It used to be when city employees were required to live in Bridgeport they were a political force. In 1973 city employee voter strength was probably enough to reelect Republican Mayor Nick Panuzio who promised generous 20-year-and-out pensions for uniformed services.
In 1985, a nasty legal fight for control of the Police Department between Mayor Lenny Paoletta and Superintendent of Police Joe Walsh led to split loyalties. Cops actively supported Democrat Tom Bucci for mayor. Bucci won.
As collective bargaining regulations eliminated residency requirements, police employees began moving out of the city.
Mayor Bill Finch has a running battle with some city employee unions. Tensions are the highest with city cops. The arrest of Finch’s son Pete over a felled street sign has not made it any better. Lots of short fuses out there as we head into the Fourth of July weekend. Finch wants concessions to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. Cops feel they’ve done their part to help city finances. They feel Finch is reneging on a labor contract.
No doubt Finch faces a tough reelection next year with State Rep. Chris Caruso poised to challenge in a primary. The challenge cops have — if they really want to work against Finch (and many do) — is that so many don’t live in the city. They can still weigh in, organizing friends and relatives to vote their preference, but it’s not like the old days.
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