Michael J. Daly Classic Bridgeport headed to Hartford?
It’s a classic Bridgeport story.
A high-powered, politically connected lawyer and the head of Bridgeport’s Democratic power structure get together to help another politically connected guy open a liquor store in a location where such an enterprise has been illegal since the dawn of time.
It’s not Armageddon, of course, but it’s an illustrative tale of the culture from which one of this year’s gubernatorial hopefuls has sprung.
For two-and-a-half years, the little saga of Vitro’s on-again, off-again liquor store at 1044 Brooklawn Avenue — across the street from Testo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, the satellite office of Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa — has been rolling quietly on.
It’s been rolling since a Superior Court judge ordered the place shuttered because it violated a long-standing zoning ordinance that prevents liquor stores operating within 1,500 feet of a school, a place of worship and another liquor store.
But Bridgeport is a place where the rules are the rules... until and unless they are inconvenient to the chosen.
The would-be proprietor of Vitro’s is Michael DeFilippo, a Testo’s bartender and a recently seated Democratic member of Bridgeport’s all-Democrat city council.
With the Bridgeport-savvy attorney Charles Willinger as his advocate, they persuaded the Bridgeport Zoning Commission that the 1,500-foot rule was an antiquated idea. And so, for the benefit of one individual, the zoners last week cut the 1,500-foot-rule in half.
Voila! Vitro’s got the blessing to reopen. Perseverance pays off. Willinger, DeFilippo and Testa know how to grind and grind and grind and wear the opposition down.
The democratic process — in this case the Democratic process, Bridgeport style — is a beautiful thing to behold.
Anyone who has experience with Joe Ganim knows that he is not to be underestimated, particularly in the no-holds-barred, door-to-door combat of a mid-summer primary. Especially with an ally like Mario Testa.
In his campaign against the state Democratic party’s endorsed candidate, Ned Lamont, the wealthy Greenwich tech magnate, Ganim, as is his style, has relentlessly portrayed Lamont as an out-of-touch blue blood, and has portrayed himself as the champion of the long-neglected minority and working man.
He’s been working hard in the cities, where the Democratic primary will be decided.
And by the way, Bravo to Ned Lamont for saying he would “probably not” support Joe Ganim if Ganim wins the primary.
Haven’t we had enough — in Connecticut and in Washington, in particular — of lockstep zombie-marching loyalty to parties rather than principles and ideas?
Do not fall over in a faint if Joe Ganim wins the primary Tuesday.
And, if so, the people who wield the power in Bridgeport will be thinking about the opportunities that could open up in Hartford.
I’m not saying Joe Ganim had anything to do with the machinations that ultimately led Bridgeport zoners to “see the light” on the Vitro’s issue. Seems like he’s busy enough running for governor, which he’s been doing since 1994, and that he barely has time to be mayor.
But there’s no denying he’s part of a system that knows how to grind and grind and grind and wear the opposition down.
Who knows? Maybe that’s what Connecticut needs, a little Bridgeport-style action.
Michael J. Daly is editor of the editorial page of the Connecticut Post. Email: email@example.com.