Uncivil Service, Plus: Is Walsh A Buffoon? And The Russo-Musto Battle

Is Mayor Bill Finch gearing up for battle against the foundation of Civil Service? Sure sounds that way. Hizzoner is growing increasingly frustrated by a system that served its purpose when it was ushered in during government reforms of Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy 70 years ago, but now thwarts executive decision-making during drastic financial times.

Civil Service threw a grenade into the mayor’s plans to lay off top-ranking police officials with a budget deficit growing day-by-day one-third into the fiscal year. The police union contract didn’t call for bumping rights, but Civil Service was there for the rescue. That means the bumping rights could impact new patrol hires. Civil Service provides a double layer of job protection that torpedoes chief executive decisions, wastes money authorizing tests for menial jobs and operates so far removed from oversight to contradict the sound rationale for its existence.

Hey, maybe it’s time for a charter revision so voters can decide this. That would be some fight. Go for it, mayor, a charter revision to reform Civil Service! Jasper, where are you?

Send In The Clowns

Hey, is City Councilman Bob “The Troll” Walsh a buffoon? Mayor Finch thinks so. Troll and hizzoner had a heated exchange Monday night as the City Council debated–and approved–a contract to approve new ownership of the Bridgeport Bluefish. Walsh was on a tear (again) questioning how the mayor could boot the cars of taxpayers owing a few hundred dollars while allowing latitude to a city tenant owing hundreds of thousands in lease fees.

During the exchange Walsh told the mayor to “shut up.”

The mayor’s response: I’m not going to allow you to act like a “buffoon.”

Just another night at the Monday Night Fights.

State Senate Analysis

The State Senate race between Republican incumbent Rob Russo of Bridgeport and his Democratic challenger Anthony Musto of Trumbull is one of those afterthought matchups for voters caught up in high-energy contests for president and congress.

Connecticut’s 22nd State Senate District covers all of Trumbull and roughly half of Bridgeport and half of Monroe. The Bridgeport piece runs from the Upper East Side, across the heart of the North End, along the West Side including Brooklawn, and Black Rock and a portion of the West End.

Russo and Musto are both good guys, lawyers by profession and their fathers are prominent physicians. Are they checking the blood pressure of their boys?

Russo trounced Tom Mulligan, his Democratic opponent, in the March special election, winning Trumbull and Monroe overwhelmingly with roughly 45 percent of the vote in Bridgeport. Musto, the elected Trumbull town treasurer, won a close August primary over Marilyn Moore. He ran extraordinarily well in Trumbull, but poorly in Bridgeport. The good news for Musto: the three-town district has 10,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans and Musto will benefit from a large turnout of Dems inspired by Barack Obama. Unaffiliated voters are the largest voting bloc in the senate district.

Russo hasn’t stopped campaigning since winning the seat in March. As an incumbent he secured $250,000 for a comprehensive audit of the Bridgeport Board of Education, a goodwill builder with long-suffering city taxpayers wanting to know where their money is going. Last week, Russo also received media play for helping to shepherd a state loan that saved 250 jobs at Lacy Manufacturing.

The issue that resonated in Russo’s special election win, as well as Auden Grogins’ upset of State Rep. Bob Keeley in the August Democratic primary, is backing of a property tax cap. Basically, Russo supports Govenor Jodi Rell’s proposal to cap local property taxes at three percent. If a municipality needs to generate more revenue beyond three percent, it can do so with two-thirds approval of the local legislative/budget-setting body.

Democrats in the legislature oppose a property tax cap, but Musto has now latched on to Russo’s issue: a Musto campaign brochures states he supports a “workable property tax cap.” Both camps have polled and I doubt Team Musto would embrace a tax cap unless it was registering favorably with voters.

Both camps will spend most of their publicly financed $100K on mailings, but Russo has controlled the airwaves on WICC. Musto’s camp doesn’t think radio works. It does. WICC is tailor-made for that senate district and it’s an additional way to reach voters filling out absentee ballots, and driving home a message.

The candidates’ first forum, the North End Association, is scheduled for Thursday night at the North End library.

Russo will win Trumbull and Monroe. Musto will win Bridgeport based on the overwhelming Democratic advantage. The question becomes: how close can Russo stay in Bridgeport? Russo should be in good shape if he secures a percentage of the vote in Bridgeport in the low 40s.

As pointed out in Monday’s commentary about the Shays-Himes race, the drop-off from those voting for president and congress is significant enough to impact a race. The drop-off to state senate, next in line, is even larger. So Musto has the same challenge as Himes: reminding voters to keep voting the line. Easier said than done.

Either way, this is a competitive race.



  1. Civil Service was put in place years ago to stop politicians from selling city jobs. Years ago to become a cop or firefighter all you needed was a political connection and a set amount of money and presto changeo you were a cop or a firefighter or a city worker of some sort. Administrations changed and so did the holders of these jobs.
    The system may need to be reworked as it has been bastardized under Fabrizi and now under Finch.
    First Fabrizi wrongly took a bunch of jobs that were not classified and put them under civil service so he could protect his friends who held these jobs, thus the testing now being sought by Jacobs.
    Finch has shown more than any other mayor in recent history that he will hire friends he has created jobs for despite tough financial times. An example is Mr. Gomes, Carolanne Curry, Eze Santiago just to name a few. Can you imagine what this nitwit would do if there were no civil service?
    Take the jobs that Fabrizi arrogantly put under civil service out from the civil service system and get civil service to function under its mandate as set forth in the charter.
    Lennie the grenade thrown in to the mayor’s layoff plan was justified. The mayor’s plan for the PD was a hit list and nothing more. If he was going to lay off in the PD it should have been last hired first fired. I said it earlier the layoff of Joe Minopoli was a political layoff to create a management job for Council Person Rich Paoletto.

  2. Well the mayor accepted Mrs. Fardy’s resignation and that is his right as mayor. What is disturbing is the comment that the administration plans to replace all of the people serving on the planning and zoning Commission as their terms expire.
    That makes absolutely no sense at this time. We are struggling to get development moving and are in the process of implementing a new and costly master plan and zoning rewrites that were to be unveiled in November. So we will have no one on the board that will understand and know how to implement these new regulations.
    To date the mayor has named three of his people to this board and they are off to a very poor start. None have chosen to attend the latest training sessions. One has stated he does not need any training as he knows all there is to know about zoning. The other often pontificates at zoning meetings on the viability of certain projects when that is very unprofessional. Another has been passed by ethics committee with stipulations that she recuse herself when matters concerning downtown development or when members of Chamber of Commerce come before the board. Couple this with an Economic Development Director that has not been seen or heard from and you can see where development of Bridgeport is going under this administration. NOWHERE.

  3. Good for Walsh. Call him what you may but at least he has the balls to talk back! Finch looks like McCain the way he is treating the wealthy with tax breaks and then sticking it to the poor who are late paying their 100 dollar tax bill.
    The recent HITLIST of layoffs makes no sense if it were to save money since most of the employees can bump into other positions. I know of only one of those on the list who cannot bump and that will save the city right there. These people are being treated illegally by the city and labor relations which is going to cost the city more in litigation. Who is Finch’s advisor? Because whoever it is did not do their homework.

  4. Let me add that while these layoffs are going on and more are coming Finch is STILL HIRING! They are sneaking their friends into new jobs that are not being advertised to the public. You should check all the new jobs being created. Finch is driving this city to hell.

  5. What this race boils down to is you have one guy who is working extremely hard finding ways to get this city going in the right direction and is succeeding versus another guy who is quietly trying to put himself in position to catch the Obama train. He’s trying to latch onto the issue of a property tax cap, so it helps out in Trumbull and Monroe, yet he was treasurer of the administration that proposed an 11.6% property tax increase and got a 7.6% increase. Sorry, not sneaky enough.

  6. Any big-city mayor that has to make difficult decisions to resolve budgetary issues is going to make some folks unhappy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to lay off public safety personnel, for the simple reason that this is Bridgeport. (Need I say more?) If Chris Caruso won the primary last year and became hizzoner, he’d be making the same tough choices. Bridgeport’s political situation is a tangled mess; Finch is trying to straighten the lines. Sure, he’s replacing members of the zoning board, but the current members aren’t all they could be. Membership of the zoning boards is unpaid, a volunteer position if you will. There are a lot of these unpaid positions in city hall. Too often the people in these positions get drunk with power, throwing their weight around.

  7. The late Cesar Batalla’s name should not be denigrated by using it on this site the way it is. I’m sure you can find another name to make your point; for a start let’s try using your real name.

  8. Armed with nothing more than a pen and a notebook, Rob Russo goes places most politicians wouldn’t visit without a police escort. He’s relentless in his pursuit of swing voters. He walks streets. of. fire.

  9. I read all of this stuff about Russo going into the sketchier neighborhoods, etc. What really matters is how the man is going to perform if he’s elected. Is Russo a good horse trader? That’s what any elected official needs to be, a good consensus builder, able to compromise in order to advance an agenda. Every person running for public office is saying they are for “change.” That was Caruso’s mantra. It is now Obama’s, McCain’s, Grogins’, Musto’s, Russo’s, etc. Hell, if there was a candidate for dog catcher or truant officer, he or she’d be campaigning for “change” as well, because that shopworn cliche is what politicians think the voters want to hear. That’s how Mayor Finch campaigned, as a candidate for “change.” Now that he is making the promised changes, no one likes him.

    More than a few of the posters here are a combination of a prostitute and a PC: a bunch of fucking know-it-alls. All this crapola about Finch replacing members of the PZC and ZBA with personal friends, hey. It all may be true, but any mayor (or president, or attorney general) will do the same thing. So that’s all a bunch of bullshit that really has no bearing on anything. He’s trying to do something, doing things that need to be done. Why are so many of us wasting precious time and thought inpecting the horse’s dental work?!

  10. The only one who is “drunk with power” right now is Finch himself. These layoffs are personal vendettas. If he wasn’t secretly hiring friends and friends of friends while laying off then and only then would I start to believe that these are layoffs due to budget constraints. You must be missing the point Bridgport Kid because he is allowing numerous renovations in Lyon Terrace and on Broad St for hundreds of thousands of dollars and creating new positions daily. He is not saving any money here! He is actually costing us taxpayers more than ever. He cannot justify what he is doing because he is contradicting himself over and over again.

  11. Kid, I think the change is producing results. The idea of an audit floated around for years, Russo got it within three months of being in office. People also talk about keeping and bringing jobs to Bridgeport, Russo got the state to finally fight for its workers to keep jobs in the state within seven months of being in office. I think out of any candidate, Russo has more than proven he deserves a shot at a full term.

  12. Hey Kid,
    If you are suggesting that Musto will deliver on his campaign promises in the same way that Finch has delivered on his then you have made a believer out of me. I believe I’ll be voting for Russo.
    I’m still looking for my $600 tax rebate. This year my taxes went up over $600. Next year it will be over $1,000. Put a cap on it.

  13. Finch has put $4.5 million worth of additional salaries on Bridgeport’s payroll since December 2007. Those numbers, by the way, exclude police & fire personnel. If we are in a fiscal crisis, maybe he should stop positioning himself for future employment while everyone is watching.

  14. To Objective POV,

    That’s a pretty powerful statement that Finch has added $4.5 M to the payroll. Are these new positions or vacant positions filled? That’s a lot of NEW positions. IF true, he should be called to task by the unions for having layoffs and by the public for being a liar.

    I hope all those new and old dems in this town who support Obama for change (I do) are ready to throw out the dem-dominated city government for real and local change!

  15. Sorry independent soul but most of the unions are in bed with the administration. I know of one union for a fact that is selling its laid-off members out. They are working with labor relations to make sure that these laid-off employees with seniority do not bump their friends out of their less-senior positions. The way they are doing this is placing these laid-off people into currently frozen positions. Certain union heads get raises while their members are getting laid off. Smells fishy.

  16. Independent Soul, attend a Civil Service Commission meeting or two and you will find out the juicy stuff. This came from someone who has access to the information who received a layoff notice his/herself. The information was divulged without objection from the Mayor’s two parrots (City Attorney and Labor Relations Officer). Consequently the layoff was rescinded by the commission to the applause of everyone in attendance. Just so you know, I was there.

  17. Outreach Worker, the only things that smell fishy are you and your girlfriend. Once again you have no idea what you are talking about. To set the story straight, Labor Relations is denying people their bumping rights. With Ned Winterbottom gone, it is a free-for-all up there. The unions have all filed grievances and are all going to fight these layoffs all the way to arbitration. The City is going to spend thousands of dollars in outside counsel defending these unethical and illegal layoffs. So please get your facts straight before posting. The rumors that you are spreading are only hurting the unions and the employees they represent. Or maybe this is your MOU because YOU are in bed with the administration?

  18. Lennie Grimaldi wrote:

    “Civil Service provides a double layer of job protection that torpedoes chief executive decisions, wastes money authorizing tests for menial jobs and operates so far removed from oversight to contradict the sound rationale for its existence.”

    This is proof that Lennie is a graduate of “The Mario Testa School of thought.” James Abraham Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. Over 3 months after taking office, President Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. Guiteau was allegedly promised a position if or when Garfield was elected to office. Upset that he was rejected for appointment as the United States consul in Paris — a position he had no qualification for, Guiteau shot Garfield on July 2, 1881. About one and a half years after, Garfield’s assassination was intstrumental to the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

    Now Lennie do you want to go back and risk having Mayors and Presidents torpedoed, stabbed, suicide-bombed or shot for not keeping their promises of jobs? I think it’s better for Civil Service rules to torpedo chief executive decisions than not to have Civil Service and have prospective employees torpedo the chief executive.

    Wasting money to authorize tests? Well I guess you don’t realize that before tests are authorized, the city notifies Civil Service of the need to test to hire for positions which the city desires to appropriate funds for and fill. The administration asked Civil Service to test for 18 new Police Officer positions, 18 officers were selected, trained and hired. The whole process cost an estimated $50,000 per officer or $900,000 total. Meanwhile, the administration selects 15 officers for layoff and it turns out that the city can’t lay them off and they have to bump off 15 of the 18 new officers. If you do the math, you’d see that we wasted $750,000 to hire 3 cops. Do you blame Civil Service for this?

    So far removed from oversight? Lennie, I think you are so far removed from the facts on this one. Hey did you graduate from Mario’s School?

  19. Let’s just say this … Russo, a Bridgeport guy actually cares, he will make this a better place to live and in the short time he has been in office he has, he is passionate about this city, we should be so lucky to have someone that cares about Bridgeport and not just himself …

  20. I have a big point to make. The Republicans have line A and Democrats have Line B in the election. You would think this would benefit Republicans and more importantly Shays. But guess what, it does not benefit Shays at all in Bridgeport reason being when voters see Obama on line B they won’t even bother looking up at Line A again and that benefits Himes because it is harder to split your vote that way. Really think about it, this is good news for Himes.

  21. Here we go again. donj, history tells us people have fought and died to give everyone the right to vote. Your simple implication of line voting only serves to take that right away. donj, there is a difference between voting, and exercising one’s right to vote. Voting simply means you enter the station or booth and cast a ballot. But that ballot could be the preference of someone else; for instance, one’s employer, pastor, community leader, district leader, friend or any other person who could influence one’s vote. In Bridgeport, people have been casting votes on behalf of other people for decades, and it is time we encourage people to exercise their right to vote. Allow people to evaluate each candidate on their own, and come to their own conclusions as to who they should vote for. Employers, pastors, community leaders, district leaders and friends can and have been bought off by political parties, here in Bridgeport and all over the country, so taking political advice from them does not serve the process any good. Tell people to choose each candidate wisely, because they will be choosing their all-star team to represent them. And we all know league all-stars don’t all come from the same team.

    My ticket will be, as it has always been, split. Congress should enact a law that jumbles the order of the ballot, in an effort to get rid of the line voting process. That may help correct some of the problems we face, cycle after cycle.

  22. I just watched a news report that discussed record numbers of new voter registrations all over the country. It appears that the current general crisis has our citizens so worried that there is a universal belief that all individual votes can make a difference. It is expected that well in excess of 75% of registered voters nationwide will actually go to the polls and vote. Thank goodness for that. I hope that feeling prevails in Bridgeport as well.

    I am told that voter registration in Bridgeport is up significantly too. Record numbers are therefore likely to go to the polls on 11-4.

    Given the past performance of the geniuses that have managed the voting process in Bridgeport especially at the poll sites, I wonder if we are as ready as we can be.

    I believe that Bridgeport voters who otherwise sit on their ass at election time allowing Testa to insert anyone he wants into office encounter long lines and other difficulties at the voting site, will leave and not ever return.

    I’d be interested in comments regarding this matter.

  23. Hey Up Yours Bridgeport,
    Ed Lavernoitch has your number. The city sheriffs will be calling to present you and your minions with an eviction notice. I’d offer to organize a going-away party, but you’ve probably mobilized the volunteers to hang decorations and solicit area restaurants for food “donations.”


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