The Real Deal On Regional Cooperation, Plus: The Carmen Watch, And Gag Me With An Invite

I love it when area officials get together to pound podiums about the state’s tax structure and froth about regional cooperation. That’s what happened Thursday in Stratford at an event sponsored by the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.

Get a load of what Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti said:

“There are an awful lot of successes that exist at the local level, too,” he said. “Look at Shelton–we’re about ready to secede from the state of Connecticut.”

Gee, do ya think Mayor Mark is feeling the federal-investigation heat? Could it be Shelton will secede from Lauretti?

Mayor Bill Finch is at his best at these functions talking about the services Bridgeport delivers with a relatively small payback from the state and neighbors, especially all those tax-exempt properties (in a city of 16 square miles) that serve the region.

Said the mayor: “We can’t run an airport because no one’s big enough to run it. It doesn’t even fit in Bridgeport. My golf course is in Fairfield. I have a park in Trumbull. If that doesn’t show you how ridiculous local control is, when you cut up the state into the smallest-sized cities in the country, well, nothing else will.”

Monroe Selectman Tom Buzi tried to structure a regional sewage compact with Bridgeport and Trumbull. It was his neighbor in Trumbull that blew up the deal.

Said Buzi: “People have to understand that it takes two years for the DEP to review the septic system plan–two years, sewers are important to economic growth.” Translation: Thanks a lot Ray Baldwin.

“We realized that it was not in the best interest for Trumbull to go forward with it,” said Baldwin, Trumbull’s first selectman. “That’s why it broke down.”

Here’s what I propose: let’s get them all together for a free-flowing discussion with shots of Tequila. And maybe by the time they’re done Monroe and Trumbull will become the new North End, Fairfield the new West Side, Stratford the new East Side. And Lauretti gives Shelton’s taxable property to Bridgeport as part of a plea deal with the government. Now that’s regional cooperation.

The Carmen Watch

The OIB rumor chatter on Thursday had retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez running against State Rep. Auden Grogins in an August 2010 primary. Carmen has been a lightning rod of action of late on a number of fronts including filing a Freedom of Information complaint against the city regarding the Civil Service Commission firing of Ralph Jacobs as personnel director.

Carmen’s running for this, she’s running for that, say busy political bees. Well, this question about Lopez running against Grogins, the Blonde Banshee from Black Rock, intrigued me. Why would Carmen run for state representative? You retire from a powerful judgeship to run for state rep? I could see her running perhaps for probate judge. Yes, she wanted to serve on the Board of Education, and was rejected by the Democratic Town Committee. But BOE, a citywide seat, is a place where Carmen could put her child advocacy to use.

Plus, a number of political operatives have told me they’re pushing her for a mayoral run. How serious that is Carmen is not saying. So, I called and asked her. Are you running against Grogins? Simple answer: “No.”

I guess she could change her mind. Politics is a crazy business. But she said no. So, on to the next rumor …

Gag Meeting Gagged

On Wednesday OIB ran a letter from The Committee to Ungag The People that invited members of Planning & Zoning to participate in several small meetings to avoid violating Freedom of Information laws. Michael Voytek, chairman of the community action group, wanted the organization to have the same audience that he says commissioners have with the politically connected and land use attorneys.

The commissioners said no to the request arguing the committee is not practicing what it preaches. And  City Attorney Mark Anastasi advised city officials that the committee request was nothing more than a way to circumvent FOI law. Gee, Anastasi on the side of FOI? Did St. Mark have an Epiphany?

News release from Gov. Rell

Governor Rell: State Has Registered Over 1,500 Providers to Give Swine Flu Vaccine

Will Brief Local Emergency Management Officials On Statewide Vaccine Plan During Friday Conference Call

Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that the state has enlisted more than 1,500 doctors and other health care providers to administer the H1N1 vaccine to Connecticut residents this flu season as part of a statewide vaccination plan. The Governor said the vaccine is expected to be available in the coming weeks and will be provided by the federal government to the state at no cost.

“This has been a tremendous response from our medical community and will help us protect as many of our residents as swiftly as possible, particularly the most vulnerable to this new, emerging virus,” the Governor said. “Our statewide inoculation plan is based on years of pandemic preparation between state and local health officials. The cooperation of hundreds of providers across the state is essential to mount a strong preventive response.”

The Governor said Connecticut is expected to begin receiving vaccine as early as the first week of October. By mid-October, the state is expected to receive more than 500,000 doses, with subsequent shipments of 200,000 per week.

The vaccine will first be made available to those who are at greatest risk due to complications of H1N1 influenza: pregnant women, caregivers of children younger than age of six months, health care and emergency medical services personnel with direct patient contact, children aged six months to four years and children aged 5 to 18 with chronic medical conditions.

The Governor will brief local emergency management officials on the statewide H1N1 inoculation plan during a conference call Friday. Also participating in the call will be officials from the state departments of Public Health, and Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The state began recruiting doctors and other health care providers in August to administer the vaccine. Providers include private physicians, community health centers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, visiting nurse associations, retail-based outlets and public health providers.

State health officials also encourage Connecticut residents to get their seasonal flu vaccination, as well as the H1N1 vaccination. The H1N1 vaccine is only effective against the H1N1 virus and does not protect against seasonal influenza.

For more information on the H1N1 virus or the seasonal flu in Connecticut visit: www.ct.gov/ctfluwatch

News release from The Witness Project

“Girlfriends’ Brigade Kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford, CT—- Teams of women, tagged Girlfriends’ Brigade, are knocking on doors every Saturday in October, in cities all over CT for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Their mission: to identify uninsured women who have never had a mammogram, to educate them about the importance of mammograms, and to refer them to a local Connecticut Breast and Cervical Cancer Program provider for FREE mammogram screenings.

Women often delay getting an annual mammogram because they do not have health insurance. The Witness Project of CT has contracted with the State of Department of Public Health to reach and refer uninsured women between the ages of 40 to 64 who have not had an annual mammogram and refer them to a local provider for free screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends women get a mammogram every year beginning at age 40 and breast exams by a doctor or nurse every year and to report any changes to their doctor right away. Early detection and treatment can help save lives.

Marilyn Moore serves as the Executive Director and has implemented a statewide network to educate women about breast and cervical cancer screening. The Girlfriends’ Brigade will focus on eight cities: Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Danbury, Waterbury, New London, and Hartford. This campaign has a goal to educate 3,200 households and refer 1,000 new women to the Free Mammogram program. Women of all races will be impacted by this outreach and referral program. To find out more information about the Girlfriends’ Brigade, volunteer opportunities, or to see if you qualify for the free screenings contact The Witness Project of CT at 1-888-756-0016 or email: mmoore@witnessprojectct.org. Visit the website: www.witnessprojectct.org

Key facts about breast cancer:

Breast cancer is an equal opportunity disease; it does not know age, race or gender

Breast cancer is survivable when diagnosed early

Mammograms can detect the smallest of changes in the breasts

All lumps are not cancerous, but you should be checked by your health care provider

Women should do breast self exam every month

Get a mammogram every year after age 40

Have a doctor or nurse examine your breast every year

The Witness Project of Connecticut is part of a national breast and cervical cancer education project. In Connecticut it is a non profit organization serving the four regional counties: New Haven, Hartford, New London and Fairfield. The goals are to increase breast and cervical cancer knowledge, early detection screening and behaviors among women in medically under served areas of Connecticut in an effort to reduce mortality and morbidity rates from breast and cervical cancer.

What About One Of My Books!

BRIDGEPORT AND SHELTON ANNOUNCE THE AVAILABILITY OF 1,900 BOOKS AND THE KICK OFF FOR THE 2009 BIG READ

For the third year, the communities of Bridgeport and Shelton are working together to read and celebrate Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon.”

(Bridgeport, CT September 24, 2009) — The Barnum Museum in cooperation with the cities of Bridgeport and Shelton has launched the Big Read program, this year celebrating Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon.” 1,900 free copies of the book are now available for pick up, while supplies last, in Bridgeport and Shelton at the locations listed at the end of this release. More copies are also available for purchase in area bookstores and of course available on loan from libraries in both communities. Avid readers and reluctant readers will be brought together through a variety of activities planned from now through the middle of November–there is truly something for everyone.

On Sunday, October 4 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., The Barnum Museum will host a kick off event with the formal program beginning at 2:00 p.m. In collaboration with the Music and Arts Center for Humanity (MACH) and the University of Bridgeport, the museum is showcasing an extraordinary collection of student art and writing, from these organizations. All the art speaks to the themes of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel, “The Maltese Falcon.” Through visual exploration, the exhibition will challenge the viewer to look beyond the obvious to discover deeper meanings intended by the artists. The presentation will stimulate and inspire creative and strategic thinking while offering the viewer an opportunity to experience new visions.

Other speakers at the kick off event include Harold Levine, Chairman Emeritus of MACH, Neal Salonen, President of the University of Bridgeport , Ralph Buzzard, Director of Visual Art for the Bridgeport Board of Education, Mayor Mark Lauretti of Shelton and a representative from the office of Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch. Mark Albertson will be the keynote speaker. Albertson is a lifelong buff of old movies including Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, Twelve Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, A Walk in the Sun to name a few. The Maltese Falcon is one of his favorite movies, so Albertson will talk about how all these movies represent an era when acting and dialogue were the prerequisites to superior filmmaking and explain why this was truly the Golden Age of Film.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

Contributing sponsors allow the programs to be offered mostly free of charge and include the following organizations: Bank of America, Barnum Financial Group, The Barnum Museum, Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Center Stage of Shelton, Dr. DeJesus & Associates, City of Bridgeport, City of Shelton, Connecticut Post, Duchess Restaurants, Food World, Greater Bridgeport Transit, HealthNet, People’s United Community Foundation, SportsCenter of Connecticut, Stockbridge’s Gourmet Cheesecakes, The Edge Fitness Club, The Watermark at 3030 Park, Tremont & Sheldon, University of Bridgeport, Valley Community Foundation, Star 99.9 and WPKN-FM.

The following local organizations are also partnering with The Barnum Museum for The Big Read: Bridgeport Board of Education, Bridgeport Health Department, Bridgeport Public Library, Burroughs Community Center, City Lights Gallery, Connecticut Free Shakespeare, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, The Discovery Museum, Downtown Cabaret Theater, Fairfield Historical Society, Playhouse on the Green, Ralphola Taylor Center, Shelton Library System and Written Words Bookstore.

In addition to the book and reader’s guides, everyone receiving a Big Read welcome packet will receive a complimentary one-year membership to The Barnum Museum.

The Barnum Museum Big Read initiative is just one of 269 nonprofits–including arts, culture, and science organizations; libraries; and municipalities–to receive a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2009 and June 2010. The latest Big Read grantees represent 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since the 2006 pilot program with ten participating organizations, the NEA has given more than 800 grants to support local Big Read projects. This year, Bridgeport and Shelton received $20,000 from the NEA.

From now through November the community will celebrate Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” with a full calendar of events. All events are free unless otherwise noted. To see a complete list of events, please visit www.neabigread.org/events.php or www.barnum-museum.org. A Reader’s Guide and a Teacher’s Guide to the novel are available electronically from www/neabigread.org. A limited number of printed versions of these guides are available at The Barnum Museum.

What: The Big Read Kick Off Event In Celebration of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”

When: Sunday, October 4 – 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., Formal Program begins at 2:00 p.m.

Where: The Barnum Museum, 820 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604

Cost: The program is free to anyone interested in participating

Bridgeport area “The Big Read” Book Distribution Sites

Book Distribution Sites
    Hours of Operation
     for Distribution

Bridgeport Public Library
Burroughs and Saden Branch
925 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
    Tues 12pm - 8pm
    Wed, Thurs 10am - 6pm
    Fri, Sat 9am - 5pm
    Sun and Mon Fall/Winter CLOSED

Bridgeport Public Library
Newfield Branch
1230 Stratford Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06607
    Mon, Wed 10am – 6pm
    Tues, Thurs, Sat 9am - 5pm
    Fri, Sun CLOSED

Bridgeport Public Library
North Branch
3455 Madison Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06606
    Mon, Wed 1pm - 9pm
    Tues, Thurs 10am – 6pm
    Sat 9am - 5pm
    Fri, Sun CLOSED

Bridgeport Public Library
Old Mill Green Branch
1677-81 East Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06608
    Mon 12pm - 8pm
    Tues, Thurs, Sat 9am - 5pm
    Wed 10am – 6pm
    Fri, Sun CLOSED

Bridgeport Public Library
Black Rock Branch
2705 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06605
    Mon, Wed 10am - 5pm
    Tues, Thurs 12pm – 8pm
    Sat, Sun CLOSED

Barnum Museum
820 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
    Tues through Sat 10am - 4:30pm
    Sun 12pm - 4:30pm

Burroughs Community Center
2470 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06605
    Mon through Fri 9am - 6pm

Ralphola Taylor
 Community Center YMCA
790 Central Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06607
    Mon through Fri 9am - 5pm

Discovery Museum
4450 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604
203-372-3521
    Tues – Sat 10am – 5pm
    Mon CLOSED

Bridgeport Health Department
752 East Main Street, Room 320
Bridgeport, CT 06608
203-576-7680
    Mon through Fri 9am - 5pm
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35 comments

  1. The Oracle of Omaha Steaks!

    Old Warren is up and around grazing at 1:30 in the morning. Hunger pangs from not making it to a birthday party at Viale last night. Lennie had me covered but saved his doggy bag for Bello. Say it ain’t so Mo!

    I guess Old Bill Finch doesn’t want to eat some crow and be on the same platform with Neal Salonen from UB. Finch is making a mockering bird of himself by ducking out. He’s probably still blaming UB for that hack job by the Iranians this week on the city website. I heard that there is a computer worm coming in from Estonia sometime next week. Stay Terned!

    We are running a great sale over at OmahaSteaks.com
    Check it out for some great value investing for your tummy. And you can make the same Missteak twice and eat them. Great Deal!

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  2. Why isn’t someone from the Bridgeport Library or Library Board among the presenters at the kick-off event?
    Are they too busy pushing their windfall tax proposal???
    Or maybe they will be at the Read explaining how you can increase spending by $2 million and not increase taxes.
    They can be the major sponsor of the Big Math or maybe the Big Lie.

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  3. There is a fine line that some library employees are crossing when it comes to campaigning while on the job.
    Who do we expect to discipline them; the City Librarian or the Library Board both of whom are the biggest supporters of this election question?

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  4. I hope all these parents don’t think they’re getting a Golden Book adaptation of the screenplay of the “Maltese Falcon” with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet.

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  5. “I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I’m gonna send you over. The chances are you’ll get off with life. That means if you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years. I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.”

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  6. Why is it that I think that female English teachers may fantasize about Brigid O’Shaughnessy?

    The good thing about a teenage male having to read “The Maltese Falcon” is that it might scare them off Irish redheads for life.

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  7. red, read? It runs together sometimes.

    What: The Big Read Kick Off Event In Celebration of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”

    Said Red Molly to James that’s a fine motorbike
    A girl could feel special on any such like
    Said James to Red Molly, well my hat’s off to you
    It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
    And I’ve seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
    Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme

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  8. Grin Reaper: The “Big Lie” or the “Big Math,” I suppose, is a reference to “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler.

    If you’re going to do a book called “The Big Sleep” about Bridgeport, you’d start with the day McLevy croaked in 1962.

    Hammett taught Chandler how to tell a story.
    Two different critters. I think Hammett is the better writer. Others think Chandler is more polished. I quibble not.

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    1. “The Big Sleep”? Bridgeport politics strike me more as a John Steinbeck story, like “Sweet Thursday.” Only drugs and food stamps are the main currencies, not frogs.

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  9. “City Attorney Mark Anastasi advised city officials that the committee request was nothing more than a way to circumvent FOI law. Gee, Anastasi on the side of FOI? Did St. Mark have an Epiphany?”
    Not at all. It is my understanding that Mark has given this same advise to every mayor that he has worked for including Joe Ganim, John Fabrizi and Bill Finch.
    Mark his words, it is circumventing FOI laws when someone else does it. It is simply adhering to FOI laws when Mark suggests to city officials that they should do it.

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  10. Grin,
    I have a different perspective. Voytek’s Roma Club private invite was totally off base when he tried to do it with the City Council members before the vote on the Master Plan, and he was wrong to try to do it with the PZC before the public hearing. I am in the court of open and transparent. This dance by public interest groups to avoid FOIA rules is just wrong. If you are saying it is wrong for the Mayor/City Administration to call in Councilpersons in small groups before an item appears on a Council agenda to run through the item and educate them, I disagree. The Councilpersons are volunteers, they have to be prepared before they go into public hearings. They need to read and understand the staff reports, and the staff analysis. Once the item goes public, they need to rely on the staff support to do the research on the issues and concerns that are presented by the public. That is what our taxes pay for so let them do their jobs. When the item is ready to hit the public for review, comment and action, all of the public need to be informed and able to participate in all meetings, hear each other and comment so all can hear and read. Good public policy will happen when the council and city staff listen, research, react and vote. It isn’t us vs them any longer. Voytek’s private invite to a back room meeting was off base. Bravo for Anastasi’s counsel. Bravo to the PZC for not taking the bait. Voytek and his supporters need to stand up at the public hearing on October 14th like the rest of us.

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  11. Nancy, “If you are saying it is wrong for the Mayor/City Administration to call in Councilpersons in small groups before an item appears on a Council agenda to run through the item and educate them, I disagree. The Councilpersons are volunteers, they have to be prepared before they go into public hearings. They need to read and understand the staff reports, and the staff analysis. Once the item goes public, they need to rely on the staff support to do the research on the issues and concerns that are presented by the public. That is what our taxes pay for so let them do their jobs.”

    Then somebody or some people are clearly not doing their job. Council people are spoon fed the party line that many times is flawed.

    Mark, “You don’t need an 8-24 for 333 State Street.” Conte in his decision that you didn’t have to have a public hearing for zoning changes. A lawyer who is a zoning alternate and serving past the time frame set forth by the charter?

    The rushed, and severely flawed LDA for Steal Point. If I have to depend on Ed and that gang in OPM what they are telling me then we are really screwed. The council people are volunteers and for the most part don’t do their homework. Most of the people on this blog have a better pulse for the city. Is it okay for developers to wine and dine council members under the guise of a non-quorum? Is it okay for zoning lawyers to have ex-parte discussions with zoning commissioners?

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  12. The Honorable Carmen Lopez running for the legislative seat currently occupied by Auden Grogins, the blonde something-or-other from Black Rock? Hey Judge, count me in! It would be most prudent and beneficial for Bridgeport to have an educated, civic-minded and proactive representative up in Hartford. Judge Lopez would be a most effective advocate and legislator for the Park City.

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  13. Thanks Ripper.
    And did you notice Ms. Hardly is very quiet in regards to whether or not developers, lawyers, representatives of developers were given special treatment before or privileged communications before the P & Z?
    If you want to keep it clean and simple you need only one rule; NO EX PARTE communications with any member of a land use board. PERIOD. This would include no conversations with neighbors, city employees, city officials, developers, town chairmen, etc. None.
    Make sure that every comment given to a commissioner by anyone is done so in a public meeting.
    Furthermore, it should be a requirement that if any board member is approached by an individual then that must be reported to the Ethics Commission.
    Paging Nancy Hardly, paging Nancy Hardly …

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  14. Grin, Thanks for getting it. That was/is exactly our point. Based on Anastasi’s advice the ex parte conversations that have taken place by developers, special interests etc. with the P&Z are themselves illegal. Hadley hardly gets it apparently and her silence about the special treatment that we have witnessed first-hand is deafening. Stay tuned.

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  15. Paging Nancy Hardly, paging Nancy Hardly …
    If you read what you wrote about why the city meets with groups that intentionally represents something less than a quorum and actually believe it, you have been truly brainwashed by Mark A.
    The FOI law was specifically written to take these conversations out of that backroom and place them front and center not only before the entire council but before the public.
    The law makes certain exclusions via executive session for extremely sensitive matters but otherwise the law is the law.
    If a public official disagrees with the law then stay out of public service. You are supposed to be representing the public good and the taxpayers and not special interests, self-interest or hidden interests.
    Paging Nancy Hardly, paging Nancy Hardly …

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  16. Kid:
    Perhaps you might try out Hammett’s “Red Harvest.” There are something like 29 murders in about 200 pages. We got drugs, illegal booze, gambling, whoring, municipal corruption, you name it.
    There are several gangs in competition with each other, including the police department. One scene has the lock-up blown up in a very satisfying fashion. Drugs, murder, mayhem. It’s from were the Coen brothers swiped the phrase “blood simple.”
    All the tales of mayhem the kiddies could enjoy hearing. Especially in a school setting: “That TEC 9 kid is a toy. Now a REAL machine gun is a Thompson, you young whippersnapper! Ya gotta air ’em with some REAL holes.”
    Anyway, Red Harvest is my personal favorite. Reminds me of the days of Cigars and the rest of the boys.

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  17. From Conn Post:
    “The mood is changing” regarding Bridgeport and its possibilities, University of Bridgeport President Neil A. Salonen said prior to Goldman’s remarks. “But we need to move it along.”
    “The arts are important to us” at UB, “they’re important to the community. The arts are good for the soul and good for the community in a practical way,” Salonen said, adding that Bridgeport’s leaders must make “a real commitment to a vibrant arts” scene here.
    Among those in attendance were Barnum Museum Director Kathy Maher and Paul S. Timpanelli, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. Mayor Bill Finch, who was not in attendance, was represented by Chief of Staff Adam Wood.
    One wood have thought that Finch could have made a presentation on the Art of Staying Away From UB At All Costs.

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    1. Here’s some more of what the Post published re the arts as a revitalization tool:

      “Perception may be everything, at least when it comes to the revitalization of downtown Bridgeport through the arts.

      “That was one of the messages from Larry Goldman, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, a facility credited with spurring the renaissance of downtown Newark …

      “‘The visual and performing arts, along with university communities’ have the power and potential to ‘inject vitality’ into America’s former industrial centers. ‘The arts can be transformative,’ he added, noting that since opening in October 1997, more than 6 million patrons have attended events at NJPAC, said to be the sixth largest performing arts center in the United States (based on annual operating budget). The facility, he said, has been a dynamic catalyst for returning nightlife and economic activity to the state’s largest urban area, and altering widespread perceptions of Newark as a city riddled with crime, poverty and corruption …

      “To be successful, Bridgeport’s municipal, community and business leaders must embrace the arts ‘explicitly, aggressively and enthusiastically,’ said Goldman, who has a doctorate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.”

      I grew up in north Jersey in the sixties; Newark was a hellhole even then. Some of the fiercest rioting in ’66 happened there. Newark, like Bridgeport, has a well-deserved reputation for corruption in government: Former Mayor Sharpe James, who from June 1999 until leaving his position as Mayor in July 2006 simultaneously served as Mayor of Newark and New Jersey State Senator. On 16 April 2008, James was convicted of five counts of fraud by a federal jury. On July 29, 2008 he was sentenced to 27 months in prison. (All that has an eerily familiar ring to it, eh?)

      If the arts can revitalize a rundown city like Newark, a city with more than three times the population of Bridgeport, think of what it could do here.

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  18. “Mayor Bill Finch is at his best at these functions talking about the services Bridgeport delivers with a relatively small payback from the state and neighbors, especially all those tax-exempt properties (in a city of 16 square miles) that serve the region.”

    Not too long ago, IDEA was considering purchasing the Chimneys Mansion in Black Rock and convert it into a home for autistic kids or teens. IDEA is a non-profit entity which wouldn’t have to pay taxes had the plan been approved. IDEA is now located on the corner of James Street and Washington Avenue. If tax-exempt entities and properties are bad for Bridgeport, why does he allow more to come here? Oh, I forgot! The Paniccias are behind IDEA.

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  19. The folks that are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council for the Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals have a very important volunteer job. It used to be a pretty simple job; protect our neighborhoods and guide the development of the city so the tax base grows in a quality manner. It used to be that you could petition and stand up for yourself, have the hearing and get a decision. Those days are long gone. Today, the land use commissioner is very much like a judge. Most of the petitions are made by attorneys. Their mission is to get approval for what their client wants either directly by the board or through the courts. In fact many feel that the land use attorneys angle to get to the court so they can settle the case out of the glare of the public meeting. It is a legal battle from the first day that the paperwork is filed. Every word spoken at the public hearing is saved on tape and transcribed.

    Therefore ex parte conversations should not happen.

    Those that want to be land use commissioners need to be trained, and trained again. Land use law changes with every court decision. The days of being nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council without regard to the legal world that now surrounds land use are gone.

    Commissioners have a private life. They go to the grocery store, walk their dog, eat out, get phone calls, emails and the like. They can’t turn into hermits just because they have been confirmed to a land use board. So sure, conversations happen. However, every new commissioner needs to go through a serious land use boot camp before they even take a seat at their first public hearing.

    Some say the humans will never buck up to this new challenge. Some say that the million dollars spent on a new master plan, map and regs was a waste of taxpayers funds because the humans will not live up to the new realities of land use policy implementation. I don’t subscribe to that view. Yes it is a chicken and egg situation. What comes first; strong, non-conflicted, highly ethical, trained commissioners with a strong complement of staff to support the reviews and push back as needed; or a set of policies, maps, and regulations that set out a clear set of rules, accountability and process? Mayor Fabrizi chose the latter because the system was just awful which was confirmed by the 2005 ULI report. Good developers were not going to invest in Bridgeport as the system was broken. Actually calling it a system gives it too much credit. The pay to play, back room antics resulted in some pretty crappy developments. So I was ordered to get a new set of rules in place; get the technology in place to make sure the City’s 32,000 parcels are digitized and everyone can see what is happening via the web-based enterprise geographic information system; get all of the permit offices on one floor so the customer could have easier access and the staff could actually talk to each other with one set of plans; get the permit management system in place so everyone knows what permit petition is filed, what it is for, what is the schedule, and what is the outcome; get the Commissioners trained which, under Pat Fardy, was done big time (I know, I was there on some of those all-day Saturday sessions and dozens of night meetings). Then as new appointments were recommended and Council confirmation process was done, those humans would have the tools and be committed to the boot camp training protocol as well as many continuing education training through their terms.

    New commissioners have since been appointed to the land use boards, four or five I think. I don’t know if any or all of the training has happened. I don’t know if the City council Committee even made that a requirement in their confirmation interview. I don’t know how a commissioner could be confirmed when property they own was and still is in zoning non-compliance. That was sure a red flag for me. There is less city staff to help take the original development proposal and mold it into something that would add value to the street, the neighborhood, the city at large. There is no full-time city engineer with a PE stamp; there isn’t a transportation planner/traffic engineer. I think the guy that used to do that was laid off and rehired through an expensive consulting contract; there isn’t a design consultant like John West who took apart every site plan and sat down with the architect and owner and pushed for a better design often over the objections of the petitioner’s attorney. Instead they want to hire a city employee with a couple of years experience to push back at the big-time design teams (not a fair fight in my opinion). I am not even sure the volunteer commissioners are getting written staff reviews with their monthly board packet. The city attorney has to have a strong legal counsel at every meeting that is on top of every issue and every word that comes out at the public hearing. Some of the technology is there (E-GIS) but the guy in charge of that has been reassigned so that vital piece of technology has no full-time overseer and has been known to crash. The permit management system, although over $400k was spent to develop was never turned on so the computer tough books are sitting idle on many desks.

    This land use stuff is complicated, full of legal pitfalls; but Bridgeport will soon have a strong set of policies and regulations. We are down to about a dozen issues that will be the subject of the October 14th public hearing. I will take the legal notice and whatever they post on
    www .bridgeportmasterplan.com
    and see if we are there yet. If not, I will get up and submit my two cents. Everyone needs to be engaged in this in a positive way. Humans are only as good as they are educated, trained and committed to a conflict-free, ethical set of standards. They also need to know that being a commissioner is no longer a walk in the park, no longer a perk for good campaign work. They are volunteering for something complicated and tricky. But they also need to be allowed to have a life. I am confident that the human element will rise to the occasion. It just must. Every city council seat is up for election in November. Ask the questions. Make this issue important. The City Council has to confirm every appointment to the land use boards. Make their confirmation vote count. Stop the finger-pointing and get the human element right.

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  20. Paging Nancy Hardly, paging Nancy Hardly.
    Would this near hermit-like existence preclude going to Testo’s Restaurant for a drink and fine food (free or not)?
    Or is this considered part of leading a normal life?

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  21. *** Bringing it back home to the actual neighborhoods &/or representing districts. *** What have “ANY” of the Bpt. (political legislators) done for their respective districts since their last election & official swearings in? Not as a whole council, or legislative body, etc. for the entire city and or state, but for the district & citizens they represent? *** Many voters don’t have a clue but will continue to elect them, simply because of the political party they are endorsed by! In Bpt. it’s the Dems. pretty much & this Sept’s. past primaries were just a taste of the same continuing revolving voter choices that will keep this same self “political destruction” headed North towards Hartford on I-95. *** ONLY REST STOP AHEAD *** “HEARTBREAK HOTEL” ***

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  22. Nancy – Thanks for the treatise. Let’s boil it down to your most important words, “Therefore ex parte conversations should not happen.” BUT THEY HAVE HAPPENED thus corrupting the process. Moreover, they have happened outside of the commissioners living their “normal lives”. We have witnessed at least several instances of such ex parte conversations AND the record reflects that such conversations have occurred. The people are paying attention.

    Anastasi’s advice proves the point that we have been making and you make above essentially that either everything is public and above board or ALL have equal access. The developers and special interests have attorneys and now the neighborhoods do. We will fully enforce our rights in every venue available to us to ensure fairness for all not just a privileged and connected few. This has got to stop in Bridgeport for there to be any integrity in the processes at hand. We are committed to seeing to it that it will stop both in the short and long terms.

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    1. These illegal conversations took place with the civil service commissioners also. Finch and Wood got to each of them and talked them into going against Ralph Jacobs. Don’t know yet what they were threatened or bribed with, but maybe it will come out when Bucci subpoenas them. As for the employees, we are waiting to see which political hack gets hired next. Two years down and two years to go …

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  23. Hey Lennie, I’ve spent the whole weekend going to every jewelry store; all the pawn shops in Fairfield County; the flea markets; and every street peddler out there.

    I could not find “The Carmen Watch” anywhere …

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  24. Estrategia, where the Finches are bullies and try to muscle their way, estrategia will win out. You don’t think for one second the FBI is still lurking and watching what goes on in this corrupt administration? You think a commission of non-Bridgeport residents can railroad a worker out of his livelihood? What backroom deals and bribes did this commission take? Good workers and people out of jobs while ass-kissers who are incompetent in their duties get to stay making great money? Estrategia will win out in 2011, if there is a city left that is.

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    1. East Side, 2011 is a long time away and a lot can happen in two years. More good people can lose their jobs and more political flunkies can be hired and get raises. With civil service and labor relations in a state of chaos, anything can happen. The people in power are evil. They are only out to gratify themselves and the hell with the employees and the city. They will rape the taxpayers for every dime they can take. Get while the getting’s good. Something or someone must stop them before it is too late. I’m not being melodramatic, it’s how it is.

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  25. Ungagged,
    I took the time to lay out the bigger picture so that we don’t focus on the symptoms that caused you to attempt another private meeting with public officials. This is a much bigger systemic problem. Although I understand this particular neighborhood wants to have legal representation, it can’t be the treatment of choice for all of the other neighborhoods in the city. There has to be a better way to improve the human element of the land use process. I tried to outline the possibilities.

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  26. Nancy, Thanks for the bigger picture. Unfortunately, all that seems to get painted these days is a PZC that is beholden to special interests and developers. The fact is that some of them are in the pockets of nefarious elements while in actuality they should be beholden to no one. We know who they are and will be calling them out in due course.

    Let me reiterate yet again–the PZC has already had private meetings/conversations in violation of the FOIA. This is the problem pure and simple–and it’s a huge problem. As far as improving the human element of the land use process, we would advocate that the PZC take into account neighborhoods in making its decisions and not just giving lip service to preservation/protection of neighborhoods. It seems to everyone in our group that the same old special interests and developers are having their way with the City at the people’s expense–good, hard-working people who actually live in Bridgeport.

    Certainly, a level playing field would also go a long way to “improving the human element.” And none of us are surely so stupid as to think that the playing field has been level thus far in the process.

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