Will Ned Lamont Do For Bridgeport As Lowell Weicker?

Former Governor Lowell Weicker was Bridgeport’s godsend. Image courtesy Tom Dudchik, CT Capitol Report.

The difference between a political campaign and governing is like a controlled frenzy versus chipping stone. In government, you must chisel your way to get things done. That’s the nature of the beast when a chief executive must work with an equal-check legislative branch.

Ned Lamont, the businessman, anti-war warrior, establishment fighter, has found his way into the governor’s mansion via a circuitous set of circumstances after incumbent Dan Malloy eschewed reelection with one of the poorest approval ratings in the country.

The thing about Lamont that intrigues is his ability to walk into a corporate board room extolling his business credentials while shrugging an aw-shucks attitude to common folks in the streets who’ll never realize his vast wealth. Over the next four years his challenge will center on welding an economic plan that lifts up the state without betraying the urban votes that got him to the dance.

On Tuesday’s vote, shortly after noon, Lamont returned to the building that housed the former Harding High School where he had served as a volunteer instructor more than a decade ago. He greeted Bridgeport political supporters with his genial wife Annie, highlighting a declaration: I’ll not forget the people who helped elect me governor.

Lamont has pledged big-time things for Bridgeport: full funding of education and tax-exempt properties that means tens of millions extra for the city; an open, competitive process for a waterfront gaming destination; a businessman who’ll make Bridgeport a player at the table.

Lamont does not come across a phony. He sounds genuine.

Governors can use the force of will to get things done. Lowell Weicker, for whatever reason he had encompassing his 6’6 frame, did gigantic things for Bridgeport. Quick history lesson:

Weicker, a three-term Republican U.S. senator who lost a 1988 general election to Democrat Joe Lieberman, reemerged as an independent candidate for governor two years later. He won.

In June 1991 Republican Mayor Mary Moran placed the city into federal bankruptcy court arguing Connecticut’s largest city needed a fresh start from decades of deficit spending, union contracts and a tanking grand list of taxable property.

Weicker, backed by then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, declared Bridgeport was a child of the state, as a result, a bankruptcy petition damaged the credit worthiness of Connecticut. A federal judge sided with the state.

In November 1991, 32-year-old Joe Ganim (remember him?) defeated Moran in the general election. The morning after election, a groggy Ganim met with Weicker who boomed … kid, help me and I’ll help you … Withdraw the bankruptcy petition (under appeal) and I’ll help you revitalize your budget.

Weicker was so true to his word. He built a new Housatonic Community College, languishing on the East Side, on a Downtown location that now is the highest trafficked two-year program in the state with roughly 6,000 students.

What else did he do?

Relocation of the Troop G State Police Barracks From Westport to Downtown Bridgeport across from Housatonic.

-$5 million from the state to purchase Beardsley Park

-$5 million from the state to purchase the state’s only zoo

-$500,000 to remove the stinking East End demolition debris known as Mount Trashmore

-$10 million from gaming revenues with tribal nations

-Millions more in incentive packages to keep companies in the city during a massive New England recession

For young Joe Ganim it was manna from heaven and helped stabilize the city’s budget for a decade.

What’s the point of this?

Eight years ago Dan Malloy, who had been mayor of Stamford, became governor. He said this and that about what he’ll do to resurrect cities, except he took the easy way out over the course of two terms wiring extraordinary development plans to his placental Stamford.

He’s a disappointment to the state’s largest city that aided his elections. Bridgeport, for Malloy, was an afterthought. Malloy did not have the heart, nor will, to do the things for Bridgeport he did for Stamford.

Lowell Weicker was wealthy. He didn’t serve for the political paycheck. He stepped up for Bridgeport in extraordinary ways. He had a heart for Bridgeport.

Ned Lamont is wealthy. He’s not serving for a political paycheck. Will he do the same for Bridgeport as Weicker?

Share

13 comments

  1. If they don’t make Pleasure Beach into a Resort Casino, be it Indian or private development, Bridgeport got under served of its potential. Like those waiting for the election results I’ll wait to see what the powers will do. While we have two tigers at Bridgeport Zoo Y’all are LIONS 😊 To my fellow OIB bloggers it was educationally and a pleasure. Until we meet again, Bam I out 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5tdqojA26E

  2. Ned Lamont headed the winning candidate group on Tuesday. Remember who his Treasurer candidate was? Shawn Wooden, lawyer, Hartford Councilman and leader, and supposedly fiscally savvy (enough to get the State to bail out Hartford (for years to come while the rest of us pay??). Will Lamont let Wooden’s action on behalf of Hartford through MARB stand along with West Haven or will he call oversight and regulation onto the other Tier 3 candidates. Who cares what Ganim2 wishes at this moment? Is it to expose OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST financial practices in this City?? Now that Acting has become Chief Perez, will he suddenly be able to make sense of Police Overtime? And where does the suit with former Deputy Chief “Overtime” who did not make our “final cut” for selection but may still be in court? These are a few of the favorite things that show Ganim2 to be administratively inept in my opinion. With all of his years in office, shouldn’t he be yelling to the rooftops, like Ed Koch used to, “How am I doing?” What is he afraid of hearing? Time will tell.

      1. Frank,
        You likely are referencing Municipal Accounting Review Board. Set up by the State of CT in 2017 to assist and regulate certain municipalities suffering financial distress. I think you are enough aware to understand that we are suffering such distress and have for some time as we get half-truths or worse as explanation (if we get such at all) for why we do things we do. We qualify to have leadership, Mayor, City Council or public up in arms probably to appeal for such status that likely will provide us with more public oversight and accountability monitoring than we are used to.
        Frank, are you allowed to attend our B&A meeting and ask a question of either City Council members present, or the City experts peddling their info and opinions? It is likely that when MARB meets such public Q&A on the State side would be possible.
        And if the State is going to move the dial on its fiscal problems don’t they need to know that something is in place, and working at the municipal level? So maybe Ben Barnes did not pull the trigger before the election, but likely it will make sense in coming months, sooner that later. Time will tell.

        1. John..I have been saying for years that Bridgeport is Broke and bankrupt. Same with New Haven. Same with Hartford but Hartford was taken care of. IMHO,The State of Connecticut should just go in and takeover the distressed cities. All Municipalities are “Established” per the State(in this case, CT). When Bridgeport first tried to go onto Bankruptcy, The State of Connecticut claimed that such bankruptcy would damage the credit-worthiness of The State of Connecticut. What will MARB do when there is simply no money to cover all the costs of running The City of Bridgeport. Let’s remember that the State of CT already provides funding of about 300-350 million(give or take) of educational costs and who knows how many other state dollars are coming into BPT. THEORETICALLY, If the City of BPT would have to self-fund all government activities(including schools) it simply would not be able to. Or,at the minimum,it will be a disaster. If BPT had to 100% self-fund,my eye-ball guess is that we would have to double the mill rate-at the minimum.

  3. Lennie, Wicker was rich and got richer after stepping down as Governor when he got hired by the Connecticut emissions company contracted by Weicker himself. Weicker didn’t face a $4.5 billion deficit coming in to office and had the income tax option which he implemented and ’til this day hasn’t gotten the state out of the hole. Ned Lamont promised a $400 tax relief for property owners and he better not screw us on that. Bridgeport property owners may get that brake from Lamont and then the city blood suckers at city hall and the acting tax collector will stick us up for $600.

  4. Lennie: Weicker really didn’t “give” Bridgeport anything: We were forced to sell Beardsley Park/Zoo to the state and sell hundreds of acres of adjacent parkland (In Trumbull) to Bob Scinto, et al… We weren’t assisted with any major development projects by Weicker… Our finances were put under state control — with an initial, forced tax increase…

    The relocation of Housatonic Community College to Downtown/Lafayette Plaza was an indicated, regional measure that didn’t do much for downtown Bridgeport (it sits, essentially, as a closed fortress, sans moat, “isolated” from downtown proper) — or anything, for the Bridgeport tax-base — as we can presently observe… (Don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan of Housatonic, but it was probably destined for it’s present fate with or without Lowell Weicker… And let’s not forget the big money made on that deal by a certain, very “connected” family…) Ditto for the relocation of the State Police Barracks…

    In retrospect, Felonious John Rowland actually did a lot more — and gave some ” — $125 million –for development in Bridgeport… (Even as he stymied the asphalt plant onslaught at Seaside Park and Pleasure Beach…)

    Probably, it was Mary Moran’s bold move that got some essential attention for Bridgeport, where there would have been none… And let’s compare the recent Hartford bailout with what Bridgeport got… What comparison does that conjure between Dan Malloy and Lowell Weicker?! (The dual-scenario comparison would seem to present as a Dali-Picasso collaboration, on all “dimensions!”…)

  5. Hi Jeff kohut, Lennie has the kohones to spin Weicker to no one’s advantage. What benefits has 6000 HCC Students provided to downtown business . Sounds like Kelvin Ayala at Moe’s burger is making a killing like Dunkin Donuts is with the patronage of the troopers next door. Surely the State purchase BEardsley Park and the zoo for $10 million. Immediately after, the city of bot was out over $10 million in assets while still covering park maintenance and some zoo costs and liabilities such as when the van with the family inside rolled into the water. Half a million to remove Mount Trashmore? Was the Capo family supposed to re-emburse all costs? $10 million from Indian gabbling revenue? You forgot to mention the strings attached in the form of a monopoly difficult to brake especially when there’s a $4.5 billion state deficit which could ballon if the Indian compact is broken. Great job Joe Ganim and Lowell Weicker. Good try Lennie Grimaldi.

Leave a Reply