Is Minority Party Representation On The Table For Charter Revision? Mike Garrett Says It Should Be

Update with Mike Garrett comments: The seven-member Charter Revision Commission will look at reshaping the way school board members are chosen, among other items. The Bridgeport Board of Education is currently an elected body on hold as a result of state control of city schools that has created an appointed commission. Could a hybrid of elected and appointed members be in the mix before voters? What else?

Mayor Bill Finch has appointed two Republicans to the panel, George Estrada, an executive at the University of Bridgeport and Charlie Valentino, former chairman of the city’s GOP. Estrada is no no stranger to city government. He served skillfully under Republican Mayor Mary Moran and later under Democratic Mayor John Fabrizi as the city’s director of Public Facilities. Valentino was once the high sheriff of Fairfield County before the elected position was disbanded in favor of the state’s marshal program.

The subject of minority party representation on the City Council has been debated on OIB. Could this be an opportunity for supporters to push the issue as a reform measure for voters to decide? Area towns such as Trumbull and Monroe both have minority party representation for their respective legislative bodies. Bridgeport’s Republican Party has no say as a legislative voice.

Minority party representation creates checks and balances, opens up opportunities to a larger pool of potentially effective office holders and encourages economic development for business leaders suspicious of one-party rule.

When the issue has come up in the past Mayor Bill Finch has not slammed the door on minority party representation, although there’d be no apparent motivation for Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa to support it. Unless, of course, Mario considers while maintaining control he’d have several less council members to babysit. Minority party representation, however, is not just about opportunities for Republicans. It would also bring into play the Working Families Party which had two members of its own on the BOE until it was dissolved by the majority voice.

Mike Garrett, the GOP candidate for mayor in 2007, issued a statement to OIB supporting minority party representation.

Off hand I can see no downside to the implementation of a minority party representation rule to the city charter of the city of Bridgeport; on the contrary positive effects abound. For instance instead of a political monopoly by the majority party, power is shared to the mutual benefit of all. The majority party maintains its power and therefore its agenda, however opportunities for effective government can now be more readily presented by minority representatives instead of capable ideas being lost because they are never initiated in a public forum. A further example of the effectiveness of minority party representation is in the case where the minority party Governor is in office in the state of Connecticut, as was the case from 1994 to 2010. In this case minority party representatives could have more effectively lobbied the Governor than the ruling majority of the city. The outcome of close votes in the state legislature could also be determined by this more effective lobbying. There is no doubt that this would benefit Bridgeport.

Recently Mayor Finch campaigned on the issue of transparency in city government. What better way to achieve transparency than to have the check and balance of minority party representation. All that remains is for the mayor to be the statesman that is required in this instance. Many towns throughout Connecticut currently use minority party representation to the benefit of their citizens. It is time for Bridgeport to become progressive in the real sense of the word. This would be a good start.



  1. Any system for representation on the City Council depends on the people who decide to run for office. Good people get in and bad people get in. That’s the way it works.

    “Minority” party representation, as Lennie pointed out, doesn’t necessarily mean “Republican,” but could mean “Working Families” or something else.

    “Minority” representation may work to offer an independent voice. I try not to be pessimistic about this, but I suppose I am a little bit.

    I personally believe electing one person per district is better than electing two people per district, the current system. It would force each individual to stand up on his or her own in a primary and general election. Too often, a “cripple” is carried by a stronger candidate for city council in a district.

    So if Harry is a lousy alderman in District Alpha Centauri, Alderman Harriette can still be called by people to get the work done. I don’t think it is good Harriette carries Harry. Let Harry stand on his own as the stinker he is.

    You guys can turn this right around in any of six ways. Probably all six arguments have merit.

    We are getting on surer ground talking about the conflict of working for the city and being elected to office, and thereby managing the city that employs you. It is not good. But the voters tolerate it.

  2. There has been a lot of clever repartee about the formation of an independent ‘minority’ party.

    The only way we are going to rid this town of the likes of Timpanelli and Testa is to form such a party and run in the general election rather than being beat by the nefarious acts of immoral turpitude rampant in a primary. Mario Testa cannot be beaten in a Democratic primary. Certainly not when the likes of La Diabla Lydia Martinez run unfettered throughout the community amassing hundreds of absentee ballots.

  3. My guess is many, if not a majority, of the candidates the Mayor recommended for the Charter Revision Commission hold city positions or benefit, directly or indirectly, from city jobs or city business. In short, they are likely to do what the Mayor wants.

    By law, the City Council, not the Mayor, is responsible for the appointment of Charter Revision Commission members. It needs to broaden the Commission to include knowledgeable individuals independent of the administration.

    The Council’s action will set the tone for the entire charter revision process. Are they independent or rubber stamps?


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