Bellinger New BOE President

Hey everyone, say hello to Barbara Bellinger, new president of the Board of Education.

Bellinger was elected BOE president by her peers Monday night. Who’s Barbara Bellinger? She’s a retired vice president of People’s Bank, a resident of Brooklawn, and a breast cancer survivor who was one of the driving forces behind the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center at Bridgeport Hospital. Barbara’s been active in city education issues for decades. She graduated from Howard University and received a master’s degree in education from Southern Connecticut State University. She is the widow of George Bellinger, a prince of a guy who owned the electronics firm Bar-Pat Manufacturing in the West End, and was a student of African-American history in Connecticut.

Barbara is smart, organized and not afraid to express an opinion. She’s the kind of person that will make business interests feel more comfortable about education standards in the city.

How will Barbara play politically? Too soon to say. Although a Democrat, she’s not a Bridgeport political player, but that’s not to suggest she cannot be sensitive to political realities in dealing with the largest department budget in the city. This is a crucial budget cycle for Mayor Bill Finch as wage increases for city police officers kick in starting the July 2010 budget year, while he must wait on all those revenue unknowns decided by state government.

Interesting that Finch and Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa couldn’t stitch together five votes between them. Or maybe they couldn’t reach a compromise? The nine-member BOE chooses its leader. Finch’s first choice for BOE president was Leticia Colon who left the City Council to run for BOE at the urging of her political godfather South End District Leader Mitch Robles. Mario’s choice was veteran BOE member Bobby Simmons who’s not enamored with Superintendent of Schools John Ramos. But Mario’s not best of buds with Robles. Yes votes from Colon and former City Councilman Pat Crossin would have been enough to make Simmons president.

Crossin, a Finch supporter, and Leticia ended up voting for Bellinger. Leticia was voted vice president and Pat got what he wanted, chair of the BOE finance committee. Crossin had that role for many years on the City Council.

Former Democratic Town Chair John Stafstrom, a neighbor of Bellinger, had a hand in lining up votes for Bellinger.

How does the mayor fit into all of this? The mayor isn’t crazy about Ramos, and he wants a larger say in how the BOE budget is built. That’s where Crossin can help. But most BOE members end up being advocates for school spending rather than spending reformers. The mayor will make an effort at working with Bellinger and she’ll do the same. In a few months, come nuts and bolts of budget time we’ll know a lot more.

A Bridge To Vote

From The Connecticut Post:

Maria Pereira, a newly elected member of the Board of Education and former William Street resident, said in the early 1990s she would walk across the span five days a week on her way to the train station to get to her job in Manhattan. “This is a disgrace,” Pereira, who now lives on Ezra Street, said of the broken bridge. “This would never be tolerated in Black Rock or the North End.”

I’ve met Maria who won a BOE seat on the Working Families Party line. She seems like a nice person and well intentioned. She raises an interesting point about the Congress Street Bridge that will cost a fortune to tear down and replace. But there’s a reason pols would be more receptive to issues facing Black Rock and the North End. Electors there vote in higher numbers. The power of the vote moves elected officials in strange ways. That stuck-open bridge will be taken down. The larger question: when will it be replaced to reconnect the East Side with downtown? Anyone got $40 or $50 million? But, taking it down is a good start. As for the East Side (not to be confused with the Upper East Side), the bigger the voter turnout the bigger the attention from pols.



  1. *** Well, Simmons was my pick for B.O.E. but not enough votes; time will tell the story on whether Bellinger is her own person or ends up a political puppet? *** Wonder how the E.C.D.C. vote will end up tomorrow night? I’ll say again that the committee will vote for the change as per the advice of the earlier development study especially since more than half of the committee is from the East End/East Side. ***

  2. Leonard,
    What came first, the chicken or the egg? Do pols pay more attention to the North End because they vote or because the pols pay more attention to them that they do vote? Feeling disenfranchised, helpless and hopeless will depress voter turnout as well as historical trends. And if the pols can write off a large segment of the voters because they don’t vote for whatever reason, it makes the politicians’ job easier.

  3. Yes Grin, it cuts both ways. Municipal election turnouts have never been lower. But every time a pol ignores a neighborhood it creates opportunities for others who want to get something done. Sometimes, just a small coalition of folks can snap a pol to attention.

  4. Grin: I think the Politicians pay more attention to the North End, Black Rock and Mitch Robles’ district than they do the rest of the city. Just look at the boards and commissions. The Planning & Zoning is made up of 7 people from the North End. Look at the BOE we just elected Crossin–Black Rock, Colon–Mitch Robles’ District, Bellinger–Stafstrom’s district.
    Look at my district Upper East End. Not one board or commission member. No NRZ zone, no library, no arts center, no police protection. What we do have is rampant crime, zoning assaults like Jehovah Witness building, State jail proposal, breaking of the A residents zone for a developer and the list goes on. Nothing zip point nada. We are a swing district and thus don’t always vote the way the party bosses want. We are paying the price. The politicians have cut up our district like it was a Christmas Turkey. We have 2 State reps, 2 State Senators covering us up here. Unfortunately we are on the outskirts of these politicians’ districts and they don’t give a shit about us.

  5. Leonard,
    Let’s look at the Bridge politics in play here.
    1) BRBC did not want to fund Congress Street Bridge.
    2) BRBC wanted the Seaview Avenue corridor funded so that its members could have contaminated properties taken off of their hands and get paid for it through eminent domain.
    3) Finch, while employed (wink, wink) by the BRBC had the Seaview Avenue road to nowhere as one of his projects.
    4) No one believes there is money available to built a new bridge; pedestrian or vehicular.
    5) Demolishing the bridge removes not only an eyesore (heard some juvenile inmates were complaining that looking at the atrocity was cruel and unusual punishment) but a symbol of the city’s disregard toward the East Side. Take the bridge down and it is out of sight and out of mind.
    6) BRBC can refocus on feeding the businesses on Seaview Ave.
    Don’t over-complicate politics with corporate greed. Corporate greed wins 90% of the time.

      1. The BRBC is only concerned with looking after the interests of the business community. Why else would Paul Timpanelli go to such lengths trying to sell a sewer plan that had absolutely no benefit to Bridgeport (it would’ve overloaded an already overworked waste treatment system) and not a little to a greedy developer?

    1. Much of what the Reaper, not the Ripper, says is true.
      What I find interesting is that when the bridge melted on 95 a couple of years ago they had a temporary bridge up and running for about $300k. Reaper is also right about Finch and the Timper and their positions on the Congress Street Bridge.

      Ms. Pereira’s comments about Black Rock are true with one caveat. I can remember when the new schools were being built and one school wanted to make sure that they had all the bells and whistles as their counterparts. I remember Council member Tom Mulligan saying in effect that you can have all the amenities that you want. Just make sure that Black Rock School and Longfellow have the best teachers. Pereira may not like it but the Perrier set in Black Rock wants excellence not mediocrity. I hope she can provide excellence for the whole system. Like she said at the polls at Black Rock School. “I’m a parent not a politician.”

  6. The Seaview Ave Corridor was a pipedream like the Reaper said. The one thing these dumb asses did not take into consideration was the railroad bridge at Crescent and Seaview. They held a ton of meetings and when the railroad bridge was brought up they all went DUH!!!
    They got a price tag of $55 million to rework that bridge so that trucks from the port could pass through. What this meant was that a lot of train traffic would cut through the East Side at street level. These bums did not give shit about that.
    The $55 million railroad bridge design killed that project and left some greedy developers holding the bag. In the meantime we get screwed again.

  7. “Bridgeport Now” Tuesdays at 8pm on Ch 88, and on the internet at

    Tonight, local news and national news.

    We are in favor of moving the Ferry to the East End in Bridgeport. Our editorial board will pursue this issue as we did the Congress Street Bridge and the Airport safety expansion issues. We are open to debate and will provide a forum.

    Also, I would like to read some of the comments from this site on the program. Lively discussion. Will be called the OIB Update. Lennie please contact me if you know of any issues otherwise. Thx.

  8. Oh rats TC, you’re a firefighter, you’d know the answer to that! It was supposed to be a trick question.
    The river is still designated by the Coast Guard to have no obstructions. Of course, in past days water traffic was going up to Berkshire and sometimes beyond.
    A fixed bridge, of course, is cheaper, but the Pequonnock is considered a working river. Like the city, it doesn’t work too well.
    On the other hand, you’d think any town named “Bridgeport” would know how to build a bridge. We specialize in doing them badly. (See Grand Street, Stratford Avenue, Yellow Mill Pond …)

  9. In actuality we specialize in not maintaining our Bridges. A perfect example of that is the Pleasure Beach Bridge. That was another BS story to the public. The decking was damaged by fire but it did not extend to the working parts of the bridge. The city used that as an excuse to close Pleasure Beach off from the public.They figured they saved $100K-plus by doing so.
    There is no one that’s going to convince me that parts for the working mechanism could not be fabricated and thus get this bridge up and running. THEY DON’T WANT THAT BRIDGE WORKING.

  10. You guys want Sen Dodd to go so we can get a Republian who is like Joe who is holding heath care back! Oh please. I’m not happy with Dodd but I’d rather have Dodd than Republicans that do not care about anyone and their health they just care about their right-wing nut agenda.

  11. *** Unless not wanted by incumbent BOE past & present members, why would “new” BOE members even qualify for any leadership positions like president, v/p, finance chair, etc.? What happenned to paying your dues, experience, qualifications, etc.? Seems as though anything that might make any sense is “old fashioned” when it comes to Bpt. politics & city or state government issues! *** Thanks to Rep. Himes, at least 1 of the downtown eyesores will be removed from sight & mind in the near future, with no plans or money for a replacement. *** When it comes to district councilperson choices, in some districts you must promise to inform your district leader about any major issues that may come up for a vote & your personal views on the issues before you actually vote, just in case your district leader has a say on which way you’re going to vote! At times, it will not matter whether it’s good for the city or your district; nor whether you’ve gotten many phone calls from voters on the issue. What matters is that the district leader can get on the phone or in a political meeting & basically state & boast that his people will vote the way they’re told to vote period. This way if there’s anything of major importance coming up for a vote on the BOE or City Council, the district leader is called first, not the members! Sounds a bit too power hungry, but it’s still reality in Bpt. politics in some districts. ***

  12. I’ve been wondering about Pleasure Beach Bridge myself, TC. You can’t tell me a machine-tools town can’t fabricate anything they need. And I seem to remember Mandy having public works replace part of the deck down there once.

  13. But as I see it now Dodd will beat him and I sure as hell do not want a Republican senator! I will take the evil of Dodd over any Republican any god damn day. Anyone but Republicans and Joe L!!!!!!!!!

  14. Also I knew a lady a couple years back who was going to lose her house in Bpt and Dodd stepped in and helped her out, this story was even on CT Post. These are the little things people forget Dodd has done but real Bpt residents like me have not forgotten. Vote Dodd 2010!!! Vote Sue B!!! Sue B running on the ticket will be hard for any Republican to run.

  15. Enlightened; Although I am not an engineer I would think that the entire opening and closing mechanism for the Pleasure Beach bridge could be engineered if necessary. I would be willing to bet that it would be a hell of a lot cheaper to do that than build an entirely new bridge.
    The problem here is no one (going back to Ganim) has taken the time to investigate this option. I mean the mechanism is not wrapped in rocket science. There are a few gears and pulley-like devices plus an engine (motor) that operates these mechanisms. No one actually knows the cost of mechanical repairs.
    Mayors don’t like to spend money on these type of repairs as it will only benefit a few people. Keeping the bridge open keeps people off the island thus no need for maintenance, police and the like.

  16. *** Only thing happening @ Pleasure Beach before the fire was minimal to say the least, along with fishing. The city did not want to be responsible if anything happened @ that waterfront wasteland so the fire was a blessing for the city since there was no money or real interest in that site ’til many years later! Best plan is to sell it to the Feds. Wildlife Preserve & let them develop the area! *** Bpt. has become a dreamers’-type city where everything concerning modern future development is nothing more than wishful thinking! Maybe if we concentrate on the basics first then these dreams may become reality someday. *** Vote tonight to move the ferry from downtown to the East End; it’s a done deal, trust. ***

  17. Mojo I agree it has become a dreamers’ city instead of an action city. The powers that be that have run this city for the past 20 years have done nothing but come up with big ideas and nothing else. Sure we have some token development downtown and we have the United Rentals building but after that we have bupkus.
    Do we have people presenting big ideas? Yes!!! But that’s it. The one thing that we have had a chance at in the past 20 or more years was the Little league complex at 90 acres. We told little league to take a hike.
    We are still talking big dreams like Steel Point. In my lifetime if one building shows up there I will be surprised.

  18. CHS: You have bashed EVERY Supervisor in PF at one point or another in this blog. Now the ball is rolling and the Congress Street bridge comes down (upcoming months). Yes, CC and his staff had some planning with this project. What I am trying to say is PF is not as bad as you so portray. Actually, there are a large number of employees and Supervisors alike that take great pride in their jobs and the services provided to the residents. I just like to remind you from time to time of your ignorance. I would also like to remind you that everyone knows who you are, and your day is coming. Celia Cruz: I do respect your opinion. HOWEVER, Mayor Finch is the guy in charge. Whether Himes/Council got funds to demolish, Finch is still the guy that has to follow up and make the necessary decisions on how that has to get done. With that said, I for one will give the Man his props for this job being well done!


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