Noon update: Mayor Bill Finch doesn’t know this yet but a political time bomb is ticking in his mayoralty.
It’s not necessarily an explosion that will happen overnight. Tick. Tick. Tick. But it will happen. Tick. Tick. Tick. Unless hizzoner hears the alarm fairly soon. Tick. Tick. Tick. Because the political bomb in Finch’s mayoralty. Tick. Tick. Tick … is himself. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Finch’s problem is looking in the mirror and loving what he sees, no matter what he does, good, bad or ugly. But so many that have supported him through the years just don’t see the same reflection. This happens to many pols when power overwhelms sanity, arrogance blinds the truth and you kick in the teeth the people that escorted you to the ball.
Two examples are Democratic Party Vice Chair Dottie Guman and Mary-Jane Foster, vice president at the University of Bridgeport. Guman was the one pol that looked after Finch when no one else would. During various points of the 1990s, when Finch was broke, didn’t have the money to pay his taxes, make his mortgage payment, support his children, it was Dottie Guman, against the heated wishes of her husband John, who stepped up to bleed for Finch. “He’s a nut case,” her late husband, once the Dem party chair, would say.
Bill always had trouble holding down a private sector job, almost always because his tongue was on steroids. Finch believed he was entitled to say what he wanted, damn the consequences, damn that he was so often wrong. But it was Dottie Guman who said we have to help Bill. A campaign job, a city job, a transit authority job, a business community development job and then state senate. (Full disclosure: I managed that state senate race for Finch.) Each and every time Dottie Guman helped Finch find work.
Dottie Guman is a rarity in city politics. Honest, decent, a devout Catholic whose word is always good. Her way of cursing? “He’s full of prunes.”
Well, Dottie feels Bill’s been full of prunes for most of his mayoralty. Bad decisions, irresponsible statements, lies to the point he feels it’s okay to berate a 70-year-old woman whether in person or by phone if she dare question his judgment, has not made things easy. When former Town Chair John Stafstrom told Dottie to fuck off because she dared to contemplate support of Mario Testa for town chair, Finch had the chance to step up. But instead Finch wimped out, screamed at Guman and pushed hard for Stafstrom, all of which made Dottie’s job easier to support Mario. And when they talk Finch tells Dottie, we’ll get through this. That’s Finch’s mantra for everything he doesn’t want to deal with: we’ll get through this.
And once again Finch finds himself working against Guman who is supporting retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez for a Board of Education slot. Finch doesn’t want Lopez. Why? He cannot control her.
When Finch decided to run for mayor in 2007, one of the first community leaders he contacted was Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder with her husband Jack McGregor of the Bridgeport Bluefish. When Finch needed campaign money Foster helped, when he needed a high-profile person to lead Finch’s transition team after he won the mayoralty he asked Mary-Jane to take the figurehead spot. When he needed cash to retire a legal debt in the aftermath of Chris Caruso challenging the results of Finch’s 270-vote primary win, it was Mary-Jane who opened up her home to raise tens of thousands of dollars.
And then when Finch had the opportunity to show maturity, leadership and temper his obsessive preoccupation for the Unification Church that provided the University of Bridgeport a financial infusion in lieu of a boarded-up school in 1992 he called the university the other day a criminal enterprise. Finch offered this infantile wisdom despite no evidence that the church has intruded on teachers, students or classrooms. In fact, a revitalized UB is a key link in the city’s future.
Has Finch offered an apology, an explanation to Foster? Oh, let me guess: we’ll get through this.
I don’t know Don Eversley, the city’s director of economic development but he seems to have an accomplished background and I dare say he understands the critical connection a revitalized UB can play in attracting new business to the city. He’s got to be sticking needles in Finch’s voodoo doll for Finch’s disgraceful remarks. Yeah, mayor, don’t do me any favors!
And Finch’s Chief of Staff Adam Wood is running around trying to put out Finch’s self-induced fires. Poor Adam can do all the running around he wants. If Finch doesn’t soon realize he’s been his own worst enemy then it will be too late to repair the damage. And then come election time in two years it will be bye, bye birdie.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Port In A Storm
The Connecticut Legislature managed to override a bunch of Gov. Jodi Rell’s vetoes on Monday including the bill that provides the state Department of Transportation power over the Bridgeport Port Authority.
This was the mess that fueled Joe Riccio’s departure as executive director of the BPA when he used his lobbyist to wire legislation that would protect his job. Joe didn’t tell his board what he was doing. A separation agreement was worked out. The City Council, in a fit over loss of home rule, had voted to dissolve the BPA. Mayor Finch vetoed the council measure after Rell vetoed the state legislation.
Under the state legislation that will go into law the state DOT will have some oversight authority over the BPA. State Rep. Auden Grogins was the only one of the city’s eight-member legislative delegation to vote no on the override. She was concerned about the city losing home rule and the cost impact from other parts of the bill such as state highway signage, etc.
Some members of the city’s delegation, according to State Senator Anthony Musto, voted for the override based on a commitment from legislative leadership that the home-rule language would be stripped out of a new bill in the future, possibly the next legislation session that begins in January.
Some good stuff from Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post:
July 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm by Ken
HB 6649, the omnibus transportation legislation including exciting items such as naming bridges and overpasses, was among the bills overridden by majority Democrats yesterday. The veto was a gift to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who’s involved in a drama with the City Council over the fate of the city’s Port Authority, which has become less relevant after the departure of the banana boats. The bill would have protected the port authority from termination.
Here are some excerpts from the Senate debate. That fact that Finch wanted the veto seemed lost among some Democratic lawmakers who voiced criticism again Gov. Jodi Rell.
Sen. Don DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee: Mr. President, the governor’s veto of this bill is very disappointing to us, in that the governor and the commissioner of Transportation at no time during the long legislative process indicated that any provision of this bill was so contentious as to warrant a gubernatorial veto …
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield: … I take Sen. DeFronzo at his word that this was a bipartisan product in that no one from the administration came forward to object to any provision. What happened was, a former colleague of ours and now the mayor of Bridgeport requested that the governor veto this bill because of a controversy regarding a port authority in the city of Bridgeport. And the governor agreed and if you read the governor’s veto message, she talks about the ability to let the city do away with the port authority and that the original provision in this bill should not have been left to stand. After this bill originally passed the City Council in Bridgeport said we’re going to do away with the port authority before this bill can take into effect. And then the mayor and the City Council tried to work out their differences and they’re still trying to work out those differences. And even as we sit here today we’re told that there will still be attempt after this bill is overridden to work with the city of Bridgeport and their delegation to get this worked out and we should do that. But to hear representations made today and to read what I’ve read from some of my colleagues in the paper that how dare the governor veto this bill when she was asked to veto it by the mayor of the largest city of the state, a former Democratic state senator and to hear the comments that are made, are a little ridiculous. A little ridiculous. I think the people of the city of Bridgeport and the mayor should thank the governor for listening. How many times have we heard our big cities come up and say you don’t listen to us in Hartford? … What’s at stake here? A couple of names. A couple of signs. We’re naming some roads and bridges. We love to do that. It’s all good. But the governor’s veto was right on to help the people of the city of Bridgeport. ….
DeFronzo, then rose to address McKinney’s criticism, noting that the Transportation commissioner was in the Senate the night the bill was approved.
Then Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele, presiding over the session banged the gavel: I would ask the chamber to be very careful with names and titles and directions toward individuals. I understand there’s some dialogue here but we also have the decorum and rules of the Senate.
DeFronzo: My point is that this issue was fully vetted through the legislative process. The DOT had complete knowledge of it … Presumably the governor’s staff was aware of it. …
Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport: Some of the things I have just heard spoken here, I think they need a clarification of … The whole delegation of the city of Bridgeport stands in favor of the override of this veto, for the simple reason that we feel that the transportation bill is more important than the city of Bridgeport alone. Anything that they have done down in the city of Bridgeport they have got into under their own duress and that’s how it should be settled …
McKinney: If the delegation of the city of Bridgeport thinks this is good for the city that’s great. I have no quarrel with that … The timing is my issue … It was in Sen. Defronzo’s e-mail, which he copied us all on, to Nancy Hadley, the former economic development director in Bridgeport, pointed this very fact out that the city of Bridgeport and the administration was aware of this language … It was after the bill passed that the City Council took action and it is at that point that the mayor of the city said wait, stop, pull back the language so I can work this out with the city council … I have no quarrel if people want to override. I have no quarrel with the good senators from Bridgeport doing what’s best for their city, I just have a quarrel with representations that were made and I think the record should be clear that it was after the bill passed there was an objection raised by the mayor to the governor. The governor, correctly or incorrectly trying to help him out and the city out, did what she did.”
After the successful override late Monday afternoon , the Blogster called Finch for a reaction and instead got a statement from Tyrone McClain, the mayor’s director of legislative affairs: “We are working hand in hand with our Bridgeport legislative delegation and legislative leadership to address our concerns with this legislation through the upcoming special legislative session. We are confident that this issue will be resolved in the best interest of the City of Bridgeport.”
Nancy Hadley, former economic development director for the city, raises lots of important questions in a statement below:
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, Hennesey, 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-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.
Party With Us
Okay, OIB party Thursday 5:30 p.m. at Taco Loco on Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock. First cocktail on OIB, plus food to fill your pleasure center.
Farmer’s Market Today
The Farmer’s Market on the Baldwin Green will be open today. The Market is open rain or shine every Tuesday from 12 to 6. Please make an effort to attend and spread the word to employees as well as customers. There are over 20 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, many all natural and pesticide free. Honey, homemade jam, fresh flowers, and herbs are also sold. Come and enjoy Connecticut grown products and support local farmers.