Bill Finch has talent. I’ve seen it. Focus is always the issue. I’d have a lot more confidence in him breaking away from his dysfunctional, defensive first six months in office if not for some of the feel-good events he chooses to attend instead of prioritizing an excruciating budget cycle, economic development initiatives and appointments to boards and commissions.
Understand that Finch runs around telling people that the business of being mayor is 90 percent politics. Bullshit. It’s about focus, judgment and strategy. I’d give the mayor the benefit of the doubt about 90 percent politics if he had potent political instincts.
Here’s a small sampling of the mayor’s daytime scheduled events last week and this:
— Women’s Leadership Council 14th Annual Business Women Luncheon, Mill River Country Club, Stratford.
— Press conference with Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn as part of the Urban Initiative Summit, New York City Hall, 260 Broadway, New York.
— State of Connecticut Holocaust Commemoration. Travels to Hartford with 100 students from Harding and Central High School.
— Present awards to the top three winners of the school artwork exhibit in the City Hall Annex for the first cycle of artwork that was displayed.
— Attends a check presentation from State Farm to the Central High School Football Foundation.
— Attends a tree planting at Longfellow School.
— Supports AmeriCorps Week by helping to install a smoke detector with the Safe Asleep Program.
— Attend the first Community Policing Day with the Bridgeport Police Department.
— Welcome Dr. Yang Jianli, noted Harvard Scholar and Human Rights Advocate, along his 500 miles walk from Boston to Washington, D.C. to thank the American people for their support during his 5 years as a political prisoner in China.
What’s the matter with you, Grimaldi, these are wonderful, noble events the mayor should be attending, right? Not when your primary focus should be building and balancing budgets, attracting development and providing strong services. The mayor could go to a thousand of these kinds of events. They don’t make a mayor successful. When you’re popular and things are going great, I say live it up and go to the events, if you want. But not now.
OIB poster Jonathan Kantrowitz asked a pointed question a few days ago, isn’t there anyone Finch will listen to, who can turn him around?
In 2000, I managed Finch’s winning race to the state senate. It was the most fun I’ve had on a race. I had a falling out with Joe Ganim at the apex of his popularity in 1999. As a result, he did nothing for Finch in that election. That didn’t matter to me. If we could raise the money and Finch stayed focused we could beat Republican Lee Scarpetti, wonderful lady, who had occupied the seat for seven terms. Sonya Clark, the future Mrs. Finch, was a fantastic fundraiser and enthusiastic campaign worker. A fresh, freckled-face campaign worker had arrived on the scene, Tom McCarthy, now City Council president. We had a nice mix of supporters. The key was to keep Finch focused on the message and his schedule. Bill has a way of starting for one point and ending up at two or three places before the targeted destination. “Bill, I want you to go straight to the News 12 debate. No anti-cult conventions on the way!” I’d bribe him with anchovy pizza. “Now, after the debate, come straight to the headquarters to make your phone calls, and I’ll throw in an anchovy pie.”
We tried to keep him on a short leash, but sometimes he’d slip away. “Where the hell’s the candidate?” That’s Bill–good guy, great sense of humor, short attention span. His brain is wired for confetti. Where will he end up?
Finch’s Chief of Staff Adam Wood is doing his best to keep the mayor focused, so is Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn, so is Kaitlin Lesnick, Finch’s hardworking spokesperson. This is all about Finch. He wants to attend the events where he’ll feel the love–I’m getting beat up–rather than rolling up his sleeves and say okay boys and girls how we going to fix this?
When he gets booed Finch rationalizes that he must be doing something right. Dale Carnegie could rise from his grave and school Finch on the value of self-improvement and salesmanship, and Finch would still not hear him. As someone in city hall said to me on Monday, Finch is like a bronco that needs to be saddled and no one can reel him in. Wood goes to work every day trying to keep Finch’s eye on the ball. Good luck, Woody!
The only reason that Finch’s proposed city budget will save jobs and go from catastrophic to painful is because of the work of City Council members that have logged around the clock hours the past week to meet a relatively rational consensus. Bob Curwen, Leticia Colon, Tom McCarthy, Bob Walsh, Sue Brannelly, Rich Paoletto and the rest of the council members, for no pay (yes, they receive an expenditure stipend, BFD) are bleary-eyed from this budget cycle.
Here’s hoping Finch can soon reach a reasonable focus.
Reminder, OIB party Thursday, 6 p.m. Captain’s Cove Seaport.
Anyone make it to the Jim Himes endorsement last night? The Democrat is challenging Republican Congressman Chris Shays. See Himes press release below:
On Monday, May 12, in an auditorium filled with more than 400 hundred enthusiastic party officials, delegates, and supporters, Jim Himes was unanimously chosen as the Democratic nominee for Congress in Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District. Himes will challenge longtime Republican incumbent Chris Shays in the fall.
In a speech frequently interrupted by applause, Himes focused on economic concerns, identifying education, healthcare and the middle class opportunity as the key issues facing the district.
“It is our job, our common purpose to support the American dream by making sure that every child of Connecticut has access to education, to healthcare, to safe neighborhoods and good jobs,” said Himes.
Himes described himself as someone who has lived the American dream. Born in Peru to American parents working abroad, Himes later moved to a small town in New Jersey when his parents divorced.
“My home would be called broken, except that it wasn’t,” said Himes. “My mom worked hard, but at the end of the day, she would come home and gather us around the dinner table and push us to do our homework and challenge us to do our best.”
Himes described that background, and the public schools in his community, as the key to his later achievements, which include a Rhodes Scholarship, success as a businessman, and six years at the helm of the New York office of an affordable housing non-profit.
The convention was held at the Cesar A. Batalla School in Bridgeport, the newest school in the Bridgeport system. Principal Hector Sanchez welcomed delegates. George Jepson, former chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party, was elected permanent chair of the convention. Himes was nominated by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. The nomination was seconded by Amanda Brown of the Norwalk Common Council.
Democratic party leaders were unanimous in their enthusiasm for Himes’ candidacy. Former Westport First Selectwoman and two-time Congressional candidate Diane Farrell opened the convention. “People want a change and Jim Himes is the right candidate to deliver it.”
Former Senate candidate Ned Lamont also spoke in support of Himes, saying, “The United States needs a fresh start, and it starts right here, right now in this convention hall with Jim Himes.”
And, noting Himes’ years in Latin America, Bridgeport School Board Chair Max Medina said in Spanish, “This Jim Himes, he’s good people.”