Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, squeezed by political pressure and an electorate angry over unfulfilled promises, abruptly resigned today setting in motion a special election for the city’s top post within 120 days.
City Council President Tom McCarthy received the oath of office as Acting Mayor just minutes after Finch’s resignation. Announcing his resignation in front of a Clean, Green, Lean sign, Finch’s environmental battle cry, a tearful Finch explained he will seek his old job in the state senate that recently was filled in a special election by Republican Rob Russo.
“I came to the conclusion that a legislative brain in a chief executive’s role just doesn’t work,” Finch explained. “I’m looking forward to returning to the senate and helping us create the leanest and greenest state in the country.”
Russo wasted no time jabbing Finch who as mayor called Trumbull, one of the three towns in the state senate district, oh so bucolic with no problems. “Let me be quite clear,” Russo said. “I love the oh so bucolic town of Trumbull and that oh so bucolic town of Monroe and that oh so bucolic city we know as Bridgeport.”
Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa, looking befuddled at Finch’s side, said “I didn’t know they liked osso buco in Trumbull. I should open a restaurant there.”
Finch’s announcement set off a mad scramble to replace him. For his part, McCarthy said his first action would be to make good on Finch’s promise to cut taxes $600 for every Bridgeport taxpayer. “The first order of business is the tax cut,” said McCarthy. “The city will lobby the state to pass a Homestead Exemption Act, paving the way for tax relief for our city.”
State Rep. Chris Caruso, narrowly defeated by Finch in a Democratic primary last September, immediately pounced on McCarthy.
“Here we go again,” said Caruso. “More promises. More corruption. I’m in this race to win and let me be very clear about my message just in case I was unclear last summer. This race is about corruption, corruption, corruption. I wasn’t sure I hammered home that message hard enough in the primary. This time I will leave no doubt.”
Former Mayor John Fabrizi also announced his candidacy in the special election. “We had a lot of momentum going in the city when the political wimps threw me under the bus. This time I run without the politicians.”
Probate Judge Paul Ganim also jumped into the fray. “Does anyone really think all those other candidates have, or will, govern the city better than my brother Joe? Ten straight balanced budgets without a tax increase, economic development, new schools, cleaner neighborhoods. I’m the Joe record without the Joe baggage.”
Former City Council President Lisa Parziale has emerged as the leading candidate to replace McCarthy as council president. Town committee members from the 133rd district, in a hastily called meeting, agreed to appoint Parziale to McCarthy’s vacated council seat on the proviso that she moves into the district.
Parziale, present at McCarthy’s swearing in, had a quick exchange with the new mayor.
“We have a lot of work to do,” McCarthy said.
“Honey, just remember, you get nothing through the city council without me. If you mess with me, I’ll cut off your cashews.”
Republican Town Chair Marc Delmonico said he would lean on retired Wall Street professional Bruce Hubler, a resident of Black Rock, to jump into the race.
“We need some sanity back at city hall,” said Delmonico. “The Democrats are a lame April Fools joke.”
News release from city hall regarding development issues
Mayor’s Economic Development Committee Submits Final Recommendations
BRIDGEPORT, CT April 1, 2008 – Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) today hosted a press conference in which his Economic Development committee, Advance Bridgeport Economic Development (ABED), submitted its final recommendations for the City’s Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED).
Committee Co-Chair Joe McGee said, “I commend Mayor Finch for investing time and resources into growing Bridgeport’s tax base. Our recommendations seek to strengthen the Office of Planning and Economic Development, particularly the regulatory side.”
“An important piece of our plan for OPED is a strong neighborhood component,” added Co-Chair Reggie Walker. “We recommend the creation of an Office of Neighborhood Development that would oversee façade, neighborhood planning, and NRZ administration and implementation in addition to commercial development and cultural affairs.”
“This notable group of people shares a wealth of knowledge and experience that they’ve offered to our City in an effort to improve economic development in Bridgeport,” said Mayor Finch. “I want to thank them very much for their hard work and for their recommendations. The implementation of many of their proposals will enhance the City’s ability to grow economically as well as grow Bridgeport ’s tax base by increasing commercial and housing development.”
The role of the committee, which has met periodically since its formation in mid-January of 2008, was to analyze the economic development function of City, find ways to facilitate economic development, improve the City’s capacity to attract private investment, evaluate staffing and department needs and review commission appointments and the City’s master plan. The committee also reviewed the parameters of a national search process that the Mayor commissioned for the City’s Head of the Office of Planning and Economic Development. The position has been advertised nationally and the committee has begun reviewing resumes.
The committee’s main recommendations revolve around reorganizing the City’s economic development function and increasing economic development capacity, including the creation of Land Use and OPED Operations Deputy Directorships within the OPED.
Members of the committee include:
. Co-Chair Joe McGee—Vice President of Public Policy and Programs, The Business Council of Fairfield County.
Mr. McGee is knowledgeable in the fields of economic development and transportation. He previously served as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic Development and was an executive at People’s Bank. Mr. McGee currently sits on the boards of The WorkPlace, Inc., the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, The Fairfield County Community Foundation, and The Housing Development Fund, Inc.
. Co-Chair Reggie Walker—Executive President, Hall Neighborhood House.
Prior to becoming the Executive President of Hall Neighborhood House in Bridgeport, Mr. Walker worked for 19 years in the City’s Office of Development Administration (the precursor to OPED), holding positions from Research Planner to Director of Economic Development in 1989. Mr. Walker is knowledgeable about the inner workings of OPED and its interactions with the community.
. John Carson—Former Economic Development Commissioner of the State of Connecticut.
Mr. Carson has years of experience in economic analysis, economic development, banking and higher education. He has worked as a bank economist, as state Economic Development Commissioner and is currently Vice President and CFO of the University of Hartford . Mr. Carson specializes in urban economic development, public policy analysis and economic development planning.
. Dr. Edward Deak—Professor of Economics, Fairfield University.
Well-published in economic publications ranging from “The New England Journal of Business and Economics” to “Growth and Change”, Dr. Deak is also a part of the New England Economic Partnership and serves on Governor M. Jodi Rell’s Economic Advisory Council, which advises her on state economic issues.
. Ron Van Winkle—Director of Community Services for the town of West Hartford.
Through his position as Director of Community Services, Mr. Van Winkle manages planning and zoning, engineering, building inspection, economic development, public information and the construction of all of the facilities and infrastructures for the Town of West Hartford. Previously, Mr. Van Winkle had served as the Director of Planning for the State of Connecticut Department of Economic Development and was a consultant to the Governor’s Infrastructure Task Force from 1983-1984.
. Paul Timpanelli—President & CEO, Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC).
Before becoming President of the BRBC in 1988, Mr. Timpanelli served as both First Selectman and Town Clerk for the Town of Trumbull. He is a member of the board of directors for the Bridgeport Economic Resource Center, the West End Community Development Corporation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee and the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency.
. Keith Rodgerson—Former Councilman and Urban Planner.
Mr. Rodgerson is a former Bridgeport City Councilman with a strong background in Urban Planning. He will be participating in and assisting with Advance Bridgeport Economic Development and working as a consultant for the Office of Planning and Economic Development as directed by committee leadership and the Director of Economic Development.
. Dennis Murphy—Former Chief Administrative Officer, City of Bridgeport.
Dennis Murphy is an attorney who currently serves as Director of Human Resources for the City of Stamford. His rich understanding of economic development stems from his time as Bridgeport’s CAO while his experience as Bridgeport’s Labor Relations Director gives him an understanding of any personnel issues that would be addressed in restructuring projects.
. Edwin J. Maley, Jr.—Legislative Commissioner for the Connecticut General Assembly.
Mr. Maley is currently the Legislative Commissioner for the Connecticut General Assembly and previously served as the Chief of Staff for the State Senate Democrats. In these two key roles, Mr. Maley has been involved in the creation, organization and implementation of numerous statewide economic development projects.
. Juda J. Epstein—Attorney, Law Offices of Juda J. Epstein.
Mr. Epstein’s law practice includes real estate in Bridgeport and the surrounding areas. Economic Development in the City is a key element in his day-to-day professional dealings, giving him first-hand insight into the legal aspects of local Economic Development.