Just because there is an appearance of a conflict of interest, doesn't mean in fact that one is present. Thus we should give Bridgeport City Council President Thomas McCarthy, the benefit of the doubt.
Politics is complex, and rarely is something that is so obvious the truth in the broad distortion of interests and the opaqueness of our ideological vision. Just because Mr. McCarthy works as one of former Trumbull native, Mayor Finch's chief legal counsel on employment matters, it depends on the individual to uphold their own sense of ethics.
Just because he lunches with the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Adam Wood, former democratic campaign operative and now executive of city government, just because he is wholly ingrained in Bridgeport's particular political culture, which predates the Paoletta administration, the McCarthy name held with it great esteem.
Political competition, often confusing right action with dogmatic self interest, we should take care to not besmirch the good reputation of someone who guards it with wise temperance. His job certainly must take precedence over political office and its novelty, but if he is to continue to do both, he must show both acumen and flexibility, an independence not easily achieved as the legislative branch's leadership.
We must ask ourselves, is he impartial? We have only actions to define that debate.
When a band of Council outsiders thought up the idea in 1994, of creating the City Council Office, I was at its inception. We met at a local country club discussing the merits of balance of power and its peculiar nature. It was a venting session, where Councilmen voiced the lack of respect coming from former Mayor Ganim.
Some of them in positions of representing the people of the districts could not even get a cordial phone call from the chief executive of the City. The creation of staff for the Council was an attempt to bring parity and tolerance of ideas in an increasingly consolidated political machinery. It was also an attempt to strengthen representative democracy in a decaying environment of administrative incompetence which stretched back to the days of Nick Panuzzio.
The only way to do that was to strengthen a weak and amateur legislative branch to serve as a real counterweight to the machinations of those who propped up the mayor for personal benefit. Intuitive and instinctive leadership is not something easily aquired.
The political process is a naked drive for ambition, rarely is self interest subordinated for the public good, when the elders allow such value-less gamesmanship as we have in the greater Bridgeport-Trumbull political machine.
These outsiders, Bill Finch, serving in the Beardsley Park area and his collegue James McGinnis, a former policeman and longtime political actor in Bridgeport politics had become concerned with the growing and empty nature of political novices in Ganim's administration.
They feared that these new political bosses were arbitrarily interested in the trappings of office and were not grounded in the political sensibilities in the past of different positions and styles of politics.
They did business differently, they were arrogant and untested and found influence in the unqualified political vacuum that preceded fiscal and cultural bankruptcy. A lack of policy followthrough, of credible public policy had created the situation where corrupt politicians used the former metropolis as a trough to enrich themselves.
The creation of an office which assisted the City Council was a symbolic victory, for nobody else, not even the local media establishment did a thing about the situation. The part time legislature would have a single employee to serve constituent needs and work towards the public interests. The Mayor, in contrast, the executive branch, held administrative over the rest of the hundreds of civil servants who reported to him.
Times have changed and with it new leadership. It might always take outsiders to the political establishment to advance a kind of change necessary to produce results, mortal humans just don't risk careers and position to take contrary positions, and players on a stage are simply too blinded to recognize structural flaws.
Now, though, Bill Finch, a man of immense talent, someone whom should be on the rise, excepting the flaws of his surroundings and its natural limitations, is now the ultimate insider, the beneficiary of his earlier refom politics which went to his original political involvement.
Having advocated in the past the establishment of a State police barracks in Bridgeport (moving them from Westport), the establishment of a new Housatonic College in downtown Bridgeport under the tenure of Lowell Weicker, and an effort to create the construction of Route 25, when he was a town constable in Trumbull in the 1970's, his rise was meteoric as a former State Senator whose district included Trumbull and Monroe.
I think it shortsided for the council office to be vacant or to not work towards its historic mission of a separate power base in Bridgeport politics, even if the local club now extends through westport due to the prior work of Mr Wood who once was Diane Farrell's manager.
Connections have been built, not always for the better. Our largest city will lack wider influence until it gets its house in order, regardless of brief good favor from Governors such as Dan Malloy.
Such political friendships rarely last beyond convenience. The people will continue to bear the burden of high taxes from such compromise.
We old democrats must find a way to co-exist and prosper in this new environment of political efficiency where parcels of land in Trumbull are merely handed to incorporated municipalities as an almost afterthought.
We automatically give credence to differing ideas, often to our detriment, but we can only successfully co-exist if we respect one another, if we are also given a seat at the table, if we too hold power and influence. For we are all separate people, from unique backgrounds with a role to play in our democracy
I am proud to have authored real ethics reform in Connecticut in 2003. The people in the face of a vast network of power and influence are helpless against consolidation and arbitrary influence.
A government of the people should work for them, not just the elites or the politically flavor of the moment. I am asking all of the City Council of Bridgeport and the politically influential in the state to demand a restoration of the staff and budget of the Council office.
Our department filled in the vacuum of leadership when we had become a byword for corruption, when Connecticut was called Corrupticut. If we train future leaders, if we make strength a virtue in our politicians then they will be there when we need them, and we can be proud once again.
Louis A Bevilacqua