Some of the best fights I’ve ever attended took place at the Bridgeport City Council, and admission was free. The joke was I went to a hockey game the other day and a City Council meeting broke out. Former Councilman Tom Mulligan had a line for the twice-monthly meetings: the Monday Night Fights.
Chris Caruso and Ed Gomes, now both state legislators, had some classic give and takes.
“You’re a tyrant.”
“You’re a fat slug.”
When the unemployed Caruso would rail about a new job position, wily Councilman Bernie Katz retorted: “Hey, Chris that would be a good job for you.”
Yell, scream, bang the gavel.
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re a moron.”
Council members weren’t exactly into elegant insults.
Monday night I showed up at council chambers to receive an official City Council Citation, as did 14 others in various categories, for OIB winning Best Blog in the 2008 Fairfield County Weekly Readers Poll. Representatives from Home On The Range, Timothy’s Ice Cream, Two Boots, Joseph’s Steakhouse, Tuozzoli Auto Sales and others also received presentations from Council President Tom McCarthy and Mayor Bill Finch.
One of the first guys I ran into was Connecticut Post reporter Bill Cummings.
“Hey Bill, what are you doing here?”
“I’m not writing for tonight. I just showed up in case there was a fight.”
That’s the spirit. You just never know when a fight will break out.
Councilman Bob Walsh, the trollish figure who’s sort of like a kid with matches and gasoline, was planning to fillet the city administration for not supporting his desire to have the council authorize selection of City Bond Counsel, a big-ticket item awarded to Walsh’s former pal John Stafstrom, former Democratic town chairman.
These days Walsh and Stafstrom are generally on opposite teams. Walsh supports State Rep. Bob Keeley. Stafstrom supports former council member Auden Grogins. The two face off one week from today on Tsunami Tuesday.
Bridgeport News Editor Brad Durrell, a fixture through the years at council meetings, was also on hand taking notes, positioned nicely just in case the flamethrowers erupted.
When my name was called to receive the citation, a few cheers and a few boos (I hope they were mock boos) echoed the acoustically unfriendly auditorium. I took a photo with the mayor, whose successful campaign for state senate I managed in 2000, and the council president who received his first paying campaign gig from me nine years ago, and promptly told them, “I love blackmail photos.”
I informed the mayor and Mac that Caruso would challenge the results of the citation in Superior Court. And, of course, I won because of absentee ballots.
We were all on our best behavior because my wife Mo came along to see the show. It was her first time at any sort of legislative meeting. I introduced her to the likes of former mayoral candidate Charlie Coviello and his sidekick Barry “Spanky” Piesner, both of whom worked for the mayor’s election and are not happy hizzoner had no jobs to offer, the unforgettable urban warrior Cecil Young, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn and Chief of Staff Adam Wood.
When the council went into caucus (for what I don’t know) the mayor elbowed me gently to say hello to Mo. We chatted a bit. He talked about the kids, the successful Vibes festival, the city, the job, the concessions he needs from unions to keep the budget in balance.
Finch was a member of the City Council in 1992 when Mayor Joe Ganim, the city literally in bankruptcy court as a result of his predecessor’s action, achieved significant union concessions, including unpaid furloughs, to save the city from financial catastrophe. Finch is giving up a week’s pay too.
There’s going to be a lot of yelling, screaming and teeth gnashing during these negotiations, but I hope Finch secures concessions. After all, what’s a little fighting for a greater cause.