Update: includes Mojica response. Bridgeport’s 131st City Council District covers the South End, Downtown and a portion of the West End. South End activist Andrew Martinez asked the five candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, incumbent Democrats Denese Taylor-Moye and Jack Banta, Republicans Ethan Book and David Goodman and former councilman for the district running as a petitioning candidate Ralph Mojica (Mojo on OIB), to respond to questions with answers distributed to an email list of roughly 80 district residents. Responses follow.
Response from Ralph Mojica:
Army Vet, retired CT Corrections Officer, Bpt AIC community coordinator, six years ex-city councilman (Ganim/Fabrizi era), ex-seasonal parks & rec. attendant.
1. Public safety
–community foot & bicycle patrols during peak crime activity times and weekends.
2. Economic development
–tax incentives to new and old businesses that employ a percentage of city residents to draw new business or keep good business here! Employ cosmetic techniques to make public areas of the city look friendly, inviting, attractive to the eye, etc. Examples: purple & white colors in all UB campus and border line areas to support UB’s school colors and spirit. Also our city high schools and borders to promote school spirit. Low maintenance perennial flowers in the parks & public areas. 50 State flags of the U.S on a steel cable up high in different areas of Seaside Park and Beardsley Park for color, also more activities at parks like bocci ball, horseshoes, basketball, handball, sand volleyball, baseball, soccer, etc. to attract more visitors to Bpt Parks. All cosmetic-type improvements that are low maintenance and cost but will promote attractive city eye candy!
3. Broad St.
public housing would be anti downtown economic development and I would oppose it 100%.
–time for the council to bring in an experienced independent accounting firm to work with the B&A when doing the yearly city budget and improve city services for our overtaxed residents.
–the city council needs to start working a little closer with the BOE throughout the year not just during budget time to get a better understanding on how the school money is being used and if indeed throwing more money at the school system problems will really help the kids! Remember building new schools or old schools that need to be brought up to state compliance is all done by the city’s school buildings committee far in advance from when the public starts to see activity at a school site. Don’t be mislead by false promises from those who may only vote on issues that have already been established and just need a council vote as one of the steps going forward.
6. Without going into long detail, it’s obvious city services, quality of life issues and low-income services need improvements citywide! These are just the tip of the iceberg of things that need improvement in Bpt. However, let’s remember sometimes it’s the small things in your district that make a difference and people remember. Because if it’s good for your district then it’s probably good for the city as a whole! **** Like a one-year moratorium of not giving weekend parking tickets downtown, a free life-long park sticker to Bpt Seniors for their car, stop signs at street corners and handicap signs residents had tried to get but were unsuccessful in getting, permanent bathroom at Wentfield park, help in getting UB their soccer field, wheelchair accessibility at the Middle St. Post Office with the help of Tom White, deal in writing with the residents of Seaside Village and Sal DiNardo to not put any type of anti-environment business near the Village, introduced and helped get Rev. Castillo on the BFD commission, worked with parks & rec. to keep park bathrooms open ’til Oct 1st instead of closing right after labor day. All these claims and more are on record (black & white) at the city clerk’s office for those who need proof!
*** THIS IS WHAT THE 131st DISTRICT NEEDS AGAIN, ONLY THIS TIME AS AN INDEPENDENT DEM. THERE ARE NO MACHINE STRINGS ATTACHED, JUST THE NEEDS OF MY DISTRICT AND THE CITY IT’S IN! *** VOTE MOJICA FOR CITY COUNCIL ***
Response from incumbents Jack Banta and Denese Taylor-Moye
We the duly elected city council members from the 131rst district thank you for your interest in the quality of life issues for the South End of Bridgeport. As you well know we are concerned with all the issues affecting all the constituents. As your City Council Representatives, we will:
Work to promote foot-patrol in needed areas. Form partnership with neighborhoods to address crime
Make the development of our waterfront a priority. Continue to improve the parks and all sports facilities. Work to establish a citywide program to improve street conditions. Work to demolish abandoned and blighted buildings. Work to remove graffiti to clean up our city.
We are supportive of the community and the parents to build a new state of the art school at the site chosen by the city and the community. The site and the school bring back memories to many in the city who attended Roosevelt School. This is a step forward for our city and our neighborhood.
Ethan Book response
I am pleased to respond to your invitation to particulate in the Meet the South End Candidates forum! I respond in the indicated manner. For context, I provide attached the text of the campaign brochure which has been distributed to most of the 131st District. That contains some information of background and it discusses some key issues some of which overlap with what you have suggested.
I was born in Pennsylvania and I grew up in Frederick, MD. I did undergraduate college work in Western New York state and in Southern California.
I have two advanced degrees, both with honors. One degree is a business degree from the non-denominational Christian Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, CA). The other degree is from the world-acclaimed Thunderbird School of Global Management (Glendale, AZ) where I received a masters degree in international management.
I served a two-year term in the U.S. Peace Corps in Bucaramanaga, Colombia where I worked as a business adviser to small businesses and cooperatives. One of my more memorable projects was through the School Partnership Program. I administered the disbursements for funds provided by a public school in North Carolina for the construction of a two-room schoolhouse in the mountainous coffee-growing community of Surata, Colombia. Prior to that project, I visited the community and observed eight grades in one room of a small farmhouse. Chickens and piglets would walk at will over the dirt floor. The community committed to providing land, some materials (such as for bricks that they made) and labor. About $10,000 in funds from North Carolina went for materials such as cement, metal girders and a fiberglass roof. It was an emotional experience to see men and boys of the community working on the project and then to view the finished product.
After graduate school, I was hired by Bank of America to work in Latin America. I worked for 2 1/2 years in the Central American and Caribbean Area Office then in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I was administering correspondent bank relations when the Nicaraguan Revolution broke out. As an international banker, I have war stories. For example, toward the end of the war just after the dictator Anastasio Somoza had been deposed, I accepted the assignment to travel to Managua to remove Bank of America unused travelers checks from the then-nationalized correspondent banks. Normally, large banks take such measures during times of transition and then replenish the supplies after the transition is completed. I traveled around Managua in an armored Volkswagen bus to complete that assignment. I lodged at the Intercontinental Hotel of downtown Managua. One evening, I ventured out to take a walk. I walked toward the nearby famous “bunker” which had been used by Somoza. As I approached, I heard a gun click and the words “Pare Senor” (“Stop it right there, Sir!”). I looked and saw a teenager carrying a machine gun. He said that I couldn’t go further and that I should go back. I didn’t argue! That’s just one of several colorful incidents.
From Guatemala, I was transferred to a branch system of Bank of America in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I was the credit manager for a four branch system. One of my projects was financing for a hog repopulation program following the outbreak of the African swine fever. Another was the work-out of a million-dollar problem loan between a European multinational corporation with a Dominican meat processor.
In 1983, the bank transferred me to the New York Corporate Office. That was when I moved to the Town of Fairfield. At the Bank of America New York Corporate Office, I worked in regulated industries financing; mainly loans to electric utilities companies (also dealing with alternative energy). One of my projects was to arrange a $55 million portion of the construction financing for the electrical transmission interconnection between Hydro-Quebec Power Company and the New England Power Pool. Because essentially all of the power source was natural, the project tended to keep down electric rates in New England. In early 1985, I accepted a position as Vice President in the Bridgeport Commercial Office of Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. (CBT). That was at a time that the State of Connecticut was developing several large resource recovery (i.e., “garbage-to-energy”) projects. One of those was what was then proposed as a $300 million redevelopment of the Greater Bridgeport Resource Recovery Project to be located at the south-end of Howard Avenue just next to Long Island Sound. Apparently because my supervisors were aware that I had prior specialized experience in that type of project, I was asked to review what the State was doing. I was in a good position to obtain information and I had good contacts with specialized investment bankers. Very quickly, I observed problems with the proposed project which was sponsored by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA). I expressed my concerns and I was quickly and harshly fired. In essence, I stumbled upon a political scared cow and by circumstances, I became a whistleblower. I understood the objective and public interest in refuse volume reduction and protection of the environment. However, it was simply the wrong proposal. There are clear appearances that what was proposed was government function which was unduly influenced by private interests. That CBT experience changed my life and thrust me into the local and state political arena and also in state and federal courts. From 1985 to 1987, I served a successful term as an elected representative to the Fairfield Representative Town Meeting (the Fairfield counterpart of the Bridgeport City Council). In 1989, I founded New England Limousine Service of Fairfield, a small limousine service business, that which I have operated since then. In 2005, I moved from Fairfield to the Bridgeport West End. In early 2006, I moved to “the Hollow.” In July of this year, the pending long-term political/legal saga briefly described here merged with other municipal issues when I was requested to be a candidate for the Bridgeport City Council. I quickly answered “Yes.”
2. Quality-of-Life Issues:
A theme which I have been raising in public comments to the City Council for a year and a half is the issue of the secularization of government. Early last year, I wrote an article entitled “The Secularization of Government.” It describes several key points in a trend of court rulings which I view to be largely destructive. One of those is a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the high court attempted to lift out of the 1st Amendment the concept of separation of church and state. A legal problem with that is that such a concept is not found in the 1st Amendment. Also, the concept as the high court has developed it is in clear conflict with the original intent of our Founding Fathers. Much of our Constitution and legal system is based on scripture (especially the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy). Our Founding Fathers intended that Christian religious instruction be part of the public school curriculum. They understood that sound religious training coupled with reasonable discipline quickens young minds to want to learn and to learn better. However, the 1947 Court decision was followed by others of the 1960s wherein Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools. These events have established trends which I call the secularization of government.
Several years ago, a father of one of the victims of the mass shooting in Columbine, CO testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that the problem was not primarily that of guns or the National Rifle Association. Rather, he pointed to the Committee members and said that the primary problem lies with you here in this room. He said that you have sat back and acquiesced to the Supreme Court taking God out of our schools. He explained that we as God’s creation consist of three elements; mind, body and soul. He further commented that when we attempt to develop only the minds and bodies of our children without developing the spiritual factor, we leave a void. If it is not filled with that which is good, by default it will be filled by something bad.
It is my view that this analysis gets to the heart of the causes of recent mass shootings like Columbine, CO, of Aurora, CO and Sandy Hook, CT more than issues of gun regulation (although I don’t discount the need for reasonable adjustments of gun regulations).
While it may be complicated now to return to Bible reading and prayer in public schools (although I don’t discount it), what really goes over the edge is the prohibition of posting the Biblical Ten Commandments at our public schools and government buildings. We are a Judeo-Christian nation. This is our identity. Also, the Biblical Ten Commandments have parallels with essentially every major world religion. Posting the Biblical Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings (including in our courthouses) is not mandating a particular religion. I do not apologize for what our nation is!
What I seek to do here is to begin to change a broadly held culture mentality, that for positive attitudes which will assist in public school administration, in teaching and in student responses.
An issue here is how municipal fiscal administration interplays with state and federal government function. While communities can and should have a role in exercising leadership, there is a practical reality of trickle-down governmental integrity from the top level, our U.S. Congress. My usual practice is not to discuss national issues in the context of this municipal campaign. However, there is good cause to do so here. Local governments will tend to function more efficiently when there is better exercise of the federal legislative function. There are two national issues which need more attention; the need for congressional reform and the need for judicial reform. For Congress (which broadly includes both the Senate and the House of Representatives), there needs to be reform to include more suited ethics laws as well as the administration of those. Also, there needs to be a cap on congressional salaries. Our Founding Fathers never intended lucrative salaries for our public servants. Rather, they wanted merely sufficient compensation to attract only those who are really interested in public service. Regarding judicial reform, our state and federal laws are quite good; not perfect but rather good. The real problem is that the laws tend to be administered in such a way as to favor governments and corporate interests. That means that individuals and minority groups tend to get the short stick of justice. This situation is more characteristic of an oligarchy than a limited democracy (where there is the rule of law). Such general preferential treatment by the courts to government means that some individuals or groups which have been injured or prejudiced by improper official action often do not get equitable compensation. In addition, in not having to pay for the errors, governments tend not to do the internal surgery to correct the heart of the problems. So there results a vicious spiral where the general public is hurt and governmental efficiency tends to decline. The City of Bridgeport is in a suitable position to pass a resolution to petition Congressional leadership and the legitimate portion of the Connecticut congressional delegation to take corrective actions.
The above deals with the context for municipal fiscal administration. Other issues which are specific to the City of Bridgeport are discussed in the attached text of public comments which I gave to the Bridgeport City Council on October 21st. There is absolutely no proper reason that property taxes in this City should have increased an aggregate of 30% over the last five years. Putting all the above into context, the City’s grand list is declining, tax collection is down, taxes are up and municipal debt is up. The City of Bridgeport is rapidly and precariously approaching a Detroit experience. It’s not too late!
C. The Proposed Broad Street Housing Project:
As is explained above, I understood the need for refuse volume reduction and reasonable protection of the environment. However, I opposed the proposed redevelopment of the Greater Bridgeport Resource Recovery Project because it was a fundamentally defective proposal, one that overall was not in the best public interest. For the present focus, I understand the role that government can have in aiding for affordable housing. However, based on my review, the existing Broad Street proposal is fundamentally defective.
Several points of issue follow:
- The project is proposed for a location which is notorious for flooding,
- There are too many (74) proposed housing units for the area and for the limited 1 1/2 acre parcel,
- Experience shows that the planned percentage of financially assisted housing units as compared to the percentage of units based on market value (76% versus 24%) is excessive for expecting household economic development within the financially-assisted units,
- The unit cost of $405,000 is excessive.
Once again, the existing proposal looks very much like government action which is a result of influencing by private interests.
I can be supportive of financial assistance programs which are well-planned and designed. However, it is sometimes better to defer a proposal which shows promise merely of short-term illusory gain while sacrificing real long-term development.
D. Services to Low-Income Families and Children:
As background, I understand what it means to be in a financially distressed situation. Since I distinguished myself in 1985 as being a whistleblower of state activities in resource recovery, I have consistently been in a distressed financial situation. In fact, since 2006 and at least in part for the prejudicial impacts of excessive local police action followed by unprofessional response by the Office of the City Attorney (and several related yet unaddressed issues), my financial condition has been consistently in the poverty range. My recently filed 2012 tax return accurately reflects annual losses of more than $6,000 (As a politician and a Christian, I am careful to report all income, even cash gratuities.).
Now to begin to address this important issue, I maintain that we must first look at the national issues of the need for congressional reform and judicial reform as is described above. Reasonably and affirmatively addressing these will likely reduce significantly the number of low income families (for which the primary first responsibility for the children is with the parents). This is not to say that there should not be programs which are specific for low income families. However, we must understand who the proper players are in such a role. The usual public discussion of these matters normally includes recognition of the federal government, the state government, the local government and the families. In addition that there needs to be more understanding of the responsibilities and limitations of the federal government as are defined in the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, it is proper to add to the discussion of the mix of players the role of God. I have been saying for a number of years that there is more interrelationship between the political arena and the spiritual arena than most people are aware. This position is more fully understood with what I discuss above of trend of “the secularization of government.” So instead of only the four players mentioned above, we should be talking about the limited role of the federal government, state government, municipal government, the families and God. For example, I refer to Matthew 6:33 which says “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Does this principle mean that there should never be public assistance programs? No! Rather, this means that some spiritual principles should be considered together with other factors which are normally reviewed in such matters.
3. Closing Statement:
I have said that all statesmen are politicians but not all politicians are statesmen. This is a suitable place to make emphasis on this. There needs to be suitable positive change to city government and the prevailing cultural mentality. I’m not an insider! I am the best, most qualified and most suited of the five candidates to serve the important 131st District.
Also, I personally know Jack Banta and his lovely wife. Jack became Council member as an interim appointment. He may not have stood out significantly during his short tenure, however he is not a part of any political clique, he appears to be honest, and during the campaign, he has been exercising due diligence and doing research to understand better the municipal fiscal issues. I would be pleased and honored to serve this District with him.
I do not promise favors. Rather, I promise better city government.
Finally, I close again with II Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
May God bless the City of Bridgeport, the State of Connecticut and our great nation!
Que Dios bendiga a esta ciudad, el estado de Connecticut y nuestra gran nación!
David Goodman response
Brief on myself:
Military 3 years active and 17 National Guard, mostly food service. Schooled in the UK, went to college here, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford plus did National Rest Associations Management courses.
We pay enough now don’t you think.
School systems need a good overhaul a real looking into, why build new schools with the same problems it’s like buying a car that will not run no sense in it to me whatsoever.
The job issue well that is an issue, create work, not overpaid positions if you understand me meaningful work.
The elderly programs are much needed and most of the welfare programs too or should I say all, it’s not always their fault that it ended as such sometimes the system places people in different situations and it’s hard to find your escape route, all in all if you don’t care, don’t bother you are not much good for the district or the people.
I will stay in contact regardless of the outcome, I live here and have grandchildren in the school system. I will keep an eye on the way things are turning out for them and others, I keep things simple it seems to work better, you are not chasing around all the time trying to mend everything after time.