Will Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport Have Staying Power?

Early 2013 looks like it’s shaping up as a long strange trip for the state’s largest city. A screwy budget cycle, a Democratic governor acting like he’s received a blood transfusion from a Republican–cut this, slash that, whack the cities–is causing much trepidation among city bean counters. To some degree Governor Dan Malloy’s austerity program is understandable. He thought his first painful tax-raising budget would settle all matters (so did many others) but the economy betrayed him, state revenues fell flat, voters are restless and now he’s looking at a tough reelection next year, and will need help from urban supporters befuddled by his strategy. But what Malloy and a Democratic-controlled legislature do in Hartford has a huge impact on Bridgeport in an election year for all 20 members of the City Council just weeks away from receiving Mayor Bill Finch’s budget proposal. Lotsa luck.

In the old days of city politics, before the era of the brain-dead electorate, the political jackals in the shadows were sharpening their teeth to pounce on incumbent prey. How many members of the all-Democratic council will actually have primaries in September? Who’s vulnerable? Who’s not? A lot of this will depend how this budget process plays out and fallout from a tax increase.

A symptom of the brain-dead electorate in recent years also brought a troubling reticence: the wrong people are afraid. When taxpayers are afraid of the politicians something’s really wrong. It’s supposed to be the other way around. The refrain has become contagious. “I can’t get involved, I live here. I can’t do that, what if I need a job? Can’t do that, I’m afraid.” Egad!

In the old days of politics sometimes the folks putting up the good fight got more out of it than folks who just went along. As the saying goes you can get more for going against, and not necessarily for personal gain.

The recent formation of Citizens Working for a Better Bridgeport, CW4BB as organizers now call it, has added a new dimension to the election season. Some of these folks are a pain in the butt. They’re noisy. But they also have a lot of smart, cunning neighborhood folks involved. It’s still trying to coalesce as a unit, but if it has reasonable staying power, look out.

The higher-profile members such as David Walker, the ex U.S. comptroller general, Mary-Jane Foster, 2011 Democratic mayoral candidate and Rick Torres, 2011 Republican mayoral candidate with experience speaking out on public policy issues, are now joined by a coalition of neighborhood folks paying closer attention to how their government works. They include members of the so-called Smut Busters such as Jennifer Buchanan, as well as former City Councilman Tom White, political activists Angel Reyes and Marilyn Moore, and still other publicity-shy members who don’t want their names included in publication. They just want to be involved.

In the short term they’re focused on fiscal issues and government reform initiatives such as the state bill co-sponsored by State Reps Jack Hennessy and Auden Grogins that seeks to reduce conflicts of interest by prohibiting city employees from sitting on the City Council. The bill faces long odds from local and state unions leaning on their Democratic allies in the state legislature to kill the bill. The City Council approves union contracts. The unions want to keep council members happy.

This Saturday at 2 p.m. Citizens Working for a Better Bridgeport is hosting a forum at the Bridgeport Public Library, 925 Broad Street Downtown about the Hennessy-Grogins sponsored bill.

“Our group is gaining momentum, and we feel that what we stand for is newsworthy and beneficial not only for just Bridgeport, but for other municipalities in Fairfield County and beyond,” the organization released in a statement Tuesday in support of its Saturday forum. “What is good for Bridgeport is good for Connecticut!”

Will it have staying power?



    1. I have no idea what email you sent that was not responded to, and I am sorry this happened to you. If you will please re-send the email, I will make sure you receive a response.

  1. I do not know about Malloy acting like a Republican. More like he is acting like a lunatic. He increased spending and taxes a few times now. He talks a lot about belt tightening and austerity but he must mean our belts. Both the taxes and spending seem to be a random shuffling from one thing to another without any clear way to forecast where the differences will fall. The state budget grew but I am not sure what it is being spent on. I think education got a boost but cities got a cut. If cities take that cut from education then the entire thing is a wash. Elimination of the car tax could fall anywhere. A rich guy with 12 $25K cars (say he collects MGs) could make out and a poor guy with a $30K car (not expensive for a good car a family of four may own) will get hit. On top of that, legalizing pot and taking away guns is very un-Republican. But I guess you would not want people to be high and armed. Shooting stuff should never be funny.

  2. If this group is to be taken serious, they need to put a fresh-faced minority (majority) qualified individual at the forefront now and let that said person be its leader and candidate for office/change.

    1. Chosen 1: Very interested in the thought behind this comment. Knowledge is power, so educate and empower us. Why will it take a minority out in front to reach the electorate? Why is race at the forefront in your opinion?

      1. Sally,
        It is time the city of Bridgeport’s top offices reflect the people they represent.
        For example, last mayoral election pitted Mayor Finch against Mary-Jane Foster, who could not be more out of touch or opposite to the people she tried to represent.
        If a group is really trying to better this city, it needs someone who has been in the trenches and really understands it.

        1. So how does that example, Mary-Jane Foster, support your assertion in Bridgeport today an activist’s effectiveness is directly tied to the color of his or her skin? Even if she were out of touch as you say, a subjective perception by the way, which you have the right to, shouldn’t it be more about the individual?

          I don’t disagree we need more minorities in the fray for change. The city needs those minorities to step forward. There are some minority potential superstars out there for sure, but are these groups expected to go door to door and hunt them down?

          Until the former begins to happen, we need to work with what we have. If the Fosters of this City are the ones who are willing to take on City Hall, then I for one will stand behind them regardless of the color of their skin.

    1. Upset Dems and Republicans should go Republican. Independents are usually radical off hoots of one of the other two parties, too disorganized to be effective or lack the resources and organization to win. Neither party will support an independent’s policies once they are in office. They will be a lame duck on two fronts.
      Plus I want to find out if the Republicans win BPT, will we be able to hear Steven Auerbach’s head explode or will we have to read about it in the paper.

  3. Staying power? Don’t they sell medication for that, Lennie? The only way to tell whether or not an organization has “staying power” is to wait and see if it stays engaged after the dust settles. Will the organization disintegrate after the primary? It sounds like the organization has bones and brains. It needs some flesh and blood for definition and of course a heart. The organization needs to pick up speed as the days are going by pretty quickly. Holding hearings is one thing, but going door to door is another–mailings cost lots of $. I haven’t heard of a single person–other than Jim Fox–express their intention of running for City Council. Hurry before the warm weather gets here or you’ll have to wait ’til August to catch people at home. Make some noise!
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=WdgLMslbDuY

  4. Please show up on Saturday at 2pm at the Bridgeport library main branch. OIB contributors often have a propensity to complain. Saturday is an opportunity to do some good. I intend to be there; to listen and to learn. Join me.


  6. Staying power! How long of a ‘stay’ are we thinking about, Lennie? Do they stay up until the primary results or do they continue the fight into the Democratic Town Committee race?

    CW4BB seems to be lead by a group of people with different political affiliation. If CW4BB decides to challenge the incumbents (all Democrats), under what party affiliation would or should they do it?
    Could they be successful under the WFP banner? What about the Republican or Independent Party? How do you change the makeup of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee while being affiliated with another party? I know CW4BB can back the candidates of its choice without being affiliated with the candidates’ party.
    The best way to grab City Council seats is through a Democratic primary. If one can’t beat them in a primary, I doubt one can beat them in the general election.

    1. Joel, is there an active Independent Party in Bridgeport? Usually when a voter says he/she is Independent what they actually mean or are is an unaffiliated voter. As such they are unable to participate in a primary election unless a party allows that in its by-laws.

      1. flubadub, every City Councilperson, State Representative and State Senator representing the City of Bridgeport are all Democrats. It’s pretty much a one-party city. In an earlier comment, Lennie had mentioned Grogins and Ayala for example won their primaries against the party-endorsed candidates. Neither of them would have won in the general election running as independents even if they had the cross-endorsement from the Republican party. The best chance of knocking off Democrats in Bridgeport is via the primary route. Working Families Party has been able to stay competitive. I wonder how things would turn out if WFP or the DJs (Democratic Jackels) mounted an all-out primary or general election challenge against the incumbents.

  7. How does CW4BB expect to get anything done when they have such a sharp partisan divide among their members? The Hennessy bill seems like a good starting point in finding issues both sides can agree on, but what more? Could they put candidates up for office if they can’t agree on an agenda or platform to run them on? Things can get really blue and really red really quick. Could Bridgeport elect a purple mayor??? As John Marshall Lee always writes … Time will tell!!!


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