Not just another election year

Published on July 5, 2012 by

Among the agenda items for Bridgeport in 2012 are critical, generational choices that will determine future municipal governance, the direction of our public school system and our representation as a municipality in Hartford for years to come.

The state elections for representation in the General Assembly present some clear, interesting choices for Bridgeport voters. While the Republicans still haven’t presented candidates for Bridgeport’s General Assembly seats in 2012, there are two very important primary races taking shape in Bridgeport’s 128th Assembly District, in the heart of the distressed East Side, as well as in the 23rd Senate District, which includes the East Side and most of the other distressed, “enterprise zone” neighborhoods of the city.

In the 128th District, long-time East Side social-justice activist Angel Reyes is facing Democratic nominee Christina Ayala, daughter of Democratic Registrar of Voters Santa Ayala in an Aug. 14 primary.

Reyes is mounting a grass-roots challenge against the Democratic Machine candidate, whose family constitutes a powerful political force that is based on the East Side. While Reyes appreciates the political power of his opponent’s family in the 128th, he is much more concerned with the potential for ballot-signature verification “complications” and ballot “mishaps” and “miscounts” in the registrar’s office, which has become known at the state and national levels for such problems during crucial elections.

Reyes’s record of political courage and strong social-justice advocacy, especially on behalf of Bridgeport’s poor, immigrants, and Hispanic community, will stand him in good stead in the upcoming primary race. Most political pundits in Bridgeport, and around the state, expect Reyes to emerge victorious on Aug. 14 — if a close watch can be maintained on the registrar’s office on Aug. 14 and the period leading up to that date. For those looking for real change and help for the people of Bridgeport’s distressed East Side, the choice is obvious.

The three-way primary in the 23rd Senate District will provide a diversity of platforms and styles, in which incumbent Ed Gomes will face off against Ernie Newton and Bridgeport teacher and current state representative in the 128th District, Andres Ayala.

It is widely felt that Newton, who preceded Gomes in the 23rd District, should have sat out this election and pursued further redemption for his crimes, which landed him a five-year term in federal prison. But Newton, with the backing of Democratic Machine regulars — who appear to be ready to use him for their own purposes — is mounting a formidable challenge to Gomes and Andres Ayala for the nomination.

Andres Ayala is proceeding with confidence in his quest for the nomination, running on a clean reputation as a city councilman and state representative, and having a strong base of support in the Latino community as well as significant support in the white and African-American communities of the 23rd.

Of course, Gomes has a reputation of fearless independence and advocacy for the poor and working families of his district and the rest of Bridgeport.

The gerrymandering of the 23rd District in the latest electoral reapportionment was obviously done to weaken Gomes and make it easier for the Machine to put in its own candidate (the choice is obviously Newton), but many Bridgeport political analysts believe the plan will backfire by limiting the large pool of votes that could have been swayed in the North End sections of the 23rd (now in the 22nd) by Newton or Andres Ayala.

The Gomes following in the “old” part of the “new” 23rd, added to the votes that will be unlikely to support Newton or Ayala – because of Newton’s incomplete redemption and Ayala’s strong Machine connections — should be enough to give Gomes a slim majority of votes in the primary.

Again, if Bridgeport is to get past its reputation of political dysfunction and make a reputable, at least somewhat effective showing in the General Assembly during the next budget session, there is only one reasonable choice in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary for state Senate in the 23rd – Ed Gomes. (Since it will probably be his last term in the state Senate, he will no doubt make it his best…)

Perhaps the biggest local issue in the upcoming election is Charter change.
Among the several provisions in the November Bridgeport Charter change ballot item are: the Mayoral Board of Education Appointment charter provision, and the requirements governing the appointment of city department heads.

Regarding the first issue. It is widely held by Bridgeport, state, and national good government advocate/activists that have been following the saga of the failed Finch-Malloy orchestrated state takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education — overturned in March by the Connecticut Supreme Court — that to cede control of the Bridgeport school system to the mayoralty in a mismanaged city such as Bridgeport, would be severely damaging to public education and democracy, and a grave mistake. This sentiment was repeatedly expressed by the majority of speakers at the public hearings that have taken place this year on the Charter change issue.

Likewise, there was overwhelming sentiment that city department heads should be required to live in the city — there was no such provision adopted by the Finch-appointed Charter Change Commission.

In light of the Finch money-power grab undertaken on behalf of moneyed interests observed to have been involved in the orchestration of the failed school board takeover and the Board of Education mayoral-appointment Charter change provision, as well as the shortcomings of most of the other charter-change provisions adopted by the commission, there seems to be only one rational choice for Bridgeporters on this November ballot item – Rejection.

Certainly, this is not an election season for Bridgeporters to take lightly.

Bridgeporters must come out and vote and assert their determination to support the best interests of their city and the democratic process. They can do this by voting for Reyes and Gomes on Aug. 14, and for democracy, by rejecting the Finch Charter change power-grab in November.

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