Surf’s Up! Mario’s Big Wave Question

Afternoon Update: Sometimes timing dictates candidate appeal. And sometimes an incumbent falling on his face opens the door to someone new and different. Other times, candidates must work their ass off to makes things happen. And sometimes, plain old luck becomes a pol’s best friend.

It’s been a challenging two-plus years in office for Mayor Bill Finch, former state senator, recruited by party regulars to run for mayor in 2007 after they determined John Fabrizi could not defeat State Rep. Chris Caruso in a primary. The gamble paid off and Finch won a 270-voter squeaker. But a crappy economy, tax increases, political fallout with this one and that, and pain-in-the-ass distractions such as Jodi’s Jail has a number of pols looking to challenge Finch.

Can Finch be reelected next year? Yes, but a lot of things must break his way in the next six months starting with the new budget year that begins July 1. He cannot afford another tax hit. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, who’s up for reelection next month by the 90-member political committee, looks at the political landscape and ponders a question he’s asked many times: who can defeat Caruso?

The Big Wave is the opposition force in city politics, combining anti-establishment interests with popularity in his statehouse district, and he has stepped up his public surf with issues such as Jodi’s Jail. Caruso has not sniffed the saucy aroma of Mario’s restaurant on Madison Avenue, whether the old location or new, in 13 years. He and Mario are not buds. I’ve been urging The Big Wave to visit Mario at his restaurant if only to catapult mass paranoia throughout the political system. “Jesus, what deal have Mario and Caruso cut!” Pass the razor blades.

Used to be Mario would hammer his morning veal with extra flourish thinking of ways to submarine Caruso. I don’t sense the venom anymore when I chat with Mario about Caruso. Mario sounds much more pragmatic in his approach to Caruso. “Who can beat him?”

For now Mario is sticking with Finch. They may not be best of buds either, but at least with the mayor there are days of common interest or common enemies. In the short term Mario is trying to figure out his best Democratic horse for governor this election cycle to try to leverage support in exchange for a few jobs for his peeps. Who knows, maybe a state commissionership for Bill down the road? Ya never can tell.

Meanwhile some pols are cozying up to Mario in case Finch’s standing with the electorate does not improve. Johnny Fabs loved his old job, although he seems to be in a pretty good place in his life both emotionally and professionally as head of the city’s Adult Education. Fabs is banking on a political strategy to lure him into the race that has not yet developed, and probably will not. Fabs wants Mario to run into his wide-open arms to reposition him for a comeback. But Mario’s not feeling nostalgic. He feels Fabs had his day, let’s move on. A pol such as Fabs must show pols and his peeps that he has the fire to make a comeback. Relying solely on the political route will not work.

Caruso has the opposite approach: screw the party regulars. Yeah, I’ll take their support, he says, but I won’t beg for it. The problem for party regulars that despise Caruso is this: they cannot defeat him with the base party vote. It’s not strong enough. They need a candidate with appeal and money to tame the Big Wave. Maybe Finch rebounds, or maybe it’s someone else.

The black community is looking for a candidate, and this creates an added dynamic. When Caruso was a young alderman 25 years ago white Bridgeport was his base. No more. The city has changed. Caruso still has what’s left of the old-time white ethnic homeowners in the North End, but his voter base comes from black and brown supporters in precincts such as Wilbur Cross, Hallen and Read. They have voted for him overwhelmingly both in his statehouse wins and his two runs for mayor. The key for Caruso is broadening that base outside of his legislative district.

What other potential mayoral candidates are out there? Some of the names floating around include former state senate candidate Marilyn Moore, State Rep. Dom Clemons, State Rep. Andres Ayala, City Councilmen Andre Baker, Bob Curwen and Carlos Silva, retired Judge Carmen Lopez, and Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, an executive at the University of Bridgeport. That scream you just heard was MJ: “Lennie, leave me out of this!” Other names may pop up such as City Council President Tom McCarthy in lieu of a Finch reelection effort. The Republican side? ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz …

So right now Finch lives, Caruso hovers, and the question for Mario remains: who can push back The Big Wave?

News release from Mayor Finch

City Declares Snow Emergency

Alternate Side of the Street Parking in Effect as of Wednesday Morning

A citywide snow emergency will go into effect at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, February 10. Alternate side of the street parking rules will be in effect, and residents should move their cars to the even side of the street at that time.

Parking is not permitted on any designated snow emergency street. For safety purposes, residents and business owners are asked to comply with the ban so that snowplows can efficiently clear the streets.

Mayor Bill Finch urges city residents to heed all emergency warnings and to drive safely during the storm, which is expected to drop from 8-14 inches of snow in the area.

Following is information from the city’s Office of Emergency Management regarding alternate side of the street parking, snow emergency streets and safety tips.

Important emergency numbers include:

Call 911 for immediate life-threatening emergencies.

On Wednesday, residents can call (203) 579-3829 regarding snow removal, alternate side of the street parking or other snow-related questions.

Rudy’s Reform, news release


“We must act to prevent a healthcare crisis,” he says

RIDEGEFIELD, 2/9 — Rudy Marconi, Ridgefield first selectman and Democratic exploratory candidate for governor, has called for medical tort reform in Connecticut in order to avert a “full-fledged doctor shortage.”

“Connecticut is not doctor-friendly, and ballooning medical liability premiums are a big part of the reason,” Marconi said. “We’re losing doctors in Connecticut, and we must act to prevent a public health crisis. Imagine having to drive to the next town just to find a pediatrician.”

States that have enacted reforms have seen positive results, Marconi said. “Texas has seen 15,000 doctors open practices or return to the state since 2004,” he noted.

Marconi called for the following specific reforms:

• Separate liability from the award. Claims should be screened for merit by a panel before a case can go forward. If there is no liability, there should be no award.

• Cap non-economic damages. Recently one jury awarded a record $38 million in a case in Stamford. The only people who profit from awards like this are lawyers.

• Truly limit lawyer’s fees. Close the loophole that lets them grab more than their fair share.

• Provide a pool of impartial expert witnesses. Today’s hired-gun witnesses make a mockery of justice. We need screened, objective experts whom juries can trust.

• Make liability proportionate. Right now, any defendant could be economically liable for the whole award. They should be responsible for only for their fair share.

Marconi said those opposed to tort reform, primarily personal injury lawyers, have been motivated by self-interest. “There is an element of greed here,” he said. “This is evident in the way some lawyers require clients to sign a waiver that lets them charge more than the law specifies.”

Tort reform is not a “magic pill” that will fix healthcare, Marconi said. “I continue to support a range of efforts to extend coverage to all Americans. But medical liability tort reform is necessary if we are to continue receiving quality healthcare in Connecticut.”

Marconi’s full statement on tort reform can be found at:



  1. Well I personally would not vote for any of the black candidates you mention Lennie with the exception of Moore. Yes Blacks vote for Caruso in large numbers. I am not convinced whites on the North End vote for him solidly. Look at this he won Winthrop by only 5 votes and he won Blackham by a few votes also. I would think Caruso would have done better. Even in my neck of the woods in Black Rock School which is a 65-70% white precinct Caruso lost there.

  2. The Local Eyes Political Agenda Team, so named because they don’t have one, notices that all the potential, unannounced candidates listed in today’s post have a strong pre-existing condition: they’re all politically connected. None of them exist in other fields. It would be unwise to think that a newcomer could not appear–town committee, take a bow–and turn the tables on the status quo. I know this is a poli-blog but change can never be predicted. It responds to conditions.

    I do know this: all of today’s mentions would’ve faced the same economy and same decisions made by Mayor Finch. Only the choices are questionable. The outcomes would’ve been similar. He has the toughest job in America.
    I think readers of this blog should understand that better.

    Blogosphere, take over …

  3. From a political point of view the only one out there that is constantly in the news (other than Finch) is Caruso. Caruso has picked up a ton of potential votes with his stand on the East End Jail. He has also been front and center on many land use issues.
    The rest of the people listed here have been quiet and have stayed in the background on many of the issues. I have spoken to many of these people and they tell me it’s too early to come forward. I disagree.
    If your city is in turmoil or embroiled in issues people interested in running for mayor should come out when the issues arise. Coming out 6 months before the election with a whole platform to me is posturing bullshit.
    Many won’t come out early or speak against issues because they don’t want to upset the apple cart & that says to me they are not worthy of being mayor and they lack the guts to make the hard choices.
    I am not sure Finch can survive the upcoming tax increase that will be necessary when the back-loaded contracts kick in.
    The Republican Party has already rolled over and is playing dead as usual. I can’t wait to see who the next sacrificial lamb will be. We won’t know that until the general election campaigns kick in.
    BTW this is not an endorsement of Caruso just my opinion to date.

  4. Regionalism, my least favorite subject. Today’s CT Post has an article about alternate sites for the girls’ jail. I am shocked and dismayed Fairfield and Trumbull are upset with the alternate locations proposed by Mayor Finch. Let’s look at these two sites.
    1. The golf course in Fairfield. What the mayor proposes is knocking down the maintenance garages and such and putting the jail there. There should be no environmental issues here as Fairfield keeps track of such stuff. The location is on a bus route and really does not impact the neighborhood. What it impacts is the better-than-thou attitude of Fairfield. A Jail in my community, are you NUTS?
    2. The best one is Trumbull. The site proposed by the mayor is in Fairchild Park where the park complex is now located. There are no homes in the immediate area. There is a movie complex and a large building that is used by Sikorsky. Trumbull is up in arms over this location. Why? A jail in beautiful Trumbull, god forbid.
    So as you can see regionalization is well at work here.

  5. Lennie, let me give you a third option. A coalition of black and Hispanic leaders like former state senate candidate Marilyn Moore, State Rep. Andres Ayala, City Councilmen Andre Baker, retired Judge Carmen Lopez and others coming together to find a candidate to serve the taxpayers of Bridgeport from one of their own.

    This coalition would not need the Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa or the 90-member Democratic Town Committee or City Council President Tom McCarthy for their support. It would not be business as usual.

    1. Ron, I know the group you are referring to and they met over the weekend, energized and outraged over the abrupt termination of Dr. Marian Evans. They might just be angry enough to band together behind one candidate. I hope they do. What concerns me is members of this community who are getting bought off with jobs, promotions and raises being doled out by Finch.

  6. I’m thinking Moore will take another run at State Senate … the detention center fiasco has hurt Musto big time in Bridgeport, creating a huge opening for someone to swipe the nomination from under him. (Hey Lennie, are Anthony and Mario still buddy-buddy?)

    If Musto is the nominee, his seat could very well flip back to the Repubs, especially since the ’09 elections energized the Trumbull and Monroe GOP.

  7. Ron: It won’t happen too many egos and historically these groups can’t work together. If they could we would already have a mayor from the minority community.

  8. If the minority community (which btw is the majority community if they unite) can settle on a candidate (I still like Carmen), then they should forget any talk of a primary and either run independent (“citizens for a better Bridgeport, rah rah) or get the endorsement of the GOP (what choice would they have).

    Running a candidate based on color is deplorable, but running an educated Latina, hell bent on community service and responsibility is a great marketing gimmick and would surely beat out the establishment white guy backed by establishment white guys and a few Italians left in town.

    Anybody in the Portuguese community come to mind?

  9. “town committee,” this is new and a new time, the winds of change are here. Blacks and Hispanics are right now working on issues together with no egos but with the mindset of what is best for the citizens.

    The winds that have changed are the number of registered voters and the potential to register even more new voters that are black and Hispanic. The balance has changed but there is NO POWER SHARING. Just look at Mayor Finch’s department heads, how many are black? How many are Hispanic? Who do you think gets the big outside contracts? They are not people of color.

    A common candidate for the common issues that affect both groups will win, President Obama has shown us the way. We don’t need a candidate like Obama, that’s not the issue, just a common candidate.

  10. Ron I agree and hope you are right. Whose fault is it there are very few minority department heads? I know Finch makes the appointments. We have a council that has a majority of its members from the minority community and yet they do nothing about it. I think the number is 8 whites and 13 minorities. Even with these numbers we have a white CC president.
    BTW the only thing Obama has shown us to date is that he can give a speech. With a majority in both housees he can’t get health care passed.
    Ron I think you may be overoptimistic when you say there are no egos involved, there are and there always will be with the names that have been put forward.
    While you want a common candidate for the issues that affect both groups, that in and of itself is divisive. I would rather see a leader for all of Bridgeport and I don’t give a damn what color, gender or sexual orientation this person is as long as this person is good for Bridgeport and ALL of its citizens.

  11. Ron has the investigative report been issued for the PT Barnum fatal fire yet? Why isn’t anyone pushing for this report? Is this report being written in stone with a hammer and chisel? Just wondering.

  12. The black and Puerto Rican communities are separated by their common problems of education and opportunities. Political leaders from both communities specialize in destroying each other. To some extent the white guys get a pass. Beating on them is not as much fun.
    I don’t think one group or neighborhood can control the mayoral nomination, and especially election. It has to be a coalition of some sort.
    Party label can be worked out among sane people to find the most advantageous characterization for the candidate.
    This is the United States of America.
    Who’s got the cash?

  13. While I appreciate your best hopes and optimism Up, no one has ever been elected mayor shuffling down State Street rattling a Topstone cigar box exclaiming “Alms for the poor!” 😉

  14. On “Bridgeport Now” tonight, we look into what happened at last night’s BOE meeting in Bridgeport.

    – Special guest on the program, is someone from Connecticut Working Families, who is shaking things up in the city and BOE.

    Other news items …

    – DeRailtheJail: update on Gov Rell’s attempt to put more jails in the city and local residents rising opposition. “Calm down” they said in Hartford, but they haven’t yet.

    – Recent CT Post article: “Bridgeport shortchanged” even though largest city in the state. On this topic is Rowland, ex governor, convicted of corruption, and fresh out of prison, able to get back into government, working as economic coordinator for Waterbury. Should we do the same in Bridgeport?

  15. “town committee,” No one has heard anything about the investigative report. A request has been made for the report or even a partial report but nothing has been offered by the fire chief or the mayor.

    Andy, it has been 4 months since that tragic fire at PT Barnum Apartments. Who is covering for whom or who is covering up and why? Andy, are there any timeframe statutes that are being violated?

    1. The threat of fire is everywhere one looks. It happened again on North Avenue (not public housing) where one man died and there was very little attention paid to this case as it only involved one tragedy. Two years before the P.T. fire there was the one on Fairfield Avenue with a Mexican family. There have been dozens of close calls involving fires in smaller buildings.

  16. Ron I have never heard of a month-long period to write a report on a fire which on its surface is not complicated. I have done a number of these fires and by and large they are not complicated. I have also done these fires where we recreated the entire scene and conducted tests on various kitchen appliances all in less time than this report is taking.
    The State Fire Marsha’s office is notorious for the length of time it takes to get their reports out.
    I don’t think they are hiding anything but I do think the head of the State Police should be contacted by Bridgeport officials and get this report completed. The people and the family deserve to know what happened.

  17. Ron: this is what happens when you basically do away with a ful- time fire investigative unit. You are forced to rely on outside agencies to do your investigation and you are then at their mercy as to when you get results.
    The previous chief went to a rotating system of having Fire marshals on call 1 week at a time. You cannot gain the experience and the knowledge required using this method. Sure it’s great for the on-call pay but it does not get your investigators trained. We are now waiting 2 months for a report that should have been ready in a few days.

  18. “Surf’s Up! Mario’s Big Wave Question”
    Big Wave? I beg to differ! The Tsunami that hit the country is no longer a threat. Lennie, even if Mario brings Barack Obama to Bridgeport, he would still have to struggle to beat Caruso without Bill Finch’s political machine. Finch is stronger with control of civil service, unions, and the Board of Education. Finch is raising money and the word is he wants to raise $800,000 to battle anyone who steps up to the plate. Can he raise that kind of money? He sure can as Fabrizi got close to raising $500,000 (Lennie I need a figure here to be sure) in campaign contributions. Every City Employee (Supervisors and top $ earners), vendors and appointed official who values their jobs will seriously think of donating time and money to Finch’s campaign.
    This is just the money that appears on paper Lennie (wink). Let’s Pry Open A Juicy One! The soft money–that rubbing sound you hear is Mitch Robles rubbing his hands–that is used on get out the vote (GOTV) operations on election day. To win, each district leader has to get $10,000 apiece; in most cases half the money goes missing during the transaction process. Most of the money really doesn’t reach the volunteers or workers as most receivers of soft money don’t hire people because they know they are going to win. All Bill Finch needs is 46 Democratic Town Committee members to go along with him. And he can get them! The economy is bad enough that 46 DTC members see it.

  19. From the Connecticut Post:
    “Board member Patrick Crossin, chairman of the Finance Committee, last week proposed expanding Black Rock from a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade school to include seventh and eighth grades. He told his committee residents in that neighborhood pay a high level of taxes and want Black Rock to be a complete neighborhood school. He said state Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, who lives in the neighborhood, is working to secure the state’s share of the $28.2 million construction cost.”

    My OIB rival Pat Crossin needs some political schooling from his favorite Puerto Rican political instructor: yours truly. The “high level of taxes” is the bi-product of the very same Democratic machine that got you elected in the first place. If you paid any attention to other parts of the city other than Black Rock, you would realize that there aren’t any other neighborhoods in Bridgeport with waterfront properties like Black Rock. That is why tax levels are higher. Try finding a $1.5 million home near my street. The mil rate is the same on my street as it is in yours. You with ‘your’ priorities! The same priorities that you demanded be given for Black Rock police protection, while on other parts of your district, dozens of people died and were injured in gun violence. The same priority given to Ellsworth Park while the park in front of P.T. Barnum remains the way it has been for 20 years. Black Rock deserves to be looked after the same as other parts of the district. Not all the folks who live in Black Rock and pay the higher levels of taxes have school-aged children. Many Black Rockers who have children and moved there within the last 15 years knew about the conditions and availability of schools in their neighborhood. I’ve never heard any outcry from Black Rock other than your crying Pat.

  20. *** Right now Caruso seems to be the man to beat regardless of who runs, however things could change! *** As far as the Blacks & Latinos getting together to find a candidate of their liking, “fat chance”! What keeps them both, as well as themselves from uniting? How about Envy or Greed, maybe even Pride against coming together & Not in Bpt. politics anyway, too many looking for something and every time someone of color takes a small step up, there’s always somebody that’s looking to knock them down, right or wrong! *** forgetaboutit ***

  21. “Hector A. Diaz,” You asked do I think that a tragedy can occur again? The answer is YES, and there is still only one way out of the apartment, nothing has changed at PT.

    I still want Mayor Finch and Fire Chief Rooney to go to PT and demonstrate to the residents of PT on how they would go of the window on the second floor apartment and down 20 feet to the ground safely.


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