Kohut: Bridgeport’s Assets Unappreciated By State Leaders

When it comes to state leaders stepping up on behalf of Bridgeport development, city policy wonk Jeff Kohut oozes skepticism. He shares this commentary:

Past efforts at developing a casino in Bridgeport–post MGM#1 and DJT–involved the Pequots and Mohegans, but with the latter losing interest and more-or-less ceding the initiative to the Golden Hill Paugussett and Schaghticoke tribes in the early 2000s. Both the latter needed federal recognition to qualify for permission to operate casinos under federal gaming regulations. Both were extremely interested in building a Bridgeport casino. The Schaghticokes were actually granted federal recognition by the Interior Department/BIA in early 2004 and were in the process of getting details in place toward a formal proposal for a Bridgeport casino around that time.

Following this unexpected occurrence (which had experienced much opposition and many setbacks), alarmed by the increasing probability of a Bridgeport casino, Connecticut Gold-Coast Oligarchs, with input from the Pequots and Mohegans, prevailed upon Congressman Christopher Shays, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Joseph Lieberman (the aforementioned parties taking the lead on behalf of the rest of the Connecticut Congressional delegation) to exert Congressional/Presidential pressure on the Interior Department/BIA (of President George W. Bush) to revoke the federal recognition status of the Schaghticokes. This unprecedented revocation was accomplished later that year. (Recall that the original Bridgeport casino initiative–MGM#1 and DJT–was derailed in the Connecticut General Assembly on behalf of the same Gold Coast Oligarchy in the ’90s, in an effort led by then-Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy.)

When the tribal casino interest began to gather form and momentum in the early 2000s, it was Malloy, working in tandem with the (then) Stamford-based, Southwestern Area Commerce and Industry Association (SACIA), headed by Gold Coaster Chris Bruhl, that lobbied fiercely in Hartford and DC to stymie that initiative. Indeed, in a statement at a SACIA breakfast meeting in July 2002, SACIA President Chris Bruhl, in commenting about the Bridgeport casino rumblings around Fairfield County, made the statement, “… We [SACIA] can never let them [Bridgeport] have anything like that [a casino]. If that actually happens [Bridgeport casino], it could mean tens of thousands of jobs in Bridgeport. We’d lose our cheap labor force.”

Of course that statement, recorded by a Connecticut Post reporter attending the breakfast, contained  the main reason for the ultimate rescission of the federal recognition of the tribal status of the Schaghticokes. A Bridgeport casino would interfere with the free ride the Gold Coast was (and still is) getting from the ability to exploit Bridgeport labor by restricting job/tax base development in Bridgeport and forcing Bridgeporters to commute to Stamford/the Gold Coast for employment, while at the same time allowing Stamford/the Gold Coast to maintain residential exclusivity while avoiding the costs of hosting its own labor force and also avoiding paying the necessary workforce Stamford/Gold-Coast resident-scale wages.

Of course “the traffic” and “moral” issues were the official reasons for opposition to the Bridgeport casino (as they are now), but “the traffic” was just ancillary to the desire to retain the Gold Coast option of using a commuting workforce (and thus maintaining residential exclusivity and the “tax free” use of cheap labor from Bridgeport). The moral issue was obviously disgustingly disingenuous, at best. (Thus the Bridgeport casino issue can be seen to be just part of the overall control of state development policy by the Gold Coast for the purpose of maintaining the Gold Coast lifestyle and lucrative Gold-Coast tax base–thus a Stamford grand list of $20 billion versus $7 billion for Bridgeport, and a Greenwich mil rate of less than 10 versus 55 for Bridgeport. Plenty of fiscal wherewithal without the need to mingle with and provide infrastructure and services for a workforce; with its social problems and needs.)

Fast-forward to 2019, and we still have the same anti-Bridgeport-casino dynamics operating in Hartford/DC and within Fairfield County and much of the rest of the state. While SACIA has morphed into the Business Council of Fairfield County, it is still run by (guess whom?) Chris Bruhl, and we have yet another Gold Coast governor in Hartford, as well as a predominantly suburban legislature that is particularly unsympathetic to Bridgeport, and unappreciative of Bridgeport’s immediate and potential value to the state (per its location, infrastructure assets, geographic assets, labor assets, transportation assets, and available commercial/industrial land).

In terms of the pro-casino machinations of our new Gold Coast governor Ned Lamont: Who really believes that Governor Lamont wants to piss off his homeboys by making a genuine effort to secure a casino deal for Bridgeport? And even if he were to be genuine in this regard, who believes the Gold Coast Oligarchy will allow the Golden Apple Cart to be upset on behalf of Bridgeport?!

As much as this lifelong Bridgeporter realizes the immediate need for an economic jumpstart for Bridgeport–which in the context of our state bankruptcy and our extreme federal dysfunction is limited to such forms as a casino (or perhaps hosting a national nuclear-waste site)–I also realize with the present political/socioeconomic complexion of the GA and Governor’s office, we’re still stuck in the same anti-casino ditch as we were in 1995.

And Bridgeport still doesn’t know how to advocate for itself.

Maybe Governor Lamont will “compromise” with the GA (about the Bridgeport casino) and take it off of the table in return for getting them to agree to give some of the toll money back to us that’s going to be generated from our daily, mass, down-county commute. (Of course, the tolls will be located only “upstream” from Stamford–maybe around mid-Fairfield, like in the old days.)

In any event, sorry to prognosticate there ain’t gonna be no casino in B’port before the first manned landing on Mars by the Basque National Aeronautics and Space Administration.



  1. There’s a lot of leverage here for the state or the Feds. I hair they are back in town. Wait Joe hire them. They were always here, probably never left. #agentadams. SMBH

    But first this labor thing doesn’t add up Jeff. Stamford’s a large city comparable to Bridgeport in population. A Resort Casino can bring up to 10,000 to 15,000 employees and most are not low-level paying jobs. So, it’s not a factor in my opinion. It’s more about the revenue stream than labor. If there was a systematic effort to keep a low-level wage pool it will and is being funneled through our Educational System. Not to mention this state has a hard on for a $15 minimum wage. Which I am in favor for, with an age requirement at 26 with a progressive increase for each year as the age goes up staring at 21. It creates two levels of play.

    1 It gets people who are 26-year of age off state assistance who are trap in a somewhat low-level job either do to the economics environment created or their skill level and has no mechanism like a union to represent them for wage increases. In this case the state has to be the union for those employees who don’t have the LUXURY (DAY) of having a union. This reduces the need for taxes being spent on assistance for them for the rest of the employment.

    2. It protects small business who employ temporary of young adults without the cost burden. It also encourages employees to hire young adults. Of course, you’ll need safe-guards for business trying to take advantage of the cheaper adolescent labor pool, at any rate

    Jeff if what you said is true about the recognition of the Schaghticokes the powers at be can force the Pequots and Mohegans hands to build a resort casino in the port. If anyone thinks a three hundred million casino is going to compete with an MGM in Springfield is off their rocker. No one is going to come from Mass for that gaming experience. They would be lucky to capture Hartford for going an extra 20 minutes to either MGM or Foxwoods or Mohegan. Bridgeport encompasses all it and the lower Fairfield county and NY, not to mention the entire Long Island Sound Seaboard, by boat, and lets not forget the plains trains and automobiles. You have my opinion on these matter.

    The only thing I see stopping it. Is a bird. 🙂

  2. Jeff, I’m pretty sure you’ve spoken on the record during legislative sessions and mingled in the halls with the elected officials. I have, more than once and had TV cameras and microphones shoved in my face with elected officials watching. Because I lived in Westport and worked in Fairfield for 10 years before moving to Bridgeport, many elected officials thought I was from Westport or Fairfield and were approaching me asking what I was there to support. When they found out I was living in Bridgeport and testifying on behalf of Bridgeport legislators, their demeanor changed dramatically. Blame the election of JG and the pay to play legacy. Blame the crime stats. Blame your own fine selves for believing you don’t make a difference and therefore don’t show up. It’s disheartening, I don’t know what the answer is, but your perception that state wide Bridgeport is often given the brush off, is correct. The Bridgeport delegation works hard and diligently, they need a thanks and how can I help from more citizens. It makes them fight harder and longer when they have support from home. It’s easy to find fault, it’s equally easy to find good legislation to support and help pass. People forget how much all the legislators state wide appreciate hearing from citizen on legislation, even when we’re just from Bridgeport.

    1. Happy New Year Jennifer, pay to play took Bridgeport out of the game and it forced businesses to go to Shelton instead. Businesses have enough problems making a profit and they don’t need the FBI looking into their business.

  3. Robert: Chris Bruhl made the quoted statement for a reason… I don’t think that he expected his statement to be publicized so far up-county…

    In any event, while we are talking mainly about labor used in Stamford, it isn’t just about Stamford; it’s also about the several Gold Coast towns that need laborers to do the variety of low-paying jobs that maintain the residential and commercial aspect of those exclusively-zoned towns. Indeed, even the relatively well-paid police and fire personnel of those towns can’t afford to live in them…

    But, in regard to the number of workers that a casino would take out of the labor-force-equation of Stamford/The Gold Coast; you have to remember that a casino, and its money/tourist-traffic, would generate other jobs and businesses, which would require more workers beyond those needed directly by the casino… And, when a town is attracting new businesses related to one sector, other sectors will follow as the tax-burden becomes better distributed and the prospects of lower taxes and a better business environment develop in the climate created by the inflow of cash into the commercial sector from more local jobs and fatter paychecks… And so the ball gets rolling when commercial traffic and money start to flow into a community from the creation of a significant, paycheck- and cash-generating commercial enterprise that adds significantly to a municipality’s economic base.

    Robert: I know that there are obvious things about Bridgeport that would seem to explain our failure to thrive, but those things — corruption, inept local government, underperforming public schools, etc. — are par-for- the-course at some level in all cities and towns… Stamford was the mug-shot for municipal corruption well before and during their economic ascendancy… Stamford became what it is only because the “right” people — people with money, and their lackeys in high places — wanted it to (mostly because it served their convenience and practical needs…). When PT Barnum focused his money and influence on the “nothing” place of Bridgeport, it grew into an industrial/economic giant… That’s how things work. If Bill Gates suddenly decided that Bridgeport merited his attention and promotion, magic would happen, even in the face of resistance by lesser billionaires…

    Robert: Examine the political-economic dynamics that I presented, carefully, and I’m sure that you’ll put the picture together by yourself… You have a sharp focus and you are clear-thinker of depth when you decide to take a close look at things… (And you also have great, wicked sense of humor!…)

  4. I agree with you the right people made Stamford what it is today. There’s a saying location, location, location. That what made those right people seen in Stamford. That statement by Chris is false in my opinion. Businesses want cheap labor even businesses in the port. That pool comes from education and financial resources, That’s the main reason for economic suppression. On some levels it’s a fight be it Bridgeport vs Stamford and on a higher level they are the same. When those right people turn their eye on the port Stamford has no say in the matter. One of the reason Dan is out and Ned is in. I mean Bob, really Republicans? He was the worse candidate. This should have been a given for the Republicans. To those right people it’s just a game picking winners and losers on some level. How deep of hole this game is, well, maybe Alice knows.

  5. When the city of Bridgeport is represented by a convicted felon and his chief unofficial spokesman is a loudmouthed gas bag that hides behind the anonymity of the Internet (stand up again, Stevie Auerbach) it’s should come as no surprise that state leaders do not take our city seriously.

  6. The U.S. Government and The Majestic Theater—

    BOTH just received another extension. Here’s the comparison:
    Trump is to Congress and The Wall as Bridgeport is to Exact Capital and the Majestic Theater.
    BOTH will see those extensions expire soon. Can sanity be permanently postponed?


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