It’s So Joe, The Return Of Ganim, Plus: Mario’s Mission And It Ain’t Just Bread Ned

Welcome home, Joe.

Full disclosure: I was Joe Ganim’s campaign manager. Private sector clients paid me a nice buck because of my relationship with him. Joe wanted a piece of the action. I screwed up. Joe and I had a falling out in the fall of 1999 because I decided not to play ball anymore. I have not spoken to Joe in nearly 10 years.

Joe Ganim was a good mayor, a masterful negotiator, the most effective chief executive since Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy managed the city from 1933-1957. The city was a complete mess when Ganim took office in 1991: crime soaring, companies leaving, bankruptcy looming. He turned it around, 10 straight balanced budgets without a tax increase. That will probably never happen again. He hired bright department heads. The city was cleaner and safer, new Housatonic Community College and state police barracks downtown, a ballpark, arena. The city was going in the right direction.

But Joe had a dark side. And it cost him a lot of years. He ceded far too much power and authority to a young man Paul Pinto who was allowed by Joe to abuse people doing business with the city. It got way out of hand.

Joe will be back home soon with his family in Easton where he belongs. Meanwhile he takes residence at the Watksinon House in Hartford (I was a resident there for a month in 2004), a transitional facility that includes both federal and state inmates. He’ll be assigned to a college dorm-type room with a roommate. He’ll go through a three-day period of orientation to adjust to rules and regulations. After that he’ll be allowed to work. He’ll also be allowed to drive to work, and attend church services. Basically, he’ll be given a 12-hour window to travel to and from work. The federal Bureau of Prisons farms out its halfway house services to private companies. Staff basically consists of social workers that will aid his transition. They frown upon “residents” working for a family business so Joe might be required to find work outside of the family legal business. (I went in with a job already in hand courtesy of a prince of a guy Billy Carroll, owner of Merit Insurance.) Joe must turn over 25 percent of his paycheck to the Watkinson House. Yes, even a halfway house gets greased!

Staff will make phone calls and do on-site spot checks to make sure Joe is working. Meals are served at Watkinson and he’ll be required to perform chores. In a few weeks he’ll be eligible for weekend passes home. And then he’ll be allowed to fill out his final months under home confinement until the completion of his sentence in July. Under home confinement Joe will receive phone calls between midnight and 3 a.m. by Watkinson staff to make sure he’s where he’s supposed to be.

Once the incarceration form of his sentence is completed he’ll then have a three-year period of supervised release under the authority of a federal probation officer. Joe must follow a set of conditions such as filing a monthly financial statement and receive permission to leave the state.

Joe’s voting privileges will be restored provided he has satisfied any fines and restitution ordered by the court. Under Connecticut law (voting privileges revert back to states even for federal offenses), felony offenders are allowed to vote provided they’re not incarcerated and meet court-imposed financial obligation. That law was passed by the Connecticut Legislature in 1998 and signed by (guess who?) then-governor John Rowland.

Joe had a year shaved off his federal incarceration for entering a Bureau of Prisons substance abuse program. I purchased a lot of wine for Joe in the late 1990s but saw no evidence of a drinking problem. But maybe all that vino paid off in more ways than one.

Either way, there’s nostalgia for Joe in Bridgeport. What will Joe do? In the long term I have no clue. In the short term he’ll adjust and rejoin his classy wife Jennifer and their three children. As far as I’m concerned he did his time. Joe’s even with the house.

Mario’s Menu

I stopped in to see Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa the other day at his Madison Avenue Restaurant to catch up on this gubernatorial election cycle.

Mario’s been fielding calls from a variety of candidates seeking statewide office. He has a pat answer. Call me in March. First things first: Mario must get reelected party leader by the 90-member town committee. Will there be party primaries to make a move against Mario? The only person capable of doing that perhaps is former party chair John Stafstrom. John and Mario are not buds and will never be pals. Stafstrom’s a bright attorney and cunning political operative. Will he move against Mario? Two years ago Mayor Bill Finch got his butt kicked trying to keep Stafstrom in power.

Finch and Mario will never be warm and fuzzy, but the relationship has improved enough that the mayor walked into Testo’s Restaurant last week and pledged his support to Mario. Mario’s reelection comes up in March.

Ned’s Bread

Shortly after Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 2006, Ned’s first television commercial featured a parody of Joe seeking to retain his seat in the general election as an independent. The talking heads pointed to the back of their inside-out shirts … Joe’s a turncoat, they said.

My wife Mo who votes but is not a political animal like me turned to me a said, “What does that have to do with me? He’s not talking to me.” Mo, like a majority of voters in Connecticut, is not driven by party label. She votes for Dems, she votes for Republicans. Ned Lamont and his strategic team ran an outstanding primary campaign based most notably on Ned’s opposition to the war. (Full disclosure: I voted for Ned in the primary and general election.) But strategically, Ned’s team flopped when they hit the general election. Ned, the Greenwich millionaire, had all the bread he needed to lose. Instead of appealing to independent voters the immediate message by Ned after the primary was Joe turning away from the Democratic Party that made his career. Who gives a shit? Not independent voters. And that’s why Ned lost.

Ned’s hardly a shoo-in for a primary win or a general election win for governor, and the Q Poll released the other day reinforces that. Until Ned proves he can win over unaffiliated voters he’s vulnerable to attacks by primary opponent former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy questioning Lamont’s viability in a general election.

And on the GOP side, or for that matter the Dem side, don’t be shocked if we see more candidates jump in. No one has a lock on this thing. It’s wide open.

Sir Speedy Reports

Leave it to that mischievous Joel Speedy Gonzalez, former City Councilman, to stir the pot. The other day OIB friends Mojo (Ralph Mojica) and The Bridgeport Kid (Derek Brown) almost settled their differences the old-fashioned way at Matty’s Corner, owned by that genial Black Rock pol Danny Roach who also serves on the city’s Police Commission. I mean, if you’re going to duke it out might as well be at the bar of a police commissioner, no? I’m glad cooler heads (or was it beer head?) prevailed and Big Mojo and The Kid settled their differences man to man and word to word. We’re verbally edgy here at OIB but we don’t want it to go beyond that; but just in case, Sir Speedy was on the scene and filed this video report.

News release from UB

Fones School of Dental Hygiene will provide free dental care for kids and teens on Jan. 29-30 during ADA’s Give Kids a Smile program.

Fones School of Dental Hygiene will offer free dental cleanings and other care to children and teenagers during Give Kids a Smile, the American Dental Association’s major outreach program that provides low-income children with much-needed care.

Appointments will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, January 29 and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 30 at the Fones Dental Hygiene Clinic located at the University of Bridgeport Health Sciences Center, 60 Lafayette Street, Bridgeport.

To schedule an appointment, please call the clinic at (203) 576-4137. Free services include cleanings and X-rays. Cavity-preventive sealants, which typically cost $120 in private practices, also will be offered for free.

News release from Mayor Finch

Haiti Relief Resources Office

Official Opening to be Held Saturday

BRIDGEPORT, CT (January 22, 2009) – Mayor Bill Finch, joined by City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, D-134, the City Council and members of the Haitian community, will officially open the Haiti Relief Resources Office in City Hall Annex on Saturday, Jan 23 at 11 a.m.

“We have a strong and growing Haitian community in the city, and we felt it was important for the entire city to show its support for those whose lives have been changed forever by this disaster,” said Mayor Finch. “This office will provide a resource for members of the Haitian community to use to contact loved ones, and access referrals to relief agencies in order to help their families during this time of unimaginable loss,” said Mayor Finch.

The city is donating the office space, and the desk, phone and internet connection, and AT&T has donated international phone time to the effort. “Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and we are proud to assist the City of Bridgeport with this effort to help the Haitian community here,” said John Emra, AT&T CT Vice President and External Affairs Director. “Bringing communications capabilities to the neighborhoods of the people impacted enables them to connect with family members and better stay informed on the relief efforts.”

The office will be staffed by volunteers from agencies such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCares and Save the Children, as well as volunteers from local Haitian churches and civic organizations. They will help those in the Haitian community in Bridgeport locate loved ones on the island, and provide necessary resource referrals during this time of crisis.

Earlier in the week, a resolution to “adopt” a Haitian city was offered by the Mayor and Councilwoman Lyons to the City Council at its meeting Tuesday. The resolution was referred to committee for action and may be voted on as soon as Feb. 8. “This is something close to my heart,” said Lyons, who made faith-based missionary trips to Haiti on and off for about nine years in the 1990s with Faith Capitol Ministries. Lyons said based upon requests by some Haitian leaders Bridgeport may be looking into adopting Pétionville, a town a few miles east of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“The Haitian community is most grateful for the outpouring of support from the Mayor and his administration, and its residents, especially the Hispanic community which worked with us to help raise $32,000 during last weekend’s radiothon,” said Pierre d’Haiti, the local representative of the Haitian community in Bridgeport. “We in the Haitian community also wish to thank the City Council and the Mayor for their overwhelming support in putting a forth a resolution to adopt a Haitian city.”

The Haiti Relief Resources Office, located on the first floor of City Hall Annex, 99 Broad St., will be open Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office phone number is 203.576.8493.

News release


HARTFORD, CT—January 21, 2010 With the Supreme Court’s decision today in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the five justice majority overturned several bedrock principles of national campaign finance laws – some of which had served as settled federal precedent for a century.

Because the Court’s analysis centered on a federal statute, its impact on Connecticut’s campaign finance statutes is unclear.

But one thing is crystal clear: efforts to create public campaign financing programs, such as the one created in Connecticut in 2005, are vital to maintain the legitimacy and viability of the American democratic process.

In fact, many campaign finance experts have hailed public financing programs such as Connecticut’s Citizens’ Election Program, which relies on small contributions from individual donors as well as public grant monies, as model reforms to counteract the influence that corporate and union money could have over elected officials in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision.

Al Lenge, Executive Director and General Counsel echoed the sentiments of other campaign finance advocates.

“This is a critical time for democracy. This decision has the potential to flood the state electoral process with corporate money. The only solution lies in strengthening the Citizens’ Election Program,” Lenge stated, referring to the state’s voluntary public campaign financing system which has been under fire recently.

“As the general public realizes the potentially disastrous consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision Connecticut will be heralded as a model of reform and our candidates will be placed in the spotlight for participating in a system that eliminates special interests as a funding source for campaigns.”

News release from Jim Himes

Himes Votes to Spur Aid, Relief for Haiti

Legislation makes contributions deductible on 2009 returns and ensures text message donors can claim tax deduction

WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan legislation supported by Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and passed by the U.S House will help earthquake victims in Haiti by offering an immediate tax benefit to Americans who make charitable contributions to aid the region. The bill allows individuals to claim donations to the relief effort made in January 2010 as itemized deductions on their 2009 tax return, instead of waiting to claim it on their 2010 return.

“None of us can look at the devastation in Haiti without being moved to action, and I’m grateful for the outpouring of support from my constituents and people across the country,” said Congressman Himes. “All donations, large and small, are critical to providing the resources necessary for the relief effort in Haiti, and this legislation will hopefully spur even more assistance.”

This measure will promote timely giving to Haiti by providing Americans with an immediate income tax benefit that individuals can claim in 2009, instead of 2010. The bill would also make clear that the many taxpayers making a charitable contribution to victims of the Haiti earthquake through a text message will be able to rely on their cell phone bill when claiming a charitable donation.

In addition to this measure, the House of Representatives also passed a resolution expressing condolences to the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010.

In January of 2005, Congress enacted similar tax provisions for individuals that made charitable contributions to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in late December of 2004. That bill (H.R. 241 in the 109th Congress) passed the House of Representatives without objection and subsequently passed the Senate by unanimous consent.



  1. Welcome home, Joe. Lennie, thanks for the inside scoop. As usual, you gave much more information than the CT Post.

    I’m happy to see Joe back with his wife and kids. Six years is a long time, especially when you have young children at home. I give Jennifer a lot of credit for sticking by him and holding the family together. Can’t wait to see what Joe does next …

    1. Lennie didn’t mention that when I sent him the video, I sent a message warning him about Ganim’s coming before the news broke. I know a couple of guys locked up where Ganim was. Welcome home Joe Ganim.

  2. Lennie, Ned Lamont you have got to be kidding. Voting for another down-state millionaire. Have you seen this shithead on the cable stations? You talk about a liberal’s liberal. The political winds are shifting and I don’t think he has today’s message nor do I think that he has the ear of the independent voter. Time will tell. I for one will not consider voting for this guy.

      1. Lennie, what happened to the rest of the materials I sent you with the video? I was just kidding when I wrote, “Ganim is coming after you.” Are you going to try to get Joe Ganim to do a Pol Pod interview?

  3. I see that SuBy has administered the Hypocritic Oath to herself. She was the big proponent of public financing when she was running for Governor, in order to level the playing field. Now she says she is foregoing that route in her AG run.

    She’s a Smoot Operator as Public Financing could be up in smoke. And just when you thought you were off the hook for having to take her lunchtime fundraising calls.

  4. I am glad Joe Ganim is out and will be returning to his family. I hope Joe finds peace and stays out of politics. There is no doubt that for a number of years he did a good job but you can’t live in the past.
    Many that worked for him then and did a relatively good job then are still around but they are different and less effective. Time will tell.

  5. We are pleased yesterday to hear that Bridgeport city officials have settled the tax and ownership issue regarding some of the city’s oldest buildings, the Freeman Houses (CT Post: “Deal OK’d to preserve Underground Railroad houses”). We have talked about this issue on our TV program.

    Omitted in the article was the presence of the Native American Paugussett Tribe in that neighborhood. This was topic on last Tuesday’s Bridgeport Now TV show in which Charles Brilvitch discussed his book: “A History of Connecticut’s Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe”. This tribe does have Connecticut state status but not yet nation status, which could qualify them for a casino in Bridgeport.

    Not sure why it took so long, though. City decision makers are trying to get more people to come to downtown Bridgeport to go to restaurants. Good idea. The economic benefits of historic preservation have been underestimated though. Ads on cable and the newspaper are not bad as a marketing media plan strategy. But they are temporary and might not have any real unique selling proposition to distinguish it from other FFLD county cities. Why Bridgeport?

    Search for “Washington Park Revitalization” on Google and you will see an example of another historic topic in Bridgeport few may know about. Why not fund this kind of awareness and make it available to the public?

  6. There must be more to the story of the Golden Hill Paugusetts’ fight for federal recognition. More to it than the Attorney General not wanting another unregulated casino on an Indian reservation.

  7. Not a bad time for arrival … I’ll speak from this perspective–at the time Joe got into office, the city was emotionless, lacking identity, and was best known for what was bad about it. In order to get things done in local govt a lot of it has to do with instilling a hope and direction for the people to follow and Joe was great with that–that’s why he was beloved. He played in the gray area of public administration and won some days and lost others. But in order to have the success, you have to roll the dice (and you have to also take your ego out of the equation). He inspired a lot of kids and young adults out there to go out there and make things happen–and that will be a lasting effect on Bridgeport in the long run.

  8. Local: I am not impressed. Politicizing a humanitarian act is wrong. Do it & word will filter out as to what you have done. This is a blatant attempt to capitalize on a tragedy of immense proportions. If I were leaning towards Russo before I am not now. I still don’t like Himes either.
    Jesus where are the people to lead this country, state and city?

  9. town committee: you’re gonna sink of your own weight on this one.

    You’re on the wrong side of history.

    Rob Russo has more compassion in his little pinky than you have in your whole body. He put tragedy before politics and took specific actions to remedy it. Simply put, you’ve drawn the wrong conclusions. You’re trying to put out a housefire with a squirtgun.

  10. *** While Speedy the roving reporter was outside looking & talking to every passer-by & guys standing in the cold outside of Matty’s, The Bpt. Kid & I were re-arranging all the men’s room sinks, toilets, stalls, mirrors, radiators, etc.(wink) and then some! Pausing after for the “King of Beers” & a tongue-lashing from Mr. Roach for the terrible makeover in the men’s room! *** FORGETABOUTIT ***

  11. “Mo, like a majority of voters in Connecticut, is not driven by party label. She votes for Dems, she votes for Republicans.”

    Lennie, right after [a majority of voters in Connecticut], you left out: except in Bridgeport. donj needs to do some “Mo” thinking before he goes to the polls. What Bridgeport really needs is “Mo” folks like Lennie’s wife.

  12. There was one good reason why I wanted to watch and tape the Mojo and The Bridgeport Kid fight. Notice the USA Olympic gear on my head. As a supporter of the USA Olympics Boxing Team, I was hoping to film some unique style and boxing moves to help better train the USA Olympics Boxing Team. Now, I must continue filming the City of Bridgeport’s City Council meetings in hopes of one day filming some sort of unique boxing style and moves.

  13. If Joe Ganim has learned anything from this whole experience we will tell if he stays away from politics for a long time. If he is like Buddy C from Providence and thinks he can just jump in the shark tank and pick up where he was, he will be just like Buddy and find that there will be a lot of people waiting to help him find his way back to jail.

    1. I agree, donj! You did the right thing by keeping an open mind. More guys like Mr. Slater should step up and keep the heat on the Democrats even if they lose. I say it again, “You get, what you elect.”


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