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Religion drives incumbent South Norwalk rep

Bruce Morris
State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) talks in his South Norwalk home. He and his wife of 35 years, Gail, have made many sacrifices for their faith, he said.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bruce Morris is a spiritual man, which is why, he said, tears of pain accompanied his decision to run for state representative.

Morris, a reverend, said he prayed on running after years of being told to do so by people in his church. The message came through loud and clear, he said.

“Quite frankly I went home and cried,” Morris said. “Some people talk about the prestige you get with this position, but I knew the sacrifices that you make, the real commitment. I knew full well the misunderstanding you get sometimes, people maligning you. That is part of what it would take.”

Morris, a Democrat who has been representing the 140th District for nearly eight years, is facing a primary challenge Aug. 12 from former Common Councilman Warren Peña. He is his party’s endorsed candidate, having beaten Peña, 222-99, in the May caucus.

It seems that all roads lead to religion when Morris tells the stories of his life – and they are many and varied.

Morris was born and raised in New Haven. His father was one of the first African-Americans to be a Connecticut state representative, he said, and rose to be deputy speaker before deciding to place a priority on earning a living to support his family. Eventually, his father was convinced to run for state senator.

“It was a big loss financially,” Morris said. “It was a matter of what the community needs. … I got to learn a lot from my dad in terms of values.”

Morris said he and his brother went to a multiracial Catholic elementary school next door to a public housing project. Everyone wore uniforms, which was great because there were no class distinctions, he said.

His mother worked two or three jobs so her sons could go to a private all-boys high school in Colchester, he said. He was elected president of his freshman class, although all of his classmates were white, he said.

That was it for his first foray into politics. “I guess it was ‘OK, did that,’” Morris said, explaining that he never ran again. He was big on basketball and competitive chess, he said.

When he was 16, people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I remember telling them, I’m going to be a lawyer, I’m going to become a politician,” Morris said. “I loved what my dad was doing for the community, loved it, and I just had a knack for reading and quickly absorbing material and debating stuff.  Then just kind of being able to fight for justice and stuff, kind of liked doing that. But it’s interesting; I said, ‘If I don’t become that, I’ll become an electrical contractor.’”

Morris, who as an eighth-grader, had considered being a priest, went to the University of Connecticut with the intention of being a lawyer, but had a spiritual transition, he said.

That was “A miracle,” he said. “I would rather not go into detail about it, but let’s just say I had a miracle where God saved my very life and my mind.”

He took an electrical apprenticeship, he said. There were “five years of night school in another type of training,” he said. Although he did not graduate from UConn, he has six years of post-secondary education, he said.

He also became active in prison ministry and hospital ministry, he said. He became an ordained minister, and got a contractor’s license, he said.

“I kind of had a vision one day about business,” he said. “I was given the name of the business and everything, it was connected to what I was doing in church.”

The idea was to treat employees like family and do everything on the up and up, he said.

“The goal was not for Bruce Morris to become rich,” he said. “The goal of the business – yeah, my name is, I am president of the company – the real president is one who has higher authority. Imagine sitting down with millionaires and having that conversation. ‘Yeah, my name’s on it but for me, Jesus Christ is really the one doing the business.’ Because my goal was I wanted to fund ministry, wanted to fund all the outreach things I wanted to do. If you’re commanding millions of dollars, you can do that.”
Morris initially walked away from lucrative paychecks because, he said, it would involve taking money for nothing, as sham companies were common at that time when it first became required that minority businesses be given a percentage of construction contracts. He paid himself nothing in the first year and little in the second year, he said, but his business became the largest black contractor in the state.

This coincided with his ministry. He first came to Norwalk in 1979 to help found Macedonia Church, he said. He was reverse commuting for a while, and bought a home here in 1989, but he lost the home and the business in the recession of the early 1990’s, he said.

That might not have happened, but he was ill, he said, diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1993.

In 1995 he was healed in a prayer vigil at his church for a young woman, he said.

“Everyone else went down and laid hands on her,” Morris said. “The most I could do was stay in the pulpit and hold out my hands. The good Lord healed me in that same moment. I went back to working 12 to 16-hour days that I was accustomed to working, I mean immediately. Immediately. I have been doing that ever since.”

He later became human relations director for Norwalk Public Schools, although he doesn’t have a college degree. The position became available but he didn’t meet the criteria, he said. The position was reposted and he qualified with five years of administrative experience and community relations, he said.

“I had been the voice of the community and I had done it with multiple diverse communities,” Morris said. “All the different bills there I met. What the board wanted to do at that time, they really needed somebody who understood the achievement gap in order to make the connections between the community and the board and the schools, PTO and all these other pieces. I was the perfect fit. I got hired for the job and everybody was tickled pink with my performance until I ran for state representative. There was no question about Bruce Morris’ performance until then.”

People have left comments on this site complaining that Morris is in Hartford during the legislative session and unavailable for his full-time job with Norwalk schools.

Morris said many of the HR obligations occur after hours. If you call his Norwalk Public Schools office the call goes directly to his cell phone. “I am the one person, I don’t care what time of the day, night, weekend, I am that accessible,” he said. Plus, “You learn how to manage your day, manage your time,” he said.

NoN addressed the situation with Norwlk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

“In his role as Human Relations Director and an employee of Norwalk Public Schools, it’s my expectation that Mr. Morris is required to invest the time necessary to respond to any personnel, student or parent matters that may arise, and for which he is accountable as part of his job description,” Rivera wrote in an email.  “… The Human Relations role is expected to dedicate 4/5ths time or a minimum of 32 hours per week, solely on those duties, and at times that may include nights and weekends.

“Given the fluctuating needs and demands for his role and services and that there are no conflicts with his obligations to NPS, Bruce and I have agreed that a weekly log of activities, including time spent on NPS work on location at our schools, or outside of regular office hours will help address any questions that may arise,” Rivera wrote.

The position’s job description may be seen here: Bruce Morris job description

The beauty of CT-N is that testimony given during a public hearing is available online, he said.

One of the great things about a part-time legislature is that many different fields of expertise make their way to Hartford, he said. That includes other people who work for boards of education. The chairperson of the Appropriations Committee is head of adult education for New Haven.

“Thank God we have got these people in Hartford. … Would you rather have a bunch of bureaucrats who know nothing about education?” he asked, adding that in his first year as a legislator he stopped the first debate on a bullying law to permanently affect its outcome.

Other comments left on this site accuse Morris of being against gay people because he voted against gay marriage in 2007.

Morris said he voted for everything in support of gay rights before that.

“I fully supported civil unions,” Morris said. “… You can’t call me homophobic just because we have a disagreement on one issue, in the language one bill has been written.”

His objection to Connecticut law is based on religion, he said.

“Marriage didn’t begin as a civil right, marriage is a sacred right. … My position is the government didn’t have the right to redefine marriage. If it’s the issue of benefits and everything else, I said I’m 100 percent there. I’m a million percent there. But how do we accomplish that?” Morris said. “… For me, it’s a religious rite and I want to protect the faith communities as well.”

The federal government has no say in Holy Communion, a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah, he said.

“We clearly understand those are religious rites,” he said. “If I could have my druthers then nationally everyone would have a civil union. Everyone. Because the question of marriage – if we understand it to be a religious institution, then let the faith communities fight it out, because it is there and government should have no role in it. Because, guess what? Faith communities are. The churches aren’t fighting with each other about it. … If it is important to you that you have that label, let’s recognize that is a religious label, go to your church and get it.”

There are comments criticizing Morris’ lack of educational credentials.

“I am a licensed unlimited electrical contractor, I have got an E1,” Morris said. “I would say that probably is equivalent to being electrical engineer without having an electrical engineer’s degree because I am qualified now, if you have a nuclear power plant I can take out a permit to build it. I have pretty much taken an alternate route to certification for everything.”

He might not have an MBA, but he had a very successful business before there was a recession, he said.

Morris and other incumbent Norwalk legislators are criticized because Norwalk is shortchanged in the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Morris said that when he first ran, he said he would change ECS.

“We are not getting what we need to get, but for every year I have been there we have had changes in that formula,” he said. “What we are getting today as opposed to eight years ago is almost $4 to $5 million more. Between Priority School District grant and ECS it is almost $5 million more. And those are all formula changes.”

The conversation has changed, he said. “My biggest issue was imprisonment. We are spending $48,000 a year to incarcerate people and only $12,000 to educate.”

Teenagers are now given counseling when they are incarcerated, he said. More is being done with halfway houses, and recidivism is way down, he said.

“Everything that I have promised, guess what, I have done, I have impacted.” Morris said. “Not that there isn’t more I can do in every area.”

How long will he keep up this pace?

“Until the Lord says otherwise,” he said.

“Every day that I get up I realize I am living on borrowed time that God has blessed me with,” Morris said. “So when I talk about public service, this really is ministry. Being a state rep is an extension of ministry. Director of human relations is an extension of ministry.”

Comments

30 responses to “Religion drives incumbent South Norwalk rep”

  1. Carlos Rodriguez

    Bruce Morris on same sex marriage. Enough said, and this is supposed to be our Human Relations Director for our school system? How does Norwalk tolerate someone like this?

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j-TAlX5us5M

  2. John Hamlin

    In the name of god he denies others their civil rights — sounds like just the sort of person we need in Hartford!

  3. TLaw

    “I am the one person, I don’t care what time of the day, night, weekend, I am that accessible,” he said. Plus, “You learn how to manage your day, manage your time,” he said.


    A Falsehood – is all that comes to mind mostly because NON may censor any other definition. Unfortunately, I live in your district and I have attempted to contact you by both email and phone on numerous occasions without ever receiving a reply. Thank you.

  4. One and Done.

    Sounds like he learned the con game early on. Reverend? How exactly does one become one? Resume? Crickets.

    Editor’s note: According to a published report, Bruce Morris is a Born-Again Christin who was ordained in the Church of God in Christ in 1981.

  5. piethein

    Thanks Bruce for still calling me Bill. Go Warren Go !

  6. MarjorieM

    Too much information about his religious beliefs. This is is not appropriate for a man trying to convince me to vote for him. I was stunned to read the quote that his electrician’s license is the equivalent to a degree in electrical engineering. THIS man is the best we can do? Oh, and he really doesn’t respond to calls. No one seems to know where he is.

  7. Spanner

    Great article Bruce is a good man but he is not my choice in the State House.

    For those of us who have experienced illness in our families I can’t understand why a blind eye is given to Norwalks problems where cancer seems to be taking a lead in Norwalks suspected contamination problems in Bruces district.Looking back on what Bob Duff did to St Vincents Hospital last year seems to be an indication Bruce was ok with that where many Norwalkers go for excellent care.He never spoke up or out on the cuts that hurt so many sick and needy people including my own family members.Time to sharpen our pencils as Duff did during his cuts and vote.

  8. Anonymous

    by him not picking up shows how busy he is helping out the community. Just because he missed your call does not mean he does not care. lets all be mature here

  9. Anonymous

    This man has been doing good for EIGHT years. and you guys are worried about phone calls.?Just call him again! If he was picking up everyone’s phone call, then everyone would start saying how does he get any work done if he is always on his phone correct????? We all miss a phone call here and there

  10. Anonymous

    I’m voting for Bruce ! yes I have many comments but this is because i am angry at the comments i see. This shows the world we live in, where people have no common sense. Who ever votes for Warren is making a HUGE mistake. The people calling from his headquarters can hardly speak ENGLISH. If you ask them why you should vote for Warren, they don’t have an answer to why! There is EVIDENCE that Bruce has done nothing but GOOD for this community. Don’t vote for him and watch this community downgrade!

  11. loveforthecity

    Is this supposed to be an interview of who Bruce Morris is, what his record is and why he is the proper fit to continue to represent the 140th District? All I take away from this article is that he is religious. This is politics and a political campaign, where are his accomplishments and what is his record? What has he done? Readers should know and have a concrete outline from NoN?

    He has no degrees, no education and has a position right under the schools Superintendent who holds a Ph.D. He works for the Board of Education with no high school diploma and gets paid six figures of taxpayer dollars?

    Holding a E-1 electrician license is equivalent to being an Electrical Engineer? Since when? Mr. Morris has taken alternative routes to his education? What type of example is that to our children?

    Take the alternative route, going to college earning a BS or BA then to Graduate school is less worthy according to Morris. Seems like the alternative route will get you a six figure salary and if you join politics another pay check. All in the end with no accountability, no record, no accomplishments. A free ride on taxpayer dollars.

    What if a student is gay, how will Mr. Morris respond after seeing this video?
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j-TAlX5us5M

    1. Mark Chapman

      @…City

      The series of profiles of the candidates are intended to tell voters something about who these people are and what informs their decisions. From reading your comment, you seem to have found out a lot about Mr. Morris, even if your last two items are not reflective of what was in the story.

      FYI, we have invited each primary candidate to share their platforms with our readers in a separate story we hope to run between Friday and Monday. It is up to them to decide if thy care to tell the voters in print what they plan to do in Hartford.

  12. TLaw

    I’d like to add that this is hardly a vote for Pena, for as far I am concerned he’s grossly inexperienced and has proven that in his dealings with the SoNoCC fiasco. Additionally, anyone who would campaign in your neighborhood and pass you on a shared sidewalk without acknowledging you is not worthy of my vote – amateur hour. An Uncle always told us: beware the man who can’t look you in and eye and say hello.

  13. Tim D

    Funny, he slithered through our neighborhood and did about the same.

  14. Bill

    Anyone is better than slick salesman Pena.

  15. John Hamlin

    The article is informative. It seemed to inform the opinions of a lot of people who would no more send him to Hartford in any official capacity than build them a nuclear reactor — much less trust him to uphold anyone’s civil rights with his homophobic rampage.

  16. Bobby Badda-Boom

    I’ll never forget the evening in Sept. 2001 at Veterans’ Park shortly after the terrorists had decimated the World Trade Center.
    I went there looking for answers as to how terrorists could so successfully cause such havoc and destruction in NY, NY USA. Were we a godless nation controlled by greed and wealth ? Were the terrorists aided by divine intervention ? Had our country offended the Almighty to such an extent that He would allow this ?
    I forget who or if any politicians were there. I think there was a rabbi there, but I don’t recall any of his words. A representative from a local Catholic Church was there “…..Pray For Us,…..Pray For Us,…..Pray For Us, etc.”
    Then a fellow named Bruce Morris spoke. You had to be there. I won’t attempt to summarize his words, but when I walked across the bridge back to my car, I felt much better. I still feel today that Morris is For Us.

  17. Carlos Rodriguez

    @Bobby, you have to be kidding me?

  18. Mike Mushak

    It’s a shame Mr. Morris hasn’t taken some of God’s healing power he has been gifted with and healed South Norwalk. Parts of it still look like the South Bronx in the 70’s with rampant blight and crime, and many folks of all races and ages living in substandard housing and crumbling housing projects which other cities have already fixed long ago, including neighboring Stamford.
    .
    It appears from all the evidence that Bruce Morris has done very little to help any of us in his district, even though his lawn sign strangely proclaims “Morris is For Us”. Really? Who exactly is “US”? I know for sure it doesn’t include me!
    .
    Warren may not be perfect (who among us is?), but he is by far a better choice to FIGHT for what we ALL need in South Norwalk, regardless of race, religion, age, or sexual orientation. He gets it, and his platform is smart. Time for a real change. Vote for Pena on August 12th!

  19. Lifelong Teacher

    I’m disappointed in NON. This article was a joke and more like a paid political ad.

  20. Casey Smith

    @ Lifelong Teacher – I guess you missed Mark’s response earlier in the thread, so, I’ll paste the comment here.
    .
    “FYI, we have invited each primary candidate to share their platforms with our readers in a separate story we hope to run between Friday and Monday. It is up to them to decide if thy [sic] care to tell the voters in print what they plan to do in Hartford.”
    .
    The article is what Mr. Morris had decided to state about himself and his candidacy. I’m assuming the other candidats will also respond with their statement and then we can make our decision on who to vote for.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @casey

      Thank you. We have already run similar stories on Chris Perone, David Watts, Emily Wilson and Fred Wilms, with a Warren Pena story in progress.

  21. One and Done.

    “Editor’s note: According to a published report, Bruce Morris is a Born-Again Christin who was ordained in the Church of God in Christ in 1981.”
    .
    In other words, since Bruce couldn’t cut it in high school confirmation class, he decided to become an ordained minister of this church you describe.
    .
    Not that you can just wake up and call yourself a Reverend, but Catholic children do go through more rigor than what this sect proscribes of its ordained.
    .
    I’m no fan of Pena, but the kid at least has a real resume.

  22. TLaw

    @Anonymous/[…] In regards to your quote “by him not picking up shows how busy he is helping out the community. Just because he missed your call does not mean he does not care. lets all be mature here”

    I’d like to point out that I also emailed him and again he never bothered to respond to me. The word ‘Busy’ is hardly what comes to mind.

    This comment was edited to remove speculation/accusation about the identity of another commenter.

  23. Ms Ruby McPherson

    Everyone is a joke, Warren is just a loud mouth, who wants to be heard we saw that with him and Watts in the common council meeting, you can bully or lie your way to Hartford. So what if Mr. Morris isn’t for Gays. I don’t believe marriage is between a mam and man or woman and woman. They can’t reproduce to keep the human race going and that is God’s intention. But I do not judge and that is where as a Minister and Christians should stand, it’s between you and God.
    Mr. Morris has some ups and downs, but he also has an agenda that he has to finish. The common council needs to take care of the city and get some of these grandfather zoning laws removed, South Norwalk and not SONO is tired of being dumped on and city official doing what ever they want. Yes I will vote for Mr. Morris for another term. Maybe on the next go Warren once he mature a little more .

  24. Anonymous

    @Tlaw very funny for putting anonymous/ Bruce! maybe you have the wrong email LOL! I AM A VERY STRONG SUPPORTER FOR HIM

  25. LWitherspoon

    South Norwalk needs quality representation more than any other district in Norwalk. Sadly South Norwalk won’t get what it needs from Mssrs. Morris or Pena. Faced with a choice between the two I would have to write in “none of the above”.
    .
    Thank you NoN for new information about Bruce Morris’s background. Pleased to learn that Manny Rivera has Mr. Morris keeping a log of time spent working on his Board of Ed job.

  26. TLaw

    @Anonymous It’s all right here http://www.housedems.ct.gov/morris/ pretty easy to access and bruce should keep that in mind.

  27. Nora King

    Go Warren. Norwalk needs you not Bruce.

  28. Bobby Badda-Boom

    Amen Ms Ruby.

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