McEnroe: Bridgeport Politics In A League Of Its Own

Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe is certifiable, and that’s just the way he likes it. You can listen to him 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5).  When it comes to city politics he’s befuddled like the rest of us. What will we do next? Check out Colin’s latest:

I confess that after 114 years of writing about state politics, I still don’t know very much about Bridgeport, but I’m starting to think that’s the way Bridgeport likes it.

You may recall that the most recent state election was marked, in Bridgeport, by the local Festival of Destruction of Confidence in the Electoral Process, featuring ballot shortages, extra voting hours, a clown and a pony.

This is nothing new. In 1890–an election I did not cover because I had quinsy–the state was unable to certify a gubernatorial winner because of … wait for it … ballot irregularities in Bridgeport. The General Assembly was also unable to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of choosing a winner, which inspired the sitting governor, Morgan G. Bulkeley, who hadn’t even been a candidate, to announce that he would just keep on being governor. The state comptroller then changed the lock of the door to the governor’s office. So Bulkeley busted it open with a crowbar. You can’t blame all of this on Bridgeport, but it does kind of fit a pattern.

The pattern continues this year. All the other municipal primaries were last Tuesday, but Bridgeport has its own special date, set by a judge. Bridgeport will vote on Sept. 27. I’m concerned that the city will fall so far behind that the rest of the state will eventually lap Bridgeport and start conducting the 2013 elections while the Park City is still wrapping up 2012.

The reason for the delay was the attempt by the Bridgeport Democratic registrar of voters to disqualify Mary-Jane Foster, the challenger to incumbent Mayor Bill Finch, because of technical problems with Foster’s petition forms. The decision by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis paints a picture of a Foster campaign desperately trying to coax information out of Registrar Santa Ayala and receiving vague reassurances that everything was in order only to be told at the last minute that Foster was on Santa’s naughty list.

There were, in fact, certain problems with Foster’s slate. Her endorsed candidate for sheriff, Joel Gonzalez, was obliged to withdraw after he called Finch a “bastard” in a comment on the blog Only in Bridgeport and explained in some detail why Finch, who was adopted, really is a bastard. Gonzalez had also once chopped off the tip of his finger in an anti-gun protest at the state Capitol, raising questions about whether he would be the best possible sheriff if the Dalton Gang rode into Bridgeport.

And what kind of name is “Mary-Jane Foster?” It sounds like the kind of fresh-faced All-American Colorado girl you used to see in commercials for toilet paper and detergent. Because that’s who Foster was, in her youth. She appeared in hundreds of commercials, including at least one “please don’t squeeze the Charmin” and one “ring around the collar.” Hunting around, I was able to watch most of one commercial in which she played a young schoolteacher getting to know her new students by taking pictures of them with a clunky-looking Kodak instant camera with a big stick of flash cubes mounted on the top, and a snippet of another in which she appeared to be explaining how a diaper works. She is now married to Jack McGregor, the founder of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bill Finch didn’t have these kinds of advantages, and as a result, he has had to pull himself up by his bootstraps, enduring the humiliation of having his lifestyle funded by a political action committee. The Connecticut Post has been reporting that People for Excellence In Government, an amusingly named PAC headquartered in Essex, has reimbursed the Finch family for clothing purchases, meals, travel and bookstore purchases. The chairwoman of the PAC is Gloria Beccaro, an 85-year-old retired nurse who, when contacted by Post columnist MariAn Gail Brown, seemed authentically surprised to hear of her title (“They list me as chair? Why am I chair?”) and to learn that the PAC reimburses her $100 to $300 per month for her cellphone (“I don’t even have a cellphone.”)

Incumbents like Finch usually have access to a lot of campaign money, but if they use it for non-campaign expenses, it kind of levels the playing field. I think they should loosen up the rules. But only in Bridgeport.



  1. I once purchase a cell phone for my wife one day, but she didn’t want it. She was happy with her old phone. It was one of those Two for One cell phone deals, so I gave it to my cat, and she loves it!
    I set the cell phone on vibrate and left it on the floor, and every 1/2 hour or so I would give my cat a call.
    Almost every day when I come home she’s sitting on top of her cell phone. I love technology.
    Now if I can only teach my cat how to text!

  2. Kid (and others),
    Re-read the words of McEnroe, but first wherever you see the proper noun Bridgeport, substitute Dystopia City. OK, the kids at Central HS are reading Ray Bradbury’s dystopic novel, Fahrenheit 451. (They are not reading about Utopia, by Sir Thomas More.) And in certain classes they are also following the back and forth detailed stories presented by elected and appointed City leaders. (I know at least one is checking out OIB for a weekly story.)

    Back to Colin’s theme: If you think about the Registrar of Voters, the Dalton gang coming to town, or Gloria Beccaro’s quotes about her absentee cell phone, it is actually pretty funny. It is funny by way of absurdity! Not funny HA- HA.

    Well what is the embarrassment threshold in this City for political leaders? Because there is plenty of blame around fiscal and governance issues to go around. Explanations abound, but no one is ‘taking care of business’ for the City as a whole. And that is the reason there is so little information available.

    Think about it … when was the last time you attended a Budget and Appropriations meeting, read the notes of a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for “Dystopia City,” looked to see what an A Fitch rating really means? Or recognized the Capital Project list had $250,000,000 listed as available budget a few months ago?

    Get the idea? Get busy. If your Council person signed up to support Bill Finch (and 17 of 20 did so), it means they support the policies and processes he has practiced. They may be a little more susceptible to embarrassment than he is at the moment.

    How many days, weeks, or months does it take for a politico to sit in the “laughing stocks” to reach terminal embarrassment? Terminal embarrassment does not mean mortal death, though if remedy is not found, it may be political death … Time will tell.

    1. Susan Brannelly and Marty McCarthy signed on to endorse another four years of Bill Finch’s failed economic and development policies. Thanks, guys, thanks a lot. Bill Finch has done nothing, virtually nothing for the benefit of the people of the city of Bridgeport. Nor have you two, come to think of it. All Mr. Finch has done is adding several of Mario Testa’s “friends” to the municipal payroll. I suppose that counts toward lowering the city’s unemployment rate. They are either incompetent or extremely unqualified for the positions they’ve been assigned. Maybe one of you can explain how all of this “hiring” benefits the people of the city of Bridgeport? We’ve seen how several male members of the City Council “represent” the people of the city of Bridgeport, beating up on a disabled man during the public speaking segment of a City Council meeting. Way to go, Mr. McCarthy. Cecil Young had been wrestled to the ground by the time you stuck your nose in. Did you pay your outstanding tax bill? Neither of you has the will or ability to stand up to the machine.
      Corruption and cronyism may be the order of the day in Bridgeport politics. A day only lasts 24 hours, no overtime allowed.

      1. Hope the 17 City Council members who endorsed Bill Finch for a second term have laid in a good supply of Chapstick. They’re gonna need it, what with all the ass they’ve been kissing …

  3. Mario Testa has a finite group of people he can depend on to vote for his best interests. That number is shrinking each year. Voter apathy for the rest of us has gotten us what we deserve. I hope to God MJF has done a better job at getting out the honest vote. We are on the brink of a Renaissance, a New Beginning we desperately need. It’s simple. All we have to do is convince more voters to vote for MJF than Testa can lie, cheat, steal and manipulate to stuff the ballots for his selfish way of life.

    I genuinely see Bridgeport emerging from 40 years of Testa-like DTC rule and following Stamford in economic expansion. I just cannot find a reason this won’t happen.

  4. Mayor Bill Finch gives himself all the credit for the school construction projects planned and approved before he was mayor. He won’t take credit for this school remodeling project gone wrong during his term as mayor:
    PCB questions linger at Columbus School

    The city is prepared to have ventilators in every Columbus School room taken apart and cleaned, and then test every classroom to make sure it is PCB-free. The decision late last week by the city’s School Building Committee comes after the latest round of testing, received Thursday, still shows levels …

  5. “We were assured by construction manager O&G that the school would open on time, and I have made it clear that this delay due to contractor error is unacceptable,” he said.

    Here are your options, Bill.
    1) Fire O&G as manager and return all of the political campaign contributions you ever received from them.
    2) Fire O&G as manager and PROMISE TO return all of the political campaign contributions you ever received from them.
    3) Send your children to Columbus to prove how safe it is.
    4) Resign.


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