The Politics Of Education, Plus: Happy Anniversary To Us

12:30 p.m. UPDATE: This should be fun to watch. Guess who’s taking a look at running for the Board of Education?

Former City Councilman/mayoral candidate Keith Cougar Rodgerson. I’m also hearing that recently retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez may position herself for it. If Carmen wants it Cougie, a Democrat again, has a lot of work to do. Carmen has a long history with Bridgeport Democratic politics in a city that’s becoming more Latino every day.

With Bridgeport Board of Education President Max Medina announcing he’s not seeking another term, a slot has opened up.

On the Republican side, former State Senator Rob Russo is also considering a run, but that would depend on one of the board’s GOP members stepping down. Republicans are elected to the board as a result of mandated minority-party representation. During the one year Russo served in the state senate, as a result of a special election to fill the seat vacated by Mayor Bill Finch, Russo secured funding for a comprehensive audit of the BOE. He was defeated by Democrat Anthony Musto riding Barack’s blowout win in the city.

Serving on the BOE is a big commitment, a citywide position, for no pay, so high-profile primaries are not the norm, although BOE incumbent Auden Grogins was knocked off in a primary running on Bill Finch’s line in 2007. The blonde banshee turned right around and defeated Bob Keeley in a state rep primary a year later.

One of the last citywide primaries I was involved in came as a result of a BOE race 10 years ago. Joe Ganim was mayor and one day he says Mario’s in trouble with this primary. We have to help him. Several neighborhood activists (paging John from Black Rock) weren’t thrilled with some of Mario Testa’s BOE selections. This was a period when the then-and-now Democratic town chairman had taken a greater interest in the BOE. Lots of school construction means more work for Mario’s peeps.

One of Mario’s board members was the legendary pol Mickey Lanese, Mouse, as friends called him. Mouse did not appear to be the type of guy that could connect with the average inner-city student. Mouse was built for smoke-filled rooms, not BOE rooms.

Joe was concerned Mario’s slate would lose, and he was correct to feel that way. The Winthrop, Black Rock and Hooker School districts were being heavily organized by education-first operatives. When that happens that so-called political machine which isn’t nearly as well oiled as it used to be (in fact sometimes, it’s more a jalopy) is in trouble.

Joe, who was popular, put his prestige on the line to keep it close in the neighborhoods, and Mario did his absentee ballot thing. Mario’s slate survived, by a sliver.

The Mario I see today is mellow, cautious not nearly as aggressive as he used to be. That’s in part because his relationship with Mayor Bill Finch is not remotely close to what he had with Ganim. He has no king to protect. Publicly, Mario says all the right things about Finch. He’s the mayor, I support him, yadda, yadda, yadda. But there’s evidence that Mario and the mayor are doing better. The mayor is having a fundraiser at Mario’s restaurant in one week on March 19. Sounds like Mario will do his part to raise money.

Meanwhile, there’s a BOE seat to fill. If someone like Carmen Lopez wants it, Cougie has a lot of work to do. Will a Chris Caruso follower step up to challenge? Stay tuned.

We’re Having A Party

You can wish OIB a happy anniversary tonight. One year ago today we launched the independent version of the webzine, following our time at The Fairfield County Weekly. (Thanks to our friends at FCW.) In the past 30 days we had 13,000 visits, and traffic has never been larger, so thank you for checking out our unique slice of life in the state’s largest city. To celebrate, we’re throwing a little party (no grease required) at Matty’s Corner, at Fairfield Avenue and Brewster Street in Black Rock at 6 p.m. First cocktail on OIB, plus it’s happy hour between 6 and 7. And the genial proprietor Danny Roach is throwing us a spread. Say hello.

News release from Mayor Finch

East Side NRZ Workshop Slated for Sat. March 14

BRIDGEPORT, CT (March 12, 2009) – All interested stakeholders are invited to attend the East Side Revitalization workshop scheduled for Saturday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, 391 East Washington Ave.

The East Side Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) is a neighborhood-based effort sponsored by the City of Bridgeport .

The purpose of the public forum is twofold:

Ø To hear the East Side NRZ Planning Committee present some of their ideas for making the neighborhood a better place to live and work.

Ø To give all interested stakeholders a chance to react to these ideas and make their own suggestions.

“The formulation, and eventual approval, of this draft plan is another step in the continual revitalization of the East Side of Bridgeport,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “I urge all interested community members to attend this forum and take part in this very important discussion.”

The NRZ is in accordance with Public ACT 95-340 of the Connecticut General Statutes, an Act to Establish the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, and is a vital planning tool to help strategize a collaborative development vision for each targeted neighborhood that addresses each one’s distinctive needs.

The primary mission of the NRZ collaboration is to formulate a Strategic Plan for the East Side neighborhood that includes input from all stakeholders including residents, business representatives, non-profit organizations, health and other service providers, cultural and religious institutions and organized community associations. The objectives are to increase income levels of residents by advancing economic development and job creation; to increase home ownership and to create decent and affordable housing; and to assist in the creation of services for the youth, elderly and other disadvantaged members of the targeted community.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided by the East Main Street Revitalization Association and the City of Bridgeport. The event is sponsored by the East Side NRZ Planning Committee, Holy Rosary Church and Achievement First Bridgeport Academy. For more information, contact Paul T. Barnum, East Side NRZ chairman at 366.1226 or Angie Staltaro, City of Bridgeport at 673-6345.



  1. Great point Lennie that this city is more Latino every day, the time is finally coming to when the city of Bpt will have a Latino mayor and the old guard from Madison Ave. and the absentee ballot b.s. will be over. There is an African American president in the White House and it’s time for a Latino mayor in the the city of Bpt.
    I can see Andres Ayala stepping up in a few years and running away with the race.

  2. Education First … Educación Primero … now those were the days … community organizing … door by door and block by block … you are correct … we lost by a sliver … those damn dead people voting …

    1. One more quick post.

      With no mayoral race, this year would be a good time to get back back to the organizing model Education First used.

      It could be very effective in City Council races. It will be interesting to see if any coordinated city effort emerges.

  3. Just a quick post.

    Carmen Lopez would be an OUTSTANDING choice for the BOE. If the DTC is smart they will endorse her.

    BTW–Sorry I can’t make it tonight. I have to work late.

    BTW2–Andres Ayala is certainly worth considering as a mayoral candidate.

  4. Keith Cougar Rodgerson is a political puppet. He should not be allowed any role in Bridgeport municipal management at any level. I’m looking forward to commenting on any and all attempts by Rodgerson to further drive our city into the manipulating hands of those who have driven us to our present state of dismal existence.

  5. Gallup (the poll people) just released a “well being” study conducted in conjunction with America’s Health Insurance Plans. Connecticut, for all its aspects–good and bad–was ranked 19th nationally. That’s about just above middle of the pack.

    For those interested in slicing and dicing poll numbers and other such statistics, check out the link below. Come to your own conclusions about the “Land of steady habits.”

    As a Connecticut implant, I’ve always been intrigued by the state’s mindset. Is it another borough of NYC (a distinct condition around those low number exits on I-95)? Or does it deserve the Mark Twain moniker (Connecticut) ‘Yankee?’ (And no Lennie, we’re not talking about the guys in pinstripe uniforms from 161st Street in the Bronx.)

    As any interested OIB readers scan the poll results, please consider the following question and leave some thoughts for discussion. What town do you live in and do you really consider yourself a New Englander?

    Let’s have at it, gang!


  6. NYC Mayor Bloomberg inherited an ineffective and corrupt school system when he became mayor. Dropout rate exceeded 80%, funding soared to record levels, truly qualified teachers wanted no part of working there, test scores were abysmal, attendance horrid; just a complete waste of time. Job fairs actually had to be held in India just to get teachers to fill the math and science classrooms.

    Today the NYC school system is regarded as one of the best in the country. The waiting list for teachers to get hired is 5 deep for all positions. Attendance is way up. Graduation rates are highly improved as are test scores. More importantly, the students are leaving the system prepared. Whether it be for the trades or to the college classroom, NYC is producing graduates capable of meeting all challenges.

    The NYC system is 93+% minority. The person Bloomberg hired to turn around his BOE is an aristocratic Jewish guy named Harold Levy. No one in the history of all education in the USA has accomplished more.

    Just because a school system is populated with a diverse minority student body does not mean that the head man or woman must be of that minority. Bloomberg hired the RIGHT person based upon ability not political correctness. I hope we do the same. I am concerned and want the right people at the helm. Bloomberg bucked political correctness and succeeded. Who among us has the tenacity and moral courage to do the same … certainly not those of the ilk of “Cougar”.

  7. Off Subject:
    I find it very difficult to believe the talk that the Obama adminstration would appoint Chris Shays as “Peace Corps” director when he in fact functioned as a “War Director” under Bush. Nineteen trips to Iraq and back, what gives? Many of our Americans just get a one-way ticket there!
    Talk about oxymoron; Chris, when his butt was on the line during Viet-Nam chose to be a C.O. and did his service dancing the Hula under a Fiji sky.
    Someone is a moron if they make Chris the director of the “Peace Corps”.

  8. If Obama does nominate Shays he will be one of the few cabinet post appointees that has paid his taxes. War Director, that’s a bit much. Shays has experience in the peace corps. He did a fairly good job while representing this district and only lost because of the Obama landslide. Put this election out of the presidential arena and he would have won.

  9. Shays may have spent as much time in Iraq as a typical soldier or so it seems. But the business of the USA in Iraq is not only war but a simultaneous remediation of the infrastructure which returns to the oppressed Iraqi people a better life. Look at Shays’ agenda very carefully and you will see that his work in Iraq had little or nothing to do with the conduct of the war but of bringing about an improvement to the people as a whole. I think you will see that Shays spent his time improving schools, hospitals, electric and water distribution and ensuring a competent police force ETC. The man is a hero and should be given recognition by OB. If it’s the Peace Corps, so be it. I think he could do better and make an even bigger contribution to global security and well being. We really missed the boat by bumping this guy out of office.

  10. Lennie, I am sending my regrets–I’m not much of a party person and would put a damper on the joy by retreating to a corner and chewing on a bone. Congratulations for a job well done and keep up the good work for Bridgeport.

  11. Couldn’t agree more, yahooy. Attacking Shays for his trips to Iraq is ridiculous. Did any of these people hear his speeches to Congress after he returned from those trips? The ones when he told members of Congress about the armor needs of U.S. soldiers and the problems the soldiers were experiencing as they executed the war? If you feel those trips were worthless then you also think we should have just sent our troops over there and let them fend for themselves. Completely ludicrous.

  12. A few years ago the Hartford school district was taken over by the State Department of Education (Up on Bridgeport might be able to confirm this). They went through so many superintendents, each one starting out the same way, lotsa hoopla, pomp and ceremony and bold press conference statements. None of ’em lasted more than a year or so, all cashing out for a better gig somewhere else. Many of them used the old reliable get-out “I need to be closer to my family” but everyone reading the Courant knew that was a bunch of bullshit. The reason that all of these superintendents left town was the entrenched bureaucracy and the fifty-cent generals that jealously protect their turf. (The State Of Connecticut still oversees the Hartford school district, by the way.)

    Seats on the Board of Education should be appointed, not elective. If you give a job with a paycheck, only qualified professionals will apply for the job.

  13. Agreed Mr. Barnum, but the decision to go to war was made and I respect the man who makes the decision and then works hard to ensure the safety of the troops we send over there, rather than those who focus on condemning the action while not taking care of our troops while they still fight. I don’t think we should have invaded Afghanistan either, and now because of negligence, that situation has become almost unwinnable.

  14. Read “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander” by Thomas Merton and then the “defense” arguments the losers of conflicts and wars in this world make. It is always the same thing. My country right or wrong–or–I was just following orders (that’s a good nazi one).
    Remember Shays protected his ass during the Viet Nam war; his excuse was “I was doing the Hula, in a grass skirt”.
    Re: The armor needs of our troops??? Did you expect them to be sent there with sun-tan lotion and a beach chair? Wake up.
    The administration just did not get it.
    Shays got 19 trips there and accomplished WHAT? NOTHING.
    The war still goes on, sad as it is.
    The W-word guy did not have a clue.

  15. When it comes to Mr. Rodgerson, I’m more than a bit confused.

    First he serves on the City Council as a proud Democrat. Regardless of how much a pain-in-the-ass he might have been during that period, he still willingly drank the Democratic Party Kool-Aid.

    Then, seemingly out of the blue–WHAM!!!–he bolts the Dems to form his own 3rd party, Bridgeport First. At the time, I thought to myself, “OK, that’s dumb.” Stop being a member of the Democratic Party in an almost 100% Democratic city. Duh.

    But then I started listening to what he had to say. For example, from the CT Post of 10/26/2007 (and taken directly from Bridgeport First’s blog):

    “In March I decided to leave the Democratic Party because it did not meet my ethical standards,” Rodgerson, a City Council member representing the 133rd district said. “The Bridgeport First Party is an open tent for everyone interested in making the city a better place, but it is closed to money that would bring a bad influence into politics.”

    Well meaning, but good luck to ya’ come election day.

    Then, after a hiatus from the public eye–WHAM!!!–look who’s come back to the fold. Ah yes, the Prodigal Cougie.

    Tell me, has the Democratic Party membership changed that drastically for Mr. Rodgerson to feel comfortable enough to rejoin it?

    That’s kind of like a gambler who “sees the light” and starts railing against vice … only to show up a year later at Foxwoods asking for a job as a dealer.

    Where I come from, we call that “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  16. Chris Shays did a great job as a bi-partisan congressman for our district. Unfortunately political discourse is always at either the far right or the far left. Black Rockin and Mr. Barnum seem perfect examples.

    His Iraq stance, right or wrong, is not the sole determinant of his political life.

    I supported Iraq and Afghanistan. I agree that there were tremendous mistakes in strategy & execution that made it far more costly.

    I do not think that Bush/Cheney lied, people died is fair. If nothing else, they acted on the same intelligence that Clinton, the UK and the rest of the world accepted. Same Intelligence head served under Clinton as well. After 9/11 things changed.

    I believe removing Saddam was very important and it certainly impacted Libya & Syria to the world’s benefit.

    Having said all that, I think that we need to pull out of Afghanistan … They are a medieval, tribal culture that has consistently, continually warred with somebody. We cannot impact them positively as we may be able to with Iraq … Frankly let them blow each other to hell and if something else develops, send in the bombers, not the troops.

    I am used to getting slammed by friends and family for my opinions. But I use my name on this blog and others because I do not think it fair to stake a claim unless willing to accept the consequences. Wish there were a few more like me on this blog.

    1. Consequences???
      This is online typing in the comfort of your home. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that anyone–including me–is doing anything of great importance by sitting in front of a computer and spouting opinions. This is playland, plain and simple. Use of a legal name or online name is irrelevant. Accept the truth: this is merely masturbation with a keyboard.

      As for your calling me a “perfect example”of a leftist … thank you for the compliment.

      Blow them all to Hell and send in the bombers, huh?
      You sound a bit medievel and tribal yourself. Still, you have important ideas that need to be expressed so the world can have a vivid comparison to wisdom and human intelligence in regard to Iraq.


  17. Please let it be known here, at this place and at this hour that I, Yahooy, have no knowledge of who my new best friend “Imbecile Capital of Connecticut” is. (I wish you had chosen another name). You see, I am not the only one who thinks Cougar is a complete waste of time.

  18. Quiet night. Everybody must be at Danny’s place. Happy anniversary, Lennie. You did good.

    So I’m hearing that things are totally falling apart with the privatizing of the school -based health clinics. Alanna fucked up big time. She brokered quite the deal with the community health centers. The results: There are no services in all but 2 schools, services have been drastically reduced and the kids will be charged a fee. Parents and kids should be outraged. Just remember who the city councilmen were that approved this and remember it on election day.

    1. CHS, important to note is that the Mayor and His Staff allegedly promised Council Members that no services would be lost and that the Centers would operate as is, with the exception of being managed by a healthcare company and not the City of Bridgeport. Unfortunately, he LIED and MISLED many Council Members.

      In THEORY, the idea was good, but, it was NOT PRACTICABLE!!!

  19. Lennie, I am so sorry I missed the party. Happy Anniversary! However, I have a good reason. I spent a long and fruitful day up in Hartford talking with Legislators and agency people about funding for my wind company. I was at the press conference held by the Speaker of the House and House members of the Energy and Technology Committee who pledged to keep energy funding intact. The Governor had proposed draining much of these funds and putting them into the general fund. Many of the efforts that are funded through these programs actually employ many people and provide $4 dollars back for every $1 dollar spent. Anything that produces jobs and revenue must remain intact. If the $40 million were taken out, it was estimated that $180 million would be lost. So kudos to the legislature and a special thank you to Rep. Terry Backer for his commitment to energy and the environment.

    I also ran into five members of the Bridgeport delegation. Some … were very friendly and happy to see me. Even though the general atmosphere was somber and serious, I still couldn’t help feel that the State has been here before (2003) and we came out of it then and with the right leadership we will come out of it again.


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