Three candidates will challenge Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch in the upcoming Democratic primary for the city’s top seat.
Mary Jane Foster, vice president of university relations at the University of Bridgeport, local real estate agent Charlie Coviello and John Gomes, owner of the Red Rooster Deli, will square off against Finch. The winner will go on to face Jeff Kohut, the Independent petitioning candidate, at the polls in September.
Gomes, a resident of Alpine Street and president of the city’s Cape Verdean Association, tossed his hat into the ring a year ago after he was fired from his city job following a Halloween party that led to a confrontation with city police. He was appointed director of the CitiSat agency in 2008, and was deputy chief administrative officer in the Finch administration at the time. Gomes asserts that the real reason he was fired was because he stepped on the toes of too many big wigs, who then threw him under the bus.
Fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, French and his native Criolu, the Bridgeport business owner has been stepping up efforts lately to get his name out to minority communities throughout the city.
“I’ve met Muslims from Morocco; I’ve met Hispanics from Santo Domingo, Ecuador, Venezuela; I’ve met Haitians,” he said. “I’m a minority, but I’m a qualified minority. We don’t have a quality of public service that represents the community.”
Given that Gomes is taking on Bridgeport’s incumbent Democratic mayor and has stepped on the toes of other city officials, does he really believe he can get the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee?
“If the Democratic Town Committee wants to endorse me on the basis of conditions I set as a candidate for mayor — and I will let the DTC know what these conditions are — then if they seek to endorse me under those conditions, that’s good for the party and that’s historic for my candidacy,” said Gomes.
There appear to be conflicts of interest with Bridgeport council members who also work for the city. What would a Mayor Gomes do to remedy that situation?
“We have witnessed the detrimental aspect of this arrangement, all to the betrayal of voter trust,” Gomes said. “We have a body of government who are in it only for themselves. They work for the city but they have conflicts of interest because they owe favors.”
Gomes said he believes there are salaried employees on city payroll who should not be, and that he would be willing to review the City Charter.
Under the heading “End Culture of Greed,” his Website lists five standalone points that frame his goals for reforming Bridgeport: Hire based on qualifications; end political no show jobs; restore civil service testing; implement performance reviews; and appoint department heads with city residency.
As the father of four children who attend Bridgeport public schools, Gomes said that his main focus if elected would be tending to the collapsing school system by “establishing a public school system in Bridgeport that is the envy of the state.”
Specifically, Gomes would seek to “build a legitimate and consistent relationship with the superintendent of schools and make that position part of the mayor’s cabinet; create an education budget that is reflective of the concerns and needs of parents, teachers and unions, and schedule regular meetings with PAC and the mayor’s office.”
As mayor, would Gomes strive to make city commissions more inclusive?
“The first order of business is to fill vacant positions, which has not been the practice of the current administration as we all know,” he said. “Of course appointments will be representative and inclusive.”
Gomes also hopes to revitalize and renew the economy of Bridgeport by encouraging growth of the tax base with targeted development of the downtown and along the major transit corridors, protecting the character of the city’s neighborhoods and eliminating blight there.
“This situation must change,” Gomes noted. “This reflection of a blighted landscape contaminates our city’s image and, even more deeply, it contaminates the spirit of our citizens.”
Gomes said he will focus on improving small business relations with City Hall, market Bridgeport both nationally and internationally, encourage the creation of construction and permanent jobs and return the greatness of a deep water harbor to Bridgeport.
Specific ideas on the implementation of these plans were not noted.
Running the city of Bridgeport without corrupt practices has been a challenge for previous administrations. Gomes proposes to somehow halt the time-honored tradition of employees using city vehicles for personal tasks and to put an end to gas card abuse. He wants to affix official city plates and logos on all city vehicles and create a valid inventory of city fleet, machines, equipment and tools. Gomes also promised to end abuse of the boot program.
On taxes, Gomes vowed to stop protecting elected officials’ favorite tax cheats and delinquents and said he will “restore citizen confidence in the tax department.”
Long lines at the tax department will also vanish under a Gomes administration, according to the candidate.
Clad in a gray sweatshirt bearing his name and campaign logo, Gomes been hitting the streets to get his message out to voters. Every day between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., he walks the city streets in campaign mode, and on Friday mornings residents of Bridgeport can find him at the downtown bus terminal.
“We are doing this to raise awareness,” Gomes stated. “People in the community want a change.”