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Library board appointment in limbo

October 3, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — In this Democratic town, could Sauda Baraka’s prominent role in a minor party cost the community activist her longtime seat on the library board?

The all-Democratic City Council on Monday delayed a vote on Baraka’s reappointment after learning she is chairman of the Bridgeport-branch of the Working Families Party, which has over the years has challenged the city’s establishment politicians.

Baraka joined the library board in the early 1990s. She sailed through her September interview for reappointment with a council subcommittee.

But Councilman Ernie Newton successfully asked that Monday’s vote on Baraka be delayed so she could be re-interviewed. Newton told his council colleagues that Baraka, though a registered Republican, runs the Working Families in Bridgeport.

Mario Testa, Bridgeport’s Democratic boss, once called the third party a greater threat than the city’s badly outnumbered GOP. The Working Families’ local influence has waxed and waned over the years.

Freshman Councilman Kyle Langan, who has been cross-endorsed by the Working Families, told Newton: “I don’t know political allegiance is a reason not to have someone on a commission. ... The fact she’s a minor party is a strength.”

Newton, who previously called for term limits for municipal board members, then said Baraka has served for too long.

In an interview on Wednesday, Newton insisted, “It doesn’t have anything to do with her being (Working Families) party chairman. We don’t care about that. What I do care about is people serving ‘lifetime appointments,’ ”

Newton attended the initial subcommittee interview with Baraka, but had to leave early. He wants a chance to question her.

Langan, one of only four council members who opposed stalling Baraka’s re-appointment, said he was willing to give Newton the benefit of the doubt.

“It did seem to me, originally ... we were sending this individual back because they might be the chair of a party that wasn’t the Democratic Party,” Langan said.

Baraka on Wednesday said she took over Bridgeport’s Working Families Party last year. While the party often supports Democrats, it cross-endorsed the Republican Baraka when she sat on the Board of Education. Baraka noted she is not required to change her registration to hold a leadership position with the Working Families as long as she shares the third-party’s ideals.

Baraka said she wished Newton had originally been present to ask his questions, but also that she has no problem attending another interview.

Council President Aidee Nieves supported Newton’s request to send Baraka’s reappointment back to committee. Nieves said Wednesday, “I know it came off as a political thing, but I think his whole thing is she’s (Baraka) been there for so long.”

“I explained the work I had done and am doing and things I want to make sure are completed,” Baraka recalled of her first interview. “(Council members) seemed satisfied with my answers.”

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