Mud Wrestling At Pleasure Beach, Plus: LaBarca Finds A Home

Everyone wants to bring the pleasure back to Pleasure Beach, and it seemed like pols were tripping over each other Thursday, during an election cycle, to take credit for $150,000 to study future use for the long-neglected peninsula in the East End.

State Rep. Don Clemons, who represents the district, facing a possible primary from Bill Stewart, took the lead in announcing the moolah to form a committee to examine playground possibilities.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Amann, who wants to be governor, visited the city of his birth to crow about the dough. State Rep. Rapid Robert Keeley was also there as well as State Rep. Chris Caruso. Can’t say I blame them for the opportunity, although a $150k appropriation for a place once called Million Dollar Playground seems as flimsy as the charred bridge that once took travelers to the land of piping plovers. Hey, honey, fire the grill. Let’s sear one of those suckers along with the monk parakeets UI wants to blowtorch! Pull out one of the bottles of Lafite that Joe didn’t get.

Connecticut Post reporter John Burgeson had a funny take on the event when someone said Pleasure Beach should be open to bikinis and birds (in a city governed by a finch and a few suits, I’d say that was right on target)–provided Keeley doesn’t don a bikini. There’s a scary thought. I’m thinking we move the mud-wrestling match between Keeley and his Aug. 12 primary opponent Auden Grogins, the blonde banshee from Black Rock, to Pleasure Beach as a fundraiser to gear up the dough for a new bridge. And in this corner, from the Amazon Region of South America, weighing 287 pounds, Rapid Robert Keeley. And in this corner …

Think of the possibilities. We could invite members of the state bonding committee to root on (or not) fellow member Keeley. Amann and Finch can serve as special guest referees. The crowd would probably be higher than recent turnout for city elections. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa could hold an absentee ballot convention. City Councilman Bob Walsh could tabulate Mario’s ab count (that would be fun) and Caruso could challenge the results in court. Hey, I’m excited. Let’s get it on.

Speaking of getting it on, city election officials are already counting petition sheets from challenge candidates trying to make it on the ballot Aug. 12. It’s gonna be a fun season. After all, Bridgeport is the primary city!

By the way, OIB is picking up new visitors every day. Thank you, all. We’re just weeks away from hitting the 100,000 pageview mark since the launch of our new look in March. We might be forced to throw another party. Maybe on Pleasure Beach?

Mayor Finch’s comments about Pleasure Beach:

I’ve said it in every corner of the city: Pleasure Beach must be open to every Bridgeport resident for swimming, fishing and hiking. There must also be access to the beach from the East End,” said Mayor Finch.

“In this time of discussion and debate about our great natural resource here in Bridgeport, I’m pleased that the General Assembly has decided to put forth funding to help ensure that we make the best possible decisions for its future,” he added. “I am sure that this feasibility study will include information about access, transport, recreation and environmental protection, all of which will help our community move forward as a more informed group.”

LaBarca’s Boat Comes In

For fans of John LaBarca, who was let go by radio station WICC last December, the big man has landed a job down county. No word on whether LaBarca’s Festival Italiano will be part of the package. He had been doing the show Sunday morning at 10 on WDJZ, 1530 AM. Tony Reno replaced LaBarca’s old morning time slot on WICC as well as the Italian House Party Sunday morning. See details below from WNLK:

News/Talk 1400 WSTC-AM 1350 WNLK-AM is excited to welcome CT Broadcasting Legend JOHN LABARCA back to morning radio in Fairfield County! LaBarca, a market veteran with a large, loyal audience, joins the News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK team effective Monday, June 2nd.

News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK VP/General Manager Robin Faller says, “I’m thrilled to welcome a seasoned broadcaster to our team. John brings credibility and notoriety to the position. Along with Ian Gordon, John provides us with a phenomenal and competitive edge.”

Because John LaBarca has been in the market for so long, he has a great rapport with many lawmakers and area charities. News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK Operations Manager Bob Bayne says, “Having John aboard is a great asset. He’ll help bring News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK to new heights.”

Starting Monday, June 2, John LaBarca will be the host of the Morning News Program on News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK. He will be hosting the Morning News on the stations weekdays from 5:30am to 9:00am, and will host news updates from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

John LaBarca says, “I’m so excited to be working with the great organization, Cox Radio. I know their dedication to quality broadcasting in the true tradition of radio. And that’s what I’m all about. I can’t wait to be with my dedicated audience again, to have fun, and to be there when they need me, every morning on News/Talk 1400 WSTC 1350 WNLK.”



  1. As a follow-up to yesterday’s debate, I heard in Finch’s budget there was $1.4 million for NEW jobs in City Hall. All arranged in a way to avoid Civil Service so that Finch could hand these out to his favorites.
    6 or 7 jobs in the new call center that are currently being performed by uniformed personnel in both the Police and Fire Department who will stay with the city but no one knows what they will be doing. Price tag $550,000 plus bennies.
    In Economic Development the are four new positions doing the work that other people are already doing or supposed to be doing. Price tag $300,000 plus bennies.
    Right there it is well over $900,000 in new high paying positions to be handed out as political patronage jobs. So anyone complaining about the BOE should spend more looking at the CITY.
    And how does the city pay for these jobs? By taking away $1.4 million in ECS money from the Board of Ed.
    The only reason these politicians want more say over the Board of Ed budget is because they want to get their hands on all of the new state money that goes to education every year.
    This is the transparency of the Finch Administration and the budget setting process.
    The Grin Weeper knows no crocodile tears for the political fat cut from the Board of Ed Budget. Fabrizi will probably end up with one of these new high paying jobs in the city if they actually do away with his no show job. Can’t you picture Fabrizi supervising the emergency call center? Could you repeat that again, illegal drugs sales where?
    Speaking of no show jobs, I hear someone in Public Facilities has been suspended for having a no show job. Knowing Bridgeport he was probably suspended with pay! Ha! Ha! Ha!
    And I hear there is another investigation going on where people outside of the city have been allowed into our transfer station for free. That is how the suburbanites look at Bridgeport. We are only good for illegally dumping their garbage.
    But nothing will get fixed in Public Facilities until we get a management team in place!
    The only saving grace with all of this wasteful spending is that Finch can’t make a decision so no money actually gets spent!!!

  2. Better yet would be a Naked Sumo Wrestling Tag Team Match featuring the 4 sides of beef, Keeley and Caruso vs. Grogins and Silva. I’m going with the Prime Rib Team of Keeley and Caruso. The other two are Brain Dead USDA Choice and suffer from Mad Cow’s Disease. They are not the people’s choice.

    Shays comes from the same lean, green and mean environmental school as Moonbeam. Congressman Big Carbon Foot Print would be better off serving us by not burning up all that fuel going to Iraq and by taking and shutting off his Christmas lights in early January instead of late February.

    “Say It Ain’t So Chris!”

  3. What to do with Pleasure Beach? Turn it into a revenue producing entity for the benefit of the city. Making it a sanctuary for canaries is beyond comprehension.

  4. Grin Reaper-

    Both Hartford and New Haven have at least 3x the staff for Economic Development that Bridgeport does.

    Your “grin” assessment is way, way off base.

    In the immortal words of Norah Jones: “Don’t go chasing butterflies…”

  5. And Hartford and New Haven have 3x the Economic Development than we do. They also have an Economic Development Director.

    Sounds like a bunch of Psycho Blabble to me.

  6. Reading this blog is agitating to say the least. Is there anything legitimate going on in this City? When will the taxpayers get tired of being spread eagle and revolt?

  7. Hey Blab,
    Let’s see who Finch hires and then we’ll see who is chasing butterflies.
    My “grin assessment” is that the economy sucks and nothing is going to happen in the next year as far as development in Bridgeport, Hartford or New Haven.
    So let’s name the Office of Construction Management or the Tax Assessor as the head of Economic Development. The only growth we see in the grand list is when we build a new school or when the assessor makes up inflated personal property values.
    Speaking of which, rumor has it that once again the city does a nationwide search and the new Economic Development Director is going to be some retread out of Stamford.

  8. Con –

    I, for one, find the visual image of most of the taxpayers in this town spread eagle already awfully revolting.
    The sight of any of my neighbors spread eagle would burn through my retinas quicker than staring into an eclipse of the noon sun.

    I’d accept huge property tax increases just to keep my neighbors fully clothed and standing upright.

    And if Pleasure Beach remains in the greasy palms of Bridgeport power brokers to attempt ill-fated development or a new swimming hole with some minimal public facilities, the taxpayers will be spread piping plover.

    The birds have landed. The beach is theirs. Seaside Park is ours.


  9. Blab,
    That must be one of those things they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School. SPEND more money during an economic downtrun. I guess this way no one can ever expect you to spend less.
    You must be in line for one of those plush jobs the mayor is planning on giving out. Pretty Grin out here.

  10. BTW, Phil Kuchma pulled another quick one on the city. News should start leaking out over the weekend. Talk about a tough economy. It’s only tough on us who need to get by withoiut handouts from the state and local governments.

  11. There is a fine line separating SPENDING and INVESTING.
    It is so fine that apparently you cannot see it.

    A downturn in the real estate market provides municipalities with unique opportunities for investment and redevelopment. Besides, things are much more cut-throat in the Nutmeg State when there is a recession.

    You need people out there cutting the throats and defending your own. If not, B-Po will continue to get it right in the jugular like it has been for years.

    Will it be New Haven, Fairfield, Stamford or Hartford that gets more of our pie? It seems like they are all lined up with deli numbers at this point.

    PS-You are brilliant. Keep blogging. Please….

  12. Blab
    There is a fine line and obviously you have crossed it. Spending on extra building inspectors and special project people makes no cents when economy is in a clear meltdown. Ford and GM are restructuring their labor forces based on this downturn. Yes, we should be investing some money in human capital like an Economic Development Director.

    Brilliant analysis of downturn in real estate market with 75% of the grand list on homeowner’s backs. Just what I want and need for prices to go down. Based on theory of economic land scarcity in an ideal world we should be attracting businesses to come and invest in Bridgeport.

    I would disagree about getting in right in the jugular. I would compare it to taking it up another body part.

    The problem with our Deli is our clerks and Head Cheese have Bores Head on the mind and menu.

  13. Hello Grin and send my regards to your other handle Wondering.

    As far as Economic Development is concerned I think that you need someone who is bright and creative enough that can make things happen even during a tough economy.

    The problem is that Bridgeport is saturated with single-minded meat heads who can’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag holding razor blades.

    Go Sox!!!

  14. Gossip Of The Rialto!

    Phil Kuchma to star in re-make of the Six Million Dollar Man!

    Said one Reaper grinning; “This is enough to make a grim man weep.”


  15. I am not a big fan of Kuchma’s, but at least his is willing to put his own money at risk, which is more than you can say for a lot of developers.

  16. Grin

    The sad truth is that very little housing development gets done in downtown areas of any city without support fro the city, the state, or housing and housing finance agencies.

  17. FCO

    Yes it is a sad truth. Eric Anderson came to town saying he didn’t need any money. Four million dollars later and more to come for Arcade project. Kuchma said he didn’t need any money or tax breaks. I don’t mind a little help being given to someone but don’t tell me about all their risk money. If Kuchma is getting $6 million between CHFA, GE and DED, that’s some of my money and a property tax break to stimulate sales under the guise of the sub-prime market. Developers are there to make a profit. Phil Smartly is vertically integrated so he makes money on the buildout for his company and then hopefully makes his margins on the sales of the units with his partners. If the project shits the bed guess who gets left holding the bag? Not the developer unless they have personal guarantees on their loan instruments.

  18. If the CHFA money is tax dollars I have a problem with it. If it is the GE money, which is supposedly targeted for downtown housing, that is another matter.

  19. Up on Bridgeport

    You are right about the need for a personal guarantee. It is important for the developer to have money that is “at risk”. It provides an incentive to get things done.

  20. To Grin Reaper: I don’t know who you are but you are certainly “in the know” about the transfer station. It’s the same no-show supervisor who allows out of town haulers to dump their garbage for free. This guy spends more time riding his motorcycle than he does working. He puts in for phony overtime on top of it.

    This has gone on for years. Fabrizi and George Estrada, former Public Works Director, protected him because he was friends with Fab’s brother who fixes motorcycles. The only reason he was recently suspended (with pay) was because Dennis Scinto caught someone dumping out of town garbage. Further investigation led right back to this supervisor.

    The real workers at the transfer station have been complaining about this guy for years. They work their asses off while this guy rides around on his motorcycle and then has lunch with the out of town illegal haulers (do I smell kick-back?) This guy should not only be fired but he should have to pay back all the money he stole from the city in stolen time, phony overtime and illegal garbage.

  21. This is utterly amazing.

    Last night a highly placed BOE whatever specifically stated that without the $300 TO $600 PER DAY consultants hired by the BOE, the whole operation would not run “efficiently”. It appears that the consultancies are staffed with former BOE employees who announced retirements before suitable replacements could be identified and selected. Not an implausible concept. However, will someone explain to me why these consultants remain in their positions for years on end.

    The second terrific piece of news from this guy is this. Should Fabs not be able to bump a comparably paid administrator, he will be engaged as a consultant to do the same duties he doesn’t do now. How come?

  22. Yahooy, why are you amazed? This double-dipping in the Bd of Ed has gone on forever. People retire, collect their pension and then come back as consultants. This is no accident, it is carefully planned.

    Look at it this way, if Fabs retired after 30 years (which I think he has), at say a high average salary of $100,000 (it is probably higher), then his annual pension would be $60,000 with full benefits. And if he comes back as a consultant at say $600/day (because after all he was the mayor and should get top pay) and he works 5 days a week at $3,000/week x 52 weeks, well that’s another $150,000 a year. And who’s to say if those are 8 hour days or 3 hour days?

    So you see it is well worth it to retire and come back as a consultant. My biggest mistake in life is not to work for the Bd of Ed. I could be a rich man today.

  23. I am amazed because no one has offered me a suitable explanation as to WHY this practice is allowed. Just because it is a customary practice sanctioned by a wink and a tickle does not make it right. Who is the specific person out there who can make this stop? Bruce…?

  24. Yahooy

    They shouldn’t be allowed. But, we have a Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools who are more interested in “playing the game” than educating kids or protecting the taxpayers’ dollars. These folks make the DOT look like model public servants.

  25. So. If I were a student about to embark on a career as an educator, I might choose Bridgeport. Why? I am practically assured of a job because, as I understand it, there are abundant openings because the system is fractured and too few truly dedicated professionals wish to endure the vagaries inplaced by a superintendent who is self interested.

    Now, I begin my career here in Bridgeport with a clearly defined plan. I spend 30 to 35 years in the system. If I suck up properly and spend a sufficient amount of money at a Madison Avenue restaurant, I will have weaseled my way into an inner sanctum. The rewards of sanctum membership are indeed abundant. First I retain my employment and, like Fabs, don’t really have to do much to justify a top salary. Then should my cushy position be jeopardized by budgetary pressure, I can bump another equally paid person regardless of whether or not that person actually works hard and contributes to the education of our children. Then when the time and numbers are right, I can turn in my papers on a Friday afternoon officially retiring at 60% to 70% of my salary then report back to the same job as a “consultant” at $600 per day or $150,000 per year. Not bad. A guaranteed pension and benefits of $70,000 plus another $150,000 in consulting fees. Too bad the librarians and school nurses didn’t have such a sweet deal.

    We all know that we are wasting valuable resources because we allow the same political infrastructure to stay in office year after year after year.

    Voter apathy is a very expensive 11 letters.

    Mayor Finch, for $600 per day, I will consult to the city on how to get all of the people out to vote. What do you say?

  26. Update on library (speaking of unsweet deals)…
    Layoffs for many. Starting with the Assistant City Librarian.
    Those targeted are mainly the ones who have upwards of twenty years of service. Furloughs were offered along with other alternatives to massive layoffs, but those offers were ignored. When the dust settles, there will be a loss of close to 200 collective years of experience and institutional knowledge.

  27. The sad part is that most people think that the Council “fixed” the library layoffs with their budget plan. Good work guys. Not!

  28. To Former City Official and Up on Bridgeport:
    GE MONEY made a Community Reinvestment Act investment of $25 million in CHFA to lend money at below market interest rates only to Bridgeport downtown projects. That has ticked off the other cities because they want a piece of that investment and are trying hard to take it away from Bridgeport. GE MONEY made the investment based on the Downtown Master Plan that was developed by the DSSD and City in 2006-7. GE MONEY made the investment hoping that the Governor and the State Legislature would match their investment in order to get the Downtown Plan implemented. Anderson’s partnership has taken on $55 million in private financing from two national banks with less than $4 million of state bond funding to offset the costs of the historic rehab of those very old buildings. Over 80 tenants now occupy City Trust and are eating at the restaurants, going to the events, and bringing 24-hour life to the downtown. Tenants are now moving into 144 Golden Hill and will soon be moving into the Arcade. Kuchma is building new construction out of the ground in a very tight capital market that will grow the excellent activity happening on the Bijou Square area of Fairfield Avenue. Anderson has the other side of Main Street to finish involving many more historic building restorations into mixed use developments. Both the Kuchma and Anderson developments deserve the financing of CHFA, GE MONEY and DECD so that the downtown continues to grow. Keeley and the State delegation should have delivered the grant money to match the GE MONEY investment long ago. If that doesn’t happen soon, the GE MONEY will be sucked up by the other cities that have effective state delegations that know how to bring home the bacon that their downtown deals need. Maybe Keeley has to separate himself from his job at the DSSD. One could make the argument that if the state grants bond money to the downtown, it will benefit the DSSD who pays Keeley’s salary. Keeley chairs the State bonding subcommittee and has shown no interest in moving forward on the GE MONEY match. His priority is the Congress Street Bridge which isn’t ready for construction financing since it is still being designed. Maybe there is a perception if not actual conflict in play here that has to end so that Bridgeport succeeds. Keeley needs to do what is best for Bridgeport and separate himself from the DSSD since he seems to favor his job in the state legislature. He can’t do both.

  29. Countdown:

    On balance I think that a $7 million CHFA investment in the Kutchma project makes sense. It will bring people downtown, it is already underway, the owners have already made a significant investment of their own money and their personal financial guarantees. More importantly, the project’s financial difficulties seem to be the result of the overall economic downturn, not poor planning or flaws in the project.

    That said, I think that CHFA, the Ciy and the State need to proceed with caution before making more investments in downtown housing. A lot of housing has been developed, or is being developed, downtown. The Read’s Building, City Trust, the Arcade and 144 Golden Hill add up to a lot of units, most of which are yet to be rented. Before going further the City and the State need to make sure that there is actually a real market for all of the new units.

  30. Countdown

    You bring up some very good points and so does FCO.

    Some people are pissed at Keeley because he balked at taking earmarked bonding money for the Congress Street bridge and converting it to city dollars to be part of the match that GE and the State had structured for the matching grant money.

    I believe the monies received by these developers have non-recourse provisions if the projects fail. I would like to remind you and others that the City of Bridgeport subordinated their property taxes and have a second position to the banks if the City Trust property can’t make its bank nut. Once again Anderson’s deal was a typical Bridgport deal. Get possesion under false pretenses and then get bonding money and bring in partners flipping part of your position. Furthermore the Downtown North project should have been bid and developed that would have allowed several entities to develop both sides of the street under stronger guidelines and timelines. Similar to Steal Point putting all your eggs into one basket and if the sole entity fails so does the rest of the project. No one can dispute that we are facing challenging times in the city. FCO brings up a very good point of how do you or did they ever prove out the supply and demand for housing. You create housing through real jobs. Transportation Operation Districts are great to bring about a push-pull effect for our downtown. All I see is a push effect of people leaving to go to work out of town. Meanwhile Bridgeport is pulling its pud without real economic development (JOBS) and a vision that is strictly reactive to the market and not proactive. That is why we continually miss the sizzle and end up with the fizzle.

    I wish Phil Kuchma and all our developers the best. We don’t need any more failures. What we need is a leader, a vision and a plan that isn’t the BRBC study of the weak.

    With the cost of energy and demographics of workforce in region commuting to other areas what a great opportunity for a company to come to Bridgeport as an employee benefit to cut down on traffic and non-productive time spent on I-95. We should be marketing ourselves to those companies and employees with a message on billboards. “If your Company was in Bridgeport! You would be at Work or Home by now!”

    I guess I’ve been Up On Bridgeport for so long that I can no longer go Down on Bridgpeport. I, like the city, have been sucked dry. It’s time to say Goodbye.

  31. I went to Two Boots last week and I really think that area is looking like progress is being made. Two Boots was crowded with a nice mix of people, in fact it was a little tough to find parking. I met people from Fairfield and Trumbull there so it’s a sign that people are coming to the city. And people are moving into the downtown apartments, in fact I have 2 friends who just moved into the old Read’s building. I give credit to anyone who invests in B-port, especially now when money is tight. It would be great to see some businesses come in and we have to take steps to convince them that good things are starting to happen.

  32. By the way Lennie, your mud wrestling idea cracked me up. For sure there will have to be a lot of mud for those people to roll around in since they are really fat, well maybe not Audin, but those guys will need it.

  33. City Kitty

    The mud will be accompanied by a buttered hard roll except in Auden’s case she prefers EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).
    Keeley vows to wear a mappine in the trough with Audie.
    As Rachel Ray would say this race is going to be “Fantabulous”.

  34. FCO – I think the sight of that would make most of us lose our appetite anyway. They’d probably fight over the hard roll with butter. What’s wrong with these guys, it’s so unhealthy to be so heavy. Last time I saw Caruso he could barely walk from all that weight on him.

  35. Good Luck Downtown Bpt! I would love for it to thrive!
    On another note…It is not only the BOE that hires back employees as consultants…check out the OPM office. I am in the know that they have also been paying an ex-employee for years as a consultant. What did Nancy Had do to be let go?

  36. Must be another one of Tom Sherwood’s close personal “friends.” If you cross Sherwood, better beware, because your position will get cut out of the budget. But if you are “friends” then you can retire and then come back and hang around as a consultant. Or get a $17,000 increase like another one of his “friends” recently received. You know what, I am FedUpWithCityHall myself.

  37. I would love to know the true story as to why Nancy Hadley got canned — it makes no sense to me as a bystander. My only comment is that aside from what was in today’s CT Post about the Arcade, and the central city development already in progress when Finch took over, I haven’t heard or read a word on the Magic Johnson development, Steel Point, or the high rise condos on the Remington property contiguous to Seaside Park. These were all projects Nancy Hadley was involved with. Does anyone have any updates? Each Friday I await the weekly “Finch Report” for such information but all I find is pretty-boy pictures and nothing stories.

  38. Con; As a friend of Nancy Hadley I believe that she was let go for political reasons. Nancy can be abrasive but she is a hard worker and was a real booster of Bridgeport. In fact Nancy put her money where her mouth is and moved into downtown Bridgeport. Name one other present or past administration person that has done that; in fact name one that moved to Bridgeport from out of town.
    In today’s political world if you speak up or don’t kiss ass you are out.
    While I believe that letting Nancy Hadley go was a mistake the bigger mistake is that 7 months later we still don’t have an Economic Development Director. WHY???
    What the hell is this administration thinking? Why aren’t our elected officials pushing Finch and company to select a Director. In the meantime development has stopped. Great Job.

  39. In The Know I really enjoyed reading your comments along the way but maybe you are one of the guys on the “LIST”. LOL! You sound like the typical pissed off HACK that this Blog has effectively revealed.

    Yes I can provide a comparison…How about Denise Scinto…yeah you know who I’m talking about. The guy that is done working at 1:00 each day and doesn’t start till 9:00 although you both sit in the coffee shop downtown plotting your next assassination.

    Why is it that because he is a North End district leader he doesn’t have to do a thing for his pay? Do you want to talk about your little threesome (ohhhhh what a thought)? Yuck……You and his little girlfriend just given a job in the Economic Development Department as a no show. So how is this nurse qualified to work in OPED? Guess it pays to hang at the coffee shop all day instead of giving fines out to people destroying our neighborhoods with blight. Has Scinto given out a single citation since Finch became Mayor? NOT!

    In The Know you have nooooo credibility. You are probably one of the guys on the “LIST”. Guess you have to go out and get a REAL job. Welcome to our world, loser!


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