Why The City Council President Matters, Maneuvering Underway Among Growing List Of Candidates

We’re not done yet. On Tuesday a court-ordered Democratic primary for City Council will take place in the North End 133rd District, followed by a general election Dec. 12. But on Dec. 4 the incoming legislative body is scheduled to choose a new president to replace outgoing Tom McCarthy. Can 133rd District incumbents McCarthy and Jeanette Herron cast a vote for council president? It appears so, according to language in the City Charter.

From Chapter 5, Section 1(c) City Charter

“Council members shall serve for a term of two years from the first day of December next succeeding their election and until their successors are elected and have qualified.”

From Chapter 2, Section 8, City Charter, Term of Office

“All elected and appointed officers of the town and city shall hold their respective offices during the terms for which they shall be chosen and until the choice and qualification of their successor, except in case of their prior death, resignation, or removal from office.”

The 133rd District council representatives will not be decided until Dec. 12. All four Democrats who competed in the September 12 primary will do so again Nov. 14: Bob Keeley and Anne Pappas Phillips versus party-endorsed Herron and Michael DeFilippo. The top two finishers among the four on Nov. 14 will face Republicans Michele Minutolo and Neville De la Rosa Dec. 12. This stems from Keeley’s court challenge of Herron’s 1-vote win after a previously uncounted absentee ballot cast for Herron found its way into a recount. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordered a new election.

Herron’s name has been floated as a potential candidate for council president. East Side councilor Aidee Nieves, reelected on Tuesday, is also among the mix. East End council member Eneida Martinez, also reelected on Tuesday, says she’d like the position. South End/Downtown councilwoman Denese Taylor-Moye and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia from the North End 134th District as well. And then, there’s Ernie Newton who says he’d like the position he had way back in 1981.

So let the games begin.

From the charter:

At the beginning of each term of office the city council shall elect from among its members one council member to be president of the city council who shall serve for a term until November 30 of the next odd-numbered year or until the president of the council’s successor has been elected. The president of the city council shall preside in the absence of the mayor, and when so presiding shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the absence of the mayor and the president of the city council at any meeting, the city council may choose one of its members to act as president for the occasion who, when so presiding, shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the event of the death, resignation or inability to act of the president of the city council, the council shall elect another president in his place.

… The mayor shall preside at the meetings of the city council, but shall have no vote therein except in case of a tie. The mayor shall not vote to break a tie in the election of city council president or adoption of an ordinance.

… In the event that the mayor is temporarily absent or temporarily disabled and is, because of such absence or disability, unable to perform the duties of his office, the president of the city council shall possess all of the powers and perform all of the duties of the mayor until the mayor is able to act.

… In the event that a vacancy occurs, for any reason, in the office of mayor, the president of the city council shall act as mayor, until the office of mayor is filled as provided in subSection (c) of this section.

Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, other than during the final year of such mayor’s term of office, the city council shall cause a special election for the office of mayor to be held not less than 120 nor more than 150 days from the date that such vacancy occurs. The person elected mayor at such special election shall take office on the 7th calendar day following his/her election and shall serve the unexpired portion of the term vacated. In the event the vacancy occurs during the final year of the mayor’s term, the president of the city council shall become mayor and serve for the unexpired portion of the term vacated.



    1. Ron,

      There’s going to be much jockeying and maneuvering for CC President. Lennie noted how many members are interested in the gig. It would be nice if one of the young turks got it. Let’s make sure the interests of the people of the city of Bridgeport are always front and center on the agenda.

      It would really suck if we had to sing “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” Politics has a way if corrupting the most idealistic.

  1. A bit off topic but this is a situation where Charter revision may be necessary. Why is the mayor,head of the executive branch of government, leading City council meetings whereas the City Council is the legislative branch of government in Bridgeport. If the CC elects a CC President,should not the CC President preside over CC meetings The mayor or any representatives of the executive branch can attend but CC meetings should be held and led by CC members.

    1. Frank good point!

      The Mayor shall be, ex-officio, a non-voting member of every board and commission of the city and shall have the right to attend all meetings of every board and commission of the city and to address it at any meeting. No board or commission shall have the authority to exclude the mayor from its meetings.

      Section 3.
      The mayor shall preside at the meetings of the city council, but shall have no vote therein except in case of a tie. The mayor shall not vote to break a tie in the election of city council president or adoption of an ordinance.

  2. About McCarthy’s term of office? Doesn’t it end on November 30 as that appears to be the length of the term as far as serving as President matters.
    So the City then goes for a few days until the new Council makes a choice. Risk of death of Mayor and then who takes over? Big risk or little risk? Something to call a Charter commission to consider?

    Or perhaps the term of office reference provides an opportunity to observe that in a year like this one there are two terms of office, the first when 18 have been selected by the voters so they can get down to business because terms of office for the majority has begun? Or is there a second bite at this apple because the terms for the last two Council members (i.e. “each term of office”) start a little later this year so another vote should be taken to replace the one from the week before so that all 20 now can vote?
    How does McCarthy get a vote after November 30? He should be dead and gone at that moment, right? Time will tell.

  3. Lennie the way I read this is that McCarthy and Herron hold their seats until the special general election declares the winners of the race on December 5th. Since this is a first, I think you’re going to see an injunction from the Court holding up the election of a new council president until the outcome of the special election. So McCarthy could hold the seat and title until this is decided. The winners of the primary to be held on November 14th, will then square off with the Republicans on December 5th, one day after the council members are sworn in. The two winning candidates of the special general election can be sworn in immediately, thereby, occupying their seats within 48 hours of the first council meeting. McCarthy and Herron, in my opinion, do not have the standing to vote for a new council president since they will be considered holdovers. If the City Attorney doesn’t issue an opinion, then I’m sure a Judge will.

  4. Unfortunately, the charter contains the word… OR..”At the beginning of each term of office the city council shall elect from among its members one council member to be president of the city council who shall serve for a term until November 30 of the next odd-numbered year OR until the president of the council’s successor has been elected.” OR means that the present Council President remains as such until a replacement is chosen.

    1. Frank I agree with you, my point is that it’s very probable that an injunction will be requested asking the Court to stop the election of a president until all 20 council members are duly elected.

        1. Joel,
          The people have spoken about Libraries. Not for the first time. And they approve Library budgeting that includes funding for the improvement of library locations and services in eastern Bridgeport.

          Are you negating the Library initiative because you liver in western Bridgeport? Or because you have surveyed library facilities close to you as well as Newfield and Old Mill Green and decided that they are equal? Or because someone has directed you to be an irritant on this subject to the majority voice in the community? What’s your reason for wasting your voice on this topic without providing a genuine rationale? The DTC provided an echo chamber for you on Election eve with the ROBO CALL from WATERBURY that had some expense to the party. When do they go to such an expense to provide an opinion on such a “minor” matter of City expense? How much did they cost? Time will tell.

  5. The current term of office is ending and the new term begins without representatives in the 133rd. No, they cannot vote because they will not be in office. The judge did not extend their term.

      1. Joel, Maybe Judge Babs Bellis knew it was time to throw the baby out with the bathwater when Deputy City Attorney John Bohannon  told his client Town Clerk Don Clemons to  plead the fifth, not to mention Attorney Ed Maley representing Herron and DeFilippo said his clients were victimized by missteps of elections officials.
        So who ever  suffer defeat  in this race (133rd) has grounds for a Major Law Suit!

        1. Hats off to Judge Bellis. She has a dim view of politics in Bridgeport. The DTC aparatus as led by the pasta king of Madison Avenue has faced too mny legal challenges–and legal defeats–over the oast few years, mostly for shamelessly sleazy campaign tactics. Good riddance.

        2. Jimfox, I was entertained by a very knowledgeable person on my question. Basically, this is what happened: Judge Bellis was going to order a re-do for all districts in the primary. All attorneys agreed to a re-do only in the 133rd district. There will be no law suit nor any appeal as they all agreed and a deal is a deal.

  6. Like Ron I don’t see any of the names proffered as viable candidates for the presidency because there isn’t one among then that’s an independent thinkers. I would like to see anyone that wasn’t parry endorsed.

    1. On another thread I think Ron suggested either Smith or Spain as they were the highest vote getters in the election by far, both over 900 with Smith being the overall highest. Both were not party endorsed and both are independent thinkers.

    2. Christina Smith with 995 votes and Peter Spain with 929 votes in the unofficial number report I saw are the winners in the 130 District as they earned the Democrat Line A ballot position in the earlier primary, defeating the endorsed Democrats, including Scott Burns who as a rookie member two years ago earned an appointment as co-chair of Budget and Appropriations.

      District 130 has seen much door knocking in recent years in “traditional Black Rock” as well as in other parts of the neighborhood on the part of activists. Approximately 15% of the registered voters in this district voted for Smith (with Spain close following)….the strongest support absolutely and relative to registered across the City. Their “independence” is a fact established by the failure of the Danny Roach and his DTC membership to work for this candidacy at any time in 2017. Finally, when you look to the academic credentials of the duo, each has a bachelor degree from college. Smith has two or three master degrees with a focus on urban challenges beyond her Economics degree from Princeton. And Spain completed a Masters in Public Health from Yale University in recent years. They are used to using modern tools and techniques to dig down on problems and get to reasonable courses of action, even though only limited resources may be available. They also are committed to Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest governance with strong communication with their constituents. Which Council persons have similar credentials? Will such credentials and independence get the respect they should earn in a community where all of the people require service? Time will tell.

  7. Ron Mackey // Nov 8, 2017 at 11:43 am

    “Christina Smith got 995 votes in a off year election in the 130th district is truly amazing, Smith got more than 200 votes more than any other City candidate other than her running mate Pete Spain who received 929 votes. As the City Council now moves to select their leadership and Smith and Spain have demonstrated that they have the leadership to get voters out and need to be in the leadership of the City Council.”

    The next City Council President needs to be either Christina Smith or Pete Spain because even though they are both new to the City Council they both possess the skills and ability to lead the City Council. Their leadership needs to the chairman of the Committee on Budget and Appropriations, Committee on Ordinances, Committee on Economic and Community Development and Environment and the Committee on Contracts. 

    1. I agrre with Ron Mackey. Been happening lately. (Maybe there’s somethingin the water.) Smith and Slain, with academic credentials, must take leadership positions on the City Council.

  8. While I’ve never met Christina Smith, but I hear she’s very intelligent and extremely likeable and her being the largest vote getter in this elections speaks volumes on her behalf. I’ve met Peter and his lovely wife and like Christina he’s very intelligent and extremely likeable and would serve Bridgeport well in this position.

    Having said that Cristina would be the Black in over thirty years and the first female in over twenty years. I’m not saying those should be the reasons, but it makes a powerful argument because the last Black and the last female that served as City Council President served the city of Bridgeport very well.

  9. I know both individuals and like them very much. One should ask why did she get 70 more votes than Pete Spain. The obvious answer is she is much more popular.
    The not so obvious answer is there was a cut campaign going on by no other than Danny Roach to keep Pete off of the council.
    If that is true, that is a very good reason to back Spain.

    1. Bob, there’s no doubt that Pete Spain is disliked by Danny, Mario and Ganim. Another possibility for the 70 vote margin is Smith picked up those extra votes from PT Barnum.

    2. The Harborview Market on Harborview Avenue I Black Rock was the center of opposition to the DTC status quo in the 130th. Danny Roach wouldn’t have made any headway with that part of the community.

        1. Frank, you’re right, Dan Roach can still deliver 500 votes in a primary and DTC elections but Dan Roach can’t deliver 900 plus votes primary and DTC elections. Frank, times are changing and Smith and Spain to keep their momentum going to keep their voters involvement in the next step in the 130th district for the Democratic Town Committee election for March 2018 to take control away from Dan Roach. Right now Danny will talk with Smith and Spain to work on issues for the 130th district and Smith and Spain should listen to what Danny is talking about but make the decision on what is best for the 130th district.

          1. Considered from another point of view perhaps Dan Roach should be heard with no more claim on the ears of the new Council members than any other resident in the 130? After all, as DTC District leader I heard that he did nothing, financially or with personnel, in the campaign AFTER THEY WON THE PRIMARY? Just licking his wounds or paying attention to his City job or perhaps spending some special time moving things along on the Police Commission? Smith and Spain know the issues of the 130, and they are similar to those across the City, education of youth, affordable housing (that considers the property tax burden), a feeling of overall safety where community is part of the solution along with a very well compensated public safety force and attention to genuine economic development that would deal with City rules and practices and latent lack of friendliness in work with the public that is off putting to newbies?? How about letting more people get a taste of representing City issues instead of occupying space on Boards and Commissions long past term expiry, with no grades or evaluation on the quality of your service to the public, and freshness and enthusiasm for the task depleted? Time will tell.

          2. Dan Roach ain’t running the day to day operations of Matty’s Corner anymore. A City Hall job kept him out of the 130th and away from retail politicking. He couldn’t deliver the votes. That’s why Smith & Soain won.

          3. Because of his full-time gig in City Hall  Mr. Roach dies not have the time to run the day-to-day operations at Matty’s Corner, his tavern on the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Brewster Street. Matty’s was the hub of DTC activity in the 130th. 

            Ground zero  for political pro-activism in Black Rock is  Harborview Market. 

          4. Ron,

            The momentum that propelled Christine Smith and Pete Spain to the City Council will not be ebbing any time soon. There’s a movement of Democrats committed to the party’s ideology, citizens fed up with politics-as-usual in Bridgeport. First item on the agenda was remaking the City Council, putting the business of the people of the city of Bridgeport at the top of the agenda.

            Next item is a regime change on the Democratic Town Committee.

    1. This is a response to JML’s post just above Frank’s. The eight members of the TC in the 132nd district did nothing to help the prevailing candidates in the primary for the council seats. Since the Town Clerk’s office has implemented electronic results, twice a week, involving applications submitted, and ballots returned, it has made a big difference in tracking activity in this area of a campaign. One absentee ballot was cast from a family member of the sitting TC slate. So much for supporting the winners. On another note, I noticed that in the special election in the 133rd district, dozens of SHU students have submitted applications to vote by absentee ballot. Residential public information records show these properties are rented, are approximately 1,100 sq ft. with three bedrooms, yet, give or take, six unrelated individuals are claiming to reside in these properties, despite the one person one bedroom regulation for unrelated renters. Let’s see if they return ballots, or shall I say ballots are returned for them.

      1. Lisa, Thank you for the update on Town Clerk office. You say that they have “implemented electronic results, twice a week” that may seem a wondrous step of modernization on the part of City Hall(s) to some. Just think if such thinking moved to the City Clerk’s office. Perhaps electronic posting of monthly financial reports (already available to Council members for years now) might become the normal filing and therefore become available without expense to the entire public? Other departments that file reports could then file electronically with City Clerk and such records could be posted as well on their own site on the City web. What is the delay in doing such, Lydia Martinez? Two years in office, used to the process, how about bringing more real City business to light? Time will tell.

        1. John, this practice was implemented when Alma was Town Clerk in the Finch Administration. I don’t know who was behind the new process of providing us with electronic information, but it has certainly proved to be helpful, it provides candidates with results and alerts us to any shenanigans by the ab manipulators. A recent example was in this past primary; because I was able to notice that in one grand swoop, 40 ab applications were submitted from a senior complex, I was in a position to move quickly to right this abuse of a statute that states over 20 ab applications submitted at one time could result in automatic supervision by the Registrar’s office. Although this should have been caught by the Town clerk’s office and the Registrar’s office, it wasn’t; I had to fight for the supervision of these ballots. As it turned out, only about 17 voters actually voted instead of the 40. Thirteen votes, improperly obtained, could have resulted in a different outcome of the primary.

  10. For Joel Gonzalez’s edification:

    The two Congressmen in the pocket of MGM Resorts are Republicans Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada. They are oart of a group that included Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who also have lobbied against the proposed Connecticut casino.

  11. Lisa: who is responsible to check these SHU students drivers licenses for legal addresses? They may be temporary residents while they are students and still are legally domiciled at mom and dads home outside of Bridgeport or in another voting district. Hence their votes would be illegal. Happens all the time with college students. I believe I know which candidate you may be referring to. I have heard the same thing. We both know how it works especially since “the bartender” rents to these people. Free drinks anyone !!! Maybe a rent consession!!!! Let’s continue with the cattle prodding.

  12. Rich. if they’re voting by absentee ballot, they listed the address they’re renting on their voter registration cards that are then submitted to the Registrar’s office. So whoever turned in those cards listed the rental property as the voting address of the students, and they will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot for the primary. I’m sure their applications and ballots will be challenged if they return them. If it reaches that point, I doubt those kids will lie to an investigator.

    1. “Congress shall make no law…  abridging… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

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