Black Rock Council Battle, Torres And Blagys Versus Brannelly And Stafstrom

Not in decades has Bridgeport seen a general election for City Council such as the one shaping up in Black Rock, the highest turnout area of the city. Neighborhood leader Phil Blagys, with deep roots in the community, has agreed to serve as the council running partner of two-time Republican mayoral candidate Rick Torres against Democratic incumbents Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom. Get ready for a rockin’ general election in The Rock. This one could break spending records.

On one side incumbents Brannelly and Stafstrom will try to frame themselves as caring, independent voices responsive to neighborhood issues such as taxes, crime and quality of life. The other side features two active neighborhood leaders offering an alternative to charges the Democrats are too cozy with Mayor Bill Finch, not the most popular figure in Black Rock, coming off another tax increase in the highest taxed area of the city. It’s also an opportunity for a languishing Republican party to regain some relevance in a Democratic-dominated city. Republicans currently hold no elected positions on the council and Board of Education. They’re trying to change that with this council race and effort to reclaim two minority-party seats on the school board lost to candidates running with the Connecticut Working Families Party four years ago.

Blagy’s entry creates a complementary balance to Torres’ lightning-rod profile. Torres is well-liked in the neighborhood, and has proven so at the ballot box, but prone to candor about national social issues that can focus away from nuts and bolts issues so key in a local race. Blagy’s profile is about as local as local can get with a history of getting along with Democrats and Republicans and the unaffiliated voters in the district that may well swing this race.

The Blagys family history in the neighborhood goes back 100 years. Blagys has a background in teaching primarily in Bridgeport as well as working in the apparel industry as director of engineering for an apparel manufacturing company.

His volunteer activities include more than 10 years as little league coach, president of Black Rock Community Council, chair of Black Rock Day Parade, former board member of the Burroughs Community Center. He also was a co-chair of the community action group Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport. He has resigned from that position in light of his council run.

Black Rock features a diverse constituency of waterfront homes along St. Mary’s by-the-Sea and sturdy middle class homeowners as well as working class residents primary west of Ellsworth Street and north across Fairfield Avenue. While most of the rest of the city is 10 to 1 Democrat to Republican, the ratio at the Black Rock School voting precinct is roughly 3 to 1 with a large bloc of unaffiliated voters. Black Rockers can be choosy.

Black Rock School is an area where Torres and Blagys figure to perform strong. That does not mean they will win this election. Brannelly and Stafstrom are hard workers who will be well financed to make their case to voters to bring them back two more years. The lower end of the district has a much higher percentage of Democrats historically voting at Longfellow School but likely the Aquaculture School this cycle with Longfellow undergoing new construction. Percentage turnout at Black Rock School is generally twice as large.

Brannelly, whose father served as Bridgeport city clerk in the 1970s, took a risk this year by becoming co-chair of the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee in the eye of a financial storm. The bad news is she voted for a tax increase that represents hundreds of dollars more to some serial voters in the neighborhood. The good news is the council, based on her recommendations, cut back Finch’s tax increase to just under one mil. The tax hit would have been much higher under the mayor’s proposal.

Brannelly also is at odds with constituents that support a state government reform bill that would bar city employees from serving on the City Council eliminating conflicts of interests such as council members approving their own wages and benefits. The Bridgeport City Charter prohibits city employee service on the council but a loophole in state law allows it. Brannelly, a health care professional not on the city payroll, even came out against the measure proposed by Bridgeport State House members Auden Grogins and Jack Hennessy when an amendment was advanced grandfathering current city employees serving on the council.

Steve Stafstrom, in just a few months as a sitting councilman, has shown a pragmatic approach that sometimes escapes his council partner. Stafstrom has publicly announced his support for the grandfather provision of the government reform bill that will likely be introduced again next year when the state legislature convenes. Stafstrom replaced Marty McCarthy on the council when he resigned to devote more time to business and family matters. His uncle John Stafstrom, the former chairman of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, has significant influence in party matters. Both Stafstroms work for the Bridgeport-based law firm Pullman & Comley where John Stafstrom serves as city bond counsel.

Get ready for the battle in Black Rock.

Statement from Torres following his endorsement Tuesday night from the Republican Town Committee:

I raised my family here and I have grown a thriving business (Harborview Market) here. Bridgeport must do better. And I know that we can do better. We need voices in city hall that will hold this administration accountable for its malaise, for its satisfaction in maintaining a status quo that has held our city back while cities as close as Stamford thrive.

I’m proud to run for office alongside Phil Blagys. Between us, we represent a wholesome, community activism that is rare in our city. I believe that we can be a voice for change in Bridgeport, a city whose past has been stunted by politicians, but whose future can be greatly influenced by strong voices and an empowered electorate. I am running for city council in Black Rock to help satisfy a longstanding desire of mine to serve Bridgeport. Massive taxation has pushed our section of Bridgeport to the brink. We must demand access to the decisions made in our city.



  1. Finally Black Rock voters have an interesting election at hand, particularly with Phil Blagys in the mix. As a Black Rock voter, I hope this campaign is actually about the local issues that matter most. At least three out of the four candidates are very well known (and generally well-regarded) in Black Rock.

  2. Rick and Phil will campaign based on the cold but hard truth, the many failures of the current Council and specific principles and proposed approach for creating a better future in both Bridgeport and Black Rock. Black Rock voters will be able to chose between creating a better future with Rick and Phil or perpetuating political machine control and the failed policies of the past in Bridgeport. This election is critical and extra steps will be taken to make sure it is a fair and honest one.

    1. Chosen 1,
      It’s Citizens Working for a Better Bridgeport (CW4BB) not Citizens Working for a Better Black Rock. In addition, CW4BB does not support people based on their political party affiliation. It is based on their qualifications, being free of conflicts, and their commitment to a set of principles that will help to create a better Bridgeport. Since you mentioned Texas, believe it or not, Texas retains the right to divide into up to five states should it so desire. I doubt it will ever do so, but if it did the area would have ten versus two U.S. Senators.

      1. Texas would have as much a chance of dividing into five states as Puerto Rico would have of becoming one. What eight current Senators would vote themselves out of office to accommodate the Texans? Not to mention the congressmen, who would also have to decide who goes and who stays.

        1. Hector,
          They gained the right when they were admitted to the U.S. and they retain the right today. They would get eight more senators and would probably have the same number of reps since that is based on population. I used to live in Texas and know about this issue.

          1. True, Mr. Walker. But Congress would have to approve of any seceding attempt. I believe there was such an attempt made recently.

          2. I agree on their right and am not questioning your knowledge, what I am clarifying is by Constitution the amount of legislators as a governing body is set and that number can’t be changed.

          3. Joel,
            Texas does not have the right to secede. It tried once along with a number of other southern states; it didn’t turn out well.

  3. Let’s get ready to rumble. Without saying how I’d vote (if I could), I must admit this is the strongest one-two punch the GOP has ever brought to the plate. Will be following avidly.

      1. Naw, I’ll play by the rules. I’m a registered Dem here in Shamokin! But keep on this story, which will much more trenchant than in that printed paper.

        1. Ace,
          Thanks for having the integrity to play by the rules. Unfortunately, the DTC political machine in Bridgeport has not done so in connection with election matters in the past. In addition, the Mayor and City Council are not operating in accordance with the current City Charter in several respects. That needs to stop and we need people on the Council who are committed to making sure it does.

  4. There should be a clear choice to Black Rock voters this year. As a Registered Democrat and as an observer/commentator of City Council practices and activities for several years, new blood is necessary to assist in a turnaround, and the new blood must be unconflicted by income considerations as are five or more Council persons currently.
    Change is in the air with the multiple ‘governance issues’ currently followed by the media. More will probably surface. Some are about the management and communication around money issues. Some are about the way decisions come to be made. Some are about the way information is provided to or kept from the public, especially the use of modern technology. (Less twitter, more internet reporting and archiving on matters of consequence, for instance!) Some are about continuous operation in violation of Charter language. Hard for incumbents to defend they did not realize or did not know, as these have been reported to them in addresses to the City Council, emails to City Council representatives, hard copy made available to the City Clerk and TV tapes. Time will tell.

  5. Here’s the latest buzz in Black Rock: Everybody wants to be part of the coolest trend regarding intellectual property rights.
    On July 31, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will get a one-time boost of 2.7% when the “intangible economy” starts getting added to regular reports. It’s like bragging with a government-published report to back you up!
    Read the whole thing.

  6. In terms of national politics, I’m moderate to liberal. None of the concerns I have about “conservatives” at the national level applies to anything within the purview of city government. Torres has my full support. He is a great guy who does not “need” this job. He wants this job because he cares. He cares about his neighborhood and he cares about his city. I feel better about this vote than any other vote I have ever cast.

  7. Just my opinion from having worked with Phil Blagys on many neighborhood projects over the past several years.

    No one and I mean no one has worked harder or more effectively for the residents of Black Rock than Phil and just as importantly, he has done so in a totally non-partisan manner. Until he announced his candidacy I had no idea what party, if any he was affiliated with.

    Now for the record: I am a certified, card-carrying, lifelong, liberal Democrat and proud of it. However, come November I will be voting for Phil and I urge other Black Rockers to do the same.

  8. Jennifer,
    Agree with you regarding Phil. How could you not? Same with Rick but he needs to moderate his people-to-people skills somewhat.

    Frankly, this will be a tough choice for many because Sue Brannelly has been a good councilperson as well.

    1. Denis OMalley,
      You make some good points. However as CW4BB, Phil, Rick and other candidates will make clear, the current City Council has done a lousy job for both Bridgeport and Black Rock. The facts and figures are clear and compelling and they will serve as the basis for the upcoming campaign. It’s time for real change if you want to create a better future and avoid bankruptcy and more embarrassment in Bridgeport.

    2. Denis OMalley, Sue ran against Donna Curran on I will work to not raise your taxes, has voted for every tax increase, which include raises for her fellow city council city employees. This year there was a surplus in state tax revenue, it was suggest by fellow council people to use the surplus to reduce our tax increase, Sue put the surplus into the city general fund. She has more than a few citizens (myself included) who say she does not answer email or phone requests from her voters. On the budget committee this year, Tom McCarthy said do not touch the mayor’s budget when other council people wanted to make cuts to the mayor’s budget, his budget was not cut. She did not cut the budget this year, but raised the estimated state revenue. Sue stated publicly she did not agree with the city charter that city employees cannot serve on city council, HB 5724 even allowed for current council members/employees to keep both their job and seat. I know Sue is well liked, and seems to be a very nice person, but I do not think her record shows she listens to her voters and really works to meet their needs. When the “smut busters” first organized, we were helped by Marty McCarthy long before Sue returned a call for help. Yes, she was there for the photo ops, and once Auden Grogins was on board, then Sue came on board to help. She was not the least bit present during the snow storm, again, all our information came from Auden with regard to what the city was doing. So please help me understand how she has been a good council person.

    3. Sue is the city liaison with the library funding. We voted for the library to receive 1 mil of our taxes–the mayor did not like this vote. Sue never releases the full 1 mil to the library, JML is of the opinion the city uses the undistributed funds to show a balanced budget at the end of the year. Members of the library board often speak of the frustration of working with Sue to get the full funding disbursed. The city is saying the library does not use all the funds every year and we should reconsider voting to repeal the 1 mil, however this appears to be another example of questionable financial practices. At budget time, before the 1 mil vote was approved the library budget had often been cut, flat-funded or reduced. The people voted–and the city ignores the vote, with Sue as the gatekeeper for the city.

  9. This is what Sue did for Black Rock in her own words:
    “I take full responsibility for this upset. The clean up of the beach area occurred in response to complaints I have received about the deterioration of the park. I have been asking the Parks Department all along to tend to all the complaints, issues, requests that have been brought to Marty and me in making St. Mary’s a more enjoyable, safe, family friendly park. The lighting, the overgrowth of all the plantings all along Gilman and Eames, the animal holes all along St. Mary’s, the overgrowth of the seagrass on the beach, the debris on the beach, among many other issues.”

    How did that work out during super storm Sandy for Black Rock? Yeah, I didn’t forget about that.

    1. Bridgeport Rising,
      It took weeks to restore the Seabright beach this year. In addition, the roads in Black Rock are not in good shape. More importantly, Sue and the Council have done a poor job in controlling the City budget, holding the line on taxes, and keeping Mayor Finch accountable. In addition, she does not respond to serious inquiries regarding such matters from her constituents. I have first-hand experience in this regard.

  10. In just another example of how poorly Sue and Steve are protecting the interests of their constituents in Black Rock, last evening there were bright lights on all night for the Vibes and the bands played loud from 1:40 AM-3:30 AM directly across from Black Rock! At least I had the courtesy of not calling them in the middle of the night to complain. They need to make sure it does not happen again. The Vibes bands need to comply with the City ordinances regarding late night noise and disturbances. Black Rock is a residential community and the bands should not be playing late at night on the end of Seaside park across from Black Rock.

  11. I did not know that was from the VIBES. It was very loud. I walked down my street a bit and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.


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