Hey, Wake Up! Plus: Ken Hays, The Best Of Bridgeport

It was impossible not to notice the public emptiness in City Council chambers Monday night as the city’s legislative body passed Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed budget for the year starting July 1.

What a difference a year makes. Last year’s budget process was all about hooting and hollering, library advocates cranked up about cuts, education supporters tracing octaves toward the mayor’s eardrums, health care workers snarling about privatization of school-based health clinics.

Chatting with Connecticut Post reporter Bill Cummings and Bridgeport News Editor Brad Durrell, we looked across the empty rows of seats–in an auditorium that can accommodate 400 folks or so–and wondered where all the anger had gone. Well, for one thing the economy sucks and yeah, there’s a feeling we’re all in this together, but education advocates clearly did not recruit the usual suspects. Maybe they know it’s an awful year? Maybe they’ll be saved by Barack’s bailout dough?

City staff  was  present: Chief Administrative Office Andy Nunn, Finance Director Mike Feeney, Economic Development Director Don Eversley all available, if needed. Budget Director Tom Sherwood shadowed council members and Finch to answer questions. Victory Productions owner Barry Jackson was poised at the back of the council chambers filming the event for future cable access viewing.

And that was about it, save for a couple of folks I did not know, perhaps city employees.

Is no one mad? The outrage is gone? Does this mean Finch is in good shape? How about council members? I did not see one potential mayoral or council opponent among us.

The mayor needed a little breathing room and this budget cycle accomplished that. But he’s not on the ballot this year. It’s a City Council year. So, any other primaries beyond Andy Fardy and running mate Ann Barney challenging incumbents in the 138th District? What about the Republicans? Are they among the living? ZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzz

Hays Feels The Vibe

I’m a Classic Rock junkie (in addition to political junkie) so what Gathering of the Vibes guru Ken Hays brings to Bridgeport each summer is twice the pleasure to showcase the city’s waterfront jewel Seaside Park to an eclectic mix of music lovers, weekend travelers, local businesses and yeah baby for those that want to sneak a doobie or two!

In July, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bob Weir, legendary drummer/vocalist Levon Helm, Buddy Guy and a whole bunch more will step into our house, Seaside Park, donated to the city by P.T. Barnum and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Kudos to Hays’ philanthropy, and to Mayor Finch and Public Facilities Director Charlie Carroll for locking up the Vibes in the city through 2012. Ken Hays, the Best of Bridgeport. See Hays bio and history of Vibes below:

Independent concert and festival promoters don’t usually last a long time. They are either bought then swallowed by a bigger company, or they simply fail. One notable exception is Fairfield County businessman Ken Hays.

Hays and his dedicated colleagues spent the past 13-years building the annual Gathering of the Vibes Festival into a recognized brand with a tremendously loyal fan base.

This July marks the 14th annual Gathering of the Vibes; the fifth time the camping and music festival is being held at Seaside Park, in Bridgeport, CT; and one more stop on a journey that already transformed a local entrepreneur into one of the most successful festival organizers in the northeast.

With 21,000 people in daily attendance at the four-day festival in 2008, and similar numbers expected this year – Hays and company thrive putting on their vision of what a music festival should be. They also create local jobs, bring tourists into Fairfield County, and showcase both local and national talent to an educated Connecticut consumer.

Hays started Terrapin Tapes in the early 1990s to provide high quality cassette tapes for people who followed the Grateful Dead, Phish and a few other jam bands that allowed tapers to archive performances.

Gathering of the Vibes History

In 1996, the year after Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia died, Hays threw a Memorial Day Weekend party at SUNY Purchase in remembrance of Garcia. Aptly named “Deadhead Heaven – A Gathering of the Tribe”, the event provided a forum for music lovers to reunite and celebrate the life of Garcia.

That gathering at SUNY Purchase changed Hays. He and his friends decided it had to become an annual event – that the community who followed the Grateful Dead needed a gathering place to share their music.

In 1997 the festival moved to Croton Point Park in Croton, NY, and was renamed “Gathering of the Vibes.”

In each succeeding year, Gathering of the Vibes has created unique musical experiences, while incorporating its support for environmental causes and charitable giving into the festival. People who come to Vibes every year to listen to great music while building and renewing friendships are affectionately known as the “Vibe Tribe.”

Charitable Focus

Since its inception, Gathering of the Vibes has raised and donated $101,000 to various local and regional charities, and has conducted food drives to benefit food pantries in communities where the festival is held. On Tuesday, Vibes organizers donated $50,000 to the City of Bridgeport for a children’s fountain park in the city. Vibes is contracted to be held in Bridgeport’s Seaside Park through 2012.

Seaside Park
Seaside Park


  1. Lennie: One of the reasons that the teachers and principal were not at the hearing was a memo sent out by Ramos stating that they should stay away from the budget hearing. His theory was we jammed the hearing last year all to no avail so let’s do the opposite this year.
    I did not attend because it was a cut and dried matter. I went to the first budget committee hearing for the health department and the only one allowed to speak was Dr. Evans. The other problem with attending these hearings was if you did not have a copy of the budget requests you could not follow what was being discussed. Public input in all reality was discouraged.
    This year the budget hearing process was a dog and pony show. No major cuts in department budget requests, no attempt to tighten up department operations. The result was an insulting minor and I mean minor reduction in the mil rate requested by the mayor. They also increased the projected percent of what the mayor’s budget shows as taxes collected. The Great Kreskin lives.
    Ann Barney and I plan on waging a spirited campaign in our attempt to win the upcoming primary and election. In fact we are working towards that goal every day.
    I would hope that more people would stand up and say I have had enough and I want to make changes for the good of Bridgeport.

  2. The mil rate may be slightly down, but property assessments are likely up due to revaluations. Mil rates really don’t mean anything. What is the overall tax increase? SB 997 (municipal option to delay or phase in revaluations) passed the House yesterday too. It now goes on to the Governor for her signature. The trick is to figure out whether it really is a good thing to delay. Higher revaluations means lower mil rate. If you delay the reval and keep current levels, while probably paying less in taxes your mil rate goes back up. Pay it this way, pay it that way, we always have to pay. Monroe’s budget was defeated for a third time last night by 3 votes! I am participating in the recount; I am having bad déjà vu.

  3. “town committee,” You are correct with your assessment of how City Council meeting are conducted. Andy, as you stated, “the problem with attending these hearing was if you did not have a copy of the budget requests you could not follow what was being discussed. Public input in all reality was discouraged.” This has always been the “Bridgeport Way,” keep the public in the dark; less is more.

  4. MCAT at least your residents have a say in the budget. We have no say even at the individual budget hearings. Now I am not advocating a vote on the total budget. What I am seeking is at least some public input at the various hearings. In the case of the hearings this year why have them? The B&A committee did nothing to trim the budget, what they held was a dog and pony show. If I hear one more elected official say that this is a bare-bones budget I think I will scream.
    What is going to happen in the upcoming years when the deferred contracts are due?

  5. A few things to ponder along the lines of the previous posts today.
    TC – I always tell people if you want to shake up the Bpt City Council, all you need is 30 – 40 people showing up at every meeting. That is merely 3 to 4 people per district. But if you had that go on for several months, you would see a far more responsive form of representation.
    TC & Ron – About who can speak when, one public hearing is required by Charter. Beyond that, all of the other rules are set by the council. TC, I know for some godforsaken reason you want to be a part of this process (I find myself more often wanting to be apart from this process). If you were to circulate a petition among the public calling for more access, I am sure that you will be heard; especially in an election year.
    As to MCAT, I was the one council person fighting to end frozen assessments way back when I first went on the council. Talk about anti-business, the city’s assessments were fixed for years and that was totally anti-business. Of course back then businesses were paying a larger portion of the taxes and they and condo owners were being extremely overtaxed. Once the city got itself into this trap, it didn’t know how to get out.
    If you want open and responsive government, demand it; otherwise it won’t happen based on the desires of most incumbents.

  6. Bob Thanks for the response. I have sat on the sidelines or in the background long enough. It’s time for me to put up or shut up. The rules that were set this year precluded not only public input but also input from various department employees and supervisors. This was never more evident than at the first B&A hearings when only Dr. Evans was allowed to speak.
    I know I can get to speak in front of the council, I have done it before but it’s hard to talk to empty chairs.
    I have found that the only council people willing to listen and to take a stand on issues have been you, Michele Lyons and AnnMarie, sometimes Baker & Brantley. The rest just don’t want to hear it nor do they want to speak out.

  7. *** I love the energy & enthusiasm of those that can’t wait to get into politics in one form or another & dream of changing everything that seems cockeyed about the system! What a rude awakening “some” of these well-intended self-proclaimed advocates of the people have coming when they realize that there’s no “I” in “TEAM”! *** For: “IF I RULED THE WORLD, IT WOULD BE FOREVER”! ***

  8. Mojo; Just a friendly response. I don’t expect to change the world but I do expect to improve on the quality of life issues facing the people in my district.
    I know there is no I in team; however if being a team player means going along with things that are wrong or don’t make sense or things that won’t help my district then I will be an individual.
    I have been around this political game for a long time and understand the realities of what I am trying to do.

    1. *** Good! *** No need to feel “guilty” about a simple opinion blog! *** Also, being a team player does not necessarily mean you’re going along with wrong or senseless issues in general. ***


Leave a Reply