Russo’s Education Plan, Win By Losing

Former Republican State Senator Rob Russo hasn’t gone away. In fact, he’s gearing up for even more involvement in the city.

Russo told OIB over the weekend that he’ll be running for a spot on the Board of Education this November. Can’t win it, you say? Well, the BOE is one place in city elections where Republicans are guaranteed multiple spots as a result of minority-party representation.

Russo, one of the few public bright spots for the city GOP, is an education wonk. He loves issues involving city schools. It was Russo who begged Republican Governor Jodi Rell and Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney for the $250K for a comprehensive audit of the BOE.

Russo won the tri-community senate seat formerly held by Mayor Bill Finch in a special election March of 2008. He, like many Republicans around the country, was overwhelmed by Barack’s electoral tsunami that drove new young voters to the polls in record numbers. Russo ran well in Trumbull and Monroe, but was swamped in the city by Democrat Anthony Musto.

Even though he’s out of office, Russo is asked often about the slow-moving status of the BOE audit, but it’s impossible for him to push the agenda without an elected platform. He can do that on the BOE.

Education boards under state authority have minority-party representation. Maybe it’s time the City Council do the same? Other towns have minority-party representation on legislative bodies, including nearby Trumbull. Of course, easier said than done persuading the city’s Democratic-controlled government and political establishment.

In 1997, when I was Joe Ganim’s political guru, he asked if there was a way to secure a cross-endorsement from the GOP. My answer was for him to support minority-party representation legislatively and commit to more GOP appointments to boards and commissions. Ganim agreed to it. There was no motivational altruism. It was simply a way to avoid a general election while building broader appeal for Joe’s statewide ambitions.

A number of GOP party regulars liked the idea. I brought the proposal to the GOP chair, the late Joan Magnuson, pitching it as party building for her lonesome rank and file. There was enough resistance among party regulars for Joan to back off the idea.

Would Finch buy into supporting minority-party participation that say provides one quarter or one third GOP representation on the City Council?

Yeah, possibly, if it meant he’d have less opposition on the council such as a Bob Troll Walsh who’s against every administration proposal. Troll of course says he’s justified in his actions.

And would Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa buy into it? Probably not. But if it means Mario would deal with a few less Democratic dopes versus a few more reasonable Republicans, he might. Good grief, can you imagine Joel Speedy Gonzalez back on the City Council as a Republican? Speedy, you out there?

Fred Biebel’s Book

Listening to former national GOP deputy chairman Fred Biebel is like a journey through political history. Fred will chat about his book Thursday night at the Barnum Museum. Check out news release below:

Path of a Patriot: The Political Journey of Mr. B

Discussion and book signing

(Bridgeport, CT) – On Thursday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m., The Barnum Museum will present a talk by legendary Connecticut Republican insider Frederick K. Biebel about his book, “Path of a Patriot: The Political Journey of Mr. B.”

The 82-year-old Biebel, former Chair of the Connecticut Republican party, Deputy National Chairman of the Republican Party and President of the Barnum Festival, retired just three years ago from his position as director of the governor’s Southwestern office in Bridgeport. Biebel is a GOP power broker, who was a guest of President George W. Bush at last year’s White House Christmas party and has been rubbing elbows with the political elite–or helping them get elected–for five decades. He still has strong opinions about government and politics.

“But as I wrote the book … and stopped … and started writing again numerous times,” reflected Biebel, “I began to realize it was important to write about the generations of my family, on both sides, who were actively involved in this nation’s founding, even going back to the Mayflower itself.”

Biebel is like a walking encyclopedia of the nation’s political history in the second half of the 20th century and said that he wrote the book in part, to provide a record of that experience. Another theme Biebel stresses in his book is how important it is for young people to learn and know their heritage.

The Barnum Museum has three floors of absolutely fascinating exhibits that illustrate the extraordinary life of Phineas Taylor Barnum. P.T. Barnum, one-term mayor of Bridgeport and four-term member of the Connecticut General Assembly, was born July 5, 1810 in Bethel and died April 7, 1891 in Bridgeport. The original museum building, owned by the City of Bridgeport, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is handicap accessible.

What: The Path of a Patriot: The Political Journey of Mr. B

When: Thursday, May 7 starting at 6:30 p.m.

Where: The Barnum Museum, 820 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT

Cost: The event is free with General Admission Adults: $7, Seniors and college students: $5, Children 4 – 17: $4, Under 4: Free

Regular Barnum Museum Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.,
Sunday, Noon – 4:30 p.m. Call 203-331-1104 ext. 102 or visit

Idol Mania

Top 10 Finalists from American Idol
September 10th
Arena at Harbor Yard
Tickets on sale May 9th arena box office



  1. Finch appointee’s lack of candor defended
    Officials: Ethics allegations were a ‘misunderstanding’

    By Keila Torres
    Updated: 05/03/2009 11:43:04 PM EDT

    BRIDGEPORT — City officials continue to defend Mayor Bill Finch over a recent appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission despite allegations that he lied to the Ethics Commission about his legal and zoning troubles and misled City Council members reviewing his selection.

    The nominee, Jose Tiago, owner of Tiago Construction, has been entangled with zoning officials in a legal battle since 2007 over his construction business at 1581 Seaview Ave., which authorities assert was illegally established. The firm specializes in excavations, remediation, demolition, concrete and paving work, as well as construction equipment rental.

    The city’s Ethics Commission in January approved the mayor’s appointment. Commissioner Jeff Kohut, however, later said he felt duped after discovering that Tiago was not truthful when he told the panel his zoning issues had been resolved.

    “He lied to us during his interview. He was asked by another commissioner if there was any pending matter and his answer was a flat, ‘No,'” Kohut said. “I brought it up at the last meeting and it was discussed.”

    Kohut said the commission asked the city attorney’s office to send a letter to the mayor conveying its concern. “I’m a little frustrated with the way these appointees are handled,” he added.

    When asked about the letter, City Attorney Mark Anastasi said anything the Ethics Commission discusses during its meetings — which are held in executive session, meaning that no one from the public can sit in or speak out — should not have been disclosed to the public.

    Anastasi said he plans only to send the mayor a briefing on the ethics panel’s approval of Tiago’s appointment, which was followed by a recommendation by a City Council subcommittee that the appointment be approved.

    “Mr. Tiago answered the questions raised to him appropriately before the Miscellaneous Matters Committee. The fact that he may have had or may have an appeal pending in no way, shape or form bars him from serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission,” Anastasi said.

    Tiago was issued a cease-and-desist order by the city several years ago for his failure to obtain a special permit or coastal site plan approval for a construction yard on the site, which borders the Yellow Mill Channel. In 2007, Tiago went before the PZC seeking to legalize the use of the property, but was denied.

    In an e-mailed statement, Adam Wood, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the city attorney “assured the mayor that Mr. Tiago does not have a conflict of interest based upon his exercise of his legal right to appeal a cease-and-desist order issued to a business he operates in the city.”

    Wood said Tiago told the council committee that he “in good faith believed that his legal matter with the city had been resolved.” He added that Tiago’s “lack of precision” in explaining his legal issues was an “honest misunderstanding.”

    “As it turns out, he acknowledges that the lawyers for the various parties are in the process of concluding a substantive agreement on that matter. Mr. Tiago recognizes that his lack of precision as to the procedural status of the matter may have caused confusion during his screening process,” Wood said.

    Tiago did not return calls for comment.

  2. This is just completing a repopulating of the P&Z with developer-friendly drones. You have Gail Solis who works for Timpanelli, Reggie Walker who does what he is told and now Tiago.
    How does someone who lies to the ethics committee still get by council scrutiny? Easy, the council for the most part does what it’s told be Finch or they don’t have a job.
    Speaking of keeping a job Anastasi and his rulings just leaves one scratching their head.
    1. Lies to ethics committee
    2. Contractor with a pending matter before a board he is appointed to.
    Anastasi sees no problem with this.
    Anastasi sees no problem with not having a public hearing on the many changes to the Zoning rewrite and master plan. Comes up with another world-famous decision that the public be damned.
    Sounds like Anastasi is getting ready to go to work for that famous law firm of DEWEY, CHEATEM AND HOWE.

  3. I expect today’s blog to be overrun by Tiago comments but wanted to quickly address Lennie’s opening remarks. Minority party representation guarantees can’t work on district voting. It works wonderfully on city-wide positions, e.g. BOE; or like Stamford’s board of finance. I think it might need charter revision but I laud the idea of doing it whereever possible. Starting with the BOE and all boards and commissions would be a plus in b’port.

  4. It’s unworkable to have minority party representation in districts–how do you figure out which districts get a Republican, if they lose in every district?–as opposed to at-large, like the BOE.

    1. Oops, somehow I didn’t see Independent Soul’s comment. But I should add that in Hartford, where they do have minority-party rules in place for the city council, Republicans have started losing those seats to better-organized minor parties.

      1. Who cares if it’s Republicans or not. It’d be good just to break up the Democratic caucus that we have now. Green party, Bridgeport First, whatever.

  5. I realize this is off topic, but I thought at least one regular OIB poster would find it of some interest:

    Serb cut off finger to protest overdue wages

    Mon Apr 27, 1:40 pm ET

    BELGRADE (Reuters) – A Serbian union official who chopped off his finger and ate it in a protest over wages that in some cases have not been paid in years, said Monday he did it to show how desperate he and other workers were.

    “We, the workers have nothing to eat, we had to seek some sort of alternative food and I gave them an example,” Zoran Bulatovic told Reuters. “It hurt like hell.”

    Bulatovic, a union leader at the Raska Holding textile factory in Novi Pazar in southwest Serbia, used a hacksaw to cut off most of his left-hand little finger Friday.

    Bulatovic said he decided to act after his deputy, “a single mother of three, was the first to say she would cut off her finger. I could not allow her to do that,” he said.

    State-owned Raska Holding was a major textile producer in the late 1980s with a workforce of 4,000. It suffered during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and a loss of markets and mismanagement during a decade of wars and sanctions led to massive job cuts, leaving the company with just 100 workers.

    Some employees have not been paid for years, only collecting social benefits, like free medical care.

    About two dozen workers went on a 19-day hunger strike last year. They want the company’s debt to be swapped for state-held equity and a welfare program for those nearing retirement.

    Bulatovic said his comrades will not back down from their demands, but they will postpone planned self-mutilations at least until talks with government officials in Belgrade expected Tuesday.

    (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gordana Filipovic and Matthew Jones)

    BTW – Rob Russo will be a great addition to the BPT. BOE.

  6. Nothing’s off topic, eh? You betcha, buddy … Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, that high-powered PR firm has just released their latest report on that infamous couple, Y and A. It goes like this:

    Rumors of a sex life are unconfirmed. paparazzi have gone to extreme measures to secure photos but all have proven inconclusive. Interest remains high so efforts will continue.

  7. There are two very simple solutions to the question of minority party representation. However, both would require a charter change. The first and best way to do it would be to expand the council to 30 members. The politicians in the city would scream over this. But if you were to do this, then the three candidates with highest vote count would win. Plain and simple. However, the mayor and town chair would cringe at the thought of having to “buy off” 16 councilmen whenever there was an important vote. This would mean 16 out of 20 Dems on a regular basis. A lot of heavy lifting would have to take place.
    The other solution would be to have 5, 6, 7, etc. at-large council members who would be the highest vote-getters of those who did not win. This could be unfair since sometimes you could have someone who loses by a vote or two in a district but based on voter turnout etc. could end up losing to someone who got swamped in another district. The fewer the total votes that are needed the more palatable the solution would be to the power brokers. Anyone who says it can’t be done is really saying they don’t want it done.

  8. Bob I have a question. If we increase the number of council people to include Republicans who would these at-large people represent? Would they be more like council people for the city or would they represent the district in which they live?

    1. As I previously said the best way to do this is to expand to three representatives per district. As I believe when I vote, I am voting for what is in the best interests of the city. Even if there are times where I believe the majority of the voters in my district may feel one way on a certain issue, if I believe that there is prevailing evidence that the opposite way is in the best interests of the city, I will vote my conscience rather than the basis of some constituent phone calls or conversations.
      The other option would be much more similar to at-large representatives, but the bottom line would be if they want to be reelected then they would be best served by paying close attention to the needs of the district in which they live because the easiest, less complicated way to get reelected is to win the majority of the votes in the district in which they live.

  9. Capital: There should be no surprises in this vote; they have been given their marching orders and he will be voted in.
    Is he going to recuse himself when a conflict of interest appears? The answer is NO.
    Gail Solis has not recused herself from one vote that involves or conflicts with her job with the chamber of commerce.

  10. I will be voting against Mr. Tiago and I believe there will be a few others who will also.
    It is a total sham or shame that the mayor would appoint someone who even at the minimum did not bother to check the zoning regs when he bought the property and now feels that this should be a legitimate reason for granting variances. The man obviously has no respect for zoning rules and regulations.

  11. Someone has to help me. I have old gossip that I just don’t understand; the parking ticket guys have been going into the Eisenhower building for at least 15 years. They are not allowed to enter the building any more. The “Queen” is now saying that they disturb her workers and they are not doing their job. What I don’t understand is why did a highly political man go to the supervisor’s house late at night, get him out of bed to give him this message. First off, everyone knew there was a new young Latino that the “Queen” did not like. If she was justified with her actions why send a late night messenger? Why couldn’t she handle this by herself during normal city working hours?

    1. The Men use to go there to get out of the Heat or Cold when it got a little too unbearable. They would go in for 10 min then go back outside. Now, I know no idiot in their right mind is going to complain about them not ticketing for ten minutes! The Testa’s Redhead is probably jealous that the seniors like talking to him or something.


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