 in June.

After reviewing Secretary of the State Bysiewicz’s report, Don Klepper-Smith, Chief Economist and Director of Research for DataCore Partners LLC and Chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors said, “Connecticut is still facing the headwinds from a national recession, which I believe is in the process of bottoming. Over the near-term we’ve seen the continued loss of jobs, a lackluster housing market, and a risk-averse lending environment. Business attitudes have remained cautious as a result. This data on business starts and stops confirms the overall tenor of economic growth that we’ve been seeing. Hopefully, confidence measures, which generally lead to overall economic activity, will start to improve from here, suggesting that business formation could improve in 2010.”

In her assessment of the report Secretary Bysiewicz said that, “Small businesses have created over 90% of all new jobs in Connecticut in the last 10 years and they are the engines of our economy. We owe it to the entrepreneurs of our state to make it easier for them to do business by reducing the high cost of health care and energy. This is a crucial goals we must meet if we are to reverse the economic trend we have seen over the last year.”

Secretary Bysiewicz has been a strong advocate for opening up the state employee health care plan to small businesses and non-profit organizations, an effort which would save millions for businesses. Two recent health care reform bills, the Connecticut Health Care Partnership and the SustiNet plan were passed overwhelmingly by the Connecticut General Assembly but were vetoed by Governor M. Jodi Rell.



  1. *** My personal choices are Cougar Rodgerson & Judge Lopez, both would be good & effective. Rodgerson still somewhat friendly with Finch but has always had a problem with the Education’s way of spending “$” on the wrong things, while crying about needing more for the kids! Colon will continue to be Mitch’s puppet, I don’t know much about Giaquinto & Crossin in the past seemed like a Pro- Admin. type during the Ganim years & sort of left suddenly after the Insurance scam incident. So thats it, up to the 90 members & the district leaders that control many of them so to speak. Personately, the B.O.E. is a thankless job which takes up alot of time with little to gain but some self satisfaction and something that looks nice on a job resume. Bpt. city schools are caught in a revolving type vicious cycle with no real end in sight to better more kids education! ***

    1. I second Judge Lopez and the Cougermeister. The BOE has been run as a slush fund to repay political debts. Public education in the city of Bridgeport sucks the big one, to put it mildly. The city of Hartford had a similar problem in the ’70s and ’80s. The BOE up there would make a grand show of headhunting for a superintendent of schools candidate to “straighten things out.” They found more than a few candidates to do the Joe Clark thing, but none of ’em lasted more than eighteen months or so. The intransigence of of the bureaucracy, the don’t-rock-the-boat mentality of the tenured and elected officials, it turned the job into a dreadful bore.

      Bridgeport’s BOE is an elected body, but it may as well consist of appointed officials. Y’know, the DTC (and Don Calamari) more or less decide on who is going to run for a particular office, and the district leaders turn out the votes to insure that only puppets and yes-men get elected. Judge Lopez has a notable streak of independence; if Don Calamari and Bill Finch and their capos don’t like it, I would support Her Honor in a primary.

      “Non è più della stessa cosa negativa.”

  2. “Bridgeport Now” LIVE Tuesdays July 21, at 8pm on Ch 77

    Real estate foreclosures and short sales.

    Certified distressed property expert, real estate agents and lawyer will be on to discuss how you can save your home from foreclosure. Also how to get involved as an investor.

    Seen on cable TV in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Stratford, Woodbridge, Orange and Milford.

  3. BTW,

    The Black Rock Art Center is no more. Oh, you already knew? I thought so; I just like to say it. Joe “Professor Hill” Celli left town with nary a whimper, closed up shop and fired all his employees in December of last year. The former general manager of the art center took to calling him “the Devil.” A wee bit harsh, but a good indication of how quickly ol’ Joe’s fortunes fell. How interesting that he found a normal job in New London last year BEFORE the final round of arbitration. The city’s offer was the same as it had been: a one-year lease at $3,600.00 per month and the same amount of time to raise the necessary funds to renovate the building (as per the terms of IPA’s original licencing agreement with the city), or get the fuck out. Mr. Celli, being an understanding bloke, chose the latter option.

    Good riddence. There are too many crooks in this town already.

  4. Yeah, time for someone WITH an education that cares ABOUT education for everyone. Let’s try a little energy and passion at the BOE for a change. Rodgerson can navigate through the crazy waters of the Finch administration without being slavishly beholden to it.

  5. So where’s the mayor’s apology for his idiotic remarks about U.B.? Is he standing by his statement? Maybe our intrepid blogger can reach out to his old pal for an update?

  6. Some Young Moon Beam of a Mayor claims “I will apologize when Ash Wednesday falls on Tuesday!” As they took him out in his straightjacket he could be heard screaming that it was a “Korean Kim Chee Criminal Conspiracy orchestrated by Mary-Jane Foster!”

  7. Gossip of The Rialto!

    The Bridgeport Herald is reporting that Housatonic Community Technical College has just been taken over by the University of Bridgeport.

    Paul Timpanelli is quoted as saying that this is a “real coup d’état for the region” and continued by saying, “The BRBC has been the leader of the pack and behind the scenes of this consolidation.”

    Timpanelli just signed up a flower shop as a new member called “Little Shop of Horrors!” He says to Bill Finch: “Hey I never promised you a rose garden. Just a flower cart on every street. Feed Me Seymour!”

    New combined school to specialize in Interrogative Curriculum to be called WHO U.B.?

    1. Here is the latest that I found.

      Bill History (in reverse chronological order)

       Date      Action Taken
      7/20/2009 In Concurrence
      7/20/2009 Senate Reconsidered,
                 Veto Overruled
      7/20/2009 Senate Reconsidered
      7/20/2009 Immediate Transmittal
                 to the Senate
      7/20/2009 Veto Overruled, House
      7/20/2009 House Adopted Motion To
      7/2/2009  Vetoed by the Governor
  8. *** Now begins the fireworks & frankly will speak for itself just what & who is doing their legislative elected jobs up in the State Capitol for the city of Bpt? All 8 of Bpt’s legislative representation, what’s their stand on the P/A? ***

  9. Lennie,
    I too have heard that the House overrode the Governor’s veto of the DOT bill. Since it is a House bill, now what? MCAT … MCAT … MCAT????????? I also heard Riccio chaired the Maritime Commission last week and wouldn’t let the Bridgeport issue come up for discussion.

  10. Let me get this straight.

    Today, the State Legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto of the CDOT bill that contained the ‘horrible’ attack on Bridgeport’s home rule regarding the Port Authority. The Senate needed 24 votes to override. The actual vote: 28 in favor and 8 against. Voting in favor were our own Senators Gomes and Musto. Senator McKinney voted no. The House also voted to override. They needed 101 votes to override. The actual vote: 136 in favor, 5 against and 10 not voting. The ENTIRE BRIDGEPORT DELEGATION voted to override. Ayala, Hennessy, Caruso and Clemons ALL VOTED TO override …

    What the _ _ _ _?

    The world was ending as we knew it if you listened to the City Council. So, the entire delegation voted to have the CDOT provide oversight over the three port authorities. Seems like the home rule issue wasn’t such a big deal after all.

    All this to get Joe Riccio fired?

    All this to neutralize the Port Authority so the Ferry Boat Company does not have their opposition to go across the river to the East End?

    All this to make Bridgeport a laughing stock in the eyes of existing and potential investors.

    I cannot believe what just happened. I just cannot believe it.

    I personally did not think that the CDOT oversight was such a bad thing. I didn’t think it was more important than the dissolution of the Port Authority. You just don’t blow away a 15-year-old public benefit corporation overnight. You unwind it slowly if in fact it is a bad actor, or you restructure it. But no-o-o-o-o-o. Bridgeport hits the ant with a freaking blowtorch carried by the Terminator. Unbelievably bad public decision making. Bad all around. The City Council didn’t do anything close to proper due diligence, and the Bridgeport delegation just ignored the whole matter.

    So where are we? Joe Riccio is still chairing the State Maritime Commission because he is the Governor’s appointment. We have the Port Authority intact with Andy Nunn, the City’s CAO as its acting Executive Director. We have the Mayor stating that his administration is neutral as far as the Ferry Boat company’s attempt to move across the river. If the Port Authority decides to do a selection process for a new Executive Director, they will need CDOT Commissioner’s consent.

    My head hurts.

    1. Nancy, am I understanding this correctly? Our state delegation voted for CDOT to take over the P.A.? Did Riccio get to them? Is Caruso behind this? I don’t get what’s happening here.

      1. CHS:
        The CDOT is not taking over the three Port Authorities. They have consent on anything major such as reorganization, property transfers and the like. They do not have day-to-day responsibility. But I would expect that the new ED would need CDOT commissioner consent. I would expect that the move of the Ferry Boat from under the Port Authority would need consent even if the PZC approves that petition. But yes, every member of Bridgeport’s state delegation voted to override the governor’s veto. EVERY MEMBER OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Only Senator McKinney voted no. I can run out several scenarios but it would be speculation on my part. This is nuts in my opinion.

          1. Joel,
            Yes Senator McKinney is a Republican but this time, this very rare time, the Governor was doing something that preserved home rule for Bridgeport. This time I would have expected the entire Bridgeport delegation, the all-Democrat delegation to show some respect for the fact that the Governor did something that the 100% Democratic City Council wanted to have happen. For the Governor to veto the CDOT bill was a big thing. She very rarely does that. She did it based on her veto message, because she agreed that the home rule issue had some merit. So, now we have the entire State Delegation from Bridgeport voting in a manner that sends a message that they really don’t think a challenge to home rule is a major issue. Look, in Hartford, everything we do has an equal and opposite reaction. Yuk, yuk and more yuk.

  11. As Mojo mentioned in the first post of the day, Crossin left the council suddenly after Ganim’s insurance scandal. If you recall, they bought large insurance policies for a select few and they buried the money for the purchase in a budget transfer. Crossin and fellow councilman Marella were the budget co-chairs when this all went down. I’m not insinuating that they did anything wrong but they both left the council shortly thereafter. I believe Marella even moved out of town. It just smells bad.

    Look for Adam Wood to make some promises to the district leaders over the next few days. He is real pissed at Judge Lopez because she embarrassed the mayor at the PR dinner. He’ll do anything to make sure she has little support. Since some of the district leaders and/or their family members work for the City, there will be bribes … I mean promises made.

    Someone told me today that Mario had somewhat of a personal relationship with Mario many years back. Is that why he’s remaining noncommittal?

    1. I meant that Mario had a personal relationship with CARMEN several years back. But given the character of Mario’s girlfriend, maybe Mario did have a relationship with Mario.

  12. I am so confused about this Port Authority thing. I think typical Bpt residents like me have no idea what the hell is going on with the PA thing. By the way Lennie have you ever given any thought to making the OIB party on a Saturday or Sunday because some people like me work late for instance I work from 4 to 10. I just read on the CT Post that there will be primaries in the city.

  13. *** Why did the capitol legislators vote in favor of overriding the Governor’s veto? There’s more to this P/A than meets the eye, especially in the state’s feeling towards the main ports & L/I sound in general; for wanting to take power away from local municipalities involved? Time will tell & as usual the overall Bpt government legislation, local & state never know what’s going on with each other when it comes to being on the same page so to speak! Sad but so true! ***


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