By Reginald Johnson
BRIDGEPORT --- It’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs in this city that a lot of people are so dismayed with incumbent Mayor Bill Finch that they are supporting ex-mayor and ex-con Joe Ganim to become the city’s next chief elected official.
A Monday article in the Connecticut Post said that the contest for the endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee for the Democratic mayoral nomination was now a “dead heat” between Finch and Ganim. The DTC holds its endorsement session Tuesday night.
This is incredible. The idea that Joe Ganim could secure the Democratic nomination and then be the odds-on pick to be elected as mayor of Connecticut’s largest city (due to the overwhelming Democratic Party edge in enrollment in Bridgeport) is mind-boggling.
Let’s be blunt. Joe Ganim cheated this city, badly. In the 1990s, he ran a sickening “pay to play” scheme in City Hall, was convicted for his crimes, and spent seven years in prison as a result.
Contrary to a widely-held view that, despite the corruption, Ganim got the city moving again with the construction of the Bluefish stadium and the arena, Ganim actually held the city back. Because of his conniving, favoring certain developers and turning off others, a lot of development that could have taken place, did not.
Remember that the 1990s, unlike now, was a much better time economically. There was more money available from the state, and more money to leverage with banks for different projects. A lot of that potential was squandered.
Ganim also ran an administration that ran roughshod over people in the neighborhoods. Public housing was torn down in the South End --- worsening the city’s affordable housing stock --- to make way for the stadium and arena. The plans for those projects were rushed through and the public had little input.
Going businesses were rudely forced out of their downtown locations, in the name of some future development, development that never came.
Zoning principles were violated in the North End, when an application by favored developer Al Lenoci to construct a Stop and Shop in the middle of a residential neighborhood, was rammed through the planning and zoning commission. (That store is now closed, and sits as an empty hulk off Madison Avenue).
I could go on, but you get the point. There’s a lot on the negative side of the ledger when it comes to Joe Ganim as mayor.
If Joe Ganim has “found religion” since his incarceration, I’m not aware of it. I am not even sure if he apologized for his crimes, if he ever showed contrition. If he did, I missed it.
This is not to back-handedly paint Bill Finch as some kind of saint. He’s not. He also has a sensitivity issue, not listening to people and turning on those who oppose him with a vengeance.
His drive for mayoral control of the school board was a sorry chapter and I think turned a lot of people off. That plan, plus the support for more charter schools, is bad educational policy. But it should be noted that the idea of overhauling public schools and moving to more charters is something that is being pushed nationally by the leaders of the Democratic Party. Finch didn’t cook up this idea on his own.
Finch has done some good things environmentally, such as supporting fuel cell development in the city. But there’s the bad, too. Community gardens --- which are thriving in cities like New Haven --- are languishing here, due to lack of funding and lack of direction.(By way of disclosure, I am a member of one of the gardens).
Finch this year brought in a firm from Westport to oversee the gardens, but not much is happening. It was a slap in the face to Bridgeporters that an out-of-town group had to be brought in to tell us how to manage gardens. The head of the Westport firm reportedly gave a donation to Finch’s campaign.
It’s clear that Finch has some real issues as mayor, and I don’t blame people for being upset for different reasons.
But to be so upset to the point of backing someone who cheated the citizens of this city, engaged in illegal acts and hurt Bridgeport badly, I don’t get it.
Joe Ganim? Come on.
This may be one of those years, and they don’t come along very often in Bridgeport, when a Republican should get a look for mayor. While I have little use for GOP policies nationwide, sometimes a local Republican can do a good job here. Leonard Paoletta, who ran the city very well in the 1980s, comes to mind.
Enrique Torres anyone?