In her latest searing essay in the Connecticut Post, retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez barbecues the city’s “political machine” Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa claims was responsible for her appointment to the state bench. In July of 2009 Lopez in fact sought the Democratic Town Committee endorsement for a Board of Education seat. Carmen, who lives in Black Rock, was rejected in favor of pols with strong relationships with Mayor Bill Finch. Lopez did not run a primary. Why won’t Lopez place her name on the ballot for a high profile city office? Her detractors say she lacks the right temperament for a political campaign and would implode on the stump. They also claim she has baggage from her years on the bench. Carmen is smart, makes strong arguments and has served as a relentless watchdog of administration decisions including her intense criticism of state control of city schools. She apparently is content to be critic rather than contestant. Do you think she should be a candidate? See her commentary:
The Connecticut Post editorial board called it right in its July 29, 2012, editorial “Former members of school board should not return.”
Leticia Colon and Thomas Mulligan should not return to the school board.
If the political machine possessed any shame at all, they would not return; but that is a lot to ask from the Democratic machine. It may have a lot of things, but shame is not one of them.
I guess the editorial board has heard that Tom Mulligan has been spotted at Board of Education meetings, sitting in the last row, feverishly taking notes. Or perhaps he was spotted at the Education Task Force meeting on July 12, rubbing elbows with the city’s celebrity interim superintendent, Paul Vallas. Or maybe it heard Vallas’ recent announcement that returning members of the board have been meeting with him.
Not only will these two return to the board, but a reading of the tea leaves tells me that Tom Mulligan will be elected the new chair of the board, and the deal has already been cut.
Let us take a close look at the evidence.
In July 2009, the Democratic Town Committee endorsed both Leticia Colon and Patrick Crossin for the Board of Education. Crossin was nominated by Danny Roach, the political boss of the Black Rock Democratic Town Committee, and served until January 2011, when he resigned for health reasons.
Tom Mulligan was never elected to the Board of Education. He was appointed in February 2011 to fill Crossin’s unexpired term.
Danny Roach is capable, well-connected and a powerful Democratic Party boss. The city website lists him as a member of the Police Commission and states that his term on the commission expired on Dec. 31, 2005, although he is still serving.
Tom Mulligan, a faithful party loyalist, was handpicked by Roach. In the shadowy world of the Democratic machine, that seat belongs to Danny Roach.
On the night that Mulligan’s appointment was announced by the Board of Education, he was absent. After serving for a few short months as an appointed member of the board, he was quick to join in the conspiracy to surrender the Board of Education to the state. On July 5, 2011, he voted in favor of stripping Bridgeport of its democratically elected board.
Although on the night of his appointment he stayed home, on July 6, 2011, he got up early to be at the state Board of Education meeting at 9 a.m. in Hartford. He was at Mayor Finch’s side pleading with the state Board of Education to “reconstitute” the elected board, and replace it with unelected members. He listened in agreement as Mayor Finch said that democracy doesn’t work in Bridgeport, because many of us don’t vote, some are not citizens and some have criminal records.
The state board was convinced, 5-4, to eliminate an elected board, contrary to law.
The irony was stunning. The only appointed member of the board, Tom Mulligan, was the mouthpiece for reconstitution.
Why will he be the next chair of the Board of Education? Two reasons–his impeccable machine credentials, and the process of elimination.
The three members of the appointed board who have been nominated by the Democratic Party to run in the Sept. 4 election will not be picked. I imagine that they have already agreed to vote for Mulligan, as the price of a machine nomination.
One is a walking, breathing conflict of interest, a second is an afterthought to calm the Latino community’s lament at being left out of the appointed board and the third has lived here for only a short time.
Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka, two elected board members who, along with Bobby Simmons, used their own resources to fight the illegal takeover, would never be considered. As Shakespeare said, they “think too much” and “are dangerous.”
Simmons is the logical choice. He is the board’s most senior member, a certified public accountant and a Democrat. But anyone who has professional credentials, and thinks for himself, must be disqualified.
That leaves Tom Mulligan as the only machine politician left standing.
The chairman’s job on the new board will be important. Consistent with Vallas’ contract of employment, the board chair can give him great latitude to perform his globetrotting activities–or can rein him in.
The editorial board’s statement was reasonable and well thought-out; it should be heeded by all. But this is Bridgeport.
Therefore, I predict that the election on Sept. 4 will produce a final irony. The new chair of the elected board, Tom Mulligan, will be the only board member not elected by the voters.