Kohut Decries Elitist Conspiracy To Stifle Bridgeport Development

Jeff Kohut
Jeff Kohut

City policy wonk Jeff Kohut, a 2011 mayoral candidate, is not bashful declaring the reasons he says Bridgeport development has not advanced like other Connecticut cities. He calls it the Stamford-Greenwich-Hartford “bullying of Bridgeport” to preserve the lower Fairfield County lifestyle, “especially cheap Bridgeport labor.” As the Connecticut General Assembly convenes this week for a six-month session, Kohut demurs the state’s business and political treatment of the state’s most populous city that also includes an electorate call to action.

Things are being done in a secretive manner because decisions have already been made about who is going to get what, and where, in regard to state DECD development decisions. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is Dan Malloy’s protégé from Greenwich, so any significant economic development/job creation outside of the “SW wedge” is going to Hartford. Heavy traffic-type (casinos, etc.) development has already been x-ed out of the SW-wedge and points east (Bridgeport) in order to keep I-95 and Routes 15/8/25 “passable” for the continuation of the high-value, (down-county) Fairfield County development needed to support the tax revenue/lifestyle gluttony of this part of the state.

Bridgeport will just have to learn how to stretch their Bass Pro dollars. It makes absolutely no difference what our state delegation has to say about anything. The boys in Stamford-Greenwich will have their cake and eat it too, and they’ll have another governor when Dan cedes his seat to adopted son Luke.

Now: some of us might not think a casino is good for Bridgeport anyway, but the thing to remember here is it isn’t just casinos that have been x-ed out of Bridgeport’s future; the development restrictions include anything that will generate traffic that will interfere with the logistical needs of Stamford-Greenwich, especially cheap Bridgeport labor. This isn’t my perception; it is a policy concern expressed over 15 years ago by now BCFC President Chris Bruhl when he was SACIA president. It was in the CT Post in 2001 per coverage of a SACIA business breakfast presentation in Stamford in which Bruhl discussed the implications of a Bridgeport casino and the need to squash such a development in Bridgeport.

Now: There is a lot of talk among would-be government “reformers” in Bridgeport about regime-change in Bridgeport, in particular, replacing the CC in order to ensure fair representation of Bridgeport neighborhoods in the context of open, honest, and sensible governance in Bridgeport. The prevailing belief among the “reformers” is it is the connivance of the DTC and Party hierarchy in Bridgeport that keeps the city down.

This latter inward fixation is exactly what the elitists in Stamford-Greenwich and their Hartford/DC lackeys would like Bridgeporters to believe. It’s all our fault. We’re stupid and corrupt and get what we deserve, and keep ourselves at the bottom of the regional/state food chain. Well, they’re partly correct. We keep putting the same Stamford-Greenwich clique in the Governor’s office and DC and they keep obliging our stupidity by promoting the interests of Stamford-Greenwich on Bridgeport’s back, while they keep up the negative messaging about Bridgeport government that makes us blame ourselves for the fact high-value tax base is deliberately steered away from Bridgeport as regional/state development policy (e.g., the RBS North America HQ, originally sited for Bridgeport, was steered to Stamford back in 2005 in return for a one-time $10 million payoff from Hartford to Bridgeport on behalf of Stamford, where it was later located).

No. Nothing will change in Bridgeport as long as we keep drinking the Stamford-Greenwich kool aid about Bridgeport corruption being the reason for our failure to thrive. The real reason is Stamford-Greenwich-Hartford corruption and (not so) subtle exploitative bullying of Bridgeport. Only when the people of Bridgeport start voting against the anointed heirs to Connecticut’s fortunes (read; “future prosperity”) who keep the rest of the state serving Stamford-Greenwich will Bridgeport thrive again. Our only stupidity is in our failure to use our electoral power/vote against the hegemonic forces controlling our state. Our local elections don’t amount to squat in the grand scheme of things (beyond which school has more pencils or which parks gets the extra summer mowing).

Any reform movements that are going to help Bridgeport must aim much higher and involve our full 100,000 electorate. Therein lies the leverage Bridgeport needs for a real renaissance. Not until we elect a Bridgeport Governor, Bridgeport Congressman, and Bridgeport US Senator, or at least deny those spots to the Gold Coast-anointed, through our large, contrary vote, will we see fair treatment in Hartford and DC and watch our economic fortunes change for the better.

Get smart, “reformers!” Start looking in three dimensions for the cause of our problems, as well as solutions. We need to stop staring at the “floor” in Bridgeport and start looking to the “sides” and the “ceiling” in Hartford and DC for the roots and solutions to our problems. (Keep in mind: in learning/problem-solving experiments, it is found dogs tend to focus in two dimensions, bottom and sides, while wolves (apex predators) will add a third dimension and look up as part of their hunting and escape problem-solving behavior. Bridgeport needs to shed its “dog” mentality and start thinking like a wolf!)

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23 comments

  1. Ron: You are correct. It isn’t what the the reformers want to hear, but it is what they, and those they would enlist in their “reform” movements, need to hear. If we don’t correctly identify the oppressive forces keeping Bridgeport down, we will continue our “catfighting” over local nickles and dimes as we become more and more environmentally and socioeconomically, and municipally, marginalized as part of the regional scheme to maintain the status quo. As the fur flies in Bridgeport, the big-time operators take advantage of the distraction to get the big, billion-dollar stuff done for the anointed in the golden part of the state, with a couple of projects to bolster their strategically planted allies elsewhere (e.g., Greenwich Malloy aide/protege Luke Bronin who became Hartford’s mayor not long after moving there from Greenwich as part of the Malloy regime).
    The reformers need to aim much higher–examine the political environment in three dimensions–if they are going to get anything moving in the right direction in Bridgeport. As long as Bridgeporters are preoccupied fighting among themselves over scraps, that’s all we’ll get and we’ll continue to slide backwards.

    1. To your point, $3 million pedestrian bridge to be built over Ash Creek in Black Rock, never mind there’s a bridge two blocks away, no published survey of need or request for the bridge, and this helps Bridgeport how? It will certainly be used to point out state funds to Bridgeport. The $500 Black Rock corridor grant, spent all on consultants to present their ideas of what Bridgeport wants. Again, will be used to show what, how the city squanders state funds? Fighting for state funds, rather than fighting for what Bridgeport truly needs is and has always been a major problem with and for every elected official in CT.

      1. Back in the day, nine years ago in the early days of Black Rock NRZ formation, even before the “Black Rock RR” Station was renamed Metro, folks pointed out walking along City streets added up to 1/2-mile for many people that could be avoided by a pedestrian bridge. Samples of some found at the time seemed to have price tags of $600-700,000, though this was never confirmed by either City or State authorities.
        We also realized the existing parking needs were stretched to breaking and the Police Department needed to study a plan for providing street parking reasonably to residents as other cities have done. To my knowledge nothing has developed in that sphere of inquiry.
        What you allege is true however, based on past experience with Ellsworth Field development and other State funding, very little planning is done, required of, or shared with the public who foots the bill ultimately. That is not wise in terms of accountability, transparency or wise spending. Time will tell.

  2. Jeff, we need more thinking individuals who are not aspiring to glory, self-political preservation, or seeking avenues through our local system to enhance their monetar personal lives. We’re so preoccupied with “effecting change through local elections,” all we do is perpetuate a changing of the same old guard. We never look up or around to identify the individuals you mention who may rise to the level of elected office who may bring about the change our City desperately needs. They’re here, but they don’t stand a chance of recognition because the paper tigers who prevent their involvement are ever vigilant and there are so many submissive ones to assist in the push-back of those with the potential and willingness to serve. I hear talk of disruption in the newly established Young Dems. Not one year in its role to attract young, bright, educated men and women to carry us forward, and there’s talk of a challenge to the president of the organization. What could have possibly occurred in less than a year to provoke this action? Division before they get off the ground. That’s us. I don’t exclude myself because I’ve been a part of this party too long, I’ve seen it happen over and over again; my only option is to leave or keep trying. This is the example we pass on to the next round of elected officials in this city. Jeff, I hope you and others like you continue to keep the truth out there.

  3. Jeff I don’t know what conjured you to this unexpected visit to OIB. Being one with a simple mind, I understand competition. Bridgeport is certainly in competition with other cities and towns for development, funding, grants, as well as them being in competition with Bridgeport. If you ask Ron, he will tell you I’m not that smart. So your Stamford/Greenwich theory to deprive Bridgeport of any meaningful development like a casino so they can keep their cheap labor force, provided by Bridgeport, has always confused me. Stamford’s population has roughly less than 20,000 people than Bridgeport, and Bridgeport’s population has close to 150,000 people. They have their own labor force. Not to mention Norwalk is a lot closer than Bridgeport. Do you honestly think Bridgeporters are taking the train or driving to Stamford for a $10.10 minimum-wage job? Simple math.

    Jeff, did you hear about the heist on New Year’s Eve? While everyone was distracted the thieves robbed a jewelry store of $6 million in diamonds. They say it was an inside job. Someone left the safes unlocked.
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=mQYgvnRe1u8

  4. I have always admired Jeff for his formulation of his theory about the gold coast using Bridgeport for low-cost labor. I do not agree there is a conspiracy to stop development in Bridgeport.

    Some explanations I have heard and agree with are:
    > Stamford is close enough to New York City, lower in cost to NYC and has room for development so there is no need to develop in Bridgeport.
    > There is ample develop-able land in surrounding towns at a lower cost so there is no demand to develop in Bridgeport (other than subsidized affordable rental housing).
    > For many years, Bridgeport has had little ‘clout’ in Hartford and Washington DC and at the same time has had an unproductive local political climate.

    About 20 years ago I met with developer Robert Scinto one-on-one about a business matter unrelated to Bridgeport. I could not resist asking him what it would take for him to invest in Bridgeport versus other towns. He told me. He pulled no punches. Over the last 20 years nothing has changed his mind, apparently.

    Robert Scinto was recently a guest speaker at a forum sponsored by the UB School of Business. I wish I could have attended and ask the same question from 20 years ago. I contacted the CT Post and suggested they cover at and ask the question. They did not.

  5. The West End, just a bad calling card for this city!

    Bridgeport looks like Aleppo from I-95, those old abandoned factories on the West End speak volumes to investors, it tells the world to stay away, our city government could care less if you want to start a new business in Bridgeport!
    We have a blight program against homeowners, but absentee factory landlords, it’s more of a joke when it comes to old burned-out factories. Who owns these burned-out factories Joe, that make Bridgeport look like a Dresden war zone???
    There should be a law, if your factory is burned out you have five years to fix it up or knock it down!
    If the City knocks it down then expropriate the private property for public use!
    If you dump on this city you lose your truck, the same law should apply to those burned-out factory landlords!

  6. Robert: Did you ever wonder why there is a solid line of traffic in the westbound direction on I-95 and Route 15, emanating mostly from Bridgeport, every workday morning starting at about 5:00am, and why there is a similar solid line of traffic in the eastbound direction starting at about 4pm? Did you ever wonder why a Stamford area-based coalition of federal and state politicians fought tooth and nail against a Bridgeport casino in the ’90s and early 2000s, going as far as to change the law in regard to federal recognition of Native American tribes? Could it have been they were so concerned about the effects of adult vice on Bridgeport young people?! Or perhaps because they wanted to prevent further exploitation and abuse of Native Americans by the state and federal government?

    And, one must wonder why Stamford Area Chamber of Commerce President, now Business Council of Fairfield County President, Chris Bruhl would have proclaimed at a SACIA breakfast meeting in July 2001 that the (proposed) Bridgeport Casino “… Cannot be allowed to happen … It would have disastrous effects for the Stamford economy … We would lose our cheap labor pool … And there would be terrible traffic delays …”

    It doesn’t take a lot of effort if one has some grasp of regional/state history to connect the dots and realize Bridgeport’s problems are based in the elitist social and economic engineering of Fairfield County/Connecticut society/politics.

    [Tom: Isn’t it special that Bob Scinto had no problem building $ hundreds of millions worth of development, benefiting parasitically from Bridgeport, on Bridgeport’s border with Trumbull, but just couldn’t find a project or two in Bridgeport? It’s because Trumbull is so squeaky clean? (“No sewer scandal or zoning violations here, boss! Cross my heart!” “Okay. I believe you, Mr. Kallmeyer!”)]

    Come on, folks! The first step to a Bridgeport renaissance is tuning out the outside noise and showing some respect for ourselves. The longer we keep obsessing about the dirt in the corners of our house, the longer it will take to shovel ourselves out of the avalanche of mud being bulldozed on us from the outside.

    1. 1. Maybe the Federal rules were changed to protect the existing current tribes. Either way I believe the state changed its rule to allow the current tribes to run casinos outside their reservations.

      2. Minus the commercial traffic. You assume there are only two on and off ramps on highways, Bridgeport and Stamford. Bridgeport is not the city that uses the highway or train. Are you saying every car on 95 and the Merrit Parkway is from Bridgeport and going to Stamford for a $10.10 job, and every train passenger gets on in Bridgeport and get off in Stamford? REALLY? Yes towns and cities are beating Bridgeport on developments. Up and down the coast and inland.

      3. This Boogeyman (Stamford) for cheap labor is noise.

      A couple quick questions, Jeff. The proposed casino in Bridgeport was in 1994 and it failed. Chris Bruhl, Stamford Area Chamber of Commerce President, now Business Council of Fairfield County President proclaimed at a SACIA breakfast meeting in July 2001 that the (proposed) Bridgeport Casino “… Cannot be allowed to happen … It would have disastrous effects for the Stamford economy … We would lose our cheap labor pool … And there would be terrible traffic delays …” Who was at this breakfast? Where you there, and if so, what were you doing there? If not, how do you come into contact with the statement? What ideas did Chris suggest on not allowing a Bridgeport casino to happen? Jeff, I’m not a smart man, ask Ron. Here a simple math question. If the proposed casino in Bridgeport was killed in 1994, what was Chris talking about at the breakfast in 2001?

  7. I have tremendous respect for Jeff Kohut but I completely disagree with this theory of some type of “proactive” conspiracy of Hartford and Stamford and Greenwich and New Haven and Dan Malloy and Luke Bronin etc. etc. etc. I will have to dig into my history books but Bridgeport is the victim of macroeconomic forces that laid waste to mid-size cities (and even larger cities such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh were affected but these larger cities had greater resources to recover). It may be hard to believe but there are cities in the Rust Belt that are even in WORSE shape than Bridgeport. NO ONE in Bridgeport would want to live in Gary, Indiana amongst others. That posting will be a very long posting.

  8. While you’re rounding up the 100,000 to march on Hartford or DC or to visit Ray Dalio’s offices, I recommend the following in the Sept ’16 Atlantic Monthly for a more evidence-based approach to cause and effect:

    Finance Is Ruining America
    In Greenwich, Darien, and New Canaan, Connecticut, bankers are earning astonishing amounts. Does that have anything to do with the poverty in Bridgeport, just a few exits away?

    www .theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/fairfield-county/501215/

    I don’t subscribe to Jeff’s victims-are-us claims and do-it-all-by-ourselves prescription. But I haven’t been fighting Jeff’s fight for 20 years.

    Yes, Bridgeport has lacked the political clout and vision other municipalities have to attract positive development.
    But what do we achieve by blaming “elitists” or other municipalities for wanting what’s best for their citizens?

    How can encouraging and assisting citizen volunteers in Bridgeport in their efforts to clean up our city’s act and to elect better people change nothing?

    Oct 1917 revolution or bust?

    Is it possible a new crop of City Council leaders you elect this year could become essential leaders for our city and a communities-coming-together progression plan for representatives of us in higher offices … where Bridgeport can be more fully represented in those higher offices?

    For example, to suggest it makes no difference, say, if my district is represented by State Senator Marilyn Moore or, say, her recent losing challengers, is not persuasive to those of us who see the good work and value she brings to our communities through her representation. In fact, there are measurable improvements resulting from Moore’s records vs. her predecessors.

    By Jeff’s thinking, he should not have been a supporter of any candidate in the last mayoral race. Right? What difference did that make?

    Consistency and care are required to be stewards for positive change, even revolutions.

    1. Excellent perspective, through this lens we see the importance of inclusion to encourage and support citizens, whether individually or in a group setting, to participate in the process of introducing new, productive suggestions and recommendations. Once we break the barriers of political control and exclusion, it will encourage willing, qualified individuals to step forward to serve in an elected capacity. I have always maintained at least half our failure to move forward is directly attributed to unqualified elected officials. If they don’t understand what’s necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the office they hold, we remain at a retarded pace and progress won’t be recognized for decades to come.

  9. Pete: I read that article three or four months ago.

    Bridgeport’s problem isn’t directly tied to the rise of the financial sector. The explosion of currency (representative and paper) exists as an expansion of the center of real wealth from which it emanates. This is just one aspect of the money creation that exists as a prerequisite of economic growth. So we’re seeing a concentration of the financial sector in lower Fairfield County.

    Fairfield County has grown as first a child of the industrial revolution (via Bridgeport, to a very significant degree) and then by the growth of the NY Stock Market-Financial Sector. Not new. Money growth; money creating more money; nothing new.

    There are still a lot of bricks and mortar (and now cyber-bricks and mortar investors) creating tangible and usable products that service and are necessary for modern life. All that money bloating the world economy is being created and utilized for many real things made by real people.

    Bridgeport is ripe for setting up shop to make real things. If somebody would dump a load of all that destructive money in Bridgeport for a few, large labor-intensive businesses, all that $bloat would serve as an economic balm in Bridgeport, as it has in other parts of the world where it has been deposited and loaned (even in the US!). Institutions and people–entrepreneurs–are still lending and borrowing money to do real things. Lots of money for lots of real things. The fact Bridgeport isn’t in on that isn’t because of the dysfunction of the financial sector; it is because of the dysfunction of government and “civilized” society in their failure to take measures to avoid allowing instinctive elitism and avarice to create situations of marked, destructive exploitation and inequity in places such as Bridgeport.

    The bloating of the financial sector is just part of the same process that describes economic growth. Global economic growth. With the US being the focal point of the global economy, it is only natural much of the money would be funneled and multiplied here. That isn’t the problem. The problem is the age-old problem: avarice, elitist dominance. Inequity. A rigged deck for nefarious purposes.

    Let the wealth be “spread,” then it will no longer be a problem. The use of capital/wealth is a matter of human decision and will. The Great Depression was all about the concentration of wealth and the primitive instincts guiding the decisions on how to use or not use the wealth. It took a civilization-threatening crisis to break (temporarily) the dysfunction of government and civilized society that had allowed that to happen in the first place. When government and society sanction primitive behavior in larger (and smaller) segments of the economy, depressions and “Bridgeports” happen.

  10. Jeff, do you envision a casino as something real that someone would dump a load of money into Bridgeport, which will serve as an economic balm in Bridgeport?

    Please remember the entrepreneurs who are still lending and borrowing money to do real things, run the risk of a failed project, the loss of money and investment. Derecktor sounded great but failed, Stop&Shop in the North End also sounded great and failed.

    Bridgeport is the most populous city in CT and is one of the smallest in land area. Stamford has twice the land area as Bridgeport, not the mention, unless these investors feel going through the costly and lengthy process of using eminent domain to acquire the land for development, like was done for Steel Point. There, options are limited to the shuttered factories that have their own costly process to make them ripe for development.

    Jeff, entrepreneurs don’t have to go all the way to Stamford to find more favorable land to risk their money on, and take advantage of Bridgeport’s cheap labor pool, all they have to do is look toward Shelton or Monroe. Have you been on some of their main thoroughfares?
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=zTs3uzChx8k

  11. Robert: All I can say is you need to do some homework on the creation of economic development policy at all levels of government. And you need to learn more about the history of the casino initiative in Bridgeport. It got started in 1994; it didn’t end with the referendum. I am not a person who sees economic salvation in the form of casinos, especially in cities like Bridgeport; I refer to the casino initiative by way of providing a glimpse in economic policies from the state and federal level affecting Bridgeport, and form whence they arise. I don’t consider you “simple” or stupid as you have said others have implied about you. I believe if you do some serious thinking and homework, you’ll be able to piece together the cause and effect components of Bridgeport’s socioeconomic decline. Are you the type of serious person who will take the time to do some independent studying about the process of economic policy development? Are you interested enough in Bridgeport to do some historical research on the city’s economic history of the past 60 years and its relationships at the state and federal levels during that time? (I would have you read Lennie’s latest edition of “Only In Bridgeport” as the first step in this educational process. It will lead you where you need to go to get a real understanding of our history and present situation/dilemma. Good luck!)

    1. So you would be against casino like Chris Bruhl, Stamford-Greenwich elitist, and those they put in Hartford and DC. So they can keep Bridgeport’s cheap labor pool that otherwise a casino would deprive them of.

      So much so, “Stamford area-based coalition of federal and state politicians fought tooth and nail against a Bridgeport casino in the ’90s and early 2000s, going as far as to change the law in regard to federal recognition of Native American tribes.” But because you don’t see a casino as an economic salvation to break the chains of cheap labor for Stamford.

      One of you is wrong and wasting their time. Funny thing about salvation, I never hear of a drowning person needing salvation and telling a passing boat, I’ll wait for the next one. I don’t like the shape of yours.

      Jeff, I’m a simple man, a passive one as well, I don’t fight tooth and nail nor am I a serious person who will take the time to do some independent studying about the process of economic policy development or serious thinking who would do homework to piece together the cause and effect components of Bridgeport’s socioeconomic decline.

      I hope you find the boat that suites you in your quest for salvation to break the chain of economic poverty and cheap labor for Bridgeporters. Me, I’m a simple man I’ll take a canoe made out of animal hide.

      Good luck Jeff in finding that boat.

  12. Socialism as a leading governance does not work. In most part, it is no different than what the elitists preach, just their fire-brand of preaching. In the same way you and the elites don’t want a casino in Bridgeport.

    Jeff, you talked about how Stamford receives, through Hartford, DC, meaningful development. And I heard voices express their disapproval for a Bridgeport casino because it will bring crime to the city. Stamford has gotten significant non-casino development and significant crime increase as well. The reason a Bridgeport casino is opposed by those is because the power Bridgeport will have because of it. Stemming some of the injustice Bridgeport has incurred at the hands of others you have addressed.

    This is why Socialism is more Elitism than Capitalism. In Capitalism power is based on money. While Capitalism allows others to acquire wealth (power) through the marketplace, and capitalists want to hold onto their power from others, Socialism never allows others to acquire wealth (power). Socialist leaders don’t worry about losing power through inventions or hard work like capitalists do, but by their own people in a revolt about the quality of life dictated to them without any means of their own to enhance their life.

    Did you read about the CEO, who paid every employee $70,000? I’m not too sure it’s working out. The ones who were serious thinkers, who did their research, studied hard, and did their homework are revolting. They feel it is not right that their hard work that is essential to the company is getting paid the same as the person who dropped out of school and processes data or some other simpler tasks.

    Socialism is best utilized in the fight, not for every person to be equal but to ensure the lowest among them have a decent quality of life, free of terrorism in all its forms, harm, life, justice, equal opportunity to study and research, do their homework. Play the game of life, and it is a game on many levels.

    You had run for mayor, did you not? Was that more for you and the hard work, studying, homework put in your life, or was it solely for Bridgeport? As a serious “Thinker,” if you were born and raised in Stamford, while your stance on a Bridgeport casino maybe the same, would your view of Bridgeport be the same? A beautiful mind is a terrible thing to waste.
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=2d_dtTZQyUM

    I like to try to leave on a positive note. Ron, no need to apologize. While I wasn’t banned from OIB, I was banned from Joe’s campaign headquarters. Steve, this is just my brand of politics. To clarify your obsession with me being kicked out of Joe’s headquarters, I went down there to help out with the phone banks. I and this girl were talking and Joe walked in and “joined” in our conversation. He gave me three requests:
    1. Stop our conversation.
    2. If I don’t, he asked me to leave.
    3. If I don’t stop or leave, he was calling the cops.

    As a simple person and simple math, something this city lacks, obviously two of those requests I didn’t comply with, and the third was none of my business, because I keep it moving. BAM.

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