By retired Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez
Across the city of Bridgeport, citizens are talking about the fact that our local ship of state has run aground. As has occurred in the past, the mayor and his allies are working tirelessly to centralize power in the hands of a few. Democracy is messy, and the mayor is determined to tidy up anyone or anything that falls outside of his view of the world.
When legitimate concerns and complaints are raised, the entrenched political and economic powers in our city are quick to demonize opponents. The machinery to produce a whisper campaign of deceit, innuendos and half-truths is immediately put into action.
Nowhere is this unfortunate and dangerous trend more visible than with the approach that Bill Finch, Kenneth Moales, Paul Vallas and their supporters are taking when it comes to Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education members.
Dissent is met with what can only be described as vicious and inappropriate personal attacks.
For those of us who respect and believe in the most fundamental values of our nation are reminded of the famous newsman Edward R. Murrow, who said, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.”
In fact, human history tells us that when dissent is eliminated, the most regressive forms of government are allowed to arise.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of theWorking Families Party. However, as a resident and taxpayer of Bridgeport, I find the actions of the Board of Education members who have been elected on the Working Families Party line to be refreshing and desperately needed in Bridgeport.
They are independent, they ask questions and they are not beholden to the network of private and governmental interests that hold our city captive and in fear of speaking truth.
The Finch administration and its supporters have implemented their whisper campaign machinery to suggest that the Working Families Party “controls” four members of the Board of Education.
The claim is absurd.
The Board of Education has nine democratically elected members. Six members were elected as Democrats and three were elected on the Working Families Party line.
Having watched the board during these turbulent times, I can attest to the fact that unlike five Democratic members of the board who vote as a bloc and are rubber stamps for the Finch administration, Paul Vallas and the Democratic machine, the three Working Family Party members and one of the Democrats tackle their roles with exactly the type of independence and intelligence that we so desperately need.
Any attempt to expose bloc voting on the Board of Education must only look to the five Democrats on the board, several of whom are highly educated in academic affairs. Indeed one is a professor at a university, one is an attorney and another is a graduate of a divinity school.
However, this high level of education does not stop them from voting blindly to support whatever Finch and Vallas propose.
Sadly, we live in a city controlled by a Democratic Party machine, which has always, and can always, count on the silent complicity of the Republican Party to act as its wholly owned subsidiary.
A healthy two-party system means that questions are asked at public meetings, and answered. A vibrant two-party system creates the conditions to hold public officials accountable for the decisions made on behalf of residents and taxpayers.
Tragically, the two-party system in place in Bridgeport is in a state of desperate decay, which has brought about the destruction of any semblance of democracy for the residents of this once vibrant city.
What exists in its place is the Finch machine.
A machinery supported by sycophants, private law firms, and business interests who manage and manipulate the members of the City Council, and the delegation to the House of Representatives and the state Senate.
Given that a significant percentage of Bridgeport’s elected city and state officials, and/or members of their families are employed by the city and/or the Board of Education, it is no wonder that the residents of the city are fed up and disgusted to watch the parade of kept men and women of a disgraced political machine strut their stuff on the taxpayer dime.
One need only look at the venomous opposition hurled at Rep. Jack Hennessy in his quest to slay the dragons of conflict of interest on the City Council for evidence of the dire state of affairs in the city of Bridgeport.
In these challenging and oppressive times, we do not need more people asking fewer questions, but rather fewer people asking no questions.
We need to take to heart Albert Einstein‘s admonition that “if I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
And we must never plead guilty to complicity by silence.