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.