Recalling The 60 Minutes Profile Of Mayor Mary Moran

Bridgeport has had 52 mayors, all of them white males except for one … Mary Chapar Moran. Elected the city’s chief executive 25 years ago, her one two-year term is best known for placing the city into federal bankruptcy court, a petition challenged by the state and rejected by a federal judge.

Moran, a Republican, defeated two-term Democrat Tom Bucci in 1989 after he sought state financial assistance when the city’s budget blew up in 1988. For the privilege of leveraging $50 million in state borrowing power to cover deficits, a projected shortfall and provide a reserve, the state tasked Bucci and the city with some tough medicine, a financial review board to ensure budgets were in balance. A real estate agent by profession, Moran was a spellbinding personality who had defeated former Republican Mayor Lenny Paoletta in a close primary before dispatching Bucci.

Mary Moran
Moran recently retired as tax collector for the town of Trumbull.

Butting heads with the review board and Governor Lowell Weicker, Moran petitioned the federal court with a bankruptcy filing in June of 1991 in an effort for a fresh start. Wall Street and local banking interests opposed the move.

Moran only lasted one term, but there was nothing boring about her two years. It even attracted interest from the news magazine show 60 Minutes whose profile of Moran is reproduced.

OIB contributor Jim Callahan, then the editor of the community weekly newspaper the Bridgeport Light, is included in the Harry Reasoner piece. Check it out.

Moran was defeated by Democrat Joe Ganim in 1991. Now 80 years old, Moran recently retired from government service as the tax collector for the town of Trumbull. She is also featured in a current television commercial by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

Regular OIB poster Steve Auerbach worked for her administration.

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22 comments

  1. She’s a fine woman. She did what she did because she really loved our city and wanted it to turn around.
    Nowadays it’s all about taking care of friends and supporters, the people of our city are second.

  2. I thought Jim Callahan gave the best interview on that 60 Minutes piece that really did show what the City of Bridgeport looks like when I am not wearing my rose-colored glasses. Mary Moran’s administration may be remembered for the bankruptcy bid but it was probably the most honest administration. I think if Moran supported Weicker an old friend instead of Roland that pathetic loser, things may have been different. All of MORAN’s supporters worked for Weicker, the loyalist I was I stayed with Roland. Looking back, clearly Mary made a huge mistake. The bankruptcy bid was not one of them. These days Mary and I see life differently and like most of my Republican friends I get much-needed comic relief. The people I met and affairs I attended were most memorable. It seems like yesterday and also 100 years ago. The two years went by in a blink. This was the time my friend was murdered and Karla Hudachek and Stephen Humes were always lurking around for a story. They were the best of times and the worst of times, but I had the time of my life. Mary was very sincere. I think she believed she was delivered. She was very religious and my boss Dan McCormack was having lunch bible studies while Joe Langston (may he rest in peace) looked at them like they were nuts. Nuts because they were BULLSHIT artists. Thanks for posting this, Lennie. I actually sent it to you because I came across it by accident. After watching it I was extremely depressed. Harry Reasoner standing in front of the Poli Majestic theater 25 years ago. It is almost as though time has stood still.

    1. Just for the record, Mary Moran retired from the town of Trumbull a few months ago. Still very active with the Republican party and received an award for being one of the hardest-working Republicans.

  3. The ONLY good thing that came out of the bankruptcy was the Financial Review Board. The FRB demanded accountability, helped to get the city’s finances in order but left town too quickly.
    It should have demanded more in the form of structural changes and controls before relinquishing its authority.
    Instead, Joe Ganim had a boatload of cash, a large line of credit for bonding and decided it was time to start skimming. And since then, the clowns who replaced him have thought it was easy. Instead they totally depleted the cash reserves and have done nothing as far as economic development except issue press releases and architectural drawings.

    1. Well Bob, since you brought it up, I was on my way to Waltersville school on Friday. The traffic was outrageous and detour signs everywhere. There had to be 100 workers on the Steelepointe site. Now let’s see how you can make believe 150,000 cars daily believe nothing is happening.

    2. Bob Walsh, you are right when you said, “The ONLY good thing that came out of the bankruptcy was the Financial Review Board.” That’s what Bridgeport needs right now, a Financial Review Board.

    3. Troll, just for clarification, the review board was established under Bucci in 1988. It was disbanded in 1995. Ganim took office in November of 1991 so he governed under the thumb of the review board for parts of four years. During those early years he also received loads of financial help from Governor Weicker.

  4. I want to thank Steve for the kind words about me.
    Over the years I thought I wasn’t tough enough in describing the tough job Mary faced. Seeing the tape again, maybe I was OK.
    From the get-go, however, I don’t think a lot of people realized–or wanted to realize–just how government was controlled by the Bridgeport Financial Review Board.
    The job of the review board was to straighten the situation out. There was not a lot of wiggle room there for elected officials. Some, but not a lot. Bridgeport was a pretend democracy until the board finished its work.
    I don’t think bankruptcy was ever an answer. I respect the other view, but it never was going to fly. No matter how ugly the situation, and ugly does not describe the situation, the state was not letting the city off the hook for its financial failings.
    Since I’m disagreeing with Steve Auerbach, I might as well disagree with Bob Walsh too.
    I don’t think it mattered when the tenure of the financial review board ended, or under what mayor.
    The political culture of the community has not changed. You cannot make rules for running a town if everybody thinks it is Job One to break the rules.

    1. Jim Callahan, you make a great point at the end about the tenure, the political culture has not changed and it looks like it will not change any time soon so the only thing left to protect the taxpayer is the “Financial Review Board.”

  5. I know this has nothing to do with this story, however I think this is an important issue. I went to Walgreens today to pick up two prescriptions due to an allergic reaction to mold spores due to the season. I was handed a prescription with my name on it, however the other was not ready. I was about to open the pill bottle and take a pill from the first prescription when I was called back up to the counter because they had questions about the other two prescriptions. I was only waiting for one prescription??? Turned out the medication I was just about to take was for another Maria Pereira at a different address. Please be very careful when picking up prescriptions and always confirm the address.

  6. Steve, I agree with your observations.

    It seems like 100 years ago. My life was certainly different.

    Unfortunately, most of the lessons forced on Bridgeport by the Financial Review Board have been forgotten or ignored.

    Some of those lessons were reflected in charter revision of 1993.
    The city council was to have a monthly financial report so they were always aware of the financial condition of the city. Need I say more?

    Oh, and they could establish their own office so they could gather information independently of the mayor’s administration.

    Lessons lost.

  7. Who needs a readable and understandable monthly financial report (perhaps 25 pages with no more than six or seven lines per department so identifying variances becomes easy for everyone) when you can count on the Directors of Finance and OPM to explain everything to you (year after year) and put Council persons at ease in their votes?

    Why should you need an audited “final” twelfth-month June FY report (that might show the actual variance line items where expectations and actual differed) and permit an understanding of how several million of excess unanticipated revenue actually was spent in a fiscal year rather than appear as a surplus to rebuild the City fund balance?

    And why bother to have any legislative assistance to support part-time City Council members trying to represent taxpayers when there is really “only one way to vote” anyway (especially in the eyes of full-time City employees (and their relatives) who have no ‘conflicts of interest,’ no appearance of the same, believe in the highest ethical behavior though at times their behavior has trouble meeting our relatively low City ethical standards), and integrity is a word that is not covered by advisory sessions with those in the City Attorney offices?

    Time will tell.

      1. Actually Ron, the City Council is there. Why aren’t they using their power to oversee, review, monitor, establish guidelines, and become very informed? That might include using some of their excess Stipend funds (after a vote to change the appropriated amount from $180K to $120K and that would leave $60K for one position. A second position could be fashioned from their OTHER SERVICES Line Item that usually begins and ends the year with $90,000 unspent. So take another $60K and see what thoughtful members who understand their REPRESENTATIVE DUTY to taxpayers, might begin to question and understand. There would be pushback and there would be learning on the part of voters.

        A real FRB will take a Charter Change and that would be several more budget cycles, likely. Will the City fiscal situation survive in the meantime? Now if the City fails financially for one or more serious reasons, the State might once again enter the scene as a “super lifeguard” but the medicine, such as was served up 20 years ago, will not be tasteful.

        Ron, how would you see a FRB group coming to be? What powers would you give them? What duties? Terms? Bi-partisan? Public meetings with responses? Time will tell.

        1. John Marshall Lee, the money the City has not paid towards their portion of union pension, now that’s just one reason to ask the State to come back into Bridgeport. I’m sure you have a lot of reasons to show where the City has not met its responsibilities.

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