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Build A Statue Of Margaret Morton

February 16th, 2017 · 22 Comments · Analysis and Comment, News and Events

Margaret Morton

Margaret Morton transformed city politics with her eight-vote win over Democratic State Senator Salvatore DePiano in 1980.

Controversy abounded about the statue relocation of engineering pioneer Lewis Latimer that seems to be resolved by Mayor Joe Ganim declaring Thursday it will continue to front the Margaret Morton Government Center. It’s a mighty fine statue that should remain displayed prominently, but how many visitors who approach the Downtown concourse know anything about the woman whose name graces the building?

We’re approaching the five-year anniversary of the death of Margaret Morton, the first African American woman elected to the Connecticut State Senate; a transformational figure in city politics. Shortly after her death then-Mayor Bill Finch, who also commissioned the Latimer statue, renamed the City Hall Annex in honor of Morton that was seen by cynics as an olive branch to strengthen his imploding relationship with black voters. It was a nice gesture for sure, but for those who knew Morton it was also understandable she’d have some advice for the mayor: beware of false prophets. Finch, in the end, failed to put words into action with the black community. It cost him the 2015 primary to Joe Ganim.

Morton center

Morton put words into action.

She has a political legacy in the city like no other. It’s a story that requires reminding.

It was 1980, and genial State Senator Salvatore DePiano was appointed tax attorney by Democratic Mayor John Mandanici, a sweet and sour political hurricane. Margaret, a state representative, believed she had a deal with Mandy to replace Sal when he received the tax attorney appointment. Somewhere along the way the deal went out the window, and Margaret saw it as a double dip, two jobs at once. Margaret was among the most decent in city politics. She was honest, strong and her word was good. The fight was on.

In Margaret’s words to me 30 years ago, “I felt I was a loyal Democrat. They had reneged on their promise that there would be no double-dipping. I wanted to make peace but they wanted to make war.”

And it was a war that changed the face of city politics. Margaret, in her mid-fifties when she took on this battle, stitched together a coalition–black, white and brown–that said screw the party establishment, a woman’s place is in the senate, not the house. Margaret, a funeral home director, defeated DePiano by a handful of votes in a primary.

Margaret’s primary win did more than elevate her as a black woman in the Connecticut State Senate. Like them or not, she opened the door for several minority candidates including Charlie Tisdale, a gifted political organizer who became the first black in the city’s history to win a major party mayoral nomination in 1983. In 1981, a young music teacher from East Side Middle School, Ernie Newton, became City Council President. When Margaret left the State Senate she was replaced by Alvin Penn who was replaced by Newton who was replaced by Ed Gomes, then Andres Ayala and then regained by Ed Gomes.

So let’s embrace Lewis Latimer and while we’re at it, Margaret Morton too.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Perfect, there you go, an ex-citizen of the Park City who’s done well for the city and state! No? ***

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Well we named city hall after her, why not just name a school after her? We can build statues of Newton, Ford, Holloway, Cecil Young. Donald Day and Ron Mackey and a few other assholes in city government.

  • Ernie Newton

    NO; YOU ARE A REALLL A-HOLE.

  • John Marshall Lee

    And thus OIB, which is a valuable tool and community resource for the exchange of information, also appeals to those who are angry at the current state of the City, and resort to high school quality name calling. Time-out guys and gals. Share what you know that will cause people to really become upset with those guiding policy, process and fiscal resources. I am pointing to a new direction for wasted energy, not judging the comments. Too many friends resorting to wasted energy. This effort is a marathon, not a windsprint for those who wish change to benefit all the folks in the City. Time will tell.

    • Andrew C Fardy

      JML, your way gets us where?????????

      • John Marshall Lee

        Glad you asked this question, Brother Andy. If people aren’t learning more about the way things run, if they do not get more in touch with how “their” funds are spent (whether from State or local sources mostly), then my work is merely an exercise in futility. And those people who have really done the City an injustice like Tom Sherwood, Adam Wood and Andy Nunn for instance, get off into the world with no sanctions or comments from the next regime.

        Rather we should look at what was harmful in their governance and spending habits? What was not yet accounted for in the monthly reports, in the CAFR, or in minutes not filed with City Clerk for public view? And why hasn’t Ganim2 and Terminator1 shown us the priority list for review where accountability and indicators can be seen by all, that were the basis for firings? And why did so much surplus variance show up six months into this year? Were personnel budgets padded last year so there was plenty of spending elasticity while the crowds cried about increased taxes? And who is prepared or authorized and capable of answering the questions I ask? You ended your question to me with NINE question marks and I ask you some more questions. Does the public care about answers? Time will tell.

  • Mojo

    A.F. has a lot of hate and anger built up in him, probably has high B/P as well. Every other thing in Bpt is either negative or crooked, and not worth the time or effort. Maybe that’s why he’s never had a seat on the City Council or some of the other political positions locally or on the state level, other than the Bpt DTC that I’m aware of. His wife however, was excellent on the city’s Zoning Committee and all the other political seats she held during her time because she did her homework and knew her stuff. Andy, you need to chill, Bro. The Park City I’m afraid, is unfortunately what the actor Paul Newman labeled it years ago! The A/P of Connecticut. *** FORGETABOUTIT ***

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Well Mojo, I am glad you are worried about my health. My BP is 116 over 74. I don’t hate but I am tired of seeing the same crooks running for office time and again. I am tired of a police chief who takes almost a year to reach a decision on a minority officer. Don’t worry Mojo, politically I did alright. I ran for office once with Ann Barney we beat Curwin and Paoletto at Hooker School but got killed at JFK thanks to the third party put up by Mario.
    Just so you know, I was VP of the park board under Ganim and served six years. I was the deciding vote that sold Beardsley Park to the state for millions of dollars to get us out of debt. Lowell Wicker was Governor. Also check the plaques at the rain forest and the Carousel. Check the Park board minutes and you will see who saved the original carousel horses that are on display. What’s the big deal about being on the council with a bunch of dummies?

    • Mojo

      *** True on that statement about the city council’s members as of late! *** RIP *** Mr. Phil Reeves who has ended his battle with the big C. ***

  • John Marshall Lee

    And Andy Fardy was at the scene of the fiscal crimes and obfuscation when we first met some seven years or so ago. And he has been the partner in B.O.B. (Budget Oversight Bridgeport) since we began. Our temperaments, experiences and training have meshed over the years. And our integrity around these issues remains upright while others, paid by the City or otherwise, have passed from view leaving citizens to pay for their faults and follies.
    Andy, they will not be building any statues to us. Indeed, that would be a genuine waste of public funds. The reward is in providing an example of “public virtue” such that we take strength from out differences when we come together knowing that human universals join us. We also know we can get separated from our money too easily when there is no explanation or it proves to be less simple and straightforward than necessary. P.T. Barnum made the point well with his business model. But people losing homes through foreclosure does not follow the exhibit sign, “This way to the egress” and there is no humor when a game is rigged such that personal value is converted by public policy into someone else’s pocket.
    Finally Andy, if each of us keeps taking our hypertension Rx and diuretics routinely, let those folks keep worrying about our readings.

    Aren’t the City numbers the ones to worry about? And who monitors the number of city employees? The level of bond and grant funds spent or on hand? The value of the grand list each month, the way you keep track of your check balance? The amount of external overtime required by police annually and the pension benefits this triggers? Who’s looking after these issues? Who? Who? Who? Time will tell.

  • Ernie Newton

    Andy, I must say you did a great Job on the PARKS board and you didn’t rubber stamp for the Mayor if he was Wrong! I was in the House of REP when GOV Lowell Wicker cut the deal with Bridgeport along with other projects. I remember you as a firefighter when I served on the City Council.

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