Mario’s La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) Of Raising Money, Behold Ganim’s $200K Finance Report

artist rendering Poli
Artist rendering of Downtown theater proposal.

Standing on the concourse of Bridgeport’s closed nostalgic twin gems the Poli and Majestic Theaters that city officials hope a New York architectural developer will resuscitate into a Downtown economic revival, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa waxed sentimentally Monday afternoon about his visits there when he was a young man in a new country. “La dolce vita,” (the sweet life) he said in Italian, holding out his arms, a reference to Federico Fellini’s classic film about a gossip columnist’s hedonistic march through a decadent Rome. Yes, life has been much sweeter for Mario since Joe Ganim’s return to the mayoralty and Mario’s feeling pretty good about helping to raise nearly $200,000 for the mayor’s 2019 reelection, a nod that the septuagenarian can still raise it. Behold Ganim’s campaign finance report here.

Ganim, as he did Monday, invites the chairman to high-profile announcements. Under Ganim’s predecessor Bill Finch, Mario was relegated to stage crew on the city’s grand political stage. Mario took note and helped to take out Finch in Ganim’s 2015 Democratic primary win on his way to a general election victory. Mario is now a main stage player again. A few weeks ago, to prove his point, a fundraiser at his Madison Avenue restaurant, the epicenter of city politics, hauled in a big number.

Mario, Ganim fundraiser
Mario Testa directs traffic prior to Ganim fundraiser.

Monday afternoon Ganim’s campaign treasurer Deborah Freeman filed the finance report in the Town Clerk’s Office with details of the givers to the Testa-led fundraiser in which about $191,000 was raised.

The report is loaded with $500 and $1,000 contributions, the personal donation maximum allowed by state law from city employees, business community types, lobbyists and lawyers and realtors. Ganim’s campaign finance report here.

One notable $500 contribution, according to the report, is one State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. who’s pondering a run for governor in 2018.

As for the potential Downtown theater renovations, Ganim and Economic Development Director Tom Gill provided a media tour of the shuttered Main Street jewels Monday afternoon with a few more details about the plans, albeit without the name of the selected developer with whom the city is still negotiating the investment logistics. A formal announcement will come soon, they say.

Ganim inside theater
Ganim inside theater. CT Post photo Ned Gerard.

Gill pegs the redevelopment cost at roughly $100 million with approximately 130,000 square feet of hotel space with 200 rooms; renovation of the former Majestic Theater with approximately 2,200 seats; renovate the former Poli Palace entrance as a new gateway to the hotel; and utilize other portions of the Poli for hotel amenities; residential high rise apartments with market rate and mixed income, retail on ground floor with parking access from Housatonic Avenue.

The developer is currently involved in a similar project in New York.

One of the firms that responded to the city’s request for developer interest is Aufgang Architects, which is involved in the renovation of the Victoria Theater in Harlem.

Majestic sooner-sign
Marquee fronts vacant theaters. City hopes it’s much sooner than later.

Sooner than later?

Just like Bridgeport politics.



  1. It’s like the arena: putting the cart before the horse. Job-intensive development first, Joe. You need 25,000 Bridgeport families with significant “disposable” income before anything downtown, or anywhere else in Bridgeport, is going to take off (you have only a relative handful of such families in Bridgeport now, you need 20,000 more). (Even 5,000 downtown apartments, a ridiculous, business-crowding-out number, can’t come close to supporting major downtown retail or entertainment.) And why would suburbanites patronize Bridgeport en masse, in adequate numbers to support major venues, if they have Fairfield, Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, New Haven, NYC available with better synergistic amenities?! The only thing with enough appeal to bring enough outsiders to Bridgeport to make a meaningful economic difference to this city’s employment and tax revenue picture would be (as unsavory as it might be) a waterfront casino.

    Right now, there is no real job development on the horizon in Bridgeport. Therefore, there is currently no realistic economic development possible in Bridgeport, except for polluting, obtrusive, future-dampening development (e.g., power plants, recycling/waste-storage operations, incinerators, etc.).

    It’s all BS and mirrors, as it now stands. Those theaters came into existence and thrived 100 years ago because of the spare money in the pockets of Bridgeporters with good future prospects. They will not come back without the same potential patrons. Forget about all the glitzy downtown BS and Stamford-supporting housing downtown. Get about 10,000 manufacturing, and/or perhaps 10,000 casino/casino-generated jobs back in Bridgeport, then talk about grandiose entertainment development. Right now, all these plans are BS and make everyone, and the city, look (even more) foolish.

    Come on, Joe. Let’s get real. Bridgeport people aren’t buying BS, back-assward development anymore. People want to hear about work opportunities and development that can actually work. The Arena and ballpark will remain an albatross for the city until 25,000 Bridgeport families can afford to spend $100 to enjoy on night of $5 shriveled hot dogs for dinner as they watch their team lose.

  2. Does OIB really have to bring up the subject of Mario Testa? Does the Fellini clip look like a Ganim-Testa fundraiser? Pity the poor fools and losers who went to Testa’s restaurant. Their names will live on in infamy. Mario Testa needs to stay away from City Council meetings. It’s getting to the point he will be escorted out.

    1. Jeff Kohut is an intelligent, compassionate, decent man who has lived in Bridgeport all his life, has been involved in matters of life and the quality of live in this City for as long as I can remember. He knows the culture of our politics, has always put his money where his mouth is. He’s highly respected, not only in the Lake Forest area, but throughout all sections of Bridgeport. There’s not a mean bone in his body and he continues to be hopeful that one day we will see a positive change. So Bridgeport Vagabond, that’s a snapshot of who Jeff Kohut is, who are you? A name would help so we can even the playing field when answering your rhetorical question.

  3. Thanks, Lisa. You’re the best! I remember reading “Roots” many years ago… And from “Roots,” you are the “griot” — the keeper of the history and conscience of our Bridgeport tribe… You manage to distill the positive from the nasty “mash” that can be Bridgeport politics…

    But, I have to say, I also find Mario to be an interesting part of Bridgeport. I think that most of us will give him at least that much at some level… I don’t know what brought on the comments of the pseudo-personality that felt the need to defend Mario, since Mario was not being attacked or impugned (certainly not by me). I think that if Mario knows who he/she is, he’ll have them escorted out of the kitchen…

    My commentary wasn’t an attack on anyone; just an admonition of Joe to get down to brass tacks and resist the pressure to waste time and effort on untimely projects that won’t add to our bottom line in a timely manner… I like Joe ( and Mario) and just want them to realize that Bridgeport doesn’t move unless and until the masses of Bridgeporters are back in living wage jobs… (The Bill Finch “Stamford Diet” just isn’t going to work for Brodgeport, as we have known for some time…) Just as China is realizing; it is only wholesale, massive domestic demand, production, and consumption that can sustain stable domestic prosperity… Bridgeport can only be sustained by Bridgeporters, in the final analysis. The ‘burbs will never provide the numbers of consumers and patrons that we need to resurrect our Commercial, retail, and entertainment sectors. A downtown, commuter neighborhood certainly can never be large or stable enough to sustain a real downtown economic renaissance…

    But in any event; your supportive comments are flattering and made my day… Thanks, again, friend!

  4. Somebody needs to figure out and explain how responses to a “Request for Expressions of Developer Interest” are now being referred to as “plans”. How can there be plans if an actual RFP hasn’t been issued and a competitive bid proces hasn’t been initiated?


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