This one will be fun to watch. It probably doesn’t have the force of law and won’t become a major issue again until the 2011 mayoral election, but the Bridgeport City Council Monday night voted almost unanimously to seize authorization of City Bond Counsel, an outside legal adviser currently handled by the law firm Pullman & Comley that employs John Stafstrom, former Democratic Town Chair and friend of Mayor Bill Finch.
Background: P&C has served in that capacity for more than 10 years, advising the city on a variety of complex financial transactions involving bonding and land acquisitions. The legal work through the years has meant millions to the law firm. P&C is a respected law firm and Stafstrom a bright attorney. So, what’s the rub? The City Council, which in most instances approves city contracts, has never approved bond counsel.
City Charter and state law provide the city attorney (Mark Anastasi) wide latitude to select outside legal assistance. Several council members, including Stafstrom political enemy Bob Walsh, say Anastasi interprets his authority too broadly. Walsh has also deftly turned this into a minority contracting issue to win support of his peers.
This is what you call a good old-fashioned political dispute. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, who knocked Stafstrom out of power in March, had a hand in this, sending a message to both Stafstrom and Finch that he has juice with council members.
Fascinating is that for this one moment in time Walsh and Testa are aligned on a political issue. (Your enemy is my enemy.) Could this be the start of a friendship between The Troll and Testa? Probably not, but you never know. P&C’s contract with the city was recently renewed for three years. It will come up again smack in the middle of the 2011 mayoral race. But between now and then races will take place for City Council, Democratic Town Committee and vote for town chair. Stay tuned.
Count On Mount
The good folks at My Left Nutmeg ran a nice profile today about OIB friend Michele Mount who’s running for the state rep seat that covers all of Monroe and part of Newtown. Michele served as director of legislative services for Bridgeport until she resigned to devote her attention to the campaign. Check it out at www.myleftnutmeg.com.
What A Race
All the talk about the high-octane interest in this presidential election has me thinking about the two mayoral elections that caused me coverage whiplash as a young scribe.
Republican Lenny Paoletta’s win over Democrat John Mandanici in 1981 and Paoletta’s reelection in 1983 that included Democrat Charlie Tisdale and Mandy running as an independent.
Mob hits, fire bombings, bulletproof vests, charges, counter charges: you name it, those elections had it. The ’83 race, 25 years ago, is memorable because you’re never going to see a turnout like that again in a mayoral election. Lenny won the election 16,000 to Tizzy’s 15,000 to Mandy’s 10,000. Turnout was approximately 70 percent. Yes, that’s correct, 70 percent. Three full-blown operations. (By contrast Bill Finch won last year’s mayoral election with 9,700 votes.)
Mandy had served the city for three terms before Lenny squeaked a 64-vote win, amidst an FBI probe of Mandy’s administration and party chaos. (Mandy was not charged.) Think of a cross between John Fabrizi and Archie Bunker and you have Mandy. Pure emotion, in your face, sausage finger in my chest: “Look, you guinea bastard,” he’d say to me, “here’s how you’re going to write this story.” Jesus, this is what being a reporter is all about?
For his part, Lenny had balls that clanked. Handsome and stubborn, he could turn a pretty good line. Mandy really didn’t worry about appearances, so Lenny promised: “One of the images we will improve upon is how the mayor conducts himself in public.”
Tizzy emerged as the single greatest political organizer in the city. Cagey, calculating, smart, he had challenged Mandy in a 1981 primary. Mandy won, but couldn’t make peace with Tizzy. Fifty percent of the black community, believe it or not, voted for the Republican. Two years later Tizzy won the primary, in a field loaded with white guys, becoming the first African American to run on a major-party ticket in the city. Some party regulars, and white voters suspicious of Tizzy, split off with Mandy.
Two ways to look at this race: two Dems splitting the vote for a Lenny win or two white guys splitting it for Tizzy. Lenny survived, got into a fight with Superintendent of Police Joe Walsh, raised taxes and was smoked by Tom Bucci in the general election in 1985, my first campaign effort. I was press secretary. Guess who was campaign manager? Yes, Chris Caruso. Chris was indomitable then and nothing has changed.
Twenty-five years later, we have the first African American to lead a major party and first Republican woman nominated for vice president. One of them will get it in, forever changing presidential demographics.
Polls show the McCain-Obama race tight. For the latest polls, check out www.rasmussenreports.com. For my money, even though he is decidedly right-leaning in personal makeup, Scott Rasmussen is one of the best pollsters in the country.
Little things mean a lot in these kinds of races. McCain looked into the camera Monday morning at a campaign stop to announce that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. (Right, and I own nine freaking houses!) Then one of McCain’s operatives reminded his candidate that the largest financial freefall since 9-11 had occurred that day. McCain changed his tune. Egad!
This is the kind of stuff that Congressman Christopher Shays and his Democratic opponent Jim Himes want to avoid. You don’t want to appear out of touch. Shays also recently said the fundamentals of the economy are strong. The congressman’s campaign launched a new television spot. See below:
SHAYS SUPPORTS COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY POLICY
New television advertisement focuses on Shays’ efforts to energize our economy
Norwalk, CT – September 15, 2008 – Congressman Christopher Shays (CT-4) released a new television advertisement Friday, highlighting his bipartisan efforts in Congress to enact a comprehensive energy policy that will fuel our country’s economic growth. The advertisement, which is now airing on cable systems across the Fourth Congressional District, includes testimonials from constituents about Shays’ ongoing work to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.
“This ad speaks volumes about Christopher’s commitment to solving our nation’s energy crisis,” said Michael Sohn, Shays’ campaign manager. “He understands the burden high gas and home heating oil prices place on families across the Fourth Congressional District, and the subsequent strain that puts on our economy.”
Shays joined Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to introduce the Energy For Our Future Act, which will save Americans money by increasing fuel economy standards, doubling the tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles, repealing excessive tax breaks given to oil companies, and incentivizing the purchase of energy-efficient appliances. Last year, Shays voted for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires automakers to boost their fleetwide gas mileage to 35 mpg by 2020.
In August, Shays returned to Washington in the midst of a five-week recess to protest the adjournment of the House without a vote on a sensible energy policy. He was the only member of the Connecticut delegation present for the debate on the dimly lit House floor.
“Christopher has real legislation on the table and is ready to move forward when the Democratic leadership in Congress wants to debate and vote on a comprehensive energy plan,” Sohn explained. “Christopher knows the important economic value in a forward-looking energy policy and that’s why he’s working hard to implement one.”
In New England, the cost of home heating oil could reach $5 a gallon this winter. To ease the burden, Shays introduced the Home Heating Oil Assistance Act, which provides a $500 tax credit for the purchase of home heating oil. He’s also working with Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) to double funding of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
If you love Connecticut, the state Manual and Register (aka Blue Book) is a must for the bookshelf. See news release from Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz below:
Bysiewicz Dedicates 2008 ‘Blue Book’ to Connecticut Women Who Have Served in Congress
Secretary of the State Also Honors Members of the Military from Connecticut who Gave Their Lives in 2008 During Annual Dedication of State Register and Manual
Hartford: Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today paid tribute to 6 women from Connecticut who served in the United States Congress by dedicating the 2008 State Register and Manual to them at a state capitol ceremony in the Old Judiciary Room. The six honorees include Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) and former U.S. Reps Nancy Lee Johnson (CT-5) and Barbara Bailey Kennelly (CT-1). Three other honorees, including former Governor Ella Grasso, and former U.S. Representatives Clare Boothe Luce and Chase Going Woodhouse were recognized posthumously.
“At a time when women are reaching new heights in elective office, these outstanding women are the heroes that have blazed that trail,” said Secretary Bysiewicz, “These outstanding women not only served in the United States House of Representatives but also distinguished themselves as mothers and successful career women. Through their dedication to public service and the struggle for equal rights for all, they have left an indelible mark in the history of our state and our country. They are my heroes.”
The Office of the Secretary of the State publishes the State Register and Manual every year, which is also referred to as the “Blue Book.” This book contains the state constitution, all of the general statutes, and is essentially an encyclopedia of demographic and political information on elections in Connecticut and all 169 municipalities. 2008 is the 121st year that the Secretary of the State’s office has published the Blue Book. Each year this official register and guide serves as a valuable reference for everyday citizens, along with lawmakers, reporters, historians, teachers and students.
In 2008 Secretary Bysiewicz’s office has published more than 9,000 of these books and many will be distributed to schools, municipalities, and libraries across the state, as well as lawmakers, government officials and private citizens. Far beyond containing the interesting and trivial, the Blue Book serves an official snap shot of Connecticut .
“Among other things, the Blue Books will inform people when their local taxes are due and help residents learn about the state they live in. For instance, it contains historical information such as the oldest town in Connecticut is – Windsor (settled in 1633 and named Windsor 4 years later),” said Bysiewicz, “The Blue Book also tells us that 1,570,161 Connecticut residents cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election – a number we are definitely going to top this year!”
Secretary Bysiewicz also dedicated the Blue Book to three members of the military who gave their lives in the line of duty between June 2007 and April 2008. Those honorees awarded the distinction posthumously for 2008 are: Army Private 1st Class Andre Craig Jr. of New Haven ; Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Jason D. Lewis, a native of Brookfield ; and Army Sergeant Jason Lantieri of Killingworth. All three were killed in the line of duty in Iraq .
Accepting the Blue Books on behalf of the families of the fallen troops with Connecticut ties was Colonel Ron Welch of the Connecticut National Guard. Each soldier’s family will receive a complimentary copy of the book signed by Secretary Bysiewicz.
For more information about the Blue Book and to order a copy, visit the Secretary of the State’s web site www.sots.ct.gov or call 860-509-6200.