The West Side City Council Primary, The Battle For Brooklawn And Bassick

On Tuesday, in addition to a citywide primary for Board of Education, Democratic primaries for City Council are on tap in four districts including the West Side where incumbents Evette Brantley and John Olson are opposed by Bob Halstead and Trish Swain. Bridgeport’s 132nd District runs west of Park Avenue to Brooklawn Avenue that meets the Fairfield town line and south to State Street and Fairfield Avenue, covering the heavily owner-occupied Brooklawn neighborhood voting at Central High School and working-class constituents largely below North Avenue voting at Bassick High School.

Brooklawn is one of the city’s higher-turnout areas. The 132nd District includes political leaders with deep roots in city politics such as former City Council President Lisa “Honey” Parziale and her ex-council partner Bob “Troll” Walsh, former Democratic Town Chair John Stafstrom and former State Senator (now Superior Court Judge) Howard Owens.

Evette Brantley
Evette Brantley

John Olson
John Olson

Brantley and Olson find themselves in a challenge largely because of an anti-establishment feeling in the Brooklawn neighborhood. Once friends when they roomed together decades ago in the South End, Halstead has had a falling-out with Mayor Bill Finch. Halstead, father of the city’s Community Garden Program, worked for more than 20 years in city government where he put his urban planning background to work. Halstead’s running partner Trish Swain is also new to elected politics, but she too has strong roots in the city, starting with her grandfather Alfred Bodine who founded the Bridgeport-based Bodine Corporation in 1933.

While not on the city payroll, Brantley and Olson in recent months have shown independence from the Finch administration particularly on budget matters and the controversy surrounding the city’s airport land deal involving developer Manny Moutinho. Brantley vowed to put her house up for sale if there was another tax increase. The council pruned the mayor’s tax hike proposal to below one mil. It was enough to keep Brantley from driving a for sale sign into her yard. Olson, although involved in city politics for years, had a reputation for thoughtful independence from the city’s political establishment, something he has shown only in recent months, however, asking tough questions about the process that led the city paying Moutinho $400,000 for a driveway upgrade to his waterfront mansion in Stratford as part of a municipally-owned airport improvement project a state judge ruled city taxpayers had no obligation to pay. It led to the termination of Airport Manager John Ricci, a longtime friend of Moutinho. Ricci challenges the city’s account that led to his firing.

While voters in Brooklawn have a choosy history at the polls that can go against the political establishment, the lower end of the district has proven to be a loyal safety net on behalf of endorsed candidates, in this case Brantley and Olson. Halstead and Swain will likely be competitive in Brooklawn. Can they drum up support in the Bassick precinct? Halstead and Swain have the backing of the political action group Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport. Halstead and Swain bios follow.

Bob Halstead
Bob Halstead

Robert E Halstead was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. One of six children, his father was a Bridgeport Fire Department Lieutenant and World War II hero. His mother was a teacher in Bridgeport Public Schools for 34 years. He is married to Joan Carty, has three grown children and lives in the Brooklawn section of Bridgeport.

A lifelong City resident, Halstead attended St Patrick and St Andrew grade school and Notre Dame of Bridgeport High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Mount St Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, MD, a Masters of Science Degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in City and Regional Planning and a Master Gardener Certification from the University of Connecticut. His post graduate work includes various fellowships with extensive training in community, economic and real estate development.

Halstead worked extensively in the government and non-profit sector, completing a two-year stint in the U. S. Peace Corps in Tunisia, he came home to Bridgeport and embarked upon a 34 year career in community and economic development, working at various non-profits agencies, including the East Side Neighborhood Housing Services, the Washington Park Association and the Bridgeport Community Land Trust, which he also founded. He worked close to 25 years for the City of Bridgeport in the capacities of Housing Site Development Agency Director, Urban Homesteading Director, Construction Division Manager, Property Disposition Manager, and City Planner.

Halstead is credited with many significant achievements in Bridgeport including:

• Developing the $5.5 million Washington Park Revitalization Project

• Selling 171 blighted City property for total of $3 Million, leveraging $43 million investment, annual tax revenues of $600,000, 298 new housing units and 78 first-time homeownership units

• Spearheading the Reads Art Space Project in Downtown Bridgeport

• Creating and developing the Bridgeport Community Garden Program

Halstead wants to run for office because he believes the City is in trouble and will keep sliding backwards unless qualified, non-political people are in positions of leadership in Bridgeport.

Trish Swain
Trish Swain

Trish Swain bio:

Patricia Swain (Trish) was born in Bridgeport, in 1961 to O. Kenneth Swain and Betty Bodine Swain. Trish spent much of her childhood enjoying Beardsley Park and Seaside’s Shoreline. Her family roots in Bridgeport started with her grandfather, Alfred V. Bodine who founded the Bridgeport-based Bodine Corporation in 1933, during America’s Great Depression. She grew up hearing stories of Bridgeport’s thriving years and was taught through example the importance of community involvement and service.

Swain attended public schools, graduating from Roger Ludlowe HS in just 3 years. After a year of work and helping with the care of her ailing father, she attended Hamilton College in NY, majoring in Government, leading to an internship with Senator Chris Dodd’s office in Washington DC. During her four years of college, Swain became President of the Outing Club and Manager of the student-run Social House. She founded the school’s first Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team and competed throughout the northeast. After graduating with honors (B.A.) in 1983, Swain accepted a position in Dodd’s office and returned to DC to work for a year. During this time, she continued with her athletic interests and played on a nationally ranked travel team.

After moving back to CT, Swain began her 30-year career in business administration. Managing small businesses in the local area, Swain has been responsible for all aspects of company operations including; budgets, procedures, employee management, company direction, marketing and growth. She’s been a highly energetic, hands-on leader with a proven track record of growing both established and start-up businesses.

Having lived in Bridgeport since 2004, Trish Swain would like to see the city thrive once again. She believes that change in our leadership is necessary to effect change in our city’s direction. “We need to re-group, re-direct, and reform. I’m ready to serve and will appreciate the opportunity to do so.”

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17 comments

  1. I wish Bob Halstead and Trish Swain good luck. Both very qualified. They really need to get out the vote.

    On a side note, to all the bloggers on Only in Bridgeport I wish you all a sweet and prosperous New Year on this Rosh Hashanah. The anniversary of G-d’s creation of the world. We are in fact living in very interesting times. May all of us be a part of bringing peace and joy in the lives of our family, friends and strangers. Good health to all. These wishes are for all Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddists, Hindus, Wiccans, etc, etc, etc. We are all part of the same fabric. L’shanah tovah.

  2. It is nice to see a fresh face in Bridgeport Politics. The word on the street is Swain is no slouch, and she talks to people, she does not “campaign.” Good for Brooklawn. Halstead brings knowledge, experience with the system and connections for various and necessary campaign needs. Swain looks as though she brings the soft skills as well as no fear of saying ‘I don’t know.” This could be interesting.

  3. Isn’t this the same Brantley who said she would have to move if taxes were raised, then voted to raise taxes? Who would vote for someone who says one thing and votes the opposite?

  4. I’m certainly willing to give new blood a chance. They appear to have good qualifications. I can’t vote for Brantley, especially after that Cecil Young fiasco a couple years back. Good luck (and hard work) to Bob & Trish.

  5. *** Did not hear any news on the radio today yet, however. “Hey Lennie,” did you hear anything about a bomb scare or some type of emergency at the UB side of Seaside Park today around 2 pm? Park was sectioned off and homeland security-type of emergency vehicles were on site. Park and UB traffic was rerouted away from the old Remington site as well. *** INQUIRING MINDS IN THE SOUTH END WOULD LIKE TO KNOW! ***

    1. Suspicious package just a pressure cooker

      Denis J. O’Malley and Wes Duplantier

      Updated 6:42 pm, Thursday, September 5, 2013

      BRIDGEPORT — A pressure cooker left sitting beside a tree in Seaside Park sparked a full-scale response by city, state and federal authorities on land and sea Thursday, though the device ultimately proved benign.

      City police received a report of the cooker’s discovery in the eastern end of the park, about 20 feet from the water line, at about 11 a.m., said William Kaempffer, police spokesman.

      “It created some alarm,” he said.

      City police responded and called in the state police bomb squad, which conducted a controlled detonation of the device.

      Afterward, investigators looked inside to find the pressure cooker had been empty all the while.

      Though it turned out harmless, the incident prompted response from the U.S. Coast Guard, which instituted a 2,000-yard safe zone around the area.

      It also led officials at the nearby University of Bridgeport to evacuate two buildings and to block several streets in the area to keep “sightseers” away, said George Estrada, the university’s vice president for facilities.

      “Being adjacent to the park, we took an extreme measure of caution,” Estrada said.

      “You obviously recognize the events that have occurred in the past, so it’s definitely something you always think about,” he said, adding that the university was not actually in any danger throughout the incident.

      Before it was blown up by police, the unattended appliance had people in the area thinking about a possible bombing, like the one at the Boston Marathon in April, when two brothers allegedly detonated bombs built out of pressure cookers, killing three people and injuring hundreds.

      “Any time we receive a report of a suspicious package, we respond with an abundance of caution,” said Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. “Obviously, considering the incident in Boston, we treated this as a credible threat.”

      As of Thursday, city police were continuing to investigate the device’s origin, Kaempffer said.

      “We do not know if it was left to create alarm or if it was just discarded there,” he said.

      The Coast Guard maintained the safe zone in Bridgeport Harbor and Long Island Sound until the device had been investigated, during which time the Port Jefferson ferry was held at dock. At 3:30 p.m., about an hour after the bomb squad detonated the pressure cooker, the safety zone was lifted and marine traffic resumed in the area, said Coast Guard Lt. Jeff Janaro.

      Janaro said the Coast Guard’s response to the incident was not heightened because it involved a pressure cooker.

      “This is the same type of response you would see to any type of bomb threat, regardless of what type it might be,” he said.

      On land, the pressure cooker’s presence led city and state police to close off a large portion of Seaside Park’s far eastern end, in the general area of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, roughly between Broad and Hazel streets.

      “We treat it very seriously, just because at this time and age we really need to,” Kaempffer said. “Until we know exactly what happened, we’re treating it in the proper fashion.”

      Staff writer Frank Juliano contributed to this report

      domalley@ctpost.com, @domalleyctpost, 203-330-6230

  6. Just a gentle reminder to folks: Brooklawn Avenue is actually Route 59. What does that tell us? IT IS A STATE ROAD. Brantley and Olson HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IMPROVEMENTS. Feel me?

  7. *** There are many streets that are the responsibility of the State of CT, like State Street, Fairfield Ave, Boston Ave, Commerce Dr just to name a few for which pols at times try to take credit when improvements are finally done to them, no? *** FAKE THE FUNK ***

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