I Saw MOM Kissing Santa Claus, Sizing Up Finch, Caruso, Foster

What’s under your tree this weekend? A mayoral candidate of your choice? Lots of pols local and statewide wondering how the 2011 mayoral race shakes out. The last OIB poll had the good news, bad news scenario for Mayor Bill Finch. He leads all prospective candidates, but the bad news–by an overwhelming number–likely Democratic voters say the city’s headed in the wrong direction. That’s never good for an incumbent. Crime, taxes, jobs, quality of life stuff have caused voter trepidation. When an opponent draws contrast with an incumbent over voter despair, you can cut into a polling lead real quick.

Finch is gearing up for a reelection run. He’ll have plenty of dough to make his case to voters. Mayors generally live and die by their budgets. The budget scenario hasn’t been great for the mayor, but can he hold the line on taxes in an election year? He’s counting on a proposed regional water pollution control authority with Trumbull and Monroe to bring his budget to the promised land. Lots of money processing suburban poop. Can he pull this off? It needs sign-off from Trumbull and Monroe legislative bodies, as well as Bridgeport. Passage could mean $40 million in one-shot revenue for a mayor who promised shortly after his election in 2007 that Bridgeport will avoid the temptation of one-shot revenues. I don’t think Finch turns down this one-shot revenue, do you?

Another big unknown: crime. A spike in crime throughout the city has homeowners and business retailers nervous. Is it a holiday season blip? If it continues, it’s a real bite in the butt. High crime is an easy issue to run against. The last time it was a major issue in a mayoral campaign was 1991 when Joe Ganim defeated Mary Moran. Moran’s municipal bankruptcy filing was a factor, but crime loomed much larger in that race.

I’ve managed political campaigns for Finch; I’ve never run one against him. But if I were to run a race against him (no, I’m not coming out of retirement) I would use his words against him time and again.

“Together we are making Bridgeport the cleanest, greenest, safest most affordable city, with schools and neighborhoods that improve each year”

Really? Is Bridgeport cleaner? Greener? Safer? Most affordable? Schools and neighborhoods improved? Dem voters think the city’s headed in the wrong direction.

But if you cannot make that argument against Finch–and why you’ll be better–it doesn’t matter. If the crime trend abates, if Finch manages to hold the line on taxes, if Steel Point developers can move some dirt around next summer Finch can survive for another term. Lots of ifs.

I always say campaigns are about dear ol’ MOM–money, organization and message. What candidate can combine those elements?

Right now I see two looming threats to Finch’s mayoralty: State Rep. Chris Caruso and Mary-Jane Foster.

The Big Wave knows the drill in city campaigns. He came within a whisper of the mayoralty in 2003 and 2007, largely against the Democratic Party apparatus. Can he find a way to push himself over the top? Caruso’s big challenge is message. Voters want to hear something beyond the city political establishment must be powerwashed into the Pequonnock River. What about education, public safety, city services and economic development? If Caruso expands his message beyond the C word (corruption), he’ll be a major factor.

Mary-Jane Foster, vice president at the University of Bridgeport, brings two key ingredients right out of the box–money and a posse. If she gets in she’s instantly a player; an engaging public speaker, respected in the business community with lots of friends tugging at her to get in the action and willing to help. Many of them, now disappointed with his mayoralty, helped Finch in 2007.

Mary-Jane has raised money for numerous candidates for public office and can do the same for herself. She’s the wife of retired Aquarion Water Company CEO Jack McGregor (full disclosure: I’m his biographer) and together they brought professional baseball and hockey to Bridgeport. They are the key private-sector reason Bridgeport has the ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard. Critics will argue well oh, gee, the ‘Fish fell on hard times on their watch. That’s like blaming them for the national economy. In 1998 and 1999 when they launched the Bluefish the ballpark was jammed. They created excitement in the city that had not been experienced in decades.

Bridgeport could use a little Foster care, right? The question is what route to take? Run in a Democratic primary or say screw it, I’ll transcend party politics, be my own person, finance a general election campaign as an independent that appeals to all voters? Only an engaging, well-financed candidate could pull this off. By the way an independent candidacy is something that Caruso has considered. And by the way, something Finch wishes privately he could do. Wouldn’t it be nice to run a winning race without sucking up to party pols?

John Gomes is the only officially announced mayoral candidate. Bright guy, money challenged. Others may jump in–former State Senator Ernie Newton, former Mayor John Fabrizi–we’ll see. Right now Caruso and Foster–if they run–are the immediate threats to Finch’s reelection.



  1. I agree that Crime can be a great campaigning point. However I disagree that crime in Bridgeport may only be a holiday blip. Crime has been spiking since spring. It’s unfortunate our grand ol’ paper the CT Post does not dig into the real crime statistics. Burglary, Robbery, Assaults and home invasions have been going on since the spring, is it now gaining attention because it’s moving out of remote neighborhoods and affecting store owners?

    Bridgeport also has a gang issue brewing that may become as bad as the early ’90s. This may be a stretch, but there may be more guns on the streets than books in some schools … Well some of our youth are better equipped to handle a gun than a book. This takes me to another great campaigning point, education. A city with high crime and low educational outcomes will have a difficult time with economic renewal.

  2. Finch has done nothing to make the city better or to make living conditions better. He can take his rain barrels and his larger recycling cans and put them where the sun don’t shine.
    What’s important is we still have a 68% dropout rate. Imagine this, go into a first-grade class of 25 kids and imagine that 17 of those first graders will not graduate from high school. Finch & Company have not worked with the BOE meaning the elected members of the board to change things and get Ramos off his ass.
    Crime in this city is a joke, pure and simple. We ask 21 street cops per shift to keep a lid on rising crime during these tough economic times. That’s 1 cop for every 7,000 citizens. We have horse cops, segway cops, bicycle cops and my all-time favorite community relation cops BUT WE ONLY HAVE 21 STREET COPS. We have 105 police supervisors to supervise approx 270 non-supervisors.
    Crime is up and there is very little being done. Capone is right crime has moved to the remote neighborhoods like mine. Many, many armed robberies zero solve rate. We have a chief who was going to walk the neighborhood at 11 PM a few weeks ago but it was too cold and was canceled until spring. Chief, at 11 PM most people are going to bed as they have to work in the morning. BTW our armed robberies are in the daytime.
    We need a mayor who does not give a shit about reelection but cares for the citizens of Bpt and will make the tough decisions without worrying about which local money-grabbing politician he is hurting.

    1. I agree TC, we need a mayor who will shake things up and not care about the 2nd term. However in doing that, he/she may just earn their way into a second term. The 17 out of 25 1st-grade students not graduating was a great way to underscore the dropout issue …

  3. Lennie you know as well as I do that Foster is not a viable mayoral candidate. I know you keep flipping her name out there but it won’t happen. It’s not that I would be against her running but I don’t think she has the nerve to run plus I am not sure she is tough enough if elected. I guess another question would be would she actually be the mayor or would her husband be running the show.

      1. Sounds like Lennie is getting ready to come out of retirement.
        Lennie wrote a book about Jack now he seems to already be authoring the Mary-Jane story.
        The question is, “Is it fact or fiction???”

      2. Well Lennie that’s all well and good but if I voted for Mary-Jane I sure as hell don’t want her husband running the city from the back room. BTW your bias is showing.

      3. IMHO, Lennie, given your close personal relationship to Ms. Foster and her husband it just kinds of seems inappropriate for you to use this as a bully pulpit to push her candidacy. I mean, I don’t see or hear a word about her anywhere but here. If she came out as a candidate that would be one thing but since she has not, it does not seem fair for you to put out feelers or lay the groundwork for her here.

        1. Inappropriate? Has Caruso announced? No. Has Bill Finch announced? No. Has anyone else announced beyond John Gomes? No. You haven’t heard about her anywhere else? You mean like the CT Post that doesn’t cover politics? I appreciate all my readers but they don’t dictate my editorial opinions. I’m not pushing her candidacy. I could do that every day. I am sharing information based on what I’m hearing from a variety of sources. You can come on my site and push any candidate of your choice. Happy holidays!

          1. Wow–I didn’t mean to offend you, but Finch is the incumbent and Caruso has already run twice. There is nothing but talk of them everywhere. I’ve not only not heard a peep about Foster from the CT Post, which is worthless anyway, but from no one anywhere, including on here, except for you.

            It might not matter so much if you did not admit you have a relationship with these people. And you’re right–it is your site and you can say and do with it as you wish. But you and your site would have a lot more credibility if there were no perception of bias. And again, I do not mean to offend you but as you can see, I am not the only one to have mentioned it and I am certain I am not the only one who has thought it.

          2. BPT 1, everyone who visits OIB has bias. Nothing wrong with that. It’s human nature to have bias. I did not create this site for straight-down-the-middle reporting. I write from the perspective of a campaign strategist. I’ve never hidden that and never will.

          3. MEMO to JOHN M GOMES +++ have Leonard write a book about the Roooster, and he will push you for president !!!!!!!!! Forgetaboutit

          4. Lennie you seem to be in respond mode today. I’d be nice if you responded the same way to the countless questions I’ve posed to you in the past. “Joel, take your meds.” is not a response.

  4. Corruption can be a big ‘C’ word when the Feds and others are firing away with indictments; or it can be a small ‘c’ word when it means that human standards of wholeness, truthfulness, or integrity are reduced so low that almost anything goes until John Law shows up with the paperwork. We are in a fortunate moment where a Federal judge has returned community police management back to the City without special oversight and where arrests for matters against the broad public interest are not currently in the news. So we need to constantly work on ‘corruption’ by demanding higher standards for those in public service, but thank goodness we have a breather from Corruption that excites the CT Post (more than do break-ins to downtown storefront retailers).

    One of you will no doubt remind me of Mayor Finch’s campaign representations (aside from $600 tax credit) but after three years my impression is CLEAN, GREEN and MACHINE.

    Clean streets because our street sweepers have been more active than in memory. Maybe the broken machines from past administrations have been replaced but the effect is a good one at least in some neighborhoods.

    Green activities of all sorts are sponsored, recruited, planned, pursued, and publicized. I am not against these certainly, but most of them are fairly long-term in terms of rewards, others are subject to market forces and others require large investments from deep pockets, not particularly in evidence today.

    Machine daily activity to hire and fire people, radically changing public service employment without an announced plan supported as financially necessary, legally possible, and ultimately responsible is not what has been performed. Certain voters may be more loyal to the machine in 2011, but look at what has been done to City government on Finch’s watch!

    Perhaps a candidate for 2011 will feature a trio of words like LEARNING, EARNING and TURNING to characterize what I see as important areas for maximum attention from 2012 forward.

    Learning is the activity for all of the students in Bridgeport. And learning as taxpaying adults about civic process and practice is critical too. Primary responsibility for directing attention to successful youth achievement needs to come from all of us when we meet with parents, students, teachers, administrators and other community members. What is the goal for this year? How are we doing towards that? College for all when more than 50% bail is a problem in terms of expectations” Post-school expectations of educated local students are a good place to view as well as recognizing the $150,000 and more of individual commitment spent from State and Bridgeport taxes to help propel youths to their goals.

    Earning financial revenues and respect for City financial process is next in order. One time gimcrackery, creative Tomfoolery (Sherwood) and secret and opaque communications practices makes for unaccountable and non-transparent governance.

    Turning to the many capable people in this City to include them by encouraging the best people you know to run for office work for Boards, include them in processes so that a broader slice of the population becomes more knowledgeable and involved. That will serve the City for the best in the long term. The people can work their way to better governance through Charter reforms, getting to know what more people really hold as most important and moving towards a community where many people are heard, respectfully listened to and from where governance of and by the many rather than the one-party-machine few is dominant.

    If you don’t enjoy CLEAN, GREEN and MACHINE, maybe you would consider LEARNING, EARNING and TURNING?
    And I’d be most happy to hear your trio for focus, too.

  5. Memo to Bob Walsh; yesterday you stated that the settlement with the administrators union was better than rolling the dice in arbitration. Let me quote what was said by the president of the teachers union who just took a stipulated judgment with the city.
    I quote “A town’s ability to pay is a priority factor to be considered by the arbitrators when settling a dispute. Your negotiating team felt that economic factors in Bridgeport were such that this settlement was likely better than anything attainable by rolling the dice in arbitration.”
    The teachers settled for 3 years 0% the first year, 1.95% the second year and 2.795% the third year. The teachers also agreed to increase their medical care policy from 14% to 17%.
    You see Bob instead of wringing their hands the council should have grown a spine and said NO instead of waving that all too famous we could lose in arbitration. Pure Bullshit from a bunch that does not care for anything but themselves.

  6. TC I don’t know what the hell you are talking about and apparently neither do you.
    “The teachers settled for 3 years 0%, 1.95% and 2.795 and increase their medical care from 14% to 17%.”
    The administrators agreed to 0%, 1% and 1% plus steps for an adjusted increase of 1.62%. All of these are much better than what the teachers agreed to. Plus I do not know if the teachers includes step increase or not.
    The teachers agreed to increase their medical from 14% to 17%. The administrators agree to increase their medical from 19% to 21%.
    And you somehow think that an arbitrator would take what was agreed to with the administrators and then rejected by the city and compare that to a much more generous settlement with the teachers union and somehow would not agree to a better package for the administrators?
    Do you honestly believe that?

  7. Bob, both unions should have gone to binding arbitration with the city seeking 0% raises and an increase of 25% copay by both the administrators and the teachers. Am I wrong in saying there are lower-tier city employees already paying 25% for health care?

  8. So TC,
    Back when you were on the force, you would not have a problem with an arbitrator saying that since there were other unions being paid less than the firefighters then we should lower the pay of the firefighters and make them contribute more for insurance?
    You are kidding me, right?

  9. Bob, back then there were many years when we took multiple zeros and we did pay for health care. Back in those times they threw benefits at you because they were less expensive. If you remember they laid off firefighters because we said no to further givebacks. The firefighters received unemployment and we made up the difference in what they would have taken home. Six weeks later they were all back on duty.
    Bob, an arbitrator can only rule on the packages put before him and there is no cost analysis of what other unions are making. Bob you know that, stop talking like Sherwood at a budget hearing.
    Bob, no one is asking anyone to take a pay cut but while we are asking the lower-tier employees to pay 25% for health care and to take a certain number of unpaid days off, what do you call that? Bob, would you like to hold a fund raiser for the 80 school administrators that collectively make $10 Million not counting benefits?

  10. *** OIB bloggers can agree to disagree about who would be a better candidate for Mayor, however good or bad, the decision lies with the present DTC that endorsed “FINCH,” no? How many on the DTC have family & friends or businesses that work for the city in some fashion or another? *** The more things change, the more they stay the same, no? ***

    1. Just because a candidate is endorsed by the DTC does not mean they should, or will, be elected. Quite the contrary–the DTC-endorsed candidate should absolutely NOT be mayor!!!

      Caruso came sooo close last time. It’s only a matter of time before someone finally upsets the machine, and that time is 2011. Enough is enough.


  12. OK, the Merry Xmas Guesstakes:

    Mayor Bill Finch is the odd-on candidate to win renomination and election if he wants it.

    State Rep. Chris Caruso could challenge and win if he enlarges his message and campaign following so he doesn’t fade in the backstretch like 2007.

    John Gomes hasn’t shown he has a bail of hay.

    Mary-Jane Foster is intriguing but we don’t know if she will leave the paddock.

    There are the usual gang of suspects, I mean nags, hanging around.

    Seabiscuit could be chewing on the grass someplace–Went Field, Newfield Park, Beardsley Zoo, who knows?–and come up to the gate at showtime and blow the field away.

    There’s nothing to neigh about until after Jan. 1.

    It’s Christmas boys and girls! Whatever happened to Peace on Earth and Good Will to Man, etcetera? Even on OIB?

    It’s almost time to post up Walt Kelly.

  13. So this blog has now become the Fox News of the blogging world? Unfair and unbalanced? I rarely post but read this spot daily. Spoonfeeding us opinions was not what I thought this spot to be.

      1. I hate to break this to you, but a recent survey by the University of Maryland indicates the more you watch FOX News, the more misinformed you are. FOX is admittedly “infotainment” and opinion, but it is not news.

        1. BPT 1 where does the U of Maryland say you get fair and balanced news? It can’t be from the major TV stations as we see how slanted their coverage is. It can’t be from MSNBC as that bunch does not know which end is up. Has Fox news changed news reporting? Yes it has and why is that? Because local news stations are into the feel-good stories and they also let their personal feelings enter into many of the political stories. They all suck.

  14. “… I would use his words against him time and again …” Careful what you wish for Lennie.

    “… Mary-Jane has raised money for numerous candidates for public office and can do the same for herself …” True. However these numerous candidates are the ones she approached when she wasn’t able or willing to take a loss as a stakeholder of the Bridgeport Bluefish. The Rent Forgiveness Program was good for the bottom line of the Bluefish venture.

    “… together they brought professional baseball and hockey to Bridgeport. They are the key private-sector reason Bridgeport has the ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard …”

    The City of Bridgeport started kicking the idea of a Baseball Stadium when they were approached by a group of investors who were willing to build the stadium at their cost. The Ganim adminstration (Freimuth and the City Attorney) for some strange reason blew off these people and soon after pushed the idea for the City to build it and rent it.
    Soon after the council approved the construction, someone forgot to include the electronic scoreboard and again the city put up another half-million dollars. Then came the new roof repair ($500,000) and the Rent Forgiveness Program. Is this the “Foster care” you meant?

    Caruso seems to be the real threat here. The only threat to Caruso would be anyone who takes votes from him. “… If Caruso expands his message beyond the C word (corruption), he’ll be a major factor …” Caruso must expand the “C word.” He must particularly, expand it to include all “Cabrones”–those Hispanic so-called leaders who constantly tell the Hispanic community that Caruso is bad for them. Caruso has strong name recognition in the Hispanic community, but when they ask and are told that Causo is bad, enough vote against him to deny him a victory. Caruso needs to fix this as well as plug some other gaps. I never retired! “… no, I’m not coming out of retirement …” Don’t you mean federally forced retirement?

  15. TC, Fox doesn’t let personal views interfere. O’Reilly, Hannity, crybaby Beck, they even got ’60s and ’70s revolutionary Geraldo speaking their BS as you call it for their lord and master Rupert Murdock.

    1. Sorry I disagree on Fox news in total but I agree on Hannity and Beck. Look at msnbc and what have you got there? Olbermann, Matthews of I get a chill up my leg when the president speaks fame. Ed Shultz, Rachel Maddow. I do like Joe Scarborough and Mika is a PIA. Their liberal bias is definitely showing. BTW MSNBC is owned by GE.


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