Former City Advocate: Say No To Joe

UPDATE: Editor’s note at bottom. Joshua Nessen served as executive director of the advocacy group Greater Bridgeport Interfaith Action that was involved in city issues in the 1990s. In this commentary he “fears that a dangerous collective amnesia has descended upon the city” regarding Joe Ganim’s candidacy for mayor. Nessen’s commentary:

From 1991 to 1998 I was the Executive Director of Greater Bridgeport Interfaith Action (GBIA), a coalition of twenty Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic congregations which strove to put our faith into action for social justice. Though I no longer work in the Park City, my heart still beats for Bridgeport. I fear that a dangerous collective amnesia has descended upon the city, as even some veteran activists who fought against then-Mayor Ganim are jumping onto his bandwagon to get his pre-prison job back, now that the Connecticut Bar Association has refused to reinstate his law license. The citizens of Bridgeport also need to say No to Joe.

As Mayor, Ganim betrayed the public trust and replaced it with his own self-interest. His six-figure salary from taxpayers was not enough for Joe Ganim, whose strategic plan for Bridgeport was to allow in any business willing to bribe him and his cronies. During my seven years at GBIA, we put our faith into action on many key issues for neighborhood and city-wide improvements. While Ganim’s criminality has correctly been emphasized, there were three major political battles that GBIA had with Ganim that illustrate his politics were as bankrupt as his morals.

First there was the issue of how to dispose of Mount Trashmore, an illegal toxic waste site 40 feet high in Bridgeport’s East End, a Black residential neighborhood. The Mountain was full of lead, creosote and other cancerous material and with its daily smoldering polluted the air and damaged the health of residents. GBIA identified a dozen legal dump sites where Trashmore could have been placed. However, Ganim had already cut a deal with the owners of the incinerator in the South End, RESCO–public health be damned! In the dead of night, Ganim dispatched City trucks which loaded up piles of Trashmore and drove them to the RESCO incinerator. The illegal burning of Trashmore then spread toxic material over a densely populated section of the city and also directly into Long Island Sound where it may well have toxicated the fish food chain.

The second major issue that placed us against Ganim was the renewal of Police Chief Sweeney’s contract. Some Bridgeporters might yearn for the Nineties and Mayor Ganim. However, it was the actions of Bridgeport Police Chief Sweeney working closely with grass-roots groups, including GBIA, that brought about neighborhood public safety improvements, not Joe Ganim. When Chief Sweeney’s five-year contract came up for renewal, it should have been a no-brainer for Ganim to get it finalized before Sweeney entertained other offers. The problem was that on a disciplinary matter, the Chief had favored punishment of an officer who happened to be the son of Mario Testa’s girlfriend.

The contract was stalled for months in City Hall. We knew where to go. At lunchtime GBIA picketed the restaurant of long-time chieftain of the Democratic Town Committee, Mario Testa, blaming him directly for the failure to renew the Sweeney’s contract. We successfully de-cloaked the Wizard of Oz of Bridgeport politics, and by next morning the Chief had his new contract.

On the East Side, as a consequence of Ganim’s failure to attend a March for Public Safety, GBIA forced him to accept a Strike Force headed by Chris Caruso and comprised of residents and eight City Department Heads. The result of this collaboration was a strategic plan with Block Grant funding to tear down decrepit properties and put up affordable housing. Unfortunately, Ganim did not pursue this collaborative model on a citywide basis but did all he could to squash the community’s voice and power over the city’s ten-year strategic plan.

This plan was formulated under the regulations of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community program.

Bridgeport was designated an Enterprise Community because of the involvement of nearly 1000 people in the creation of its strategic plan which built in a 50-member Community Collaborative to oversee its implementation. The plan prioritized resident planning for economic development in partnership with City agencies and private businesses (modeled closely after the East Side Strike Force). Primarily, because there was extensive grass-roots involvement at every stage, HUD awarded Bridgeport the vital designation as an “Enterprise Community” along with a $3 million grant and priority on all federal development grants.

What was anathema to Mayor Ganim, Paul Timpanelli of the Regional Business Council, and Democratic Committee Chair, Mario Testa was that there were too many community voices around the table of power they were used to monopolizing. The Community Collaborative of Bridgeport represented the culmination of years of organizing, and with GBIA, the NAACP and Puerto Rican Coalition leading the way, the Voice of the People was being heard.

The Establishment struck back. Ganim, and Timpanelli, with the knowledge and support of Congressman Christopher Shays met down in Washington DC with HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Ganim found a willing partner in Cuomo (as New York Governor the de-commissioner of an “independent” Ethics Commission when it began examining the Real Estate Board, one of his major contributors) who should have facilitated negotiations between the Establishment and the grass-roots organizations. Instead, together they hatched a plot to do away with the Community Collaborative entirely by having the City Council illegally vote it out of existence. In its place the Council approved a fake Collaborative to be appointed by Ganim, who was then free to pursue his personal strategic development plan of bribery and influence pedaling.

The election of Ganim would put a big “City For Sale” sign on the map. Bridgeport would remain permanently on the bottom of the regional totem pole: viewed as a corrupt backwater symbolized by the open hand of Joe Ganim, and functioning solely as a bedroom community for the development of Stamford, without its own viable manufacturing and commercial base. Bridgeport voters need to say No to Joe.

Editor’s note: response from Connecticut Bar Association:

While in most states, the issuing of law licenses falls under the ‘bar association’ that is not the case in Connecticut. Attorney licensing, grievances, etc. all fall under the Connecticut Judicial Branch. The Connecticut Bar Association functions as a membership organization for the legal profession in the state.



  1. Joseph P. Ganim accomplished a few things in office; keeping taxes down was not one of them, although he likes to take credit for something the state of Connecticut did. A few of the projects Bill Finch has taken credit for–Steel Point, the new high school to be constructed on the former GE property (land contaminated with industrial pollution)–were begun during Ganim’s tenure. Mr. Ganim can justifiably take credit for lowering crime, beautifying the city and a few other things.

    The fact of the matter is Joseph P. Ganim is a felon, convicted of racketeering, corruption, filing false tax returns and betraying the public’s trust. We believed in him and he was charging for bribes by the square foot. He did get up in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church congregation on New Year’s Day 2015 to admit he broke the law. Since that admission, Mr. Ganim has stuck to a milder “mistakes were made.”

    I for one have not seen or heard a sincere expression of remorse for his crimes. He was a crook, maybe still is. During his trial he took the witness stand and lied. Mr. Ganim was extremely fortunate he was not charged with perjury. He was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison, a harsh penalty, but he did lie on the witness stand. He also lost his license to practice law.

    In 2012 a three-judge panel denied Mr. Ganim’s request to restore his license, citing his lack of remorse. Two years later the Superior Court upheld the earlier decision: “The defendant’s failure to either explain, or acknowledge any responsibility for, his extensive criminal wrongdoing,” the court wrote in a 26-page ruling, “or to express remorse for that wrongdoing, was a highly relevant consideration in the particular reinstatement proceeding in the case.” In Ganim’s defense there was an appeal of his conviction wending through the federal court system. An expression of remorse would have had a negative effect in that proceeding. His appeal was turned down. Either way, he should have waited on the appellate ruling before applying to be reinstated to the bar.

    1. You are wrong when you said, “He did get up in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church congregation on New Year’s Day 2015 to admit he broke the law.” It was held at East End Baptist Tabernacle Church at 548 Central Ave, where State Rep. Rev. Charlie Stallworth is the pastor.

        1. The so what is, when one wrongly reports known facts, one loses credibility. Most of us respond favorably to, gosh, my bad, thanks for catching and correcting that–in my experience and humble opinion.

  2. Powerful message. Hearing from leaders with experience in city governance is always helpful in understanding where we are now and how we got here. It seems to always point back to the power of One.

    1. I’m not impressed by Mr. Ganim’s admissions he broke the law, mistakes were made. His probationary period is over and he is a free man. A sincere and frank expression of remorse goes a long way toward redemption in the hearts of others. I have to wonder why Mr. Ganim has difficulty with that concept.

  3. Greater Bridgeport Interfaith Action???

    You are therefore without excuse, O man, whoever you are who sit in judgement upon others. For when you pass judgement on your fellow man, you condemn yourself; for you who sit in judgement upon others are guilty of the same misdeeds.

    1. There are two sorts of hypocrites: one that are deceived with their outward morality and external religion; many of whom are professed Arminians, in the doctrine of justification: and the other, are those that are deceived with false discoveries and elevations; who often cry down works, and men’s own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same time make a righteousness of their discoveries and of their humiliation, and exalt themselves to heaven with them.
      2 up, 2 down.

      Jonathan Edwards quotes

      1. I stand with Pope Francis. Among other points, Pope Francis:
        Replied when asked about the Vatican’s alleged “gay lobby” that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn’t have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” he said.

        1. Seeking the Lord in good faith is slightly different from seeking public office. When Joe announces he wants to be a gay priest, he has my full support! Love you and your dedication–and your day in the life of the mayor.

  4. Josh Nessan,
    So good to hear from you. Pay no attention to Jim Fox. He means well. Oh, hell. He doesn’t mean well and obviously he does not take his own advice.
    I for one can attest to what a great influence you were in Bridgeport back in the day. The number-one problem with Bridgeport today is there are not enough Josh Nessan’s around.
    Josh would appear before the City Council with legal briefs on pending matters that would put Mark Anastasi and his staff of attorneys to shame.
    Keep fighting the good fight, Josh.
    Oh, don’t forget Mary-Jane Foster on Wednesday. The only real alternative for Mayor.

  5. I remember Josh Nessan well. He was the face of a well-organized religious/political coalition that challenged the Ganim administration on some key issues. There has been no such credible voice challenging the Finch administration. Only John Lee has provided a citizen’s voice for taxpayers. The demographics of Bridgeport has continued to change since the GBIA was active and not for the better.

    1. Sure, he was! I was the little guy fighting you and the North End Association which did not want any public housing built in the North End. You folks didn’t even make an attempt to hide your bias and racist agenda. When things weren’t quite going your way, the Wayne Street housing unit was burned down before it was completed. Are you happy now that Bill Finch turned the land into another park? Where were all these so-called community leaders when I was fighting all alone? Lucky for you folks, most of the things you all did, said, and wrote are buried in old newspapers and can’t be Googled. Call me a liar? I know where the library is.

    2. “The demographics of Bridgeport has continued to change since the GBIA was active and not for the better.”

      Tom White, I’ve never bothered to ask you or tried to research your race or nationality. Care to tell us? This is a clear racist statement from you. Not only do you make a racial statement, you made it clear GBIA’s agenda was to stop or slow down the inflow of new immigrants to Bridgeport. The best way for them to accomplish this would have been to take control of the Bridgeport Political system. You Fucking Morons Failed Miserably. I highly advise you to pack your shit and move out of Bridgeport just like Joshua Nessen did. Maybe he has some space in his garage or basement for you until you get on your feet and find a place to live in paradise.

  6. Bullshit! This is from a person who left Bridgeport and did nothing but try to logroll his way in to get what they wanted when they were active here. I’m not wasting too much time replying to a comment from an idiot who most likely will receive some kind of compensation for his bullshit comment.

    Pay attention to what he states in regards to Mount Trashmore and Chief Sweeney. Both these matters were first negotiated by the Chair and Members of Contracts and Appointments Committee, which Bill Finch was a member of and then became the Chairmen up until he left for the State Senate in 2001 sic months before the federal authorities had confirmed they had been probing for five years. Chief Sweeney just wanted more money and the tools to do the job necessary and he got all that and more. While Joshua Nessen was trying to get an answer to “What’s in it for me?” I was working to take care of errors made before I came to the City Council. Not all the materials from Mount Trashmore was burned at RESCO and some of the contamination ended up at the Seaside Landfill. I as a City Councilmen supported the closing of the Seaside Landfill (Landfill Closure Plan.) The plan was in fact a way to open the landfill for three years and then cap it, and close it forever. Who was deep in this negotiation? Bill Finch and the Sweet Sixteen as I named the coalition of 16 council members (Finch included) who got their way or nothing would move forward in this city.

    Click here, you won’t find this in the Bible:

    Now let’s touch on the NRZ like the one representing the West Side. Remember your buddy Rev. McCluster? He was convicted for stealing federal funds and using it for things like paying church employees. Recently, he was re-elected to the NRZ and your boy Bill Finch and many others didn’t say shit about that.

    Talk all the shit you want about Joe Ganim, but the fact of the matter is it’s not the old Joe Ganim you and many others are concerned about. You are all afraid about the Joe Ganim who admits he made mistakes. Among the mistakes he made was to trust Council President John Fabrizi; CAO Dennis Murphy; Chairman of Contracts and Appointments Committee, Councilmen Bill Finch, and others. You are all afraid of the Joe Ganim who will bring in the former FBI Agent (Ed Adams) who took him down, but fell short in catching the rest of them, and you Josh Nessen was included in that group.

    1. Joel,
      Take a pill and lie down on the sofa. Joseph P. Ganim was convicted of racketeering, extortion, filing false tax returns, was sentenced to prison and denied his law license upon completion of probationary terms.

      A three-judge Superior Court panel declined to restore his law license because he had not shown much in the way of remorse. Two years later The Honorable Barbara Bellis upheld the panel’s decision for the same reason. The excuse I heard just this morning was Ganim’s appeal of his conviction was wending through the federal court system at the time. An expression of remorse would have jeopardized that. He lost the appeal anyway, so what difference does it make?

      I am no fan of Joe Ganim or Bill Finch. But I am in the majority when I say I do not want a felon in the mayor’s office, a felon who was imprisoned for violating the trust of the public he wants to serve again. Given his reluctance to say any more than “mistakes were made” and make a full and frank expression of remorse for his crimes, I am led to believe he would engage in the sort of nefarious behavior that landed him in prison and cost him the right to practice law.

      There are more than a few convicted felons living in Bridgeport. Any one of them will tell you a felon will not be hired by McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Kohl’s, or any other retail chain. Yet it is possible a convicted felon can campaign for the highest public office in the state’s largest city? Get the fuck out of here. Joe Ganim is a crook undeserving of a second bite at the apple.

      1. Wait a minute, Joel made a good point when he said, “the North End Association which did not want any public housing built in the North End. You folks didn’t even make an attempt to hide your bias and racist agenda. When things weren’t quite going your way, the Wayne Street housing unit was burned down before it was completed.”

        1. Don’t paint me with that brush, Ron. Joe Ganim has been cynically playing the black community to be re-elected. Finch has shown nothing but antipathy–he answered a question about improving the quality of education in Bridgeport by telling the audience “Hey, I built a water park!”

          1. Look, I don’t know what in hell you’re talking about. Joel made a comment I totally agree with that happened. I’m not painting anything about you but if it’s true so be it. Public housing is always in certain areas.

    2. Well, I am confused by what you are saying Joel, please help me understand the following. Llogrolling–was it just what was in it for Josh, or was it what’s in it for the collation he belonged to? Are you saying it was because of Finch the renewal of the police chief’s contract took months? And Josh was complicit in the mistakes made under Joe and was just not caught and charged? Always happy to hear and understand the other side of the story being told.

  7. Excellent editorial from a most-respected religious leader and team builder among groups. I have never heard a disrespectful comment about this gentlemen until Jimfox injected himself as a staunch Ganim supporter unable to accept the truth. It is over for Ganim. Like a tidal wave.

    1. Add Joel Gonzalez another Ganim ass licker.. you know I’m liking all of this honest dialogue.

      If Mother Teresa, may her memory be forever a blessing, said Joe Ganim was all these terrible things, Joel Gonzales and Jim Fox would wipe the floor with her. Free speech, you gotta love it!

  8. Praise be to those who selflessly toil to improve the lives of others. Joe Ganim is not one of them.

    Joel Gonzalez, what is the matter with you? Joseph P. Ganim is a crook, an unrepentant felon who stole from the people of the city of Bridgeport. HE’S A CRIMINAL, NOT A FOLK HERO.


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