The Power Of ‘Curiosity, Humility And Empathy’–Do City Council Members Possess These Traits?

For many years, John Marshall Lee has doggedly appeared before the City Council beseeching members of the legislative body for an open, accountable, transparent government. Monday night he added three new words to the equation during the public speaking session that allows three minutes per person, instead of five, under the new rules, delivering a tighter version of the loquacious Lee that also provides room for consideration to his questions.

From Lee:

Question for you: In your opinion what was the most notable City activity or news of the past two weeks here in Bridgeport? A homicide found in public housing? The publication of the 2019’s compensation of the top 100 City employees? The shootout and wounding of four people near the courthouse? Or was it the Bridgeport Portrait Project, initiated in 2014 by local photographers, Jay Misencik and Geralene Valentine on display at UB?

Several hundred folks visited the Schelfhaudt Gallery at UB for the exhibit with more than 170 images of people from all parts of the City (and world originally), people of many talents, skills, persuasions, colors and pride. Photos were on the walls but a diverse human gathering had formed to see and hear about these people of Bridgeport. Some like Charles Coviello are no longer with us, and have already become a part of history. Since the artists saw their work as serving the future, a legacy for 50 years from now, most will no longer be around in 2070 to share their legacy in person.

The artists did attempt to record images of many folks, some famous and many less recognized. Ernie Newton and Michele Lyons of Council fame were among the 170 so far. With photos taken before November 2019 were Jorge Cruz and Maria Pereira. Maria was present to share responses.

To expect quality followership, good behavior to model from leaders is required. Presidential Historian John Meacham has recently declared that he views “curiosity, humility and empathy” as three critical traits for leaders. Where is the curiosity of this Council demonstrated? Where is the humility of a Mayor when permission from his office for participation of police and fire personnel is sought multiple times? Why are requests ignored rather than receive a courteous response? It is clear that photo ops and presence on TV cameras is looked at favorably by some in the City. Where is caring and feeling shown for all the people in the entire community?

All of y’all? Is it easier to ignore, to criticize or to be divisive in order to maintain power? What happens when you lose broad community respect and trust in the meantime? No cost to visit the exhibit. No cost at all to the City for a female police officer or a male fire officer to have their image in 21st Century garb captured? Curiosity? Humility? Empathy? These are the spiritual elements that make a difference in this City that will be seen, or not, in 2070. Time does tell.



  1. John
    I really did’t understand your point. Why is it that you can only look at the negative things going on in our city. Every council meeting we try to honor men and women and boys and girls for the good things people are doing in our City. Its a sad day when all you see, around you is things that you don’t like. You mention me about my picture being up at U.B, January was my Wife’s 60th Birthday so i couldn’t be there and I know you can’t take care of me if she puts me out because i think something else is more important then her Birthday. I’ve been on the city council since 2017-present and i’ve listen to all your speeches and not one has been positive of the good work men and women are doing in this city.

    1. Ernie, because he doesn’t really care. Not for nothing JML, this commentary seems critical and divisive. I think you have ignored the face the city was honoring and give out recipients of awards for making a Significant Community Impact helping the needy during the Thanksgiving and Holiday season of 2019. JML where was your curiosity, humility, and empathy” for these recipients it was not cost to say after your public speaking to the council. Did you lack the curiosity to stay, the humility to listen to their acceptance speech? You maybe you would understand empathy if you stayed to listen to Harry Bell talk about being a piece of the puzzle of the portrait of Bridgeport.

      P.S What section of town did Jesus live in? I’m not a Biblical scholar but isn’t Jesus like 2000 years old and from the Middle East. 🙂

    1. Rob
      I have no idea what you are saying. I’ve always listen to every speaker who has come before the City council to speak before us. We are there to listen. We are not there to debate what people say. My point is John comes always as if we don’t listen to what people are saying. I can only speak for me. Mr Cecil Young speaks at every council meeting I had our Labor Dept look into his complains. He didn’t get the response he was looking for . We do listen. Remember the City council didn’t put this project together on taking pictures. John should be asking the people who put this project together why no police 👮‍♀️ or firemen 🚒 was included.

      1. Ernie, you have no idea what I’m saying because you are not listing. 🙂 BAM!

        I think the listing part is not the problem it’s the response, to JML point.
        I didn’t attend this event, not saying I would have, but I didn’t even know it was happing. Like me, most of the broader community didn’t know as well. However, I have some questions for you, JML. I did see some cops. I saw council members, but I don’t see the mayor. You eloquently expressed that the mayor didn’t respond to the request of capturing first responders. Did they ask the AMR to have their EMT in full 21st-century garb photo taken? Did the ask the state to photo State Troopers from Troop G, in full 21st-century garb? Was there a request to have the mayor’ a portrait, and was it? If not, did he decline or not just respond to the request?

        Ernie, the reason JML looks for the negative is that he is divisive, I will take back he, “really don’t care” divisive is more fitting. John Meacham had once said, “You can’t divide the country up into sections and have one rule for one section and one rule for another.”

        He, JML, didn’t praise the Bridgeport Portrait Project of those who did participate, he criticized all those who didn’t or failed to show up.

        JML, I curiously, humbly, and with great empathy wait for your response to my questions especially if the captured the Mayor’s photo. I’m not asking time to tell. I’m asking you.

        P.S JML, don’t lose yourself in the negative over a photo. That night the mayor and city council honored many people and organizations who do positive things for the community of the Port that didn’t even get a request to have their portrait captured. JS.

        1. Rob
          My point is the city council had nothing to do with the portrait captured. I stated the only reason i couldn’t be there was it was my Wife’s Birthday. please help me understand why John feels its the city councils fought? Why no police firefighters etc was included.

          1. Let me see if I can help. Let me put on my foil hat. BAM!

            It’s a slow news day, and it not the council’s fault. 🙂

            It seems kinda trivial and one-sided. I find it someway tilling the mayor of the city was not in the poster of this program. I wonder if he was ever asked or have one in the exhibit, yet the permission was asked for police and firefights in uniforms seems to be an issue, Waiting on JML for an answers.

    1. Bob, the red boots continue in my possession but have not been brought to a meeting in more than one year. (Too few people seem to care about city finances who reside here unfortunately. It makes raising specific questions difficult, at the Council or even within the B&A Committee.) The net taxable Grand List has reached the Town Clerk this week. Did it really increase? Was that because of two utility giants? Did they indirectly or directly while located on our waterfront in order to serve many communities, lower City values for other waterfront locations?
      If the Grand List increased can the annual budget be far behind (and in anxious preparation)?
      Who remembers the advice from those experienced and richer that we should not raise the size of our operating expense budgets more rapidly than the growth of the property tax base as represented by the Grand LIst? Any predictions for 2020? Time will tell.

  2. Mayor Finch and Mayor Ganim have each been invited to sit for a portrait on more than one occasion I am informed. The project started in 2014 so the multiple dates when invitations were offered may be important.
    But the silence of the Ganim office during the past four years is telling inasmuch as 70 of the top 100 income earners from the City of Bridgeport during the 2019 fiscal year were employed as police officers or fire officers. Putting the women and men of these two valuable departments in their 2015-2020 garb for archival perspective has been the purpose. Yet Ganim is keeping his current reasons for ignoring such invitation secret? Time will tell.

  3. I am informed, sound like lawyer vernacular, to the best of my knowledge, plausible deniability. Has Finch or Ganim ever graced the wall? I have no ill-well against your red boots or you for that matter. Aren’t you for black and brown people of the Port? From my best guess, the Chief of Police was white and is now brown, Assistance Chief was a white male and is now a brown woman, with many other blacks and browns people joining the higher ranks and that list. I can’t speak of Finch’s 2nd or 3rd command in his administration but Joe’s are black. At any rate, what does the pay those men and women in the police department have to do with requesting them to participate in the full grab Bridgeport Portrait Project?

    P.S Have you ever been asked to grace the wall with your portrait and to be fair to Bil and Joe if they never graced the wall. It’s not like its the Louver?

  4. OIB readers,
    I have been a supporter of the Portrait Project since its first year in 2014. The concept that “people are the true strength of a city” was understood by Jay Misencik and Geralene Valentine. They have continued beyond their initial plan for “portraits” of about 75 local folks and are moving slowly towards nearly three times that number.
    I had a conversation with them on Wednesday and they provided a statement to share with OIB readers that may answer questions as to their activity, intent and current show. From Jay and Geralene, the creators and producers of the photo portraits of your neighbors and mine:
    “We are thankful for those who have participated thus far and respect the decisions of those who choose not to participate in our Bridgeport Portrait Project. (The exhibit continues at the Bernhard Center first floor gallery (on UB campus) through March 28 on weekdays for all to view.) It is an ongoing project, and we appreciate all comments, suggestions, including as to potential candidates, and criticism. If you would like to learn more about The Bridgeport Portrait Project, please contact us directly… ”

    JML: Thank you Jay and Geralene for your spirit and talent that over the past 6 years has done more to bring viewers to an understanding of what it means to be part of a larger community, available to neighbors when necessary, unafraid of being around folks who appear different, resistant to those who would separate us by age, faith, skin color, residential neighborhood, or opinion from each other. That is why last Saturday’s special Open House with so many of the photoed present, carried such a special, almost spiritual, message to those present. Will that happen again? Time will tell.


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