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Paging Governor Malloy! How About Commissioner Meetings In Bridgeport?

December 4th, 2012 · 9 Comments · Analysis and Comment

Lowell Weicker

Lowell Weicker ordered his commissioners to meet in Bridgeport. Photo courtesy of Tom Dudchik.

Some of them weren’t crazy about driving down to the state’s largest city, but when Lowell Weicker was governor he ordered his commissioners to conduct meetings at the governor’s Bridgeport office on Middle Street. Some commissioners were actually required to conduct working days touring the city. A Bridgeport office was among a number of Weicker initiatives to help the city. Gee, commissioners meeting in Bridgeport. There’s a novel approach. Why can’t Dannel Malloy do the same?

He could, if he wants. The governor’s Bridgeport office is no longer among the living, courtesy of budget cuts, but the governor could conduct a meeting of commissioners in any number of state buildings in the city, including Housatonic Community College. Or what about the Margaret Morton Government Center? Mayor Bill Finch would be the first one at the door greeting the governor and commissioners. Yes, cup in hand, but could you blame the mayor?

In fact why not meet for breakfast, lunch and dinner? We promise not to sic Bridgeport’s fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee on the commissioners. (That lecture you just heard was JML saying Lennie, you don’t speak for me.) But the point is Bridgeport isn’t some hick upstate borough. It’s the state’s largest city. The better the city does the better the state does.

Maybe, just maybe, Malloy encouraging his commissioners to conduct meetings in the city three or four time a year will provide a perspective unavailable in the Venus Flytrap world of state government.

Tom Dudchik, who served as Weicker’s deputy chief of staff and now runs the mighty www.ctcapitolreport.com says Bridgeport was a required study:

“You bet. Lowell dragged all of us down to Bridgeport. Everyone had to go, his scheduler, his administrative assistant, me, his chief of staff, everyone. Front and center in Bridgeport. He made his commissioners work out of that office each week, held commissioner meetings down there. He wanted all of us working in Bridgeport, eating lunch in Bridgeport, knowing Bridgeport. We all tried to avoid the hassle of driving to Bridgeport and then back to Hartford, but he would have none of it. He wanted us all down there. He made it clear that it was to be a ‘working office’ not political window dressing, or some cheap PR stunt. He meant it.”

Come on down, boys and girls. A list of government agencies is here.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Not city hall please, enough local fanny kissing and slapping takes place there now, taxpayers don’t need new state fannies added to the political mix, “please!” *** STAMFORD WOULD BE NICE! ***

  • Nancy Hadley

    Very true! I was appointed by the Governor to the position of Deputy Transportation Commissioner at CDOT (number two under Commissioner Emil Frankel). Every week I had to spend at least one day in Bridgeport. With the Governor’s order, we took over the Bridgeport train station and put a whole bunch of money in there to stabilize and improve safety. We had to somehow get over a hundred jersey barriers to the East End and South End for the maze to catch the drug sellers and buyers. We were all part of implementing the Governor’s direction for Housatonic CC to relocate from Barnum Avenue to their present location despite the HCC Board’s protestations that they wanted to go to where Home Depot is now next to the Connector. One day I got mugged while driving a state car on the old turnaround getting off I-95 and going up Seaview Avenue. Scared me good. Jack Welch had a heart attack around that time and they couldn’t get the ambulance up Seaview Avenue to the hospital. The Governor wanted I-95 and that circle area when you get off the highway improved, pronto! Who knew it would lead to the ten-year multimillion I-95 exchange improvement effort. We blamed the move of the highway engineers from a windowless building on the Berlin Turnpike to the new huge window headquarters for expanding the creativity of the engineers. Once those guys saw sunshine, the I-95 exchange project grew and grew with thousands of jobs. Then the Pequonnock Railroad bridge was redone; that was millions and millions of dollars and lots of jobs. The State Police was located to the old Sears building near I-95. Again an infrastructure improvement effort along with all the cameras that were installed along I-95. The troopers weren’t too happy with that relocation but the Governor would NOT take no for an answer. Every week for two years we had to recommend ways to generate jobs and investment in Bridgeport. If we slacked off we would be in Weicker’s doghouse, run by Tom Dudchik. Not fun.

    That carried over to when the Governor appointed me to Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. The old Motor Vehicle office on Main Street was full of bullet holes in the windows that had plywood covering them up. How did you expect good customer service when the state employees were working under a siege? So the massive effort to find, secure funding and later build the present facility by the connector.

    There are dozens and dozens of accomplishments because the Governor forced his administration to focus on an urban agenda. He did accomplish things for the other cities but his heart and soul was focused on helping Bridgeport. My colleagues in the other cities were jealous, bigtime!

    Weicker didn’t stop for one moment in his Bridgeport priority! He wanted his appointees to deliver, to focus on working with Mayor Ganim and his administration on ways to improve the city through ‘Team Bridgeport.’ The private sector was also at the table with prioritization to see where the private sector could leverage the public dollars. Weicker would bring us up short countless times if we were focusing on the here and now and not what was best for our grandchildren. Think about it, vision, purpose to make the future better for the residents of the City, both in quality of life and hard core economics. Every little piece had to add up to a greater whole. It was a wild and productive ride, it was just too short.

    Governor Malloy is focusing on Transit Oriented Development and sustainability. Bridgeport fits that bill big time.

  • Pat Fardy

    Right on, Nancy. How we miss you and your vision for the largest city in this state. I wish the Gov. would open his eyes and see what can and should be done in this city of ours.
    Good luck Nancy in you newest job with the State and know the dept you are now working in will be so much improved with your good sense and plans.

  • Bob

    So why was the man who gave Connecticut the income tax and no casino in Bridgeport a one-term governor? Improvement? How about the murder rate? How about the dropout rate? How about no substantial development in downtown for 30 years? How about a third train station in Fairfield and no improvement in Bridgeport? On and on …

    • John Marshall Lee

      Bob,
      Nancy just provided a “history lesson” of focus and accomplishment in an interesting letter. Then you come on with a number of issues, that may be true, but are part of the other side of the coin, what didn’t happen!

      Notice Lennie and Nancy repeat the fact the leader made people become familiar with the real “problems, issues and concerns” affecting the City. There are good people in government-paid public service, and they have the knowledge and resources to make things happen when they are so directed. How often have those in the City been as aggressive in finding workable ideas, many of them, that fit Bridgeport’s profile such as it truly is, tell the public in advance what is expected in terms of timetables, expenses and results, and put the pressure on to produce achievement?

      Fairfield, for instance with a third RR stop, in spite of lots of talented and experienced volunteers serving on Boards and Commissions, can and does make occasional mistakes, but they make progress, net on net. Bridgeport certainly needs to look outside the City at structure, practices, and processes that improve the odds of real progress, net on net. (Perhaps the returning City Council members can tell the taxpayers what ideas they return with learned at semi-annual junkets provided with stipend funds.)

      They are not too happy with disclosing info about the stipends, for starters. And they have been positively close-mouthed about what the expense of $1,000-$2,500 per CC buys for the City, other than laughter, headaches and heartburn, maybe, for the attendee. I mention laughter, theoretically, because these ‘semi-secret’ expeditions seem to have no shortage of participants, so they must be fun! No?

      Time will tell.

  • yahooy

    Weicker is not the saint he is purported to be. Seems like a lot of development took place around the “connector.” I wonder who the beneficiaries of that development were. Does the name Sam Tedesco seem synonymous with the “connector?”

  • yahooy

    One more thing. Malloy cannot policy prevail over the Republicans next time around. Bridgeport will be his ultimate Achilles. He significantly raised our taxes with the promise of a defined fiscal plan that would eradicate our downward spiral, greatly reduce our deficit and restore prosperity by attracting big-name business to the state. Looks like it didn’t work out for him as he had hoped. No wonder Bass Pro Shops is stalling. Our financial status has worsened under Malloy. All while we find our pockets a lot emptier.

  • Mojo

    *** Malloy seems to be doing pretty much what he said must be done and he would do if elected, no? *** NO SURPRISES YET FOR THOSE WHO WHERE PAYING ATTENTION! ***

  • Nancy Hadley

    yahooy,
    Weicker had nothing to do with the Connector. The decision he made was to put HCC downtown in the bankrupt Hi-Ho Mall. He refused to let HCC go to the Home Depot site next to the Connector. It is local land use policy that decided the development on the west side of the Connector.

    I knew the Master Plan and Zoning Regs were in terrible shape back in the ’90s. Therefore when Mayor Fabrizi appointed me OPED Director in 2004, we tackled that major update under the great leadership of Pat Fardy and Stuart Sachs. That was a complicated effort but it had to be done. The good developers told me in the ’90s and again in 2004 they needed to be assured what land use would be built around them before they would make major investments in Bridgeport. Spot zoning had to stop. The pay to play practices had to stop before the effective developers would take Bridgeport seriously. However, no matter how good the Master Plan policy and zoning regulations are, the Planning and Zoning Commissioners must go to training; they need to be appointed to real terms, not hanging on in expired terms hoping for a reappointment. Land use decisions are complicated, full of litigation. There are way too many land use commissioners filling expired terms in my opinion. Developers and their land use attorneys notice those kinds of things.

    Weicker had us focus on whatever infrastructure investments the State could make to create jobs and provide the basis for Bridgeport’s economic growth. I don’t know about sainthood but he sure was an effective leader.

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