Paging Zombie Land–Can Mojica Drum Up The Mojo For A City Council Challenge? Election Year For The Council

Ralph Mojica
Can Ralph Mojica wake up Zombie Land?

Former City Councilman Ralph Mojica has filed paperwork to try to reclaim his former seat on the city’s legislative body challenging incumbents Denese Taylor-Moye and Jack Banta in the 131st District that covers the South End, Downtown and the West End. Big Mojo served on the council for several years. He supported Chris Caruso for mayor over Bill Finch in 2007 and lost his seat in that razor-close primary.

After Mojica’s defeat, in the last months of Mayor John Fabrizi’s administration in 2007, Fabs appointed Mojica as director of Weights and Measures, the city’s consumer compliance department that monitors grocery scales and meters for gas pumps, oil trucks and taxi cabs. Mojica was let go by Bill Finch shortly after Finch took office.

Fabrizi, when contacted by OIB about Mojica’s candidacy, characterized Mojica as a dedicated public servant when he served on the council, someone who asked tough questions about the budgetary process but fair in criticism. Fabs said he would campaign on behalf of Mojica if asked. Mojica is a frequent contributor to OIB comments trying to wake up a lethargic city electorate he calls “Zombie Land.”

The council is battling through a difficult budget process. The number of primary challenges will likely depend on the size of the city’s tax hit. Mayor Bill Finch, who’s not up for reelection until 2015, has proposed a $520 million spending plan that comes with a $400 tax hike for the average homeowner. The council will vote on the budget in May. The budget then goes back to the mayor for possible veto action until the council sets the mil rate in June.

Mojica’s entry into the City Council field is an appetizer to potential primaries in September for the all-Democratic legislative body. Bridgeport’s City Council features 10 districts with two members per district. Here’s a quick look at the other council districts:

130, Black Rock. Veteran council member Sue Brannelly was recently joined on the council by Steven Stafstrom, an attorney with Pullman & Comley, who replaced Marty McCarthy who resigned to pay more attention to his neighborhood restaurant business. Brannelly is facing the fire this year as co-chair of the council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee. She represents a noisy constituency tiring of tax increases. It’s also the highest-turnout area of the city. Brannelly is respected by her constituents, but many say she’s become too closely aligned with Mayor Bill Finch, not the most popular politician in the neighborhood. How this budget process plays out will determine if Brannelly and Stafstrom have primaries. Black Rock is also the most Republican area of the city so it’s highly likely the GOP will field candidates in November.

132, West Side. John Olson and Evette Brantley are showing some independence from the Finch administration in this budget cycle. They conducted a district meeting on the budget over the weekend. For her part Brantley says she will not vote for another tax increase and has even threatened to put her house up for sale and leave the city should the council pass a tax hike. They represent the high-turnout Brooklawn neighborhood that votes at the Central precinct as well as working-class residents voting at Bassick High in the lower end of the district.

133, North End. This is the domain of City Council President Tom McCarthy who’s popular among his voting constituency, and his council partner Howard Austin. Big Mac, the deputy director of the city’s Labor Relations Department, is among five council members on the public payroll coming under fire from the community action group Citizens Working 4 A Better Bridgeport that claims it’s impossible for the legislative body to serve as a check on the executive branch when they work for the executive branch. Big Mac insists there’s no inherent conflict of interest for a city employee to serve on the council, even though the city charter prohibits it but it is allowed by a loophole in state law. One thing’s for sure about Big Mac, he’s front and center whether as a Finch loyalist, city employee, Bridgeport advocate, council president or responding to constituent requests.

134, North End. Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia. Say North End and you say taxes, zoning and Sacred Heart University. Lyons and Vizzo-Paniccia are inundated with constituent complaints about beered-up SHU students creating havoc in their neighborhood. SHU has an interesting relationship with Bridgeport. Campus proper technically lists a Fairfield address but student dorms are across the street in Bridgeport as well as a boatload of other students who rent homes in the North End.

135, Whiskey Hill, North End. Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney are both city employees. Blunt works in the Health Department and Bonney in the municipal airport. Both have served as loyal soldiers for the Democratic Town Committee. There’s some talk Mary McBride Lee, a town committee member from the district, may run a primary. This is also the backyard of former State Senator Ed Gomes, not a fan of the Finch administration.

136, North End, Hollow, East Side. Carlos Silva and Angel DePara have been council mainstays for years. DePara serves as co-chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee with Sue Brannelly. Silva and DePara were brought through the political ranks by long-time Bridgeport political veteran Dottie Guman, the outgoing party vice chair who recently moved out of the city for Stratford. John Gomes, 2011 mayoral candidate, resides in this district. Some political operatives say Gomes may be eying a council seat to build prestige and serve as a check on the executive branch as he ponders another run for mayor in 2015.

137, East Side. Lydia Martinez and Manny Ayala represent the district in the land of the Ayalas. Andres Ayala represents the district in the State Senate, his cousin Christina Ayala represents the district in the State House and Tito Ayala, uncle and father respectively to Andres and Christina, is a big player in district politics. But it’s hard to discuss the district without mention of the city’s queen of absentee ballots Lydia Martinez who knows her peeps, especially those who vote by AB. Former council member Maria Valle, who won control of the district town committee with Tito Ayala, is among those considering a primary.

138, Upper East Side. This is a nephew-uncle combination. Rich Paoletto replaced his uncle Mike Marella on the council in 2001 but his uncle recently reemerged back on the council replacing Bob Curwen who resigned to attend to family health matters. Paoletto works in the city’s Housing and Commercial Code Enforcement while his uncle has served as the long-time director of the Police Activities League. Marella was also a spearhead on the council for the formation of the Bridgeport Bluefish professional baseball team.

139, East End. In Andre Baker and James Holloway you have the (Baker) most anti-Finch Administration council member and also the  longest-serving council member (Holloway) who’s also on the public payroll, a veteran employee of Public Works. Holloway, with more than 20 years on the council, has said for years this would be his last term. Will this be the last? Baker has emerged as the one consistent voice against Finch administration policies following the departure of Bob “Troll” Walsh in 2010.



  1. Congratulations and good luck for being the first one to jump in, Mojo.
    I request OIB give a brief primer to its readership on how to go about running for Council. Is it a daunting endeavor? The DTC-endorsed candidates don’t have to walk the streets to get x number of signatures. What are the deadlines, how many signatures are required, what is the process? Thanks.

  2. MOJO,
    You have lived the City Council experience previously. You are in touch with a wide range of issues that face the people of the City as well as those in City Hall. Your posts are regularly informative, practical and balanced.
    I was happy to see you at the City Council meeting last week with the paperwork from the State of CT to get signed and returned. In the interest of open, accountable and transparent process in the future, you have my support as needed. Hope you will ask for it! Time will tell.

  3. *** No, I was not a city employee while on the city council, however towards the end of my time on the city council I worked a summer grants seasonal job at the Parks & Rec Dept checking and selling seasonal parks stickers at the city parks. Also was hired in the fall of 2007 before Fabrizi’s end of term as a Weights & Measures Inspector to help retrieve delinquent monies owned to the city for past W&M’s city inspections, of which my partner Bob & I recovered over $69,000 in a short period of time! That’s called doing the job and doing it well, no? *** LIVED AND LEARNED WITHOUT OVERDRINKING THE POLITICAL KOOL-AID! ***

  4. *** Still working on my petition signatures and preparing for an uphill election battle in which my chances seem “slim to none” due to lack of voter “interest and understanding” in my district towards supporting someone other than the DTC-endorsed candidates or just getting out to vote period! *** ZOMBIE DAILY NEWS ***

    1. Mojo,
      Help me out here as I am still deciding if I should run again or not. The last time I ran, I could not get signature/petition papers until after the party had their convention to endorse candidates. My window to collect over 400 signatures to qualify to get on the ballot was very short. Do you have those papers already and are you/can you collect signatures already?
      Like I said, last time I was not allowed papers until almost the third week in July. Appreciate any advice.

      1. If you want to run in a primary, you can’t get petitions until after the convention. You can get minor party petitions now. Primaries you need 5% of party signatures in the district, minor party you need 1% of all voters in the district.

        Don’t sweat the door to door to get primary petitions, though. It means by the time your opponent knows they have to campaign, you’ve already won the support of half the voters you need to get on the council. It’s difficult, but it’s work you were going to have to do to win anyway.

  5. *** You and a partner (better with two people) just need to call for an application for a “nominating petition for municipal office” from the Office of the Secretary of the State, 30 Trinity St., Hartford CT 06106. (Ms. O.P. Williams, Elections Officer) *** PETITION WITHOUT PARTY DESIGNATION DEADLINE AUG 7, 2013 *** PETITION WITH PARTY DESIGNATION DEADLINE SEP 4, 2013 *** GOOD LUCK! ***

  6. Mojo,
    I’m interested in knowing what your campaign themes and priorities will be. I’m sure other reform-minded people would be interested as well.

  7. *** Signatures needed from registered voters in my district is a whopping 1%(?) as of yesterday! Some campaign themes would be to try and change the B&A committee’s budget process during the entire year and at budget time. Quarterly budget meetings open to the public for reviewing a minimum of at least two city depts concerning their present spending and/or operational cost, incoming revenue if any and staff concerns. Also review the legislative money line item, to hire an experienced independent accounting firm to work with the B&A committee during the Mayor’s proposed budget season. Another would be to put pressure on the Mayor’s administration to push for a current review and up-to-date status of all city boards, commissions and committee members making sure they’re all city residents, taxes paid, and there’s even distribution in representing all city political parties, genders, races, nationalities, etc. These two things would probably be some of my main goals during my two years on the council and of course better transparency with my constituents and keeping the “political kool-aid” drinking to a small minimum (wink)! *** TIME TO LET THE DOGS OUT! ***

    1. Mojo,
      Sounds like a good start. Transparency is a powerful force to promote positive action and prevent bad behavior. This Administration has not been transparent in financial matters and the Council needs to step up and provide a real check and balance.

  8. *** Lennie: At this moment in space, “yes” I’m running by myself as a “petitioning candidate,” which in itself is an up-hill, better-chances-of-hitting-the-lotto, slim-to-none “battle,” ’til the Obama Administration kicks in its donkey support for the local guy from “ZOMBIELAND!” Also my old General, C. Powell just may throw his support my way to cover the chance of having a big elephant in the room as well. Which will leave Ralphie “BABY” Nader bringing up the big independent “GREEN MACHINE” thus covering my rear flank! In any case, you’re never really ready ’til your ready, no? *** KEEP THEM GUESSING! ***


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