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Where Have You Gone Lowell Weicker? Gov’s Bridgeport Office On Chopping Block

December 1st, 2010 · 13 Comments · Analysis and Comment

Lowell Weicker

Lowell, we want you, we need you. Photo courtesy of Tom Dudchik.

The governor’s Bridgeport office opened by Lowell Weicker 18 years ago is in jeopardy of closing. Essentially it’s hammered shut, unless Governor-elect Dan Malloy, who told more than 100 Bridgeport supporters last week that he will not forget them, weighs in.

From what I hear from Malloy’s peeps keeping the office open is not a priority. Malloy has the perfect out it would appear. The Bridgeport office was defunded in the last budget approved by the Connecticut Legislature, according to Malloy advisers.

Did any of the state budget leaders tell the city’s legislative delegation that the Bridgeport office was history? Nope. I spoke to several members of the delegation and they say it was not brought to their attention. How could this happen? Shouldn’t they know? The  state budget is a mind-numbing adventure that can run from a few hundred pages of a summary to a 1,000-page monster of finer detail.

The governor’s Bridgeport office budget was chicken shit in the larger portion of an $18 billion dollar state budget. I spoke to former State Senator Rob Russo about this on Wednesday. Russo was selected by Governor Rell to staff the office in 2005. When he headed the office as the governor’s eyes and ears he had a staff support of one body and the total budget was $100K or so.

When Weicker created the office he had stared down a financial nightmare that Malloy faces, a massive budget deficit in a nasty economy. Weicker solved it by pushing through the state personal income tax and received lots of legislative support from urban areas. Support me on this, he told legislators in Bridgeport and I won’t forget you. He didn’t. In my scribe lifetime of governors there was Ella Grasso, Bill O’Neill, Lowell Weicker, John Rowland and Jodi Rell. Weicker did more for the city than the other governors combined. Why? He gave a shit. He had big balls that roared. And it wasn’t like he was indebted to city voters. Rowland won Bridgeport the year Weicker was elected governor.

Weicker warred with Republican Mayor Mary Moran after she placed the city into federal bankruptcy court in 1991. As a child of the state the city bankruptcy petition impacted the credit worthiness of the state. Weicker, as governor and Dick Blumenthal, as attorney general, opposed Moran’s bankruptcy. After Joe Ganim defeated Moran in November 1991, young Joe met with Weicker who told him if you withdraw the bankruptcy petition I’ll help you. He did in ways the city never saw before or since. Hundreds of millions of dollars flooded into the city because of Weicker whether income taxes, slot revenue from gaming operations, land purchases for assets such as the city zoo and Beardsley Park. Weicker was a key reason Ganim did not raise taxes for 10 straight years. And, oh yeah, how about a new Housatonic Community College downtown and a State Police barracks across the street? Weicker did that as well.

In addition, Weicker created a governor’s office for Bridgeport and he actually spent time there. It was more than symbolic because Weicker put words into action. In the years since Weicker left office in January 1995, John Rowland kept the office open and provided some economic development assistance (ballpark, arena) during a roaring economy, Jodi did far less and under her command the office became pathetically symbolic.

When state finances went in the crapper the office became a casualty. Will it be saved?

Now in talking to members of the city’s legislative delegation they don’t appear to be cranked up over losing the Bridgeport office (although they’d like to see it remain open) that Weicker started on Middle Street and Rell moved to a state building on Housatonic Avenue. If losing the office means they helped to keep open the zoo or funded the boys and girls club or helped a needy social service program they say it’s worth sacrificing.

That’s pragmatic thinking in the legislature, right? If Malloy funds a major economic development project in Bridgeport who gives a shit if he doesn’t keep the office open?

The difference is you take Bridgeport out of the election equation there is no Governor-elect Malloy. New Haven can say the same and so can Hartford. (We’re not talking about Brookfield.) Governors, if they want, can make things happen. Last week I stood six feet away from Dan Malloy at Murphy’s Law downtown when he addressed supporters that produced for him. I won’t forget you, he said. Malloy’s going to raise taxes to fix a mess he did not create, just like Weicker. And like Weicker, Malloy, if he wants, can make Bridgeport a priority with a presence in the city.

City Hall Annex on Broad Street, where ballots that delivered Malloy’s plurality are being recounted, has tons of extra space. If I’m Mayor Bill Finch I’d be on the phone to Malloy. Hey, governor, we know times are tough but we’ll offer you free space for your Bridgeport office.

I can think of several folks who can build a bridge between the governor and Bridgeport well suited to represent the governor. Is that a gag I heard from Malloy or the guts to do something for the city that delivered for him? Time will tell.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • FORMER CITY OFFICIAL

    The state has a $3.5 BILLION deficit. A lot of things that are nice to have will need to be cut in order to fund the most-needed programs and services. The Governor’s Bridgeport office is nice to have, but it is far from essential.

    What is really important is having the Governor engaged on the issues, programs and projects that really matter to Bridgeport. That will be the measure of Dan Malloy.

  • city hall smoker

    Just out of curiosity Lennie, why no mention of yesterday’s layoffs? No comment on last night’s posts? I expect something from you by the end of the day. We depend on you to cover what the Post will not.

  • town committee

    Lennie why are you surprised the office was closed? This is the beginning of the ignore Bridgeport era.
    Those dolts who are the Bridgeport delegation don’t care about that office, they are busy lining up jobs and positions for their relatives and friends. Please don’t insult us by saying if closing the office saved the zoo or a social agency then it was worth it. That is pure bullshit.
    CHS is right not a mention here of the layoffs. It is my understanding the bloodbath has started and there are more than a few layoff notices that have been delivered. Not one bullshit job held by some political kiss-ass was on the layoff list. If people want to be angry and they should be angry look at the democratic district leaders they are largely responsible for these political bullshit jobs. Two of the biggest with their hands out are Ralph Ford and Mitch Robles.

  • junkyardogII

    CHS: How many notices were received yesterday? Which union? What is happening with all of this? Have other bargaining units made concessions? Police? Fire? Supervisors? It appears mean-spirited to do this to folks so close to the holiday? Couldn’t it have waited?

  • bpt guy

    If this is a CT Post recount I hope they are paying the city and taxpayers for use of our bldg. Lennie I guess recount is more important than layoff of VETERANS’ BUS DRIVER. The unions and VETS should show up tonight at tree lighting so as to enlighten the city to this sad sad matter this a-hole mayor has brought to this holiday season, I don’t believe he runs the city at all I believe he is such a mental lightweight the city is run by committee, Nunn, Sherwood, Carroll, and last but not least the dimmest light of all Alana.

  • junkyardogII

    CHS–I just talked with an employee who says the layoffs are causing hostile working conditions. Several employees were threatened yesterday by laid-off people because they voted against them. Apparently, many are afraid. Have your sources revealed such conditions? Lennie, I agree with all of the above; you owe it to the employees to look into this. You have lots of connections at City Hall, please use them and do so quickly–I think I smell blood.

  • junkyardogII

    Wow! Mutiny??? Ugliness??? It is bad. An employee called to tell me that the HR dept scheduled a class for sexual harassment training in January and directed department heads to sign up. One dept head emailed back that the class should be suspended until late spring because he and many others were not going to sign up for it when they suspect they will be laid off–what is going on???

  • quinte west

    Is the extensive use of profanity in this article intended to impress the reader or is it reflective of the lack of intellectual depth to the arguments/position? The name calling, foul language and tough-guy approach and characterization does nothing to convince or persuade anyone.

  • bpt guy

    quinte west it did persuade them as you will find out tomorrow there will be a bus driver.

  • southend

    The governor’s office is an unproductive use of taxpayer’s wealth. Clear the space for a private producer and leave the taxpayer out of political payoffs. If the governor’s office is so important for Bridgeport, then have a bake sale and support it privately.

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