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Norwalk’s mayor should follow his own advice

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia expresses his opinion at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia expresses his opinion at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

By Kate Tepper

NORWALK, Conn. – At last week’s Common Council meeting, held to discuss the city budget, Mayor Richard Moccia opened the public comment section with an admonition to the audience that all comments should be civil, short and that that he would tolerate no name-calling.

On the two major topics of the evening, school funding and the proposed $150,000 loan to the Oak Hills Park Authority for the golf course, every one of the public speakers were well informed, eloquent and respectful.  Not so the mayor!  He actually informed those present that they “should come up with more rational ideas,” a remark obviously aimed at those questioning the Oak Hills loan.

Although the golf course is a nice addition to our city, in these difficult economic times, it is imperative that we make a real distinction between “wants” like tennis courts and golf courses and “needs” like good schools, safe streets and decent roads to drive on.

As one of those “irrational” speakers, I pointed out that the $150,000 loan is not, as we are led to believe, a short-term loan intended to solve an immediate cash flow problem. It is a 10-year, low-interest loan.

I suggested a much shorter time period in which to repay the loan to the city along with a thorough audit of the Oak Hills Park Authority books to ensure that this so-called “bridge” loan does not turn out to be another “bridge to nowhere” for Norwalk taxpayers.

The council made the hard choice to authorize this loan to the authority, and while I have difficulty with that choice, I do understand their rationale at the present time.  I believe, however, that unless the golf course can be made self-sustaining with better management and can pay off all its debts to the Norwalk taxpayer in a reasonable time period, without any further funding from the city coffers, it can hardly be regarded as a viable proposition and will continue to be another burden on the taxpayers.

This is not the first time that Mayor Moccia has made uncalled for remarks in public meetings when he doesn’t agree with a constituent. In this case, his remarks were both dismissive and disrespectful.

Norwalk should expect better manners from its chief executive.

Kate Tepper

11 comments

Sarah Mann March 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

Ms. Tepper,

With all due respect, when the Mayor stated that “all comments should be civil, short and that he would tolerate no name calling” he was setting guidelines for the public participation component of the meeting. That’s all. While we heard some good ideas at the meeting the Mayor explained why some of the ideas just were not feasible (going to a bank for a loan). If you wish to label yourself an “irrational” speaker then you own that because at no time did anyone at that meeting imply that you or any of the other speakers were “irrational”. Overall, I believe the meeting was cordial. We can agree to disagree about Oak Hills but the majority of the council members believe that giving this loan to the OHPA is a logical move as none of us wish to see the park close and have the staff lose their jobs. The OHPA has a marketing plan in place and I believe that it will work to bring in the revenue that they need to make the golf course self sustaining.

Diane C2 March 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

Bravo to you Kate! And because he makes his ‘comments’ after the close of the public comments, no one who he has disrespected has an opportunity to defend themselves or to challenge his position. Great and powerful Oz? Nope. More like Cowardly Lion.

oldtimer March 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Courtesy to people who do not support his position has never been his best quality and seems to have gotten much worse recently. Is it age or something else ? He is going to have a real problem with debates this time. When he is asked a question he doesn’t want to answer, he angrily attacks the question. Last time, a question about vetting bidders for city business for organised crime connections got a very angry response from him and a very reasonable one from Garfunkel.

ccrelan March 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Has anyone seen said “marketing plan” that Sarah mentions? I have been following the going ons at Oak Hills and have not seen anything public about new marketing plans.

Lisa Thomson March 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Sadly, I have no confidence in the marketing plan, if it has been created by the same group that let OHPA get into trouble in the first place. What ‘marketing skills’ suddenly manifested themselves? Were these skills the precursor to getting $150k?

Tim T March 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Moccia said comments should be civil, short and that that he would tolerate no name-calling.Of course these are all qualities that he lacks….

Diane C2 March 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

@ccrelan – I also wondered at what Ms. Mann refers to as “the marketing plan”, and where/when she may have seen one, much less conclude it will bring in revenue.
At the January meeting, marketing committee chair Giandurco said she would present the plan under “New Business”, but nothing is reflected in the minutes.
At the February meeting, only the following items were made public: a new website, advertising on The Patch and Daily Voice sites, attending some Chamber of Commerce events, a flier to post for city employees, and contacting former and prospective tournaments. It’s a start, but hardly a robust marketing plan that anyone on the council should have confidence in solving the financial dilemmas. There was no presentation of the logic behind using the Daily Voice and The Patch (demographics, # hits, etc); the flier for employees (presumably with a city employee discount rate) is really only helpful if they’ve done some research into how many current employees golf, or would like to golf; chamber is likely a good hit because many business people golf for leisure and for client meetings and host business outing.
Hopefully these campaigns are in addition to whatever their baseline marketing plans are….

Original BARIN March 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Let’s be realistic, Ms. Mann is just towing the line, what choice does she have?
They appointed her to the open seat on the council, so towing the line is part of the game for her now to keep that seat.
The marketing plan by the group in need of a 150K loan, wonder how this is going to turn out for taxpayers.
You can’t make this stuff up.

LWitherspoon March 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

@Diane C2
If there is a marketing plan, I hope it includes individual surveys of lapsed members to find out why they left. I also hope it has some way to track the effectiveness of each marketing dollar spent.

Nancy Chapman March 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Ms Giandurco talked about marketing at Tuesday night’s meeting:
“We have fully updated our website, included a mobile application. We are using social media much more, which is free. We are doing everything we can for free, to get our course out. We are working with Golf Now, which is a national service. It has brought in between $11,000 and $12,000, at no cost to the course.
“We have learned from our mistakes. Last year the rate card was approved much too late and this year it is already approved …”

Suzanne March 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Ms. Mann, What if you were to learn that a citizen representing the OHPA walked into a local bank and found out a $150,000 loan to the OHPA was not only possible but entirely feasible? Rates, financing, payment plan, the works. To give that as an excuse is once again playing into some insatiable co-dependence with the OHPA that this Mayor cannot seem to recover from.

With all due respect to you Nancy, what Ms. Giandurco talked about at the meeting and transcribed by you is a laundry list of activities designed to increase participation at Oak Hills. It is not a marketing plan but more like a list of do’s and don’t’s before a high school play. While it might be progress to cover water for the top nine for a short while, $11-12,000 isn’t much to brag about when it concerns the entire infrastructure of both the course and ancillary buildings.

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