A welcome serving of crow
The day following a fine Thanksgiving meal with our family, I’m OK with eating a little crow.
Maybe Gov.-elect Ned Lamont didn’t have to help with peeling potatoes, as I did, the day before Thanksgiving — had I Ned’s riches, I would have staff doing that, too, I suppose — but whatever the case, there he was at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Union Avenue in Bridgeport on Wednesday morning helping to distribute Thanksgiving turkeys and groceries.
It was a gesture, of course, a gesture of recognition to a community that helped put him over the top in his run for governor.
This was the same neighborhood Lamont worked with Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim a few days before the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election.
Ganim had been a Lamont opponent in the August Democratic primary and had painted Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich entrepreneur, as an out-of-touch-with-the-hood, horse country effete more comfortable in the posh surroundings of a country club than with, say, the environs of a Tae’s Lounge, a working man’s bar on Stratford Avenue.
After the primary, though, Ganim and Lamont made their peace. It was forged more from pragmatism than affection, to be sure.
“We’re pretty different cats. There’s no question about that,” Lamont said in the primary’s aftermath. “But he wants to turn around his city, and he wants to get re-elected in his city.”
“We don’t party together,” the victor offered.
Lamont’s visit on that October Friday, with Ganim as his guide, attracted a lot of cameras. The two were accompanied by a platoon of candidates, including U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Fourth district, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., both of whom also won big on Election Day.
Nearly 23,000 Bridgeport Democrats voted on Nov. 6, contributing substantially to Lamont’s 40,177 margin of victory over Republican Bob Stefanowski.
There’s no question that the Bridgeport Democratic machine, its levers, pulleys and other machinations guided behind the curtain by the steady hand of the wizard himself, town chairman Mario Testa, did indeed go all out for the country club guy.
The day after the October visit, when the cameras and the politicians were gone, I visited the neighborhood and noted that the long-ignored East End of Bridgeport looked pretty much the same.
Some guys in the neighborhood that I talked to that day were, shall we say, skeptical about what would likely change on The Avenue, Stratford Avenue, when the election was over. I had to count myself among them.
The East End has seen candidates come in those electric days before an election ... and disappear when all the shouting was over. And any reporter who has covered Bridgeport for a long time, has seen the same.
On that October morning, after the whirlwind tour, Lamont told Hearst Connecticut Media reporter Brian Lockhart that he would be back to the neighborhood.
So, certainly, this was an encouraging gesture from the man who will soon become the governor of Connecticut.
Lamont, of course, doesn’t have to visit the East End of Bridgeport regularly throughout his coming four-year term.
He will have many ways to make his presence known.
It’s impossible to drive through the East End of Bridgeport and not recognize the issues that trouble the inner precincts of all the state’s cities, perhaps chiefly the idleness of groups of young men outside bodegas and on street corners, schools that are struggling to create a future for kids from families that are also struggling to keep their heads above water.
Lamont can make his presence known by supporting programs for young people in the neighborhood, like the Ralphola Taylor Community Center at 790 Central Ave.
A central part of his successful campaign was his identifying himself not as a country club guy but rather as someone who became successful through his business acumen and close relationships with the business community, businesses both large and small.
Lamont, for instance, volunteered time not so long ago teaching business classes at Harding High School.
He can make his presence known, as he said he would do during the campaign, by steering some of those small businesses into Bridgeport.
It’s good that he came back to say “thank you.” Helping all the East Ends of Connecticut is just the right thing to do.
Michael J. Daly is retired editor of the Connecticut Post editorial page. Email him at edit@ctpost.