NORWALK, Conn. – The first round of applause ended Tuesday night at the Norwalk Inn, and Mayor Richard Moccia began his campaign by taking shots at Norwalk Democrats, just after announcing he would run for reelection.
“I know they have three candidates out there – right now there may be a fourth – three candidates, and that’s only one more than left their party and come to our caucus,” he said. “I know there are some Democrats here tonight and they may report back, so I’ll be fair, I’m glad they joined our caucus.”
Vinny Magiacopra, one of those three Norwalk Dems hoping to be mayor, had already begun the campaign against Moccia with a 3:39 p.m. Tweet, linking to a brief video highlighting the age differences between the two men. The silent clip, about 30 seconds long, features a photo of Moccia from 1977 and the words, “Over 36 years in.”
Mangiacopra, a Norwalk Democratic Town Committee member, released a statement within minutes of the mayor’s announcement: “”We are pleased that Mayor Moccia is seeking a fifth term,” he said. “He is the person we want to run against.”
The video is silent because “Things were a lot different in 1977,” he said, in an email.
Other Democratic hopefuls also weighed in.
Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) responded to Moccia’s announcement with his own email. “I congratulate the mayor on coming to a decision,” he said. “The upcoming campaign is going to provide an opportunity for a vigorous review of the city’s operations and I look forward to bringing my ideas before the citizens of Norwalk.”
There’s evidence Norwalk wants a new mayor, he said.
“As a councilman, I’ve had the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to discussions on the budget, education and on quality of life issues that Norwalkers care about. I think the well-attended public hearings over the past two years speak to a craving for a new approach and that is what we will be focusing on.”
Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, who unsuccessfully ran against Moccia in 2011, also thinks Norwalk is ready. “The current administration would have Norwalk residents believe that everything is rosy,” he said in an email. ”Anyone who pays property taxes has seen the stalled development projects in town or has witnessed the lack of direction and vision in City Hall and knows better. There’s a reason so many would-be Democratic candidates have joined me in the race for mayor. Norwalk needs real leadership and a new direction.”
Moccia had anticipated some of those comments while speaking at the Norwalk Inn. “Waypoint pulled their zoning permits today, they’re moving forward,” he said, of the West Avenue development planned for decades.
As for economic stagnation, Moccia cited unemployment figures from around the area: Bridgeport is around 11 percent, he said; Hartford is around 8.6, New London around 11 percent, New Haven at 11-12 percent.
Norwalk is at 6.5, he said. Trumble is at 6 percent and Danbury is in the same range, he said.
“Notice a pattern there?” he said. “All those towns have Republican mayors, all the other towns, with double digit inflation, have Democrats.”
He was ready with an argument about the school budget, too, comparing Norwalk with Stamford and Danbury (which have about the same numbers when it comes to graduation rate, SAT scores and performing to level) and Bridgeport ( which lags far behind).
“For years we were told that we’re anti-education, we’re not giving enough money,” he said. “Then we found out, you know what, we were right. There was a lot of money being misspent up there. Thanks to Elio (Longo) and thanks to Tony Daddona and Mike (Lyons) and the Board of Ed, they’re ferreting out those wastes and expenditures. We’re going to make sure we adequately fund education but we’re also going to make sure that the education dollars that are spent are spent on the kids, and are spent on education.”
Emergency planning exercises have paid off with the responses to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, he said.
“I don’t think there’s another mayor in Norwalk’s history that’s gone through the worst economic times since the depression, two hurricanes, two tropical storms, an ice storm, and an economic collapse at the same time,” he said. “But you know what, thanks to the wonderful elected officials and the staff in this city, we’ve done pretty well.”