City Council Romper Room–The Play For Legislative Leader

For a traditionally sleepy cycle, there’s a wake of moving parts in this election season featuring offices for City Council and Board of Education. One key part is whether City Council President Tom McCarthy will seek reelection to his North End seat. On Sunday Big Mac said he hasn’t made a decision.

He may have very well made a decision but isn’t saying. He can afford to kick back for another month or so knowing he and his council partner Jeanette Herron have competition from former State Rep. Bob Keeley and zoning commissioner Anne Pappas Phillips. McCarthy’s prospects are key because positioning, even if it’s rhetoric, has already begun for a leader of the city’s legislative body, a spot McCarthy has occupied for more than nine years.

The council president is key to moving along city business, assigning peers to legislative committees where detail work is done, and serving as a check on the executive branch. A lot of behind the scenes work takes place negotiating 19 egos involving a variety of matters. Sometimes it’s a throwback to Romper Room. (Did we all have a special day today?)

The council president also succeeds the mayor when a vacancy occurs, be it for several months until a special election takes place or completing the term if a vacancy occurs in a mayoral election year as was the case in April 2003 when John Fabrizi replaced Joe Ganim who resigned following his conviction on federal public corruption charges. Ganim is back as mayor but his statewide ambition has not dampened so the council presidency intrigues.

At least three city pols are in the early stages of positioning for council presidency, assuming they win election in November. Ernie Newton was the first African American to be chosen by his council peers when he was a young city music teacher in 1981. He leveraged it as a platform for nearly 20 years in the state legislature. Following a plea on public corruption charges more than 10 years ago, Newton came up short on two comeback occasions the past five years to regain a seat in the state legislature.

Newton is eyeing a run for council, counting on his East End base to get him there. A council incumbent in the same 139th District, however, Eneida Martinez, is also making noise about running for council president. Legislatively, Bridgeport is broken down into 10 districts with two council members per district. Newton and Walker could end up running together, but this depends on other potential district candidates including Jim Holloway, the longest-tenured council member who’s gone back and forth for years about seeking reelection. What will Jim do?

The East End, like many council districts this cycle, is likely to experience a Democratic primary.

Then there’s Keeley, the mischievous former state legislator. He can argue I’m the man for the job; I spent more than 20 years in the state legislature and I know everyone up there to help bring home extra bacon to Bridgeport.

So much of this relies on Big Mac who’s had a couple of tough years politically. He was all in for Bill Finch whom Ganim took out in a 2015 primary. In 2016, McCarthy was shellacked in a Democratic primary for State Senate by incumbent Marilyn Moore. He did not even defeat her in his own council district.

If he runs, McCarthy knows his territory and cannot be discounted. But does he have fire in the belly?



  1. *** Most of the city council members should get on there Romper-Room ponies and gallope & gallope , get on there horse and gallope to Romper-Room today! There rubber-stamping ways are child’s play @ best. Time for big change all around or nothing will change in the city & the council. ***

  2. “The council president is key to moving along city business, assigning peers to legislative committees where detail work is done, and serving as a check on the executive branch.”

    Lennie you captured a sense of some of the quality of governance responsibility by the Council President, but the quantity of it extends far beyond. Doesn’t he sit on other bodies where secrets have been buried, like the Airport Commission, and the taxpayer is no wiser? Didn’t he singlehandedly initiate the removal of the only formal assistance the Council ever had to support latent curiosity of a Council member, that he portrayed as a cost saving while he caused a new person installed in the City Clerk office? How did that serve as a brake on the Executive branch?
    As an law school graduate and nine year veteran of his post, would he have allowed the passing of ordinances that fail to be consistent with how Bridgeport governance works? Stipends? Parking meters? Purchasing? Etc.
    And wasn’t Tom the man who showed his followers how to grab $2,000 from a Legislative Department Other Services budget as requested purchase orders four months before the 2013 election cycle to be given to charities of Council person choice, WITHOUT ANY FORMAL MEETING THAT WOULD HAVE LEFT A PAPER TRAIL? The surprise is that only 15 followed his guidance and spent $28,000 of taxpayer money, taking credit for the gifts before the public. Are these the items that commend Tom McCarthy in the minds of a few to hold this responsible position? Time will tell.

    1. I just watched the video Steve Auerbach posted, It’s harmless and hilarious. The discussion about the City Council is real, but so long as this piece of it has become a “silly season” interlude, I offer readers this proof that while some behavior is “only in Bridgeport,” other ego-driven behavior by elected leaders can be the same the world over. To wit, this paragraph from an NYT story about how the Israelis prepared for President Trump’s visit: “An infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to order his ministers to attend the airport welcome ceremony, the Hebrew daily newspaper ‘Haaretz’ reported, after he learned that most of them were planning to skip it because there was no time scheduled for Mr. Trump to shake their hands on the tarmac.”

      1. Donald Trump is receiving great praise from the Saudi’s and his speech about terrorism. Not once did he mention Israel. They praised Melania’s outfit which is a breath of fresh air compared to the Hefty bags the Saudi woman have to wear. hefty bags. While the Royals are drinking on their yachts . Woman are still asking permission to get a Drivers licence or did the council approve that yet?

        Today in Russia and Chechnya gays disappeared after parties were raided, Gays arrested and detained and beaten. Just sharing. I wonder if Trump will call them out or was that an Obama thing?

        In other News Donal Trump is the first U<S President to visit the Western wall. BFD. I think I'm gonna throw up!

  3. Thursday, May 25,2017 7:00PM SPECIAL City Council Meeting announced:
    Pledge of Allegiance
    Roll Call
    MATTERS TO BE ACTED UPON: 59-16 (A-E) Mayoral Veto

    Question: Does the Mayor Chair this CC Special Meeting called together only to deal with the budget approved, but subsequently vetoed by the Mayor? Is there a discussion about the budget, perhaps an update on where things in Hartford stand? Time will tell.


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