A sensitive guy with a booming heart, former Mayor John Fabrizi bleeds Bridgeport. As a retail politician he exuded a sympathetic touch with the blue-collar voter.
He’s still part of the Bridgeport fabric splitting his time in retirement between his Florida winter home and his warm-weather Park City. A few weeks ago he hosted the inaugural Bridgeport legends night saluting leaders we lost the past year, City Sheriff Dennis Scinto, Police Sergeant Gene O’Neill and philanthropist Billy Carroll.
As an elected official he rose up through the ranks: Civil Service Commission, City Council representing the North End and then president of the legislative body prior to assuming the mayoralty in April 2003.
The former mayor has a deep reservoir of Bridgeport institutional knowledge he shares with us in our latest interview commemorating Bridgeport’s Bicentennial.
Q. What is your first memory of Bridgeport?
A. As a young boy, our parents took us on car rides, and we would drive and sightsee in Downtown Bridgeport and some parks. We traveled north and south on Main Street, and east and west from Bull’s Head to Railroad Avenue, as I know it today.
Bridgeport looked like 42nd and Broadway [in New York City] with masses of people walking throughout the streets going in and out of many stores like H.L. Green’s, Woolworths and Gimbels. I remember riding the elevators at Gimbel’s and walking through the skybridge over John Street.
The Crystal Palace, the Sheehan Center, the merry-go-round, and the in-ground pool at Pleasure Beach, were some other of my earliest memories of Bridgeport, as well as strolling into the Grand Foyer of the Poli/Majestic Theatres. We would also stop by Remington Woods on Broadbridge Avenue where we would feed the deer.
Q. What are your ties to Bridgeport, and what do you do, either work or volunteer work, that benefits the city and its residents?
A. These days my wife Mary and I split our time between Bridgeport and Delray Beach FL, but my heart is always here keeping a pulse on what is happening in Bridgeport.
I also keep engaged in helping numerous non-profits with capital campaigns, special events and fundraisers. I have always believed in giving back to the community in which you live and work. Giving back is not just making a financial contribution, it is about giving of your time, your knowledge, expertise and your ability to listen and work with everyone.
I have a lengthy history in this community including public and elected service. I have served on many community boards, as well as served in appointed and elected positions in Bridgeport throughout my 37 years of service. Some of my service includes teaching 5th and 6th grades at Hallen School, teaching remedial math at Read school, serving as an Administrator at Central High school (my alma mater) and also Central Office, then serving as the Adult Education Director until my retirement in 2016.
Some of my elected positions included serving on the Civil Service Commission for almost 15 years, a City Council member for almost 6 years, 5 years as President, but my proudest achievement was serving as Mayor of this great City.
Q. What do you like best about Bridgeport?
A. I adore the resilience and tenacity of the people of Bridgeport. We are troopers and survivors. I also love and greatly appreciate our city’s diversity. As it was stated many years ago … Bridgeport is a City of Neighborhoods celebrating many ethnicities. Are you aware that over 50 different languages are spoken in our public schools?
Additionally, I really enjoy our Parks … they are beautiful and serene, and are our namesake, “The Park City.”
Q. Where is your favorite spot in the city to visit and why?
A. Seaside Park is my favorite place to visit in our City. There are many reasons why I feel this way. Seaside Park represents the City. Wherever you turn, you will see the makeup of our people and neighborhoods. Bridgeport is the biggest City in the State of Connecticut, but we have such a small-town feel where “everyone knows someone.” I grow quite warm when I run into a former student whom I taught seeing and acknowledging their growth and success. I enjoy walking the beach and interacting with people. You almost always run into someone whom you haven’t seen since childhood, or your teen and adolescent days.
Q. What’s your favorite Bridgeport eatery and what do you like there?
A. This is a difficult question. It’s hard to pick my favorite eatery in Bridgeport because during my life, I have eaten in a significant number of eateries in Bridgeport. There are just too many great restaurants here to just single out one.
Back through the 1960s-1980s, the Venetian Garden and Ocean Sea Grill were great places to eat, but we only went there on special occasions.
Today, Testo’s Ristorante, including the Pizzeria [just over the Bridgeport line], Ralph ‘n’ Rich’s, Joseph’s Steakhouse, Ola Latin Kitchen, Brasa and PHO are some of our favorites. There are just too many others that we frequent, and really enjoy including, Portuguese, Spanish, Asian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Mexican spots just to name some of the other great choices that we frequent here.
Q. Where do you see the city going?
A. I feel that the City is somewhat in choppy and uncharted waters from everything that I read and hear. It seems there’s a lack of stewardship. You cannot direct and guide a City effectively with so many “acting” positions. Employees look for stable leadership, and it’s not happening. This is not a play, it’s a business. And when you add in the uncertainty over how quickly the city responds from the pandemic especially in the area of economic development, it makes for even more stressful times.
The good news is that the pandemic seems to be hopefully just about over, and the City will be receiving an unprecedented amount of funding from the Federal and State Governments. If spent appropriately and by the guidelines, great things can happen, which will have an impact on the needy, much-needed services for all and especially the city’s morale.
Q. If you had a magic wand and could make a miracle happen for the city, what would it be?
A. Togetherness … for progress!!!
Regardless of one’s skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and political affiliation, etc. … folks need to respect one another, and band together to make Bridgeport a better place to live, work and raise a family.
We need to initiate broader community discussions on initiatives that will help build a better Bridgeport, including but not limited to, initiating an effective community policing program, building a technical high school in Bridgeport dedicated to Bridgeport students only, supporting local businesses, and having our City employee population and programs reflect the demographics of our City.
Many flowers will grow and shine brilliantly by planting and watering these seeds resulting in literally Building a Better Bridgeport!
Happy 200th birthday, Bridgeport!
“A sensitive guy with a booming heart, former Mayor John Fabrizi bleeds Bridgeport. As a retail politician he exuded a sympathetic touch with the blue collar voter,” oh how true. My dealings with John were straight up, we talk, we get mad, we shout we disagreed on things and we were honest wth each other and John kept his word if he said he was going todo something.
John still knows the city and he gets right to the main problems of the city when John said this, “I feel that the City is somewhat in choppy and uncharted waters from everything that I read and hear. It seems there’s a lack of stewardship. You cannot direct and guide a City effectively with so many “acting” positions. Employees look for stable leadership, and it’s not happening. This is not a play, it’s a business. And when you add in the uncertainty over how quickly the city responds from the pandemic especially in the area of economic development, it makes for even more stressful times.” The best to you John and your wife.
Since we were cavemen, uncertainty, stress and instability have been facts of life — any mayor should know that.
But because Bridgeport protects its retirees at the expense of a balanced budget, Mayor Fabs doesn’t feel the strain. Costs exceed value. Bridgeport has a 1B debt that promises to grow unless drastic measures are taken.
I wish there were more interviews with fulltime residents or even (gulp) people who post here!
LE, response from John Fabrizi: “My pension is from the Connecticut state teachers retirement board where from day one I paid the entire 7% of my salary into the pension fund every year for my entire career. I opted not to take a pension from the mayors office therefore I do not have a pension from the city at all.”
Direct message from Local Eyes:
I’m a self-styled expert on municipal finance — your 7% gave/gives you an oversized /outsized return. Your pension plan is so generous, nobody wants to work for Connecticut’s Treasury anymore!
Was it altruism that prompted you to drop your city pension or were other conditions at work?
I didn’t ask you a question but your response was weak and delivered by proxy.
Many winners come from Bridgeport — your next post is your chance to join their ranks.
Former Mayor Fabrizi is accurate in his statement that his employment from our Board of Education provided a pension plan through he State, CTRS that required certain levels of employee funding, depending on various factors. So LE, your self-styled attack was not strong.
And when you get into City Pension which is really Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS) run by the State also, perhaps it was more years in one system rather than another that made it easy to choose.
Pension Plans intrinsically are expensive because they offer guarantees of mortality and investment return on funds that make them riskless in those areas to those covered and/or their beneficiaries. Private industry that pays taxes realized a long time ago that creating and encouraging retirement systems was important as an employee benefit but have made Profit Sharing or 401K plans that only guarantee to put certain dollars into the system for the employee (plus the employee contribution) and see what return the chosen investment vehicles produce in the next year and beyond. No guarantee. Risk is on individual.
With pension plans, benefits can continue beyond death and when markets produce poor investment results for the fund trustees, the taxpayer makes up the difference. Risks are minimized to worker by nature of pension guarantees that are not part of less expensive plan design. True or not? Time will tell.
JML, my post was accurate, beefy and easy-to-prove.
If you indicate your success metrics, I willing to use time, speed and money to prove mine.
I disapprove of you and Lennie defending Fabs but I understand why.
You made a statement that implied that Bridgeport Pension system is what is providing monthly retirement checks to Fabrizi family. Did you not? Whether that is part of your “beefiness” or not, it was wrong and therefore hard to prove without lots of explanations, including questions into “success metrics”.
And then you chose to say you understand why attacking your “self assessing style”, you say that there is some other reason why I wrote what I did than providing a fuller opportunity to comment on municipal pensions, which we agree upon as a major cause of urban debt burdens and increased taxation that might have gone to fund better outcomes for urban youth than currently—without accountability, transparency or ready metrics? Time will tell.
JML, I was wrong about a tiny detail but correct about the big picture.
Bridgeport teacher’s DB plan administered by a state board and not a local one. Bridgeport teacher, state pension. Big deal.
Bridgeport and Connecticut have seemingly irreversible debt loads.
Can those balance sheets survive transparency?
(nod) That’s the road I’m on.
Mayor John Fabrizi was always a gentleman and fair who always treated me with respect whether as the President of the Civil Service Commission or as the mayor of Bridgeport. I wish him and his lovely wife nothing but the best in their retirement. Mayor John Fabrizi, you’ll always have my respect and admiration as the Mayor of Bridgeport, but more importantly as a man.
LE, post yours. I’m still waiting for my comrades, Ron and Day, as well as JML, Jeff, Maria, Troll, Rich, etc. even Steve. 🙂
I like the trade school idea, maybe they can place it at (UB) Goodwin, We know that’s not gonna last. 🙂
We could use another Technical School. Those waters may be choppy and uncharted for a canoe, but not for a superyacht like “Lady Kathryn.” 🙂
P.S Here’s an initiative similar to Joe’s “Help Stop Illegal Dumping, Report It” 🙂
If You See Something, Pick It Up Campaign. 🙂
Every Garbage night when the “people” 🙂 take out their garbage bins look on the ground in your vicinity and if you see a cup pick it up and throw it in the bin. 🙂
It will only take a minute of your time “people” to keep your neighborhood clean. 🙂
I would even fine stores (or something) who let their place of the business accumulate debris as part of doing business in the Port. 🙂 “Call it a carbon litter tax” 🙂
The City keeps on asking for input on how it should spend its newfound money. Spend it on, If You See Something, Pick It Up Campaign. Get the word out, Commercials, Billboards. 🙂
Bam I am out of here. 🙂
RT hits another high note with his campaign “if you see a cup, pick it up!”
Simple, straight forward and to the point.
Let’s build on that. Have Litter Patrols that pay kids in our public schools a stipend to once a week pick up debris scattered near their schools.
And have kids keep the deposits they find when on litter patrol.
“If you see a cup, pick it up.”
I will say it was a nice touch John but unfortunately you BLEW it when you were mayor and could have actually done something.
He made a personal mistake when he “blew it.” He didn’t cause Bridgeport to lose countless dollars by committing crimes like Ganim did. He didn’t cause countless lawsuits due to terrible management -(in more than just the mayors office)- costing Bridgeport millions like Ganim has AND IS still doing.
John has a big heart and really always cared about the city. Regarding the “pension” comment, I understand fully where that’s coming from but as I always have said- you can’t blame the recipients. If you have a problem with that issue the finger must be pointed at those who created that particular system of benefits.
Let’s clean up our dirty city.
A double entendres if you know what I mean.
Troll, not sure if you are being sarcastic or ridiculous. 🙂
Let’s not 🙂
Litter Patrols? Do you mean pay the kids at school to pick up their own litter? What? Do you think the teachers are the ones littering on school grounds? SMH
If I can pick you up and throw you away I would, the Port council might even give me a reward/deposit. BAM 🙂
I the bright side you are no longer Port’s trash. BBBBBAAAAMMM 🙂
I have always been a fan of John Fabrizi. Finally, Ron Mackey and Donald Day and I can agree . Actions speak louder than words. I have always appreciated the efforts of Mayor Fabrizi. To this day, knocking on doors, constituents still talk about John Fabrizi in a positive light. He can be proud of his accomplishments as Mayor. Bridgeport has been evolving since he has been Mayor. Not fast enough for me, but nonetheless, Things are happening in every corner of the city. Downtown is begining to finally move forward. Steelepointe could move faster. Mayor Fabrizi can take credit for some of that as well as Finch. Ganim is now Mayor. Great things are happening. Downtown has new business and housing that will change the entire make-up of the area. Ganim deserves credit for a lot of that. Every administration has their trials. I think overall, John Fabrizi was a very good Mayor. He should be proud of his tenure. I am proud to know him. Have supported him and glad he was part of my town committee in the 134th. I still remember calling the Mayors office . Mayor Fabrizi showed up at my house in 30 minutes with his entourage. walked Glendale Avenue and had the road paved. Boom Boom Boom. That’s how I take care off business and I will always remember that. You can bullshit all you want but with me, actions always speak louder than words. I can not speak for members of my town committee and they do not post here but they do read the blog. Suffice it to say- we all love John Fabrizi.
If this city is going to survive, it needs a “John Fabrizi” at the helm — and very soon; someone who loves Bridgeport and its people as “home” and “family,” respectively, who is also informed, intelligent, and singularly focused on saving this city. Including John, there are probably only about 4 (or less) others of the same ilk capable of assuming leadership of Bridgeport and doing the right things for it in a timely fashion…
Good to hear your input, John. It would be great to see you and Mary beating the drums for Bridgeport again…
Looking forward to seeing you sometime in the near future — somewhere in Bridgeport.
Okay John, let’s get down to what you know you should do. Get back to Bridgeport and give it another shot. One thing we know is Bridgeport is down on second chances. Rich A. was right on when he said your minor indiscretions hurt no one but you, and the topper was done out of passion. You were a good Mayor, tough, but more sensative than most knew. Oh, most important, a good politician, that’s the part of you I miss. I love a good challenge and I know you do also, we showed that we have that quality. I don’t believe Joey G. is going to run again, he’s outgrown Bridgeport; I wish him luck in his next venture, he’s smooth, but doesn’t have your passion and sensitivity. That’s a personal observation, I spent a lot of public service with both of you. I speak only for myself. Now, get off the fence, keep your eye on the landscape and do some soul searching. I’m not the only one that’s not getting younger, but I warn, don’t ever underestimate me. A number’s only a number, and I’ll prove that if something catches my interest.
Lisa,I agree with everything you said.Johnny Fabs was a good mayor,he LOVED our city and it showed.Selfishly,I would like to see him come back and give it a go again,but the other side of the coin is,for himself,he put his time & passion into our city for a long time,now it’s no time for him to enjoy his retirement,doing what he wants.Whoever comes in next has a huge job in front of him or her,Joe once again screwed us,and it’s going to be years till Bpt gets back on it’s feet again.(wouldn’t it be nice if the Feds actually left once and for all, and we as a city could move forward finally?)..John doesn’t need the headache at this point..
**oops i meant to say “now is the time for John to enjoy his retirement.”
Just had to chime in one more time—- Just so that no person is passing around a bad rumor of wishful thinking- Mayor Joe Ganim will be running again and when he does- there will be so much happening in the city- so much positive energy that the haters will just be background noise. This was a nice article and interview. It was nice to see a positive spin on a local celebrity. I think anybody that really cares about the city will hope that the next few years will be Bridgeport’s finest hours. That will never diminish the efforts of those that came before. Wishing everyone the best and BTW- I forgot to give a shout out to Mary Fabrizi.
Ending on a real positive note. How about the line up for the New Amphitheater.? The new Brewery downtown and the new apartments under construction. The Cabaret is about to reopen. So many great things to look forward to.
This is Little Stevie A at his best, he realized that he had gone to far talking about John Fabiriz and he knows he must kiss up to the incumbent Joe Ganim. It’s obvious that Mario must have said something to Stevie A because he made his post right after he got off from work today at 5:45pm today.
Oh poor little Ronnie. Stll can’t stand I say what I want when I want and how I want. I had I happily wrote about John Fabrizi but had to let Lisa P know that Ganim was running. Sorry if I shitted on your day. Sorry you will be forever a miserable blogger. You do not affect me at all. You do however sound like a real ass . Get over it. I don’t think Mario or Joe read this blog. Who would read a blog when haters get on daily a regurgitate the same crap. One could stay away for a year and the same individuals still saying the same shit while others spend their days trying to improve the quality of life. My post was simple. Acknowledge Mayor Fabrizi as a North end celebrity and let Lisa P. know Ganim was running again. Was that too overwhelming for you? Too bad.
Little Stevie A, OIB is the most read blog by politicians in the state. Stevie are just like Maria you both feel that you guys make OIB but as you can see OIB hasn’t miss a beat without either one of you guys.
lolololololololol yes the most read blog in the State. Because people give a shit what Ron Mackey has to say–lololololllolllolol Little silly man.
Some people bleed Bridgeport while others choose to surf it.
No need to leave your chair, surf Bridgeport here — > http://bridgeportctusa.com/youtube-slideshow/
total time: 1:45
Like I said. John had his chance but he blew it.
Joey G, I believe, desperately hoped to get a gig somewhere else but nothing came to fruition. When I saw his PR machine kicking it into gear again I felt he was running. If he believes that the electors are dumb enough to vote for him again why not run and then four more years of nothing.
Only Steve believes that the plans for the theaters downtown are real. Only Steve believes that the housing on Steal Point are real. Only Stevie believes that the next development plan for Bridgeport will actually happen.
But someone new has to take charge. Maybe that someone is actually Steve Stafstrom. Someone who has always been playing around the edges and finally takes the plunge.
But it has got to be someone different. Someone not tainted by Bridgeport’s past. Someone with the intelligence to get things done. Paging that someone. Bridgeport’s calling.
Little Stevie A, you said,
Steven Auerbach says:
June 25, 2021 at 1:03 am
lolololololololol yes the most read blog in the State. Because people give a shit what Ron Mackey has to say–lololololllolllolol Little silly man.
Stevie, you need go outside of Bridgeport and listen and talk to peolpe and especially politicans and listen what they say about Bridgeport. OIB is the main way people see what’s going on here, they learn about how a felon who did time in a federal prision is the mayor and how the police chief and the personnel director are now serving time now in federal prision, the city has a state senator who is under federal investigation, these are just few of problems going on here that peolpe learn about Bridgeport being a joke.
Rn , There is only one fact I can state- I do not now or have ever associated with anyone that believes Bridgeport is a joke or is disgusted by it as much as you. I am a fortunate person that has friends across the state and beyond. They now I love this city and they certainly do not see this city as a joke. Honestly, I could not imagine the sadness of waking up everyday with a chip on my shoulder. Being so negative. Believing it is ok to always insult another for their comments. You are not funny. Your following is extremely limited. Nobody really cares in what you have to say and honestly, I believe you are correct Maria P and Myself have found bigger stages to voice our opinions. You are ill informed. Most people I know rarely read this blog anymore and honestly, it is because of you. Why you continue to make commentary that the Mayor or Mario ever said anything about me on OIB is absolutely ludicrous. Why I am even responding to you is even more foolish on my part. I shall refrain and let you carry on. So sit back and do what you do best. Rip the city apart.
Stevie, you never address the truth about the felons like the mayor, the police chief and the personnel director plus a state senator being investigated by FBI. Stop fooling yourself Stevie, people all over the state follow those stories on OIB, what other city in the state has fail leadership like that? Stevie, why don’t you post during the day like you would do before you were given your current City position? You know Stevie you and Maria should have your own podcast together that way people can see what real super stars you guys are in your own mind.
Bubba, I could have called you to say this, but every Mayor in our time and memory blew it at one time or another. Differenent circumstances, some intentional some not, but they all did. Judging by your comments, you seem to be pretty hard on John. I give Stevie A. credit for staying in the middle lane on something that may never happen with either of them. This is how politics works, plant a seed and you never know who drops from the sky. Ron Mackey you are a well-experienced man, and one I always trust. Keep you’re comments coming, you’re more respected than you realize.
I will just say this. Bridgeport will never be any better as long as they have such low standards.
Nothing happened in Bridgeport when John Fabrizi was mayor. It is time to move on. It is time to move on from Joe and I do not believe Joe is ready to move on from Bridgeport.
Try someone different. You cannot do worse than the crew that you’ve tried.