Will You Help Me, Or What? Plus: Kaye Williams, The Best Of Bridgeport

Help a constituent, make a friend. That’s the mother’s milk of popular government.

When you walk into City Hall on Lyon Terrace or the Annex on Broad Street, a constituent services representative will help you with a problem or direct you to the right office . They serve as an extension of the mayor’s office. Sometimes, the constituent just wants to vent, sometimes it’s a problem easily handled at the front desk, sometimes it’s a simple call to the correct place to achieve a resolution. But each and every day constituents have something to say or ask:

The bastards didn’t pick up my garbage today! The sewer is clogged. Where do I get a building permit? How about a birth certificate? I need a marriage license. Where’s the court house? My tax bill is screwed up. Hey, my old lady changed the locks on the door.

The Connecticut Post has unfairly labeled constituent services as “City Hall Greeters.” Baloney. They are on-the-spot problem solvers, often in the line of a fire-breathing resident where the difference between resolution and police response is a fine line.

Effective constituent services takes a major strain off departments. Instead of Mr. Blowtorch making a scene in a city office, the issue is dealt with on the spot or on the phone.

A contingent of City Council members and city staff bussed to NYC on Friday to review its 24-hour 311 Customer Service Center, following elimination of Bridgeport’s costly outsourced 211 system.

“We went to learn their system, how well it incorporates the needs of the taxpayers, approximate costs, and the importance of it,” says AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia who joined her council-mates. “It will take time to incorporate to our needs as a lot of research is required along with accessing to computer programs. NYC 311 system offers over 3600 services to their callers. The mission is to have accessibility, accountability and transparency.”

In addition to AmyMarie, the following council members attended: Thomas McCarthy, Michelle Lyons, Susan Brannelly, Mary Evette Brantley, Maria Valle, Carlos Silva, Richard Paoletto and Daniel Martinez.

City Council staffer Thomas White and staff from the government-efficiency CitiStat Program John Gomes and Carolanne Curry also attended.

In the city’s current configuration, public calls for assistance are handled by two constituent services representatives who follow up and process the information into a databank fed to the CitiStat program. This enables officials to review departments for problem areas, make recommendations for improvements with the ultimate goal to better service the public and save money.

The Say Kaye Kid

Imagine a neglected city-owned marina surrounded by a sewage treatment plant, municipal dump and troubled housing project. The mayor tells you okay, take this thing over, turn it around, but don’t expect any help from government. Good luck.

When Kaye Williams looks at a problem he focuses on the opportunity rather than obstacles. Nearly 30 years since that conversation with John Mandanici and every mayor that followed–Lenny Paoletta, Tom Bucci, Mary Moran, Joe Ganim, John Fabrizi and now Bill Finch–Kaye has continued to shine a jewel that thousands look forward to visiting this time of year. The warm sun, cool breeze kissing your cocktail on the deck overlooking Black Rock Harbor at Captain’s Cove Seaport.

The boardwalks, shops, restaurant, bar, hospitality and yes, just a nice place to escape for a an hour or two.

Kaye, now 80 years old, can be seen with hammer in hand, getting things ready for a new season that will begin in a few weeks. The thing about Kaye that makes him such an intriguing personality is the way he looks at life. Most of us view life from the land out to the water. Kaye sees things from the perspective of water toward land.

I did not understand this until a conversation I had with Kaye regarding his vision for showcasing his project the HMS Rose, a replica of the Revolutionary War ship, around the world. It was the Rose, a British frigate, that forged creation of the U.S. Navy.

“The water that laps here also laps in Rotterdam,” he told me as a young scribe. This was Kaye’s way of envisioning a Rose tour of the world.

As Kaye readies Captain’s Cove for another season, he does so with a heavy heart. Jan, his marketing-genius daughter, lost a courageous battle with cancer recently. Kaye’s son Bruce and daughter Jill will help Kaye continue a family tradition that has attracted thousands to the Cove: hospitality, smiles and always stories that warm the soul of a sailor.

Kaye Williams, the Best of Bridgeport.

Captain's Cove Seaport
Captain's Cove Seaport


  1. Lennie, your beautiful words about the jewel of B’port, Captain’s Cove, and the fantastic jeweler who crafted it are very fitting and profound. B’port citizens owe Kaye Williams more than many can realize.

    How I wish we could find other jewelers who could polish other gems that exist in this city, like Pleasure Beach, Steel Point, Remington Woods, and the Pequonnock riverfront.

    Can we clone Kaye? God bless him!

  2. Lennie: A shill for greeters at city hall & the annex? Look, in good financial times these politically appointed jobs may be Okay. I still have my doubts.
    We are asking our long-time civil service workers to take 1- & 2-week furloughs and yet we can spend approximately $80K not counting benefits for these two political jobs. That is wrong.
    A directory can point people to the office they are looking for. By the way whoever got your ear and blew smoke up your skirt did change the title of that job. It was City Hall Greeter. Now they have reinvented the job with a fancy title Constituent Services.
    No matter how or what you call this political plumb it is still patronage. It started out as patronage and it is still patronage.
    In a time of budget deficits these two jobs are a luxury and must go.

  3. I don’t know about this one. Lennie makes a compelling point. At a time when the current administration perpetuates the hosing of the taxpayers maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have someone available at city hall to guide and direct those with issues through the labyrinth of bureaucratic balderdash. Certainly is a great way to get votes!!!

    On the other hand, are the good people of Bridgeport so stupid that they can’t figure out who to go to to get a problem solved? I think I saw a rather large directory in the lobby. Maybe the people are stupid. They keep electing whomever Mario tells them to elect.

    In summary, I think the greeter is unnecessary and should go. The salaries paid to the greeters could certainly be applied to a position or positions that could have a greater effect on ALL of the constituents not just those who make their way to city hall to find out why their garbage hasn’t been picked up that day.

    1. It was wise of Finch to put Eze Santiago behind the desk at Lyon Terrace. He was bi-lingual, and knew about government, so it was a great place for him to practice his constituent services skills, which any new legislator needs. As someone who has helped his share of bewildered-looking folks on the first floor of Lyon Terrace, I’m glad he was there to listen to their problems and relieve the Town Clerk and Finance departments of that burden.

  4. Wondering and Yahooy, sorry but you are 50% wrong. First, the correct title is Constituent Services Rep. “Greeter” was created by an angry blogger during the last budget session. The person in City Hall; yes she’s a party loyalist, does a damn good job. She is busy each and every day guiding constituents and dealing with angry taxpayers. Before you criticize her, why don’t you sit there for a day and see for yourself.

    On the other hand, the Constituent Services Rep at the Annex is totally unnecessary. She isn’t there 1/2 the time and the other 1/2 she’s on the phone talking to her boyfriend. The Annex has security on the first floor and upstairs by the roof entrance. You do not need another person sitting in the middle. She was put there by Fabrizi. She’s his cousin or old girlfriend or some connection. The only person we need LESS in the Annex is Lisa.

  5. So, did Tom McCarthy and Rich Paoletto take personal days last Friday when they took their little jaunt to NYC?

    Gotta run. If I’m late I’ll get written up under the City’s attendance policy which only applies to professional, efficient, senior employees. If you’re a fuck-up you get a free pass.

  6. City Hall I was not going after the person that holds this job. In times of financial problems and belt tightening sometimes luxuries have to go. Maybe the salary for this position is better served in the tax collectors office or in another city office where layoffs have affected services.

  7. Clear your throats and sing along with the following anthem of change:






    ‘Nuff said?

  8. Big deal!!! Who cares what the greeter’s actual title is? She may be very good at her job, but she is in a job that provides less benefit to the public than, as Wondering suggests, if she worked in the tax office or another city office where Finch’s thoughtless layoffs affect public service.

    If the gal in the same job at the Annex is ineffective, she should be fired and replaced or the job should be eliminated.

  9. I agree with City Hall Smoker about 80%. I still don’t buy the position of the City Hall constituent services greeter. Also, it has been called the greeter for many years, even before when E. Santiago had it. It may have been always classified as constituent services, but never referred to that way.

    What about the people in the Mayor’s office who are labeled as constituent services people? They seem to be more involved in the Mayor’s political aspirations than constituent services. I think all constituent services should be civil-service jobs. The constituents remain the same, so should the people. If they were civil service they would have to have minimum qualifications, perhaps be run more efficiently and cost less. It also cuts down on political patronage. I think the only jobs the Mayor should be able to appoint are chief of staff and a communications person. Everyone else will actually have to have experience and qualifications for their job.

  10. “The Prophet is unknown in his or her own country.”

    Kaye Williams is a man of great vision. Unfortunately, in Bridgeport where there is no vision, the people perish. If Kaye had ever been given preferred developer status things would have happened in this city. Instead like Mike Daly likes to point out is that all we have is the “Bridgeport Architectural Renderings Hall of Fame”.

    Kaye, who in his day, was a rough and tumble iron worker
    and lobsterman probably picked up some oysters in Long Island Sound. He is the “Cultured Pearl of Bridgeport”!!

    1. Kaye Williams is but one of a handful that should’ve and ought to be given “preferred developer” status (I’m not going to name the others because at least a few fellow bloggers would disagree). There are some things happening in this city, the restaurant district taking root on lower Fairfield Avenue for one particularly fine example.

      Bridgeport is a city full of hope and dreams and untapped potential. The cultural diversity alone is impressive. It is also the one thing that is used to divide us, the residents. Our diversity ought to be a source of strength.

  11. The Gossip of The Rialto!

    Worst of Bridgeport!!!

    Connecticut Post

    “Subtraction by Addition!!!”

    The Connecticut Post today raised its price to seventy-five cents at newspaper boxes. Today’s paper had a paltry thirty pages.

    It’s bad enough that the Connecticut Post has cut out putting the day and date on its inside pagination for the Saturday paper. More disturbing is that on the Saturday front page they put Sunday and the date for Sunday.

    What is Master Baden thinking over there? Sounds like the Old Bait and Switch to me.

  12. Hey Warren!

    Let me be perfectly Blunt. Watch out for the kick-ass Chili over there ’cause you will be ripping all day without a smile on your face. 🙂

  13. Lennie, let’s see if I have this right.
    The city rents a bus to send 9 city council members to NYC, half of whom are city employees, along with 3 other city employees to see how people answer the phone in New York.
    And apparently none of them were the greeters who allegedly it is now their job to answer the phone.
    Next they will want to see how it works in Miami so we will fly 15 – 20 members down for a JUNKET.
    It’s no wonder why the city has to hire outside legal council to do the job of the Labor Relations Department.
    And it is the CitiStat Department who wastes a day doing this!!!
    Who keeps the stats on CitiStat???

  14. Lennie,
    It was Johnny Fabs and Feeney who sold the council on the “costly outsourced 211 system” and the same council members on the bus voted for the failed 211 system.
    That’s real progress!

  15. Let me see if I’ve got this right.
    If I go to the city website and look on the home page for a number to call to complain or inquire or referrals; nope nothing there.
    If I go to the department phone numbers link and look for complaints, inquiries, help or assistance; nope nothing there.
    So if I go down to City Hall and find a greater and tell them I want to call someone, then they can help me. WOW, that’s progress.

  16. How about if there were simply a place on the website where I could enter the info, get a reference number and then be able to look back in a day or two for an answer or resolution? That might work but it wouldn’t create a political patronage job so that DEFINITELY wouldn’t do.
    Lennie, you look like Finch’s water boy with this one; Gunga Din.

    1. C’mon, Grin Reaper, y’know that requires common sense and practicality. In Bridgeport City Hall those two items are harder to find than tax revenues.

  17. About Kaye Williams:

    I’ve had the privilege of knowing Kaye Williams since the late 1950’s when he opened his first marine supply store in Black Rock.

    What distinguished him then is what distinguishes him now: his ability to sense economic opportunities where others only see risks. Kaye was, and is, the classic entrepreneur. Someone who turns ideas into reality through vision, brains, hard work and the ability to relate to people. The word failure, even with the challenges he’s faced in Bridgeport, never entered his vocabulary.

    If the Mayor could recognize talent, he’d appoint Kaye Williams: “Chief” Economic Development Adviser.

  18. “We went to learn their system, how well it incorporates the needs of the taxpayers, approximate costs, and the importance of it,” according to AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia who joined her council-mates on a junket to Le Grande Pomme to see how Mayor Mike’s 311 system works. “It will take time to incorporate to our needs as a lot of research is required along with accessing to computer programs. NYC 311 system offers over 3600 services to their callers. The mission is to have accessibility, accountability and transparency.” It will also take a fair amount of tax dollars, something the City of Bridgeport has only in limited supply. This is typical of elected officials: give a cursory glance at something, mumble a an affirmative but noncommittal statement about it, and get into position to throw tax dollars at it, or place the item further down the agenda.

    MESSAGE TO ALL CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS: We don’t need a fancy goddamned telephone answering system. What Bridgeport municipal government needs, BADLY NEEDS, is an efficiency expert to come in and cut away the fat, eliminate the redundancy. Get rid of all the waste and the city employees that hold superfluous positions thanks to conjugal or ancestral relationships with well-placed members of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee. The operative word is DEMOCRATIC. According to Merriam Webster, the first definition of the word is “of, relating to, or favoring democracy.” Really? Gee, what a concept, this democracy. Everyone ought to try it at least once, along with a dose of solipsism. Another definition of DEMOCRATIC is “relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people.” Is that something our city government is, “available to the broad masses”?

    There are more than a few dedicated professionals working for the city, but there are more than a few that couldn’t find their own assholes with a road map and a flashlight, but do they think they know everything? You betcha. They’re rude about it too.

    1. Bridgeport Kid, you are my hero.

      If the city actually got rid of the arrogant assholes who never should have been hired (and promoted and promoted again) in the first place, then the people who really work would work even harder. There is nothing worse than working your ass off, getting no recognition whatsoever and watching someone sit around making goo-goo eyes at her boyfriend all day. I don’t need to mention any names, do I?

  19. Various governors (including Rell, Rowland, Weiker, Grasso) and state legislatures have discussed light rail transit in Connecticut. The latest proposal is to extend commuter transit from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island. Governor Rell upheld a tradition established by her gubernatorial predecessors when she allotted money to “study” the feasibility of the issue. This has been going on for thirty fucking years. We know it will work, so what’s the holdup?

    1. Sorry Kid, but you got your facts wrong this time. Governor Rell did not allocate money for a study of the expanded service. She proposed, and the legislature approved, funding to actually start the service by 2010. Problem is, the bureaucrats in DOT, who care little about any thing except highways, want to kill the idea. They insisted on study of the new service’s environmental impact, even though the rail line has been used as a rail line for over 100 years. Now they say the service MAY start by 2016. It is a case study of how bureaucrats kill ideas that they don’t like no matter how much popular support they have.

  20. Well, I think we better get used to the idea that Finch will be here for a second term, for the simple reason that there is no one else. Fabrizi is toxic, P. Ganim is going to have trouble remaining Judge of Probate, J. Ganim is ludicrous, McCarthy doesn’t have the cojones to stand up against Finch and Caruso’s ship has sailed. We are back to where we were, the least of all evils. Perhaps Russo might take a stab at Finch, but he doesn’t have a good history of beating him. There is no one else in Bridgeport’s political arena that could be considered. Someone said to me how about Dennis Murphy? (Stafstrom’s wife.) What a freaking disaster that would be, because we know it would be Stafstrom calling all the shots. Mary Jane Foster; smart, good person, no political clout. Finch has already started filling his war chest, barring the emergence of a new rising star, it is probably 4 more years of Finch and his goon squad. Finch may not be too bad if he got rid of most his staff and a few key department heads.

    1. Let me tell you something about Dennis Murphy: he was a damn good CAO. He left because he refused to work for a buffoon like Fabrizi. Finch should have brought him back. He would have been a tremendous asset to this administration. And it’s 2009 people. No one (of my generation anyway) gives a shit about sexual orientation.

  21. You are forgetting that there may be a few candidates from the minority community. I like Carlos Silva who was just elected to a leadership role in a national hispanic society. You can’t forget Andres Ayala or Marilyn Moore. I agree with your analysis of the potential candidates you listed.

  22. I don’t think any of the candidates you listed is capable of running the City any better than Finch. We need an experienced person who is capable of inspiring leadership; I don’t feel any of the people you listed are practical or have what it takes to be the Mayor of the largest city in Connecticut. Ayala has been adequate not stellar in the Legislature. Marilyn Moore is not qualified and not a dynamic speaker, same with Silva. Perhaps a minority person could rally a portion of the vote, but historically the Hispanic and African American community do not vote in sufficient numbers in primaries and would be seriously hampered by lack of funds. I am not saying any of that is right or the way it should be, just a practical assessment.

          1. Fabrizi also brought Lisa over to the annex because of her inappropriately short skirts. Those are “Fabrizi qualifications.”

  23. I am not sure either but we have had a string of experienced (and I use experienced loosely) politicians as mayors and look what we got stuck with. I for one have had enough lawyers running the political show both up front and in the background. Just to name a few– Bucci, Paoletta, Murphy, Stafstrom, Ganim.
    The problem is that this city and its people will only vote democratic and thus the inbred keep getting elected. There are some good Republicans out there but no matter how good they are the electorate can’t get away from the top lever.


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