Pick A Pony, Plus: New Internal Affairs Chief

Every now and then Bridgeport voters revolt against the political establishment. We saw it in 1933 when they elected Socialist Jasper McLevy and kept him there for 12 terms. Jasper had railed against the sins of both political parties for decades, and then the timing was right when voters had enough of corruption during the Depression.

We saw it again in 1971, after a mini-tax instituted by Democratic Mayor Hugh Curran galvanized young Republicans under the banner the Republican Action League, leading to the election, by nine votes, of glibly gifted Republican Nick Panuzio. Nick won reelection two years later by gifting members of the city’s uniformed services a sweetheart 20-and-out retirement plan that the city’s still paying. It did not matter how often and how loud Democrat Bill Mullane screamed that the deal would break the backs of taxpayers. Cops and firemen and their families came out strong for the Republican.

The city went Republican Panuzio, Democrat John Mandanici, Republican Lenny Paoletta, Democrat Tom Bucci, and then in 1989 voters rebelled again following the news that Bucci’s budget blew up and needed a state bailout, electing political neophyte Republican Mary Moran the city’s first female mayor, riding a wave from the eclectic, reform-minded community group People For Bridgeport’s Future. Moran also enjoyed an inspiring gift for gab. She was decent and honest but in many ways clueless. In June of 1991 she plunged the city into federal bankruptcy court hoping to break the backs of city unions. Problem was Wall Street threw a fit, the city’s bond rating was revoked; government could not borrow to fix or build schools or repair roads and bridges. Home prices dropped.

In 1991, with the mayoral pay $52,000 per year, crime at an all-time high, banks such as Mechanics and Farmers and Citytrust gobbled up by the New England recession and businesses poised to leave, just about no one wanted to be mayor. Joseph Ganim, 32 years old, smart, ambitious, also emerged outside of the traditional political structure to claim the Democratic nomination and defeated Moran. Ganim cut a pragmatic deal with Gov. Lowell Weicker to pull the city out of bankruptcy court in exchange for significant state financial assistance, negotiated major union concessions including zero pay increases and unpaid furloughs. Over the next 10 years, after Ganim raised taxes slightly his first year in office, Bridgeport enjoyed 10 straight balanced budgets without a tax increase, in addition to a $40 million fund balance, the first four of those years under the supervision of a state-mandated oversight board imposed by the state following Bucci’s announcement in 1988 that the city was broke and needed a bailout. Ganim became the second longest serving mayor after McLevy.

Ganim was among the most effective mayors in the city’s history, but greed toppled a mighty record that had the city finally going in the right direction.

Here’s the point: revolting against the political system doesn’t necessarily lend itself to improvement. Witness the 20-and-out legacy of Panuzio, who has enjoyed a healthy career as political consultant and lobbyist, and Moran who was great in front of crowds but unpersuasive when it really counted.

The challenges that Bridgeport voters face as a result of mayoral judgment and character flaws are not exclusive to Bridgeport. Hartford, Waterbury, Providence, Newark, Trenton and New Orleans have all faced the same or worse. Don’t compare Bridgeport to Stamford. Stamford’s grand list success is due, in part, to location as a result of New York companies wanting to avoid New York taxes. Also, keep in mind that Bill Finch did not win the mayoralty. Chris Caruso’s narrow-minded campaign lost it. “He’s corrupt, I’m not; so vote for me” did not work.

But McLevy, Panuzio, Moran and Ganim also proved that if the atmosphere is right a credible candidate can emerge quickly and assume the city’s mayoralty. Many poignant questions were raised as a result of the prior post Accidental Mayor. How to get good people involved? You ask them, that’s how.

Think about someone you like that has strong judgment, fair temperament, a little marketing sense and isn’t afraid to hire smart people – well, it’s possible for that person to rise quickly in the city’s current disconnected political atmosphere and succeed.

Everyone knows my fondness for Bruce Hubler. I’ll float another name with potential, Marc Delmonico, the Republican town chairman. He has a strong finance background, runs his own business, invests in the city, understands what it takes to attract development, and can bench press 300 pounds, run a marathon, swim to Long Island and back and log dozens of miles on a bike, all in the same day. That’s my kind of candidate. That deep sucking sound you just heard came from Marc’s genial wife Barbara – Lennie, what are you doing to me!

Hey gang, float some names. I won’t mind!

New Internal Affairs Chief For PD

The relationship between the officer in charge of Internal Affairs and the police chief is tricky. That’s because the top spy cop reports directly to the mayor outside the chain of command of the chief. Rebeca Garcia, a 17-year veteran of the police department, was officially announnced today as Mayor Bill Finch’s selection. See Finch press release below:

May 27, 2008 – Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) is pleased to announce that at the regular meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners last week, his nomination for Officer in Charge of the Office of Internal Affairs was approved by the Board.

The Mayor’s nomination was Lieutenant Rebeca Garcia, a 17 year veteran of the Bridgeport Police Department who will be the first woman to lead Office of Internal Affairs. Lt. Garcia is a graduate of Bassick High School in Bridgeport and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude with an Associate of Science degree in Administration and Business from Sacred Heart University . Five years after becoming one of Bridgeport’s Finest, Lt. Garcia went on to receive an AS in Criminal Justice from Housatonic Community College.

While at the Bridgeport Police Department, Lt. Garcia spearheaded the Domestic Violence Unit and the Critical Incident Unit/Negotiations Team. She has acted as Hostage Negotiator for the Department and Overseer of the Police Officers Peer Mediation Team.

Lt. Garcia is active in her church and the community and has accepted guest speaking engagements with many Bridgeport organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club and the Center for Women & Families (CWF).

“I am extremely proud to have such an accomplished and well-rounded lieutenant in this important position,” said Mayor Finch. “Congratulations to Lt. Garcia and I wish her the best of luck in her new role.”

“Lt. Garcia is a model example of a police officer and I have nothing but praise for her outstanding work thus far in her career,” added Bridgeport Police Chief Bryan Norwood. “She will do a tremendous job as Officer in Charge of the Office of Internal Affairs.”

“I am honored at the recommendation and appointment as Officer in Charge of Internal Affairs,” said Lt. Garcia. “I thank everyone for their support and look forward to working with both the community and officers of the City of Bridgeport as well as the Board of Police Commissioners.”



  1. Good questions for which I don’t have an immediate answer. I guess it depends, at least in part, on the type of pony that you want. Work horse or show horse. A good mayor needs to combine both, though few do both well.

  2. Why don’t some of the people on this blog run for office? They are so critical of everyone else, they should run and show their stuff. Maybe instead of complaining they could put their thoughts and ideas to better use serving in public office. wondering – you always seem to come up with some good solutions, why don’t you run?

  3. Joe Ganim also was the beneficiary of the newly found slot revenue and he delayed the reval for years. That’s why in ’98 he went for the 4 year term question under charter revision (I supported) guaranteeing him an almost 4 year term because he knew after almost eighteen years he would have to implement the new reval. Mary Moran had nothing to do with housing prices dropping. It was a housing and banking market collapse partially brought about by the changes in tax code in the late 1980’s. Very similar to the greed factor we are now faced with in the sub-prime mortgage crisis and an unrealistic supply and demand factor that has an absorption rate of well over one year on some properties.

    Bruce and Marc are certainly attractive candidates in looks, brains and gravitas but as Republicans do they have a constituency for electability. Furthermore, the Republican voting rolls are nowhere near where they were under Panuzio, Paoletta and even to a lesser degree Mary Moran. I agree with Lennie about a good marketing campaign especially in light of dismal voter turnout in the last two mayoral general elections. Smart doesn’t seem to matter. John Guman in ’03 was the brightest candidate but couldn’t convert his intellectual and fiscally fit message into voter currency.

    I’ve got to get a life. What am I doing up at this hour? Time to get back in the saddle and giddyap out of here.

  4. City Kitty; Thanks for the mention but I am too old (65) and cranky. I am going to run for the council in my district. I believe that the mayor’s job calls for a younger person than myself. I also do not have a tolerance for laziness and inactivity. I have always been outspoken and I am not sure the people of Bridgeport are ready for the hard reality that we are facing. I would definitely like to help the city in any way they would want. I have offered my services to the city but like Bruce Hubler have been ignored. A good candidate with the financial background and a background in who the players are would be John Norko. Lennie your question for this blog is a real thought provoker.

  5. For Mayor how about John Bohannon (not me) Former City Attorney, works with unions, new to DTC, very smart and thoughtful.

    Mary Jane Foster or Jack McGreggor –

    Maybe even – Tom McCarthy

    State Rep – Brian Crowe

  6. Tom McCarthy might be a real good choice for the next mayor. Now I’m just wondering, what about Paul Ganim? Do you think B-port would elect another Ganim? He’s a very different person than Joe.

  7. This would most likely never happen, but I believe one way this city could see a greater influx of good, quality candidates is by expanding the city council and instituting proportional representation. I would add one seat in every district to raise it to thirty members. Then, based on election totals, represent each party in the district. In most of the districts, clearly Democrats would win, so they would get two seats while the Republicans would get one. This does a number of things to increase competition and lead to better candidates.

    First, Republicans would actually feel they would have a shot under this system. They would no longer just be providing sacrificial lambs for the Election Day slaughter. With a fighting chance, Republicans would begin to compete and fight to be able to run for those seats. Primaries and competition will naturally lead to the cream of their crop to begin to rise to the top, instead of just the fillers. Eventually this would also have an effect on the Democrats. With differences in party representation amongst the district, Democrats would have to work harder to ensure they weren’t outperformed by the Republican. Given the same opportunity, and with more colleagues in the city council, Republicans would present a legitimate threat to Democrats. So Democrats would have to step up their game. This would lead to increased competition amongst the Democrats, and hopefully, good candidates. They would have to be much more responsible towards the voters than being loyal DTC members. With the current system, the list of candidates we get are the ones the DTC has selected for us.

    Political parties were an unintended consequence of the U.S. political system. The Founding Fathers are probably rolling in their graves seeing the power political parties have obtained today, wishing they had done something to prevent it when they created the U.S. Constitution. I think Americans need to adapt to this mistake, and proportional representation is an option to lessen the domination of political parties and increase competition for more quality candidates.

  8. Chris Russo:
    The idea of proportional (or minority party) representation on the Council is neither new nor outlandish. During the 1980s at least one and perhaps two Charter Revision Commissions actually recommended the idea only to be turned down by the Council. Interestingly, one of strongest supporters was Lennie’s friend, the late John Guman, who was then the Democratic Town Chairman. He based his support on the notion the “competition of ideas” (not his words) would improve both the membership and work of the Council.

  9. Might be interesting to have a mix of both parties on the council, but there are not very many republicans in B-port or any urban city for that matter. They might have some good people like Rick Porto but he never runs. Every time the mayoral election comes up you hear his name, but that’s about it.

  10. The root cause of all of this angst is the town committee structure. Pat Crossin was right on. Stamford established the ‘no-moron’ rule over 30 years ago. For the most part all of their candidates are put through a vetting process that throws away those who would be ineffective, self serving, and in it for only the glory rather than the work it rightfully would entail. Stamford has a twenty district two rep from each district, none at large Board of Reps. That is 40 members. It is only manageable because the town committees have a pretty high standard of who will be on the nominating slate.

    Bridgeport has to fix the town committee structure. Every city employee and their immediate family needs to come off. For the good of the city the Chairs of the town committees need to fix this root cause once and for all.
    It doesn’t need Rob Russo to get a law passed to do it. JUST DO IT. Then those who have the solid leadership qualities Bridgeport deserves would respond favorably to being asked. Throwing out names of good people makes no sense unless everyone is willing to get the core nominating system fixed.

    Big City of Dreams said it all. They get a slate of names from the Town Committee. We need to fix that problem first.

  11. Kitty, under proportional representation I think that would change. Republicans have a tough time now finding candidates because it’s hard to find people to run who know they’re going to get slaughtered in November. But if you’re guaranteed to get at least one seat in your district, then good people decide to compete for the seat. In addition, they know they’re going to get help. None of this Donna Curran 1 vs. 19, and the Democratic members of the council have a closed -door meeting before a session and decide what they’re going to do without you (remember that). Democrats would still be a large majority, but at least they would have a good amount of pressure to make sure they were more responsive to voters instead of DTC interests. Then you might see someone like Porto run.

    I think this would be good for the Democrats too, because with this pressure from Republicans, I believe their best candidates would start rising to the top. You can’t just be a good Democrat, you have to be a good politician with the right ideas for this city. You have to be what the people want.

  12. Just to correct a few things. The list of names that go up for election are put up by their respective districts and not by the town committee. The town committee does not for these candidates.
    While I agree that city employees should not serve on the council I am not sure that is consitutional. To ban family members I am sure can not be done. How close of a relative do you have to be to be excuded.
    Really adding 10 republicans to the council is really not going to do much except to have them say they can’t do nothing because they are outnumbered. The problem with the republicans in this city is that they are lazy. They had people this year that could have given Finch and Caruso a run for their money but these people would not run.
    Who would be on the No Moron Committee and who would appoint them?

  13. So why didn’t the republicans run Donna Curran for state rep? They endorsed Joel Gonzalez. The republican party is useless in B-port, so I guess that’s why they have a why bother attitude. I don’t see that changing any time too soon.

  14. Just to get on to a different subject for a bit – did anyone else on here get a letter from Peoples Bank about a huge security issue? I was affected by this and now I have to worry about who can access my SS# and other personal info. They had the same problem a few years ago – what’s the deal? I guess nothing is sacred and this is scary.

  15. Immediate family is defined in law. City employees NOR their immediate families should be on a slate for the 10 district committees, the town committee nor the Council. Those who put together the slates to run should acknowledge the City must move forward and do the right thing. Those avid readers and posters on OIB who care and know the personalities need to put all of the actual and perceived conflicts out on the table so everyone knows. It is at the very least a perception of a conflict of interest if not an actual conflict of interest that has been tolerated much too long.

    We are the largest city in the state. What are we afraid of? Having an insufficient number of strong independent-minded residents getting involved? No, my bet is it is much more sinister and that is the saddest part. The city’s political leadership doesn’t need a law to do the right thing. If you go back to Pat Crossin’s comment, Stamford didn’t pass an ‘anti-moron’ law, they just did the right thing (most of the time) when it came to the political committee nominating process. Instead of being jealous or getting mad at Stamford, learn from them. Once the nominating mess is cleaned up, good, strong people will surface. We know them. Good names are flying all over this posting. We just need to make sure there is an environment for them to succeed.

  16. Let’s see. Mayor Finch has been in office all of 5 months and you guys are already picking out his replacement. Good work, you Stunads!!! I have no problem with Tom McCarthy, but I don’t think the city is ready to elect another Ganim.

    The people who really want change in the Mayor’s office are people who have been living off the teat of Machine Politics for years and have been happy with the status quo as long as their own agenda was satisfied.

  17. The anti-moron rule cannot work and here is the reason. One person’s brain surgeon is another person’s moron. Pat Crossin supports Auden Grogins and I do not. He believes she is a good candidate; I do not. There are no ways to stop primaries so a person branded a moron by the anti-moron board can primary and just may win. BTW there is no way to keep politics out of that board’s selections.
    Keeping immediate family from running for office will never stand a court challenge. Let me give an example (hypothetical): my brother is a park worker mowing lawns and doing other manual labor. We have not spoken in 20 years. I now decide I want to run for public office. Under the scenerio presented I cannot run. It will not stand up in court.

    Look I think we definitely need better candidates but I don’t think that there are a bunch of people waiting in the wings. In today’s climate people are working 2 jobs or commuting long distances and just don’t have the time required.
    I think Crossin is off base on Stamford and I believe that Tom Kelley is more in tune with Stamford’s success. It’s location, location and location. I also think Stamford was more open in their development strategy.

  18. Wondering, I understand you don’t think it’s constitutional, but it is very much so. It’s in the U.S. Constitution and should be in state constitutions and charters. All are allowed to run for office, but just not allowed to occupy government positions while being an elected official. It serves a clear purpose.

    Adding more Republicans would do a significant amount. They would be the dissenting opinion, providing alternatives to the Democrats’ plan. If the Democrats’ plan failed, more people might turn to the Republicans. Then in the next election, Republicans might pick up two of the three seats in some districts. That’s how it works in all legislatures, including our own state legislature. Of course, Democrats would almost always have control and there is little the Republicans could do about it, but that’s the way it should be. This is a Democratic city and no one is debating that. However, our society political system thrives on competition and differing ideas, which our city desperately lacks.

    Kitty, Donna Curran already ran for state rep. and lost. Do you know how taxing it is to put your time and entire life and come up with nothing? She got onto the City Council and was shut out. It’s too draining to run again with an unlikely positive outcome. All those Republican volunteers and would-be candidates saw their effort. It’s a lot to ask someone to try to fight that uphill battle. If you knew you could run and have an easy shot, anyone would line up to run, which it looks like with the Democrats.

  19. Big City I have no problem with direct city employees not being able to run. I do have a problem with immediate family of city employees not being able to run for public office.

  20. Wondering,
    I hear that Bridgeport didn’t get a $20 million grant for the reading department, and all the reading teachers are now looking at a new career. And wondering, why the reading department chair is retiring this month.
    Maybe someone forgot to apply for the grant? That’s a big wondering.

  21. Sue didn’t we meaning the city let the one person who did great getting grants leave and go work for Congressman Shays? This is another example of the Finch inner cabinet letting people go. I believe the grants writer was Rita Bakalar (spelling).

  22. I think that proportional representation has several other benefits. First, it forces more of the decision-making out of a closed party caucus and into public meetings where everyone can see what’s going on. Second, it ends the closed club “you take care of me and I’ll take care of you” environment that exisits today. Third, if he or she plays it right, it can help the Mayor to escape the stranglehold of Democatic Town Committee politics because there will be at least ten members of the Council who couldn’t care less what the DTC or its chair thinks.

  23. John Norko is an interesting name. He has the brains and had a good reputation when he worked for the State (don’t remember where). But, his service as Bucci’s Finance Director and his more recent ties to the free spending Board of Education could be problems.

    Max Medina could do the job, but he needs to learn how to build bridges and coalitions. Again, the Board of Education could be a problem.

    Any EFFECTIVE, articulate, member of our legislative delegation would be an automatic contender. Alas, we have damn few of those.

    There was a time when Bridgeport had a number of people like Norko, Tony Milano and John Guman in senior positions in state government. Anyone there?

    I can think of several folks I worked with in city government who could do the job. But, many, if not all, of them no longer live in Bridgeport (I think the same thing can be said of every living former Mayor except Fabrizi).

  24. Consider this: Over the last 40 years Bridgeport has elected nine Mayors. Only three (Curran, Mandanici and Fabrizi) held a city office at the time they became Mayor. Two (Panuzio and Finch) were in the legislature. The other four (Paoletta, Bucci, Moran and Ganim) held no office (except, maybe, Justice of the Peace). So, cast a wide net.

  25. Stamford’s city government and business community created a business partnership in the 70’s that grew to be a huge force in modernizing the city government’s operating structure. As each new company arrived, its chair or CEO was added to the oversite board. The ‘no-moron’ strategy emerged out of that partnership. It isn’t law. It isn’t an ordinance. It is a concerted effort of people who care. The older city leadership that understood that things had to change- and the new business leadership, small businesses and large businesses got together for the common good. Yes Stamford has location, but they also have a willingness to be the best.

    Lennie reported in one of his earlier columns that Finch’s inner circle resorted to calling Town Committee members that were employees or relatives of employees to get Stafstrom elected DTC chair. Some allegedly were threatened with losing their job or the job of their relatives if they didn’t vote for Stafstrom. Even with that awful pressure, Stafstrom lost. Now how much do you want to bet that Stafstrom remains as Bond Counsel as a conciliation prize?

    The pressure from the Mayor’s team stepped way over the line. The city employees or their families should not have been subjected to that pressure.

    Look at it from the other direction. How can the union contracts be negotiated in good faith for the benefit of the total city if 80% of the DTC are City employees or their relatives? There is too much pressure on the Mayor and Office of Labor Relations, perceived or actual, to keep with the status quo.

    There needs to be an orchestrated set of new district slates without city employees or their immediate relatives. Then they have to win so people who care have to help them win. Then this City will have a shot at moving in the right direction.

    When is the next time that district slates get elected? Summer of 2009? The Mayor has three years before he is up for renomination if he actually starts accomplishing something. The DTC process has to be different by then.

    This is bigger than whether Pat Crossin supports Auden Grogins. Much bigger and much more important.

  26. Interesting!

    Interesting, “johnb” wrote “For Mayor how about John Bohannon (not me) Former City Attorney, works with unions, new to DTC, very smart and thoughtful.” Interesting!!!

    Interesting, in a city that is a majority of people of color there is never a mention of a candidate for mayor who is of color.

    Interesting, Pat Crossin who supports Auden Grogins against Bob Keeley is now giving advice on how to have good government in Bridgeport. Crossin and Grogins were Ganim’s top leaders on the city council and we are to believe that they saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil, Interesting!

  27. Ron in reading these posts there was no overabundance of white names thrown out there either. I would gladly put up a person of color if one had been in the public eye. The only person of color that we read about is James Holloway a council person who is a city employee. Our delegation in Hartford has 4 whites Keeley & Russo, Caruso & Hennesey and the rest are minority. There were 2 of color Gomes and Clemons neither of whom has really been out there. They come around at election time. The Hispanic side we had Reynoso and Ayala. 1 did nothing and the other concentrated on immigration issues.
    There are 12 members of the minority caucus; who would you suggest?

  28. Philistines. The least of our problems is color. Get off the color issue and focus on ridding the city of “morons.” That’s one classification that knows no color.

    BTW … Finch, Testa, Keeley, Joel, Walsh and PT are morons.

    Former City Official … Len Paoletta was a State Legislator before becoming mayor.

  29. Eddie Palmieri is correct; it is way to early to start picking the next mayor. Three years is a lifetime in politics.

    Although I do agree with most that Mayor Finch has not shot out of the starting gate in his best form, he needs (like any of us would) time to grow into the job. One of the purposes of changing to a four-year term was to give a new mayor that time to grow into the job without having to turn around and run for re-election so quick. Bill has a good head and a good heart. Get in a few more good people advising him, he may just yet surprise us.

  30. I still believe that Bill is a decent man and will do well as mayor. He inherited a mess and has to work his way thru it, but I think he will surprise all his critics. Just wish people would cut him a little slack, it wouldn’t matter who became mayor, things would have been the same for anyone.

  31. Pat Crossin,

    I don’t disagree. However, there are a couple of serious problems that need to be addressed. First, I don’t get the sense that the Mayor has staff and department heads who can give him the support and develop the options that he needs. Second, he needs to focus on the important things and let the rest go, at least for now.

  32. OK, CK you’re the philistine making Pat Crossin the moron.

    Actually, anyone who thinks this disgrace of a mayor can emerge as an effective manager and bring this town to prominence is sadly misinformed. Decency aside, the man is dumb. Not just intellectually challenged just slow. He was hand picked by the other morons who knew how to get the whole bunch of morons out to vote for this putz, that’s all.

    The duties of this office are way beyond his abilities.

  33. Pat:

    A Mayor “in-training” who needs time to grow into the job?

    If that was the idea behind Finch as a candidate, sombody should have stuck an asterisk after his name on the ballot. This job is too important for a trainee…and Finch’s age and past experience suggest he’s anything but. What we have is a simple, yet costly, mismatch between the leadership and management challenges of the job and the capabilities and talents of the incumbent…at least right now.

    In the business world, I’ve never heard of such a thing as a CEO in training. And based on the Mayor’s first six months in office, I doubt if corporate boards will be talking about Bridgeport as a “Best Practices” example anytime soon.

    Let’s hope the Mayor takes your advice and builds a team of capable advisors. Or three years will FEEL like a lifetime for Bridgeport taxpayers.


Leave a Reply