Walsh: Listen To The People If You Want To Build Lasting Coalitions

Former City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh shares observation about building a lasting organization to defeat the establishment.

Before we read too much into the recent primary results, let’s consider a few factors:

1) Although Senators Moore and Gomes were victorious on Line B the petitioning line, remember that they were the incumbents running with the maximum money from the Citizens Election Fund. The power of the incumbency along with the same amount of money to spend as their opponent gives the incumbents a significant leg up.

2) Rather than focusing on the senate race, the more common trend was that the incumbents, regardless of party endorsement or not, were all victorious. You can try to dismiss Coviello due to the lack of state funding or Maria due to the significant amount of outside spending by outside PACs but still the power of the incumbency cannot be ignored. Simply look at the results in Park City Magnet and Wilbur Cross where Marilyn Moore and Charlie Stallworth both won running on different lines. The voters were savvy enough to split their votes to reelect the incumbents.

3) I cannot speak to the other campaigns but much of the ground work in the senatorial campaigns was done by paid staffers. I am not knocking the process but pointing out it was not a grassroots campaign fueled by volunteers. To think these efforts can be easily translated to City Council races and future mayoral campaigns is foolish. Yes, significant momentum might be possible but there is no evidence this is an outright repudiation of the DTC or a movement of “out with the old, in with the new.”

4) Building a coalition is not an easy task especially when it is the desire to win that brings them together rather than the desire to govern our own BOE, a fine example. Personalities came together in an afford to win and once in office their personal agendas destroyed their unified agenda.

So if you want to build on some momentum you need to start today. You need to identify the citywide and district issues that can coalesce. You cannot build a citywide effort that will support lowering taxes in the Black Rock and significantly raising the city’s financial commitment to education and policing. You cannot build a citywide effort around OATs (open, accountable, transparent) simply because it takes too long to explain and it is not emotional to stir up the public.

>Try to replicate what Maria Pereira did in the 138th district. Have a community meeting or a series of community meetings around specific issues the public feel are important to them, be it crime, education or very specific district issues. It is important for the residents to tell you what their concerns are rather than you telling them what your concerns are.

It is not impossible but it will not be easy. It will take time and effort. And to do it citywide it will take a lot of MOM (money, organization, message).



  1. Good advice, Bob. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m sure many people feel the way you do but what we need is a few people to take the lead, make the commitment and start organizing. I’m in if anyone wants to join me. I remember Frank Gyure and some others talked about grassroots organizing. How about you, Bob? Are you ready to make the commitment? I know what you’re thinking, who in hell is this guy. Well I’m not very well known in local circles but I do think what you say is doable but it is a huge undertaking and you’re right, it has to start now. As for myself, I don’t know exactly what I can do because I’m not accomplished in politics or organizing or anything public but I have a good understanding of current events, politics and social issues and I think I may have an aptitude for this and I’m willing to try. Anyone interested in grassroots organizing in Bridgeport, let’s do it.

    1. Jon, your wisdom insures if it’s meant to be, you will be an important person in any positive movement. “May I explain?” Not many people know what you so profoundly said, “I don’t know exactly what I can do because I’m not accomplished in politics or organizing or anything public, but I have a good understanding of current events, politics and social issues, I think I may have an aptitude for this and I’m willing to try.” To know yourself in any situation is to succeed. In a political context, I have seen many with potential go by the wayside because while they start with good intentions, they forget their present limitations so rather than be teachable and patient, they get in their own way and self-destruct, or worse, could sabotage an effort without realizing it. I don’t know you, but I have a feeling I may be lucky enough meet you at some point.

      1. Frank, I feel the same about you, it’s exciting to know there are two smart men starting out in this maze of Bridgeport politics. Don’t go away, I would like to meet John if you know him.

  2. Bob, I won Park City Magnet over Stallworth, which is telling because that is his backyard and where he votes. I took his voting precinct, however he came nowhere close to taking T Hooker School.

    Although all the winners were incumbents, what you fail to identify as another common denominator is they were also all black.

    1. The fact of the matter is any coalition needs to build bridges between the “white+black+brown” populations in Bridgeport. Ganim divided Bridgeport in his election victory. He won with the votes of the East Side while the rest of the city did not participate. This is his greatest weakness.

  3. Bob, very good, especially 4) Building a coalition. Bob, to accomplish this one point is the real key to getting anything done. I’ve tried to find a nexus with the tax issue for some other issues and it is truly hard.

    Bob, I have repeatedly said what you wrote, “It is important for the residents to tell you what their concerns are rather than you telling them what your concerns are.”

    1. Ron, your advice is not as difficult as some may think, and your last statement says it all. Each district/section of Bridgeport have issues exclusive to their needs and safety. Some simple research into these needs will catch the attention of the everyday resident thereby giving the budding politicians and community activists a place to start. Citywide concerns such as finances, education, safety and quality-of-life everyday worries will automatically be incorporated. We should all drop the rebel approach, approach anyone interested and go from there. Our City is entrenched with its ways, political and otherwise. Gradual change will require a gradual approach, we must speak the language of the residents (not literally) and get started now.

  4. Bob, are you suggesting that citizens coming together and demanding open, accountable, transparent and honest government is a waste of time? That a coalition of well-funded political operatives rather than an effort to build a critical mass of clear-thinking people is how elections are now won in Bridgeport?

    1. In all seriousness, I do not believe citizens are coming together demanding open, accountable and transparent government. They maybe demanding lower taxes but they’ve had their fill of OATS.
      How many of your neighbors have stopped you while doing yardwork and struck up a conversation about OATS? Not as many who have asked you what in hell is wrong with this city and its taxes. And if you start talking about OATS they’ll probably walk away shaking their heads.
      My only point is listen to the people. If you have a neighborhood meeting and the number-one concern is an abandoned property on the corner and you start to explain if the city came up with a list of all abandoned properties and the priority list for when they will be addressed and isn’t that what we are really talking about, they will respond with a loud NO. They will want know when is something going to be done with that property.
      Listen to the people and react to them.

      1. Bubba, you can’t beat the old-fashioned way of engaging people and giving them hope, or at least some relief. Bernie K., John S., you and I did that on a daily basis. It became second nature to know not only our constituents, but anyone in our district who had a problem or issue. It never felt like work to me, it was gratifying, productive, and those very same people were always there for us. We built an element of trust and respect, we didn’t call or visit them only when we needed their votes. This is so easy to do, at least I think so, but I will admit you need people who don’t have their hands out. For those who aspire to run for public office, this is where they should start. They’ll be winners from the get-go.

      2. Bob Walsh. Let’s not dismiss OATS, different messages for different people (per your post, MOM, one of which is
        Message. ALL this is needs to be multifaceted and flexible. But you are absolutely right, any speaker talking to one person or a group of people needs to be attuned to what the audience is interested in. It’s called LISTENING–sometimes a lost art.

        1. Frank, that’s what I meant when I said we have to identify area everyday issues, and the bigger picture of finances, education, security, jobs, quality-of-life concerns and others will automatically blend in as a cohesive effort to begin change. Every area/district, and every person living in Bridgeport deserve what the neighboring towns and cities have. We are tough, resilient people who can make anything possible.

  5. In 12 consecutive elections I have not supported a single endorsed Democrat, and 11 of them were won. Some of those races had no incumbents, however those listed below did have incumbents who were defeated.

    1. 2009–Maria Pereira, BOE

    2. 2012–John Bagley, BOE

    3. Scott Hughes, DTC 138TH

    4. 2015-Ganim, Walker, Bradley, Pereira, Smith and Paoletto

    5. 2016–138th DTC

      1. Bob,
        I have absolutely NO regrets about John Bagley. None.

        I knew Dennis Bradley was scum BEFORE the Primary, but it was too late because he was on the ballot. I could have easily stood in front of T Hooker School and taken hundreds of votes away from Bradley, and I actually contemplated it, however I had no one to give those votes to. If I had done it there was a good chance Dennis would have lost.

        I walked out of Ganim’s HQ on the night of the Primary and went back for one brief meeting regarding Ralph Ford and Tom Coble’s conduct, but never went back to work on Ganim’s campaign.

        Smith and Paoletto will be addressed in less than 12 months.

        1. Dear Maria,
          I can’t ever recall referring to any human being as “scum.” This is the term you have just used to refer to Dennis Bradley. Dennis is a respected member of the Bridgeport community and you refer to him as “scum.” I know of not one person on the planet whom I would ever refer to as “scum.” I can’t even imagine anyone so vile and disgusting I would refer to as “scum.” Is this really how you perceive Dennis Bradley? I have a few people I know who are not on my “A” list, but there is no one and I mean no one, whom I would ever refer to as scum. Your venom towards human beings who don’t see things the same way as you is a serious problem. Dennis has a different point of view and this causes you to immediately feel under personal attack. Dennis is seeking the same outcome as you. Provide an equal education for all. Yours has been the loudest voice in the room and you overwhelm all others. You are passionate, you are sincere, but you suffer tunnel vision in your fears of nearly everyone being against you and the children. Most if not all of the people whom you refer to as “scum” and other devious minds have the best interest of the children of Bridgeport in their thoughts. Kevin McSpirit is such a soul (my opinion). There is no conspiracy to desire the state to take over the Bridgeport Board of Education. There is only a desire to do right with currently limited resources to do what is best for the children of a poverty stricken city that is not properly represented by the City of Bridgeport, the state of Connecticut or the United States of America. We can do better, we should do better and we must to better for the children who call Bridgeport home.

          1. Milkman. Thanks for the eloquent words. If what you say is true, then I would think Dennis Bradley, Joe Larcheveque and Kevin McSpirit would be ready to come back to attend BOE meetings. Their presence is needed. Maybe there is a way to “start again.” If you can relay the message to any of the three, that would most appreciated.

          2. Dennis Bradley is “scum,” sir. He is not a well-respected member of our community. You have no idea of his outrageous actions throughout the Democratic Primary in 2015, the outrageous text messages he sent me regarding my 19-year-old daughter. I showed those text messages to moms and grandmothers in my neighborhood as I knocked on doors and they were equally appalled. I repeatedly had his clients tell me he was a “crook” and a “thief” as I knocked on doors in 2015. You don’t know what you are talking about. Let’s not mention the hundreds of dollars of missing donations including cash donations I personally gave to him that went “missing,” how he made his girlfriend our deputy treasurer without my, Ben’s, the treasurer’s permission, how every single page of the campaign finance report was a disaster, and how he lied about raising over $1,000 in donations; but when I checked the campaign finance report six days before the 2015 Primary he had not raised $1 and was riding to a BoE seat on my and Ben’s raised contributions.

            There is much more I could write about, sir.

            Let me close by saying I don’t “fear” you, Testa, Ganim or anyone else, which has been a major problem for the powerbrokers in this city. However it works just fine for me.

            Regarding no conspiracy for a state takeover; you are incorrect. And I have the documentation of the meeting that took place at the behest of Fran Rabinowitz and I clued Dennis Bradley, Joe Larcheveque, Commissioner Wentzel, Chair and Vice-Chair of the SBOE, the City Attorney, the Board’s attorney, SDOE legal counsel, etc. In fact, it happened on May 16th just nine days before Dave Hennessey resigned.

            I know what I am writing about, the question at hand is do you.

          3. Maria Pereira, most respectfully. I posted my own response to Milkman. I have no idea who Milkman is and I don’t know if Milkman has any connection to Bradley, Larcheveque or McSpirit. I was hoping Milkmam might have some connection and some type of reconciliation could be worked and the full BOE could get back to meeting and get back to work. That is our goal. In your response, your content and tone may have dashed any hopes some kind of reconciliation could have been achieved. With that, GOOD NIGHT. 🙂

          4. This original post from Bob Walsh is several days old so fewer people may be scrolling through. However, I do want to address the posting from Milkman, which is about one day old. I don’t know if Milkman will be reading any of the comments to his posting but I do have a few thoughts for Milkman.
            Milkman, your posting was well-written and upon first reading I thought it might be an honest and sincere effort to hold out an olive branch with the possibility you may have access to the parties in this BOE standoff and may act as a peace broker. IT SEEMS I WAS WRONG AND FOOLED BY THE APPARENT SINCERITY. It seems your handle is worthless, so why do you still use it? As I reread the posting, I also missed any reference you may try to or have access to Bradley, Larcheveque, McSpirit or Ganim. So this posting was one-sided. If I remember correctly (and please correct me if I am wrong), you were one of the area business people who warned Bridgeport would face additional problems by electing an ex-felon as mayor, so your political connections may be limited or non-existent. Going back to the use of handles, I did complain to OIB about the use of handles and, THANK YOU LENNIE GRIMALDI, a poll was taken about keeping, getting rid of or no care whatsoever about handles. A majority DID NOT vote to keep handles; it was only a plurality. Based on this experience with a handle, I will NEVER EVER respond, directly or indirectly, to a handle.

        2. Frank, I do know who “Milkman” is. He is a well-respected Bridgeport businessman whom I have met on three separate occasions. What he is not is a psychiatrist or psychologist.

          He is also not a Bridgeport resident.

          “Milkman” does not need to compel myself, Howard, Sauda or Ben to “reconcile” and fulfill our statutory obligations because we continue to meet and complete as much work as we can.

          Should we be successful in removing Ms. Negron, then Bradley, Larcheveque and McSpirit’s boycott becomes moot because we will have a quorum and we will move forward without them. The choice to attend meetings and do the jobs they were elected to do is their decision to make, however as I just stated, we will move forward with or without them.

          I have nothing but disdain for Bradley and Larcheveque, but I never refused to fulfill my obligations as an elected BoE member because of my feelings towards them.

    1. And Maria, I mentioned your neighborhood meeting was an excellent example of what neighborhoods should be trying to do. And I don’t need to tell you it takes time, it takes effort and it takes consistency. And you can be sure if other neighborhoods do the same then you will definitely get the attention of City Hall.

        1. Lisa, once again your words are correct, wise and the truth. I’ve been slowly changing my position about Maria as long as she stops with the personal attacks and sticks to the facts of her comments. She doesn’t have to reply back to every comment against her. Lisa, there are people out there who would support Maria, but …
          Lisa, keep talking to her.

  6. Reading Bob’s wisdom on creating movements with sustainable momentum reminds me of past efforts involving some of the posters on OIB, such as the “asphalt plant wars” of the ’90s; the fight to retain Police Chief Sweeney; the fight to reinstate city recreational funding in the face of the youth/drug gang violence, etc.

    Once grassroots organizing leaders have identified issues of widespread concern that arouse passion and a determination to seek resolution/satisfaction regarding the need or problem associated with the issue, by way of pursuit and accomplishment of problem-solving goals, you have a movement with a chance of achieving success and longevity. Really, what is needed is a small, manageable core number of passion-generating issues that can be prioritized and focused upon in succession, with associated goals being systematically pursued, with each success providing momentum for the next issue and pursuit of its goal. (But successes are absolutely necessary in sustaining movements, and achievable, meaningful goals must planned as a series of steps/goals that build toward overall resolution and management of the issue and/or problems defining the issue.)

    One-issue movements never really become very powerful and quickly die.

    Bridgeport has a bevy of issues, public safety, education, taxes, and larger overlying issues such as economic development. But ultimately, all the issues are related, with interrelated associated problems/causes and solutions. This was the case of the youth/drug gang violence and the need to reinstate funding for recreation in the parks budgets of the ’90s.

    Creating a short list of passion-generating issues and holding citywide informational meetings to recruit citizen involvement around these issues by way of the creation of goal-driven efforts to seek solutions to problems associated with these issues is how a political reform movement capable of moving Bridgeport toward a renaissance can be created. It all starts with the type of meeting that Maria P, et al., organized and held in the 138th. These types of meetings provide a base for citywide meetings/efforts, as Bob Walsh pointed out. These latter, citywide meetings could be coordinated by experienced political operatives such as Maria P, Lisa P and Bob Walsh.

    Just a few thoughts in support of Bob’s sage advice on solving municipal (and larger-scale) problems and fostering political change via the creation of movements.

    1. Jeff, you’re the sage. I tried to say exactly what you just did, but for some reason your version shows how eloquent and articulate you are. But you are so right, I remember every minor and major issue we all helped correct by doing it just as you reminded those of us who participated. Many things change, Thank God, but some shouldn’t. I wish we could take your post and target it to like-minded people who would grasp the message.

    1. How I wish we could go back to the days when the political culture still had some decency and respect. I spent Monday feeling so bad because I stooped to a level that didn’t feel good. I promised myself and my friends if I don’t have something constructive to contribute, I’m keeping my fingers off this blog. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t settle my scores off blog. I don’t want to give any one of my detractors the impression I lost my game. In fact, God help me, I’m getting better, or worse, depending on who knows me.


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