My last entry about candidates that may play in a Democratic mayoral primary in 2011 drew some emails.
Lennie, what is the matter with you! No mention of a black candidate or a candidate that appeals to the black community?
Bridgeport has a long history of electing white guys, except for Mary Moran, the last Republican to hold the office (1989-91) when the electorate went berserk following Democrat Tom Bucci’s admission that the city was broke and needed a state bailout. (Full disclosure: I worked in the Bucci administration.)
Well, Mary, a good person, strong public speaker without a thorough grasp for what a federal bankruptcy filing could do to the state’s largest city, sought federal bankruptcy protection in June of 1991 saying the only way to break the back of union agreements was to declare the city bankrupt. Wall Street threw a fit, torpedoed the city’s ability to borrow money to fix schools, repair bridges, etc. Overnight home values plummeted. Bottom line: a federal bankruptcy judge ruled city finances weren’t bad enough to warrant bankruptcy.
Enter Joe Ganim, 32 years old, a political outsider who emerged because no one wanted the job at $52k a year. The city enjoyed 10 straight years of balanced budgets without a tax increase, significant union concessions, strong department heads, a ballpark, arena, new home for Housatonic Community College. Ganim was the mayor who finally cleaned up Mount Trashmore, a mountainous blight of illegal demolition and dumping in the East End. Ganim was loved in the black community.
(Another full disclosure: I served as Ganim’s closest political advisor and made idiotic decisions when Joe had his hand out.)
So, what’s the point? Bridgeport has had one (and only one) black candidate for mayor who actually knew how to organize a community, be as cunning as any mainstream politician and understand every side of an every issue. His name is Charlie Tisdale who currently serves as director of Advancement for Bridgeport Community Development, the city’s anti-poverty agency.
In his day Tizzy (his followers were known as Tizzies) intimidated white people, although not by design: he was big, black, smart and opinionated. In 1983, he was nearly elected mayor in a municipal election that turned out 70 percent of the vote. That’s right boys and girls, 70 percent. (To compare, in the last mayoral election in 2007 the turnout didn’t hit 25 percent.) The 1983 election featured Tizzy, Republican incumbent Lenny Paoletta, no slouch in his own right, and former Democratic Mayor John Mandanici, no slouch either running as an independent after Tizzy won the Democratic primary when a bunch of white guys split the white vote. Understand back then white voters dominated.
Tizzy organized the minority community in ways the city never experienced before or since.
Bucci had a strong connection with the black community. Mandanici had a bad one which led to his defeat in 1981. Tizzy could never connect with the white community. In fact after Bucci and Tisdale, who served as economic development director under Bucci, had a falling out in 1991, Tisdale challenged him in a Democratic mayoral primary. Bucci, the white Italian-American, defeated Tisdale in black Bridgeport.
Ganim was popular citywide until the revelations that took down his administration.
The city (and country) is a much different place from the black voters that Tizzy inspired. Just because you’re black doesn’t mean black voters will be a lock vote. And just because you’re white doesn’t mean white voters will line up. Paging Barack.
So, what candidate can galvanize the black community? Too soon to tell. State Rep. Don Clemons may take a look at 2011. Mayor Bill Finch has some work to do if he wants to win reelection, but there’s still time. State Rep. Chris Caruso has built some coalitions there as a result of running for mayor twice. Former Mayor John Fabrizi has his share of support. And what about former State Senator Ernie Newton, the Moses of his people who is expected to be released from prison in 2010? And Joe Ganim right behind him?
Ah, yes, the possibilities. But if you know someone who’s a better fit let me know.
(One final full disclosure: I can’t wait!)
Beach Bummer Issue
All this finger pointing over the demolition of the carousel house on Pleasure Beach has me wondering: anyone have a clue about what’s going on? Connecticut Post reporter Mike Mayko has done a nice job trying to get to the bottom of all the debris and rubble, and who’s responsible for it. For images of Pleasure Beach then and now see www.savepleasurebeach.com. Thanks to Tim Gordon English for sharing the link.
Mayor Finch issued the following statement Friday afternoon:
“Our Fire Department personnel were concerned that the decades-old buildings on Pleasure Beach posed a significant public safety hazard, especially after one of our deputy chiefs witnessed several kids running from one of the buildings during a routine visit to the island. At the behest of our Fire Department, Burns Construction Co., which was doing some work on the island for the Town of Stratford , used their equipment to push the two buildings over. All involved recognize that the work should have been done with a demolition permit in place. We will take appropriate action to ensure that this situation does not occur again in the future. In the meantime, the Public Facilities department is determining how best to dispose of the rubble left from the buildings on the island.”
And as long as we’re into statements this Labor Day weekend, here’s one from State Rep. Jack Hennessy:
By now, readers of the Connecticut Post are very familiar with the Associated Press photos that show me playing computer solitaire during the most recent session of the General Assembly.
It was certainly bad judgment for me to play a computer game during the final House session on the budget. As a result, I am embarrassed and I apologize to each and every person in my legislative district.
Although my actions were inexcusable, I want to assure Bridgporters that my poor judgment in this instance in no way indicates that I ignored your interests on this very serious matter.
Over the past seven months, as a member of the General Assembly’s Finance Committee, I participated fully in the budget process and played an active role in crafting and passing a State budget that provides the necessary services to our communities and minimizes any negative impact on the City of Bridgeport and its people.
Again, I sincerely apologize to each of you and look forward to having the continued privilege of representing you and your interests in Hartford. I thank you in advance for your understanding and have been humbled by those of you who have already expressed your understanding and forgiveness.
Very truly yours,
Rep. Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport)
(Check out my daily blog at www.onlyinbridgeport.com)