In a commentary first published by the Connecticut Post, retired Superior Court Judge and Bridgeport resident Carmen Lopez takes aim at the “obedient employees on the Council to march on command and follow orders” during a meeting of the City Council’s Education Committee. Check it out:
Take an introductory course in philosophy at any university and the student will be immediately confronted by the ageless wisdom of the ancient Greeks.
Among the most prominent of the allegories is the story of Plato’s Cave where the author of The Republic dispenses wisdom that is as valid today as it was in antiquity.
In this story, persons are shackled in a Cave where they can only see the shadows of people walking behind them. They think the shadows are real, because, after all, that is all they know.
When a visitor comes to free them of their shackles and open new vistas and insights by showing them the true nature of the shadows, they resist. They recoil and retreat into their comfort zone of fear where ignorance is bliss.
No way were the prisoners ready to allow their illusions to be shattered. Truth was not a welcome guest in that cave. Plato could well have been talking about the City Council of the City of Bridgeport.
I was recently invited, by City Council member Robert Halstead, to speak to the Education committee. I thanked him for the invitation and accepted.
Mr. Halstead submitted a request for an agenda item on the subject of the school building committee to the co-chairs of the committee, Denese Taylor-Moye and Rev. Mary McBride-Lee.
The request was honored by those in charge, and the agenda for the Education committee meeting of July 21, 2014, included a ‘comprehensive discussion on the school building committee.’ Per custom, the agenda included a notice that “if you have submitted an item that appears on the agenda below and are receiving this notice, it is imperative that you or a representative attend the meeting to represent that item.”
Mr. Halstead took this warning seriously.
He hoped to use the meeting as a forum where information from my research on the school building committee would be shared with his colleagues. Mr. Halstead asked me to prepare some remarks and to respond to any questions that the committee might have on the subject of school construction projects in the City of Bridgeport.
Once the meeting was called to order, it did not take long to realize that the entrenched powers of the Finch administration were out in full force to ensure that information was stifled and suppressed.
The meeting demonstrated that there is absolutely no question that the Administration can depend on its obedient employees on the Council to `march on command and follow orders.’
James Holloway, a committee member who is best known for his ‘absence’ from education committee meetings was present. Also in attendance was another committee member and long-time machine operative, Mike Marella.
The City Employee-in-Chief, Thomas McCarthy, who in his spare time doubles as President of the City Council, was also present to ensure that no one strayed from the reservation.
An impressive list of city officials occupied the chairs around the very distinguished and venerable members of the committee. The Committee was honored by the presence of the Director of the City’s Office of Policy and Management, Thomas Sherwood, Finance Director Anne Kelly-Lenz, the Facilities Director, Jorge Garcia, and of course, the Administration’s legal apologist and scholar-in-residence, City Attorney Mark Anastasi.
You might have reasonably assumed judging by the `brain power’ summoned to the meeting, that the discussion on the school building committee was clearly going to be informative, comprehensive and designed to enhance transparency in the school construction work of the City of Bridgeport.
After all, the school building committee is a creature of the City Council and should be responsive to it, right?
The first blow struck against the free flow of information came from Denese Taylor-Moye, the Co-Chair of the committee who was presiding over the meeting. The Finch administration could not ask for a more compliant and willing soldier in the service of the status quo. She followed orders that were barked to her by the City Attorney. All that was missing was the salute.
In a concerted effort to maintain their place as prisoners in the “Cave of Comfortable Ignorance,” for 45 minutes the Committee members, aided and abetted by the city employees in attendance, rationalized the necessity of preventing the information from reaching them during a committee meeting.
“Why, you can’t just allow anybody to come to a meeting and speak to the committee,” cried Anastasi, with the supreme arrogance and contempt for the people that has become the trademark of the Bridgeport City Attorney.
The presentation would have taken approximately 15 minutes. However, after a 45 minute debate, the chair ruled against hearing from Mr. Halstead or anyone he had invited to address the committee.
Since the floor was denied to Mr. Halstead and his guest, you would think that the high-priced city employees in attendance were asked to inform the Committee concerning the operations and activities of the school building committee.
The distinguished panel of city bureaucrats assembled by the Finch administration to keep the sun from shining light into the city council did not offer any information, nor were they asked to provide any by the Committee chair.
The meeting was adjourned with a frazzled and distraught committee chair calling for a public hearing and promising to schedule it as soon as possible.
The beat goes on.