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.