What the hell is going on around here? Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy protection. Merrill Lynch agrees to sell to Bank of America. Insurance giant AIG seeks a bridge loan from the Federal Reserve. Former fed chief Alan Greenspan says John McCain’s tax-cut proposal, without appropriate spending cuts, is nuts.
I just can’t wait for the Ice Lady to save us from all of this. So hot, so smart, so keenly engaged in staring down atrocities from her bedroom window that she hired her high school chum, with a love for cows, to head the Alaska Division of Agriculture for $95K a year. Yes, that’s what will solve the energy crisis: cow flatulence. Hey, Sarah, McCain will say, blow some of that my way. Yummy, baby. Hey, Cindy, get a hit off this!
If all politics is local (and it is) this reminds me of 1991, when political neophyte Mary Moran, whose fire-breathing rhetoric in 1989 had captivated Bridgeport voters to do the most liberal thing ever recorded in the city’s electoral history (elect a female mayor) plunged the city into federal bankruptcy court. All will be saved, she said. We will break union contracts. We will start fresh. We will save the city.
Horseshit. Wall Street threw a fit. Overnight Bridgeport’s credit worthiness was shot. Want to build a school? Forget it. Want to fix a bridge? No way. Want people to invest in the city? Drop dead. Mary Moran and her bankruptcy advisers were smart and everyone else was stupid. Moran was at war with the state and a financial review board she inherited form her predecessor Tom Bucci. Meanwhile, in the New England banking crisis eating away at the economy, local institutions such as Citytrust and Mechanics & Farmers died the gooey death. It was awful.
When Joe Ganim replaced Moran as mayor the city enjoyed a period of stability with a lot of help from city unions. Ganim balanced budgets and stabilized taxes, and the financial review board went away. Joe, years later, had other problems that had nothing to do with his early governing successes.
The financial fallout from the early 1990s is fresh on my mind because I’ve just completed a biography of retired People’s Bank Chief Executive David Carson. Bow Tie Banker tells the story of an immigrant’s unconventional rise as chief executive of the largest bank in America’s wealthiest state. Carson, as a member of the financial review board, was trying to keep the city and his bank afloat at the same time. We expect to have the book ready for commercial release in a few months.
A lot of stuff is going on in the city today that will determine if the city suffers a similar fate as the early 1990s.
Speaking of city finances, I spoke to City Councilman Bob Walsh this morning about Councilman Bob Curwen’s proposal to eliminate staff support for the legislative body as a cost-cutting measure. Said Walsh: “Get rid of the stipends too.” Each council member receives a $9,000 per year expense account. Walsh hasn’t accessed his stipend in years.
Mojica On Ballot
If nothing else, Ralph Mojica will make his independent run for the state house fun. The former member of the Bridgeport City Council has qualified to challenge Democrat Ezequiel Santiago and Republican Joel “Speedy” Gonzalez in the 130th State Assembly District that covers the South End, Downtown and portions of the East Side and West Side. This race should be a walk in the park for Eze. But Ralph will be there sticking a finger in the eye of his opponents. It gives him a platform to stay visible in the political community. Joel gives as good as he takes. Hey, maybe all three will show up at the OIB party September 25, 5:30 at Captain’s Cove Seaport. We don’t care that the Bridgeport DTC is throwing a picnic that night. All OIB supporters are welcome.