The Power Of Organized Opposition And A Large Voter Turnout Defeat Ballot Question

What did we learn from the defeat of the education ballot question? The traditional Democratic Party apparatus, even well financed, is vulnerable to defeat in higher turnout elections, especially in the face of organized opposition. Small election turnouts they can control, large turnouts they cannot.

Small turnouts are field driven. Large turnouts are message driven. The mayor’s political organization has pretty much had its way in races involving low voter performance. What we saw Tuesday is the defeat of a local ballot question by folks who don’t generally vote in local elections. Mayoral elections, be it primary or general, produce turnouts roughly in the 20 to 25 percent range. The city turnout in Bridgeport Tuesday (waiting on the official number) was about mid 50 percent.

The calendar got in the mayor’s way in his quest to appoint school board members. His other option was to wait a year and isolate the charter question in a low-turnout year such as 2013 with City Council and Board of Education seats on the agenda. The mayor’s strategists could have waited, but they decided to go forward. No one can accuse them of conveniently wiring this vote to a narrow turnout. They brought the question to the largest universe. But a lot of credit for the question’s defeat must go to the organized opposition, an eclectic group of social, political and clergy action groups that coalesced behind a simple message. “Vote No. Don’t let them strip your voting rights.”

It’s a message that plays well with African American voters who appreciate the struggle to win the vote. There were very few precincts where the Yes vote won overwhelmingly. There were many precincts, several of those African American dominated precincts, with large No votes. The Bridgeport Education Association, Connecticut Working Families Party, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition and a slew of neighborhood and political activists, Democrats and Republicans, worked to torpedo the question. They had money and workers.

Spending records were shattered. The mayor did something that hadn’t been done in a long time for a charter vote, he reached out to the business community to finance his campaign for yes. They included hospitals and utilities. Tom Kelly of Black Rock who voted no on the question is among a number of activists bewildered by the hospital money spent on the effort, as he writes in a letter to the editor:

I strongly suggest that our two local not-for-profit hospitals, Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s Medical Center, better spend their money on health care and not ballot issues. They each donated over fourteen thousand dollars to a political action committee for the thickly veiled educational ballot question in Bridgeport. My suggestion is that these leaders go into their own deep pockets individually on such issues. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to do No Harm. These two hospitals by taking such action became Hypocritical Oafs!

StudentsFirst, the education reform group started by Michelle Rhee, made an enormous independent expenditure in the cause of a yes vote. Excel Bridgeport, financed by regional business interests in the cause of education reform, also made independent expenditures. Detractors claim Excel Bridgeport was created to shill for the mayor. Supporters say it was created to be both a support group and watchdog of city schools. They are engaging parents to be more involved in the city school system. The organization pledges a long-term presence in the city.

So where are we now? The mayor says he will not throw up his hands and walk away from a school system in which he says he has no direct control. He does, however, have the power to decide how much money the district receives. Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, the turnaround specialist, says he will leave at the end of the school year. Does anyone doubt the current school system is in better hands today than during the era of former school chief John Ramos who threw in the towel? Vallas’ replacement will be key.

With the charter question defeat, how will the Board of Education move forward with school business? Two members aligned with the Connecticut Working Families Party, Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka, a source of irritation for the mayor, are up for reelection next year. Will they run? Will they continue fighting for the sake of fighting? Is it possible for diplomacy to prevail?

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23 comments

  1. I voted no but never expected no to win because of how I saw the yes was pushing this plus the yes people were at the polls in numbers but they had no character at all, very rude and unprofessional and it said a lot about the people total who hired them. Can you please get me the Black Rock results for president and senate and one more thing were absentee ballots included in the president race or any race in Bridgeport?

  2. Birdman must be pissed, I hear Alanna Kabel has been given marching orders to start the inquisition. Her and Andy Nunn have fired up the hot oil, iron lady and the stretching rack; torture will be the order of the day.

  3. UI has outages bouncing all over their interactive map, but power has been out for almost two hours in the South End. I do believe I am at the corner of ticked off and wit’s end.

  4. For their own good reasons the ‘alerted’ voters of Bridgeport decided they did not understand how Mayoral accountability would work with a Mayor appointing nine BOE members. Some did not see enough of Mayor Finch’s current Accountability to Charter language as I have previously noted. Many saw the $300 Million (including Grants) available in the BOE budget as too much temptation for an administration that still has not indicated whether the 2011-12 fiscal year showed a surplus or a deficit. I guess they are waiting for the external audit.
    What about a Charter Review process with some astute financial residents (maybe some who volunteered for the 2012 group but who were neither selected, nor thanked for volunteering)? Has courtesy and collegiality totally disappeared with the royalty in the castle?
    Well there will be no King under the current Charter, thankfully. But perhaps discussion about goals, objectives and measurable metrics to chart school progress can proceed? Remember as Wanda Jeeter kept telling me yesterday, the Charter review is about the kids, not the Mayor! Right! And you still have your right to vote! Right, and I asked if she had read the document and she thought she had read most of it.
    But the kids knocking on doors had not read the document, and they had not been told voters would lose the right to vote for BOE representatives. And in my opinion there was nothing else among the 70 changes that would tempt me to surrender that responsibility, even if 90% of parents ignored the Democratic Mayoral primary in 2011 when I greeted visitors to Longfellow and found they only came to deliver or receive their child for travel home, not to vote.
    Educational governance reform might start with the Mayor and the BOE messaging often and effectively becoming and staying informed connects with voting for representation, and failure to vote intelligently on BOE, at least, is a form of child neglect.
    In the larger picture several things might be accomplished in the very near future:
    ** The NO leaders should prepare a letter to all press outlets in Fairfield County to thank the donors of all those YES dollars that were spent in a wasted effort. We are not to be pitied as residents, rather we are to be understood as temporary victims of a predatory administration that has used every tool in its power to eliminate proper checks and balances in governance structure, to limit public opportunity to know, to manipulate all appointments to 20 or more Boards and Commissions by maintaining vacancies and expired terms, by ethical standards different and lower than our neighboring communities, etc.
    Why not raise money to monitor our fiscal process and Charter duties? Why not ask our external auditor why they cannot provide a copy of the complete Annual correspondence from that auditor to the City and the reply of the City? (This is not something the previous Finance Director would release. There are comments on internal controls that might be embarrassing, I suspect.) And there are some questions to be raised on City expenditures in the past couple years that seem to harbor some sloppy or inept bookkeeping at a minimum … and if that includes State or Federal funds or grants, perhaps Ms. Kabel will have other things on her hands in the very near future. Time will tell.

    1. “Remember as Wanda Jeeter …”
      I sure do. She is the Andres Ayala/Ezequiel Santiago/Jorge Cabrera/George Estrada of the Black Community in P.T. Barnum. I wonder who are her other relatives who will get new or remodeled Public Housing units.

  5. And what about the dollars that flowed to the YES effort from the institutions in our community? Did it arrive because each NGO Board of Directors approved of the payment? Did the request ever show the entire work of the Charter group, or the 70 changes, or the Charter question itself? Did anybody bother to read such, if provided, or question how the contributions would be spent? My experience is those would have been important to include in a request. Do you think the leaders of contributing institutions will get an education now in what they have overlooked on behalf of the Bridgeport voting public? Perhaps they can become part of the faculty to educate rather than the treasury to subvert basic freedoms like voting.
    By the way the YES coalition kept asking did we know the name of our BOE representatives. Ignorance of same was equated as plain ignorance that should yield to Mayoral accountability, I guess. However, to the extent that many of the YES folks did not know voting rights were being sacrificed to Mayor Finch’s appetite for total power, yet once every four years accountability, I guess ignorance was rampant on both sides.
    And speaking of ignorance, can the Mayor tell us whether the June 30, 2012 fiscal year end left us with a SURPLUS or DEFICIT, yet??? That should be kind of easy (unless the books and accounting are in a real mess), right? Time will tell.

  6. “… Small election turnouts they can control, large turnouts they cannot …”

    True, Lennie. This is where the organized opposition fails. It is during the small election turnout period the organized opposition MUST step up. The reason there are turnouts that are larger is because of the opposition pulling more voters with their call to action. If the organized opposition work just as hard during the low-turnout election period, it will be much easier and more successful during the larger election turnout periods. We must continually build and increase the number of the opposition with a continued effort to inform the Gullorant.

    “… It’s a message that plays well with African American voters who appreciate the struggle to win the vote. There were very few precincts where the Yes vote won overwhelmingly. There were many precincts, several of those African American dominated precincts, with large No votes …”

    The message plays well in the Hispanic community. But when they are misled and lied to by their paid-for leaders, the opposition has to work three times as hard One of the few places where the yes won overwhelmingly was Marin School. I spent some time there debating some (four of them simultaneously) of the most Gullorant Hispanics I’ve debated in a while. They were Andres Ayala’s crew. No wonder why our students are doing so poorly. They got a little taste of Speedy. There was a tremendous shortage of Hispani actively supporting the NO opposition and that made me work four times as hard in the 130th district.

    “… Detractors claim Excel Bridgeport was created to shill for the mayor. Supporters say it was created to be both a support group and watchdog of city schools. They are engaging parents to be more involved in the city school system. The organization pledges a long-term presence in the city …”

    This is why the opposition must continue this effort. Excel “pledges a long-term presence in the city.” The likes of Jorge Cabrera must be removed from any participation in Bridgeport matters. Go back to Hamden and stay there! As long as I’m around I won’t stand for anyone lying and taking advantage of the less informed. If they do it for Excel, on behalf of the mayor and others, they will do it against anyone who opposes their masters.

    “… Two members aligned with the Connecticut Working Families Party, Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka, a source of irritation for the mayor, are up for reelection next year. Will they run? Will they continue fighting for the sake of fighting? Is it possible for diplomacy to prevail?”

    I bet they will run–they’ve earned the opportunity three times. They’re not fighting for the sake of fighting–they fight for the sake of transparency. The mayor and his clan have brainwashed the masses and there’s a lot that needs to be done to inform them of the facts.

          1. Godiva2011, I don’t think Webster or any other dictionary buys words. It has to go mainstream for them to consider including it in their list of words. At least it made you laugh and that’s a good sign. There was a time when I was one of the most hated bloggers. I’m usually misunderstood by new OIB readers and posters, but as time goes by we all tend to agree to disagree. It’s funny you wrote “his little world.” Last night (it was like 6:30am) before I went to bed I wrote on my Facebook: I’m not trying to take on the world, I only take on those who think the world revolves around them.

          2. Thank goodness. I was believing it was a real word. Uh, oh!?! I hope that does not make me Ignullible. (You know, ignorant and gullible.)

  7. *** When enough people get involved and educate the masses, it is possible to beat the machine. Most voters who voted “no” knew exactly why they were voting that way, while some who voted “yes” really didn’t have a clue why, or were fooled by the tricky question and political ads altogether! Maybe if from the beginning the vote “yes” advocates would have been much more up front and truthful with the voters, there might have not been so much of a voter backlash. In any case, it was a good win and sends a message that regardless of money spent to fool the people, the truth sooner or later prevails! As far as some of the other candidate wins like Murphy who was helped by being in a blue state and on Obama coattails, was lucky. McMahon ran a good campaign right from the start and framed the issues and got my vote but fell short. Iannuzzi gave it a shot with little support or interest from his opponent or from the district in general and also got my vote but fell short to the Obama backlash and the usual Zombie lack of interest! Bpt also got its first Latino state senator of which I’m proud and hope Mr. Ayala does a good job for his district, city and state. Himes was expected to win so it was a give-me as well as S. Ayala who’s city staff did a good job with the overall election dodging major problems from what I’ve heard. *** Lennie I’m going to sound like donj and ask what was the overall percentage of poll voters plus AB voters from Bpt for this election? This was what elections in Bpt are supposed to be like, whether Fed, State or local! *** HERE WE GO! ***

  8. Lol at Joel. Yes mojo this is what an election should look like in the city. I voted no and was shocked no won easily with all the yes people around the precincts. A big shocker of the night was how horrible Linda ran in Bridgeport, she did not even crack 20% of the vote. I knew Murphy was going to win but not by that huge margin, he got 82% of the vote in Bpt. One more thing that shocked me was the state wide results for senate, Murphy won easy by double digits and he beat Linda in a lot of suburban towns I thought he was going to lose. Proud of my city that they came out and voted no in a large turnout of voters, it was no zombie land here last night. I drove by tons of precincts and boy Blackham was one precinct that looked like a traffic jam at 6pm you should have seen it, they were busy. Black Rock school where I voted at yesterday morning had a weird field I could not tell if turnout was high or normal because when I visited and passed by during the day there were no long lines but I suspect the reason for this was because there was more than one person checking in people, before there was just this one guy checking in people, that made lines at the school for previous elections. Lennie I am still waiting on the Black Rock Numbers.

  9. Linda made the same mistake twice. The first time she didn’t have a Bridgeport headquarters. The second time she put a headquarters in a sector of town–Black Rock–that doesn’t quite like to be called Bridgeport and as close as it could be to Fairfield. To make matters worse, she hires a Bridgeport campaign manager from Fairfield who believed campaigning in Bridgeport was the same as campaigning in Fairfield.

    Money was not a problem for Linda. One problem was the result of the McMahon endorsement from John Slater and other Republicans. This splintered a party that was already splintered. What should have Linda McMahon done? She should have opened up four Bridgeport headquarters–one on the East Side; West Side (covering Black Rock); East End; and one on the North End. The headquarters should have been opened at least 8 months before the elections. Linda McMahon should have scheduled at least one visit to Bridgeport every month
    and had activities set up for her every arrival. She should have sent her message of a job creator by placing ‘we are hiring’ signs around town and newspaper ads. She should have hired bilingual speaking or Hispanics from Bridgeport. She should have targeted the prime voters and homeowners in particular. She should have voiced her support for the NO initiative and assigned two workers from each headquarters to work with the Yes opposition.

    Linda McMahon spent more time visiting Connecticut farms and factories and not barely enough time in the Circus called Bridgeport.
    She should have hired Joel Speedy Gonzalez and Lennie Grimaldi as consultants. Could of, should of, would of; it’s too late now!

    1. What Linda should have done is NOT run for anything in this state. She stiffed people 36 years ago and got away with it by declaring bankruptcy and the only reason she even finally paid these people was because it damaged her campaign. GO AWAY LINDA.

      1. I agree with Black Rock Guy. I’d be disappointed if Lennie Grimaldi had anything to do with McMahon. I would imagine Joel Gonzalez was responsible for all of her signs on public property. My take on Linda McMahon and the city of Bridgeport: Her biggest mistake was assuming if she paid some members of the Black and Latino community and said it was okay to vote for her and Barack Obama, they would be so ignorant to do so. A vote for LINDA would have been another thorn in Obama’s side. I am proud city residents were not ignorant enough to buy into the ROBO calls from former NAACP leaders and some local pastors. It is great people are beginning to think for themselves and not take their lead from the pulpit. The Catholic church proved their inability to influence votes in this election and the mMillions spent on gay marriage is a testament to their obsolescence in Maine, Washington and Maryland.

  10. Lmao at Joel, I hear what you are saying but she ran horribly state wide. She lost many many small towns that were very shocking to me and she only got 17% of the vote in Bridgeport yes you heard right she only got 17% of the vote in Bridgeport. She did better in 2010 in Bridgeport than she did in 2012 and in 2012 she had an office here and she had people working hard for her in the city and she did worse in the city. To be honest the people of CT rejected her twice statewide by double digit margins, she needs to go away now.

  11. A new word that is made from two existing words is called a “portmanteau.” My dictionary isn’t clear on where that comes from. Wikipedia, which I don’t trust, said it comes from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

    Since nothing is more “Alice in Wonderland” than Bridgeport politics, I’d say that combining gullible and ignorant into gullorant is a portmanteau. It also fits nicely that this information comes from Wiki, which I don’t trust, since I don’t trust anything I ever hear about Bridgeport politics either without seeing it for myself.

    I believe this proves Joel is a creator of words in the English language, a topic of education in Bridgeport public schools. He should be hired as an English teacher at Bassick High School. He lives in the neighborhood and home room can be extended a good eight or 10 blocks around the school as a result. If he can teach the kids not to be gullorant, Bridgeport is on its way back.

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