Finch Names Members To Charter Revision Panel

Mayor Bill Finch has appointed seven Bridgeport residents to serve on a new Charter Revision Commission designed to modernize an antiquated City Charter and examine education reform. The members include a former Republican town chairman, an executive at the University of Bridgeport, a city pastor and the mayor’s deputy chief of staff.

Voters must ultimately approve the recommendations made by the commission that was created by a vote of the City Council. The council is expected to approve Finch’s appointments at its next meeting Jan. 17.

One area the charter panel could examine is an appointed Bridgeport Board of Education instead of an elected body. The State Supreme Court will decide a legal challenge of the state takeover of city schools. The mayor wants the commission to conduct its work in time for the November election in a presidential cycle when the turnout should eclipse 50 percent based on past voter performance. The mayor’s office is expected to be actively involved in selling charter changes to voters.

Commission members:

Harry Weischel, Democrat, vice president with Arnold Peck’s Commercial World, has been a long-time city resident active in a number of social service and city athletic programs. He founded the city’s Grassroots Tennis Program. He has served on the city’s Ethics Commission.

Charlie Valentino, Republican, served years ago as the chairman of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee. He has been a long-time state marshal involved in serving summons and complaints in state and federal civil matters.

George Estrada, Republican, vice president for Facilities at the University of Bridgeport, served under mayors Mary Moran and John Fabrizi as chief of Public Works and Public Facilities. An intriguing selection by the mayor considering his past issues with the University of Bridgeport where his primary opponent Mary-Jane Foster works as an executive vice president.

William Marshall, Democrat, pastor of Bridgeport Christian Life Center on Connecticut Avenue.

Cathleen Simpson, Democrat, labor relations attorney for the state Office of Policy and Management. She graduated from the University of Bridgeport School of Law.

Florisca Carter, unaffiliated, director of operations for Achievement First Bridgeport Academy. She is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Ruben Felipe, Democrat, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Finch. Felipe has taken on an expanded role serving as the city’s point person for redevelopment projects on the city’s East Side.

During the past 25 years voter-approved charter changes include budget authority for the City Council (eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation); mayoral appointment of the police and fire chiefs to five-year terms, with an option to appoint them to one final five-year term; creating an Office of Policy and Management with a director who builds the budget presented to the mayor and City Council and an Office of Finance with a director who oversees the city treasurer, tax assessor and tax collector.

In 1998, voters also approved a four-year term for mayor. Finch is the first mayor to win two four-year terms as a result of that charter change. Attorney Steven Mednick has been retained by the city to provide advice in drafting a new City Charter. Mednick has advised charter commissions and drafted new city charters for Hartford, Waterbury, New Britain, East Windsor and Hamden. Finch issued this statement last month when he announce formation of a charter panel.

“It has become clear that we need to modernize, simplify and make our Charter more constitutional in style in order to face the challenges of a 21st century municipality. One of the primary recommendations I will forward to this commission will be creating more public accountability for education reform in order to ensure that our students receive the best education possible.”



  1. I am glad to see the board has been selected. Let me say this: If there is no provision for recall and if there is no provision for a board of finance I am going to work against the charter change. I hope they don’t put in a 4-year term for the council people, having to put up with these dolts for 2 years is enough.

  2. *** Recall, board of finance? This would have to be pushed by the city council & is “not” likely to happen, nor would likely be coming from the Mayor’s office and this selected board. However the four-year city council term is a possibility in which voters in Zombieland would need to actually go out & vote, no? *** EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED ***

  3. Is anyone beginning to connect the dots yet?

    We have a mayor who wants more control over the schools and is set on rewriting the charter.

    We have a State Education Commissioner who

    While in New Haven, Pryor co-founded and served as the first Board President of Amistad Academy, a high-performing public charter school that now serves as the flagship for the Achievement First network of schools. Pryor served on the board of Achievement First, which has opened 20 academies under 10 charters in Connecticut and New York. Amistad Academy was highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2007 as one of seven schools in the country that are models for closing the achievement gap.
    In recent years, Pryor has collaborated with Paul Vallas (the former school superintendent of Chicago, Philadelphia, and the New Orleans Recovery School District) regarding plans for school rebuilding and reform in post-disaster Haiti. Pryor also served as an advisor to the International Rescue Committee regarding the economic recovery in Haiti.

    We now have a superintendent of schools who

    A sometimes polarizing figure, Vallas navigated New Orleans’ treacherous racial politics as he closed traditional schools, opened charter schools and extolled the virtues of school choice. Among other things, he was criticized for a lack of transparency, inattention to the most disadvantaged students, and slow progress at the schools he directly controlled.

    And finally we have a charter committee member who is “unaffiliated, director of operations for Achievement First Bridgeport Academy.”

    Here it comes. Bridgeport will try to get rid of its lowest performing schools by making them into charter schools. Then they will claim an increase in test scores by the rest of the district schools.

  4. Certainly, we should keep an open mind as to the benefits of school choice and school vouchers. The success Achievement First has achieved at the former Barnum School (which Fabrizi abandoned as being too old to use as a school) has achieved. Or how Catholic schools can achieve the results they do when they spend about 25-30% per pupil of what the public schools spend.

  5. Bridgeporteur: For one thing private schools can pick and choose their students. A student who acts up in a private school can be told to leave, not so in the public schools.
    Public schools must take all students no matter what. Many of the parents with kids in private schools are sacrificing so their kids will get a better shot at making it. Many parents of public school kids use the school as a babysitter.

    1. tc, of course your case has merit. This is not an easy issue. There is too much vested interest against vouchers, though. The fact remains, public schools spent three to four times as much as Catholic and other private schools and parents who can’t afford these private schools and care just as much for their kids should be able to realize some benefit from exorbitant Bridgeport taxes for their kids.

      I think Achievement First at 529 Noble Avenue is a good example of what can be done with inner-city kids.
      We also lose a lot of middle class in Bridgeport because people opt to live in other towns for educational reasons.

  6. George Estrada can be bought, he is loyal to Mario. Fabrizi, Charlie Carroll, Art Harris and Estrada are old buddies prior to and during Barnum Festival work and owe their living to the DTC chairman for the last 10 years through Fabrizi.
    Saw them all meeting with Nick Panuzzio a few months back at Testo’s.

    1. George Estrada is a man of exceptional character. He could have and should have run for mayor. He is an asset to any group and has been an active volunteer in this city for at least 25 years. His reputation is impeccable and this is the first time I have ever heard a disparaging remark about George. There are many individuals you could find fault with. I am not saying George walks on water–but pretty darn close!

  7. Bloggers treat Ernie like a crook every day. You get treated like the second coming. Just like Oliver North got U.S. citizens hooked on contra drugs for arms to overthrow a country, gets convicted, goes to jail then becomes an American hero to the right-wingers and gets his own TV show. Estrada is not a saint because you say it’s so.

  8. The Council can and should expand the Charter Revision Commission to include additional members with both knowledge of city government and independence from the current administration.

  9. One Bridgeport ‘problem’ in the eyes of many is the appearance or actual conflict of interest when holding a City job (or close relative doing the same or being a vendor and providing services for fees) and voting on financial matters. It is the type of problem, issue or concern that might make its way to a Charter Review discussion this year.

    It seems clear Ruben Felipe as deputy chief of staff for Mayor Finch has strong conflict potential, but does anyone else appointed to this group? Rumors are swirling around one other appointee and up-front disclosure is really good!!! Give me someone who has a mind and is willing to speak it, who has training and real-world experience, who has been observed serving the community interest rather than personal interest for years, and even if we are in disagreement on one or more items, I will support that person’s role on such a panel.
    Are these the people who have been selected? You tell me. Time will tell.


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