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Democratic Norwalk mayoral candidates vow support for ‘livable’ city

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Harry Rilling, left, and Matt Miklave, right, listen to Vinny Mangiacopra Monday at Calf Pasture Beach.

NORWALK, Conn. – Support for Norwalk as a “livable” city was voiced by three Democratic mayoral candidates Monday after a coordinated bike ride on roads that Mayor Richard Moccia has changed at the insistence of cycling advocates who are not pleased with the results.

Harry Rilling, Vinny Mangiacopra and Matt Miklave joined activists Peter Libre and Mike Mushak and about 20 other people, some of them children, for a ride from the Maritime Aquarium to Calf Pasture Beach. The route took the group down Seaview Avenue, referred to by Mushak as a “fiasco” after alterations were made by the Moccia administration, and over to Calf Pasture Beach Road, where sharrows were painted at the behest of the Traffic Commission, against the urging of Libre and other activists.

Sharrows are symbols painted on the road surface to let drivers know that they are expected to share the lane with bike riders.

The group, which also included Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A), stopped at key points so Mushak could illustrate the dangers. That included Mill Pond, across from the East Norwalk Yacht Club on Seaview Avenue, where Mushak said cyclists must ride into the path of traffic to go around parked cars. He contrasted the changes made by the city to those recommended in the Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Transportation Plan.

Some people turned back because of the threat of inclement weather. Those who made it to the beach listened to the three mayoral candidates give brief speeches.

“I think this is just another example of the current administration not listening to the will of the public,” Rilling said, referring to the sharrows on Beach Road.

Libre pushed him to give specific examples of what he would do if elected mayor. Rilling said the Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Transportation Plan spoke for itself.

A paved path along Seaview Avenue – in addition to the cement sidewalks for walkers – would be “a no-brainer,” he said, calling it a simple solution that wouldn’t cost a lot of money and make it safe.

“Nobody pays attention to what really is done by the experts and everybody does what they want to do,” he said. “That’s got to change. … I think they feel the only people who ride bicycles are children and they don’t vote. That’s not true anymore because (more) people are starting to ride bikes. This is a fitness thing and this just is an enjoyment thing. The bike lanes are absolutely essential.”

Mangiacopra also spoke of the style of the Moccia administration.

“We all have to understand that there’s an antiquated way of thinking here in this town — it’s not by accident, it’s by design,” he said.

A perfect example is the Sept. 10 primary, the first challenge to the status quo in 38 years, he said. Ideas have become stale and people have become frustrated, he said, but hope is on the way.

“I’m going to have the kind of administration that’s going to modernize our government, accept the fact that we need to be a more livable and walkable city, that every project that presents itself to our city, whether it’s zoning or anywhere else, it’s going to be set from the top,” he said. “That’s something that’s lacking now, there’s no agenda set from the top. You have somebody that has their own individual fiefdom, whatever department. They’re allowed to do whatever they want because the guy at the top has no clue.”

Miklave said safety is personal to him – as an 18-year-old he was riding a bicycle without a helmet and lost three days of consciousness as a result. Later, he got a road rash when he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle down East Avenue, when he was new to town.

But bike paths are about economic development, he said.

“When you build a cityscape that invites young entrepreneurs who want to live and work and develop and grow jobs, you grow the economy,” he said.

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Dede Farnsworth and Mike Mushak lead a group of politically aware cyclists over the Stroffolino Bridge Monday evening.

He and his wife just dropped off their two sons at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., where there is a 15-mile bike trail. Shops have popped up along the trail, far from motor vehicle access, he said.

The economic benefits of bike trails were the reason he led the unsuccessful Common Council fight to narrow Beach Road to one lane, he said.

“It’s about the future of our community,” he said. “Anywhere you go in America, communities that embrace livability, that embrace bikability, that embrace the alternative energies of human foot power and human ingenuity, those are the communities that will lead the nation in the 21st century. That’s what I want to build in Norwalk.”

Dede Farnsworth said she was thrilled by the ride with the candidates and encouraged to hear they are interested in making Norwalk more bike friendly.

Moccia is never going to listen, she said.

“He’s not a healthy guy,” she said. “He’s not a fitness guy and he doesn’t really care. … I think he kind of finagles things so that it works his way and he does a lot of yessing.”

David McGoldrick said he attended to “support the concept of safe fun biking in Norwalk.”

The Beach Road sharrows are meaningless, he said, because “bikes have the right to be on any road.”

He said he appreciates the bike lane now painted onto Strawberry Hill Road. “They are establishing the fact that bikes are there and have a right to be there,” he said. “A bike doesn’t need all that much space.”

Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, a candidate for mayor, was not on the bike ride due to a prior commitment, organizers said. 

49 comments

Mike Mushak August 27, 2013 at 7:18 am

Nancy on Norwalk, thank you for covering this important event highlighting the need for SAFER STREETS all over Norwalk, for bikes, pedestrians, AND cars. Speeding is the number one complaint Mayor Moccia receives, yet instead of following the advice of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer- funded studies lining the shelves of City Hall which would slow traffic and improve safety for everyone using our streets and sidewalks, the record shows that Mayor Moccia has consistently compromised on public safety and ignored the professional advice we have all paid for, including on Seaview Avenue, Beach Road, and West Ave, ( those are just examples from the last year alone.)
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Any one of the four Democratic candidates would do a better job than Moccia has to improve public safety on our dangerous streets full of speeding traffic. We have to stop this madness and elect a smart and responsible Democrat in November who will listen to the professionals, and not his reactionary out-of-touch obsolete advisors that Moccia has surrounded himself with.

TLawton August 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

Mr Mushak,
Just wondering what’s up with you and these bike lanes? Agreed they are important but it seems as if all of your commentaries include bike lanes. I do admire your passion and commitment to Norwalk.

Keep up your good work, Mr Mushak.

M Allen August 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

“That’s something that’s lacking now, there’s no agenda set from the top. You have somebody that has their own individual fiefdom, whatever department. They’re allowed to do whatever they want because the guy at the top has no clue.”

So is it that Moccia has no clue or that he is micromanaging every department and commission for his own personal, nefarious purposes? He can’t be both the maniacal evil mastermind and the boob.

scott kimmich August 27, 2013 at 10:20 am

Moccia basically doesn’t give a damn. He just likes to appear “like a mayor,”cutting ribbons on store openings, pontificating at Common Council meetings, letting the city go to wrack and ruin. He has no plan, no vision for Norwalk and what Norwalk can be. Consequently, he has no initiatives in the works for the next generation. We will be blessed when he turns over the keys to City Hall to the Democratic candidate.

M Allen August 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

Perhaps he just doesn’t have your vision Scott. A vision that would undoubtedly cost Norwalk taxpayers even more in a wide assortment of ways. Giving a damn, as you put it, costs money. Taxpayer money. Income redistribution money as those taxpayers are most likely to pay more yet get less. But we shall see. Perhaps the Democratic candidates are actually fiscal conservatives. Perhaps we should ask all the candidates to pledge no tax increases. Then we’ll see what their vision looks like.

M Allen August 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

If you wear jeans while biking and a car hits you, you’re less likely to get road rash than wearing cargo shorts.

Mike Mushak August 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm

TLawton, and M Allen, as a licensed landscape architect with a background in urban design, I have a hobby of visiting and studying urban design solutions in cities large and small around the country and the world, often by bike (this year I have already visited San Francisco, Auckland and Wellington NZ, Sydney AUS, and will be going to Houston and Boston in the mext two months, with lots if smaller cities like Norwalk in between. Some of this is just for fun and some is to maintain my continuing education credits for my licenses in 3 states(CT, NY, and NJ), which my trip to Boston will be in November for the ASLA convention.
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I’ve watched Houston, where I am going next week to see family and friends, turn itself from a sprawling red-state city with no bike lanes or trails into an urban adventure of new parks, trails, bike lanes, and a light rail line that have encouraged billions of dollars of new investment downtown.
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Even my hometown of Trenton NJ has bike trails with new development along their routes that are part of a continuously expanding 30 year old system of trails and bike lanes that connects New Brunswick (where I went to Rutgers) with Princeton, Trenton, and all of the towns going up and down both sides of the Delaware River from Frenchtown, Lambertville, and New Hope PA in the north to Philly and Camden in the south. This well used system is a huge benefit to the quality of life in a crowded part of the country, and CT and especially Norwalk are decades behind most other cities and areas if the country in developing these trail and bike lane systems for commuting and pleasure.
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It’s not for lack of ideas,as the 3-mile Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail has been on the books for 30 years, but lack of strong leadership and bureaucratic inertia, as well as an unmotivated staff who get automatic raises every year with no performance benchmarks or reviews, has led to a complete stall on this important riverfront project that has the potential to transform Norwalk overnight into a more sustainable, walkable, and bikable community.
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The proven economic rewards of a minimal invesent in bike lanes and trails should be a no brainer for fiscally conservative politicians. The example of Indianapolis GOP Mayor Greg Ballard http://m.bicycling.com/news/advocacy/conversation-greg-ballard
should be an example to follow for all city leaders including here in Norwalk. Read the article and compare to Norwalk. All the Democrats on the ride last night talked like Mayor Ballard because they get it. You have to invest to attract business and talent. its that simple. Mayor Moccia is silent on the benefits of improving our biking and safety infrastructure, in fact, he’s ignored most of our studies for years with impunity, but not anymore.
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Joe Espo August 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm

A real burning issue for tax-challenged Norwalk seniors and baby boomers: bike lanes! I’m sure all 3 of the voters I see riding a bike each week will change the course of the election. Add the five tree huggers that use those precious woods at Oak Hills once a summer and it’ll be a landslide.

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I, myself, can’t wait to ride the part of the loop that’s in South Norwalk on my way home from work…at night.

M Allen August 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Mike, two things: one is specific to your braoder comment. The other a little off topic. First, what does the bike situation in Stamford look like. I’m asking because I’m unfamiliar.
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Second, and only because you raised the issue: you stated “unmotivated staff who get automatic raises every year with no performance benchmarks or reviews”. Some of the candidates have also mentioned performance-based measurements.
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Are you for or against public employees being held accountable and that their compensation should reflect their individual performance against bechmarks? If it should extend to members of say, the zoning department, would it also extend to teachers? police/fire/dpw etc?

David August 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Scott, you’re absolutely right. The mayor has been in the job for 8 years now and he has not articulated a vision for Norwalk. What will Norwalk become? Who do we see living here? How will we grow our economy?

D(ysfunctional)TC August 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

In the land where money grows on trees, every street has bike lanes and little parks every 1000 feet.

In the real world, we spend tremendous sums on safe parks and bike trails (see http://www.nrvt-trail.com/ ) and some people will never be happy until cars are outlawed.

Every single city and geography anecdotally mentioned above resembles nothing of lower Fairfield County and electing a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Vegetarian isn’t going to change that fact.

LWitherspoon August 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Mayor Moccia opposes bike lanes so much that he just installed one on Strawberry Hill Avenue.
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What specific pledge has each of the Democratic candidates made regarding additional bike lanes?

piberman August 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm

We know Norwalk has a bright future when candidates from our dysfunctional Democratic Party are focusing their energies on bicycles rather than budgets, punitive taxes, excessive municipal salaries, union agreements, Big Box and all the challenging issues. Now we know what Democrats mean by “moving Norwalk forward” ! Everyone, man your bicycles.
Altogether lets ride now. Mayor Moccia is looking better by staying completely silent.

M Allen August 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm

First world problems. Gotta have those bike lanes to keep people safe. Most parts of town don’t even have sidewalks for safe walking let alone bike lanes for safe biking. I bet more people walk than bike. Even when it comes to sidewalks we hear more about narrow sidewalks on Beach Road in front of Marvin School or how to cross the street in front of Overtons. Maybe we should be more concerned about having a sidewalk at all before worrying about sidewalks that are too narrow or whether there is a bike lane. But I guess thatb doesn’t make Norwalk as attractive to the cycling crowd we are trying to attract because the cycling crowd also brings niche retailers and office buildings and trendy restaurants which pay higher taxes than Big Bad Boxes. First. World. Problems.

Mike Mushak August 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm

M Allen, Stamford has several miles of new bike lanes in the South End, including on the new Urban Transitway and lower Washington Blvd., as well as through the new Mill River Park, which if you haven’t seen it yet is an amazing example of state of the art urban park design.
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Stamford is not as far along with bike lanes as New Haven (which is actually planning on replacing the Route 35 highway connector to downtown with an at-grade boulevard with bike lanes lined with new mixed-use buildings on the new land freed up by removing the highway). Bridgeport is leapfrogging ahead with their new smart young Development Director David Kooris on the task. Stamford is planning on expanding the bike lane system across the city in the next few years, and already developers are being asked to install bike lanes at their own expense in front of their projects.
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Here is what infuriates me about Moccia and Alvord: in the taxpayer-funded $200,000 Connectivity Study that a smart nationally-recognized planning consultant worked on with Redevelopment staff and the public over 2 years of meetings and hard work, which I and many other members of the public participated in with countless meetings, a modern and safe solution was proposed for the obsolete and economically struggling West Avenue stretch from Mathews Park to Wall Street, an unwelcoming 4 lane dangerous speedway of traffic. It was redesigned with bike lanes and a 3 lane “road diet” with 2 travel lanes and a shared turning lane, which is proven to move higher volumes of traffic at slower speeds, exactly what you want in a downtown setting instead of an inhospitable and dangerous 4 lane speedway of passing cars and sudden stops to make turns.
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The developer of the $350 million Waypointe supported the bike lanes and road diet solution proposed for West Avenue as they stated in a meeting when I asked. In fact, they are the same developer of the new project on Route 1 on the east end of Stamford, which has bike lanes in front of it that the city asked them to install on the street there. Instead of working with them and helping them market their new project to the younger demographic as well as retired empty nesters who want bike lanes as many studies show, Moccia and Alvord rejected the professional solution for West Avenue in favor of an obsolete suburban 4 lane solution without bike lanes that encourages speeding exactly where you don’t want it, in a dense urban setting where you want to encourage alternative modes to cars like walking and biking.
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Moccia is clueless and needs to be put out to pasture ASAP before he can do any more damage like this to our amazing city that has so much potential to be a great place to live and work, including the potential to be a city anyone can live in without having to own a car as the majority of 18-35 year olds now prefer for the first time in decades. The damage done by ill-conceived and badly planned projects in the Moccia era like the lower West Avenue widening by 95/7 without bike lanes can be reversed with a new mayor, but imagine how much time and money taxpayers would have saved if they had just done it right to begin with.
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Instead of being in front of the ball as smart well-managed cities always are, in order to compete with other cities for new business and residents as well as stabilize and support existing communities, under Moccia’s clueless management we always end up behind the ball, playing catch-up after the damage is already done, pretending like we’re in a sick time warp of car-oriented 1970’s strip malls and leisure suits as the cities all around us leapfrog ahead attracting better investment and creating a real “buzz”.
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Bike lanes are part of that “buzz” that successful cities must have to survive and thrive in the 21st century, and besides their tangible benefits in improving safety and slowing chronic speeding traffic Norwalk suffers from, they are also a very powerful physical symbol to the public that the city cares about them and their environment, in other words, their quality of life. The economic rewards that flow from such a symbol are well documented in study after study.

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As far as stringent performance standards for ALL public employees, including teachers, police, and firemen, as well as city staff in City Hall, of course I support that. Anyone on public payroll in these tough times MUST be held accountable for the quality of their work, and even though I am a lifelong union supporter as the product of two hard-working salt of the earth parents who belonged to unions and benefitted from the 40-hour work week and protections from employer abuse that they would not have had if unions did not protect their interests, we all know unions have pushed too far at times and I strongly support more accountability for ALL public employees, including teachers and educational administrators.
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Governor Malloy’s 2012 education reform included a new system(called SEED) that enacts new comprehensive performance evaluations for both teachers and administrators. Who could argue with that? The days are over when a public employee would be guaranteed a job for life no matter how lazy or incompetent they were. If they are not working hard and meeting “best practices” benchmarks and producing good value for our scarce taxpayer dollars, they should be subjected to the same standards as those of us in the private sector, which is, no free rides, and you either shape up, or ship out. We all know what this would mean some packing boxes showing up at City Hall.

M. Murray's August 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm

How many people actually use bike lanes compared to the number of cars used. Can’t help but feel that an inordinate about of money would be spent per biker.

D(ysfunctional)TC August 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

@MA. Olympic cities outside of the U.S. do not even comply with a small fraction of ADA. Imagine what they think about people bellyaching about the lack of bike lanes and all the other first world problems we have as you say. But forget the have nots. Let’s connect the obvious dots. If we just have bike lanes everywhere, the city will rebound and we’ll start to graduate more than the 2/3s of city students that enter the system, they would get jobs at retailers who pay 6 figures, etc.. etc… Then we can all Kumbaya down at the beach after a healthy enviro friendly bike ride. Utopia !!!

Joe Espo August 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm

As Piberman said: “We know Norwalk has a bright future when candidates from our dysfunctional Democratic Party are focusing their energies on bicycles rather than budgets, punitive taxes, excessive municipal salaries, union agreements…(etc)…. Everyone, man your bicycles. Altogether lets ride now…”

Big boxes and bike lanes are political religion among the elitists. But there’s sacrilege lurking in that cesspool of worship. Harry Rilling, the other dem candidates and Mike Mushak have been spotted shopping at the big boxes. Mike Mushak owns motor vehicles so that he doesn’t need to tow his lawn mower with a bike. And if towns like Darien are supposedly the model of big box repugnance, what do you call Whole Paycheck…er…Whole Foods? All 60,000 square feet of it? Wonder how many Birkenstock elitists would complain about a Whole Foods at the BJ’s site? I suppose a peer review traffic study would be favorably accepted because far fewer Norwalk citizens could afford to drive there to patronize that outfit. So …it’s all about what the elitists consider as the frightening prospect of having the hoardes of unwashed riffraff driving up to BJ’s in their Hyundais as opposed to the fewer and privileged who will drive up in their Benzes and willingly shell out tons for tofu . Seven dollars for a bowl of tasteless soup? Oy!

DedeFarnsowrth August 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Above someone commented that we should be more concerned with car traffic as there are more cars being driven. However, many people I know, myself included would be happy to bike instead of drive if it were safer to do so. If you were at the event you would have heard that there is enough space on many Norwalk streets for bike lane and pedestrian walking areas and sidewalks where currently none exist. There is a a crazy over reliance on cars here in the U.S. along with an obesity epidemic. Bike riding is pleasant, promotes fitness, decreases traffic congestion and for short trips is often faster! I have tried to ride my bike to work ( Norwalk to Stamford) but gave up after two tries for fear for my life because in many places there isn’t even a shoulder! I was just riding on West Rocks Road to get to the gym. The lanes for traffic are HUGE and could easily accommodate a bike lane but I was forced to ride on the sidewalk to avoid getting hit. I have practiced medicine for 27 years, biking is a great activity for strength, fitness and almost any age can do it. In most other countries in the world this is accepted and common place.

Mike Mushak August 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Since we’re all being so pleasantly sarcastic on this site today, why don’t we just create a perfect “DYSTOPIA” in Norwalk by continuing to not follow any expert advice, continuing to make bad planning decisions, and by not updating our obsolete 70’s era zoning code. Oh wait, we’ve already done that, on Wall Street, after 50 years of bad decisions. That was so much fun kiddies, let’s do it again on West Avenue! All we have to lose is a $350 million private investment and $50 million in public taxpayer investment! Now wasn’t that just pure fun, Dick and Hal?
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Joe Espo August 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

OMG at 6:12 pm Mike Mushak posted only 6 lines!!! Call 911. A mashed Mushak missive is symptomatic of some sort of trauma. Mike: are you alright?

M. Murray's August 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm

The golf course may or may not make the money back, but bike lanes will never pay for themselves and will definitely not increase the smooth flow of traffic

Mike Mushak August 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Joe Espo, thanks for your concern. I’m alright. I have a bad fear of brevity. Since it’s a pre- existing condition it’s untreatable by my insurance until Obamacare kicks in later this year. Once I’m on meds, you won’t be forced to read my long comments carefully and then feel forced to respond to them in such irrelevent prose. We’ll both win!
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You guys are ignoring all the evidence out there that refutes your silly comments about bike lanes not paying for themselves. See here a sample of the many benefits of bike lanes: http://lasesana.com/2012/10/12/bikeonomics-the-economics-of-riding-your-bike/. Almost every garage, shed, and condo storage unit has a bike or two collecting dust, even more if there are kids around, and so this image of bike lanes only serving a small minority of folks is wrong. This just might be the untappedsource of voters that will finally put Moccia out to pasture, which is the ONLY reason why we now have bike lanes on Strawberry Hill Avenue! Funny I am not hearing Espo criticize Moccia for that move, which I applaud (ring the church bells, Mushak applauds Moccia!) although hold the champagne as the jury is still out on their layout and design until they are finalized! They do seem a bit odd right now with lots of dead space along the curb that could have been used for striped safety buffers between the lanes and traffic, but I hope I speak to soon and the design will follow proper standards.
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Cities that have committed themselves to being bike friendly, even in the frigid north like Minneapolis and Toronto, and including many smaller cities like Norwalk, have documented huge economic returns from bike lanes including increased business investment, increased property values, and increased quality of life helping attract and keep residents. All for little investment beyond paint and signs. What’s not to love? Smart fiscally conservative Republicans all over the country certainly are getting it now, catching up to the majority of Dems that have known this for years. Where are the smart
Republicans in Norwalk? Oh wait, I just passed all three of them on Strawberry Hill checking out the new bike lanes!

Joe Espo August 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm

@DedeFarnsowrth I want to ride a bike to work. How can I avoid smelly perspiration on the way to work? How can I protect myself from rain in summer? How can I avoid riding on iced-over roads in winter? How can I avoid an assault on the loop in South Norwalk?
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How do I overcome the limitations of my age?.
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Please advise.

Tim T August 27, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Young Vinny from Bridgeport is filled with buzz words and nothing more. Good old boy Rilling is Moccia and nothing more.

Tim T August 27, 2013 at 10:00 pm

The bike lanes are a complete and total waste of money. Take a look at Strawberry Hills it’s disaster . We have seen what a failure they are on beach road as I have yet to see anyone use them. Lets stop destroying our road and creating a traffic nightmare to accommodate a few prima donna’s . Hopefully this mess called bike lanes can be repaired with some black paint by DPW.

Edwin Camacho August 27, 2013 at 10:40 pm

@Joe Espo, you can protect yourself from rain in the summer, by not riding your bike in the rain. You can avoid riding over iced-over roads as easily. And, I assume you don’t live in South Norwalk, so avoiding it shouldn’t be a problem. Smelling bad may be unavoidable. Otherwise,bike riding (weather permitting) should help overcome limitations of age, by keeping you healthier and stronger.

DedeFarnsowrth August 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Oh Joe Espo. So disappointingly cliche in your responses. This is why we are trying to elect NEW people. The same old silliness is getting us nowhere.

Asa H.M. August 27, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I’m sorry, but I must disagree with TimT. I live in the area, and since the painting of lines for the bike lanes (really, how much can paint and a few hours of man-time cost – they only took one day to do!) I have seen SO MANY MORE people on bikes. A dad with 4 kids (not sure if they were all his), 5 middle-school age boys, and a woman with a child in a seat behind her – all just today as I was going on Strawberry Hill several times. Every day, I travel that way multiple times (sorry, yes- usually by car) and NEVER have I seen so many on a bike in one day. It certainly has already changed the way people in that neighborhood think. The proof is in the usage, and it certainly seems UP to me!

LWitherspoon August 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

Mike Mushak,
I applaud your efforts to promote more bike lanes in Norwalk. However I am not satisfied with any of the commitments made by your beloved Democratic candidates, because they haven’t made any commitments!
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Instead of actual commitments stating how each candidate will improve things for cyclists, all we have are platitudes about “embracing bikeability”, whatever that means. A cynic could be forgiven for thinking that the complete lack of specificity from these candidates is because they want votes from cyclists but bike lanes can be controversial, so they will not make any promises that they might have to live up to or that might upset anyone. Such political courage.
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By contrast, the existing Mayor has installed a bike lane on Strawberry Hill and sharrows on Beach Road. For this he received some blowback from the sort of people on this thread who believe that bikes don’t belong on the road.
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What specific commitments have your beloved four Democratic candidates made regarding bike lanes? I’m sorry but “embracing bikeability” just doesn’t cut it. Media events and pretty words are nice but at the end of the day what will each candidate commit to doing for cyclists?

M Allen August 28, 2013 at 8:45 am

Sadly there are zealots on both sides that make the entire issue of bike lanes sound silly. Yeah, both sides. Bikes are already on the roads. Bike lanes don’t invite them to be someplace they don’t already have a right to be. They do provide a little bit of visible right of way and hopefully make drivers take notice that they are sharing the roadway. Do they need to be everywhere? No. Should they be in places like Beach Road and some other key places that cyclists tend to frequent? Sure, why not? Very little harm will come to the driving public. But common sense in advocating is one thing we’re missing here. The approach by some zealots of the cause have led to an equal number of zealots on the other side and the two fight each other like bike lanes were Norwalk’s version of abortion. Ignorant comments against them on the one side are as equally irritating as the zealotry surrounding having them everywhere and how bike lanes with reinvent Norwalk and save the lives of countless children who have been sentenced to harm by the Mayor. Me thinks a different spokesperson for bike lanes, walkability, etc should emerge because the current King of the Road is helping craft a deep-rooted anti-anything-he-says mentality. Its pretty hard to be an advocate if you’re personally despised by the opposition for your public comments.

Independent Voter August 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

M. Allen – while I agree with you that the overly visible issues that draw rancor and passion on this blog are be focused on seemingly inconsequential matters, such as bike lanes, had Moccia taken a more reasonable and less partisan approach and actually acted like a leader instead of as a petulant child, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. By refusing to allocate a tiny portion of the DPW’s budget on paint to create bike lanes – an easy fix – he’s enabled the #1 thorn in his side, Mike Mushak, to create a campaign issue where there was none before. Moccia is his own worst enemy in this respect.

And for the rest of the haters who regularly post here: it really is about creating a more desirable environment (ie, “livability”) for young adults and families who do not share the sentiment of those who are rabidly anti-anything that smacks of change or progression towards creating the kind of city that Norwalk could be, instead of the stagnant city that has evolved under the Moccia administration.

As with the dinosaur that is the national GOP, the cranks and toadies that comprise the local version of that despicable mindset are a dying breed. With the upcoming election, I pray we don’t have to suffer through another two years of backroom deals, contempt for the electorate, and cronyism that are the hallmarks of Slo-Mo and Co.

M Allen August 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Independent Voter, I’m going to disagree. GOP politics play better at the local level than they do nationally. The closer to home the more conservative voters get. “Tax the rich” and “fair share” plays well nationally because it is amorphous. Locally, voters view their tax bills, the value of the home and the services they pay for in a much more focused manner.
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I am a Republican and I am not adverse to change. But I am adverse to every single change coming at the expense of my tax dollar. So yes, I will fight change, or the empty promise of change, that I don’t believe will pay off if it will cause my taxes to increase one dollar further. Norwalk has been deteriorating for some time. You can try and blame it on the sitting Mayor during an election year, but the fact is that no single person and no single party that is to blame for the trajectory Norwalk has taken. We can trace the deterioration back decades, but nobody will want to face the underlying issues. Hopefully we can recover, but keep those taxes moving higher and this city will in fact become the next Bridgeport. The homeowners will revolt and they will move out.
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On another note, you can’t possibly believe that if Moccia is replaced by one of the four candidates that the same mindset of back-room deals won’t be continued. Perhaps you will call it something else should it be to the benefit of your agenda, but it will remain the same. The names and faces might change, but politics is politics. It always shocks me how one party thinks they hold the high ground in this regard. The plight of the opposition party always sounds the same.

LWitherspoon August 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

@Independent Voter, or anybody
I presume you’re referring to the controversy over bike lanes on Beach Road.
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Please explain with specific examples how Mayor Moccia took an “unreasonable and partisan approach” to that matter.
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I supported bike lanes on Beach Road and was among the many calling for them. However I attended the Traffic Commission meeting on the subject and there I heard the other side of the story: condo residents, other homeowners, and business owners who opposed reducing the road to one lane. A member of the traffic commission explained how he spent significant time tabulating accident data by hand to investigate whether or not the claims of highly dangerous conditions on that road were reflected in accident data. He showed that they weren’t.
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At the end of the day, everybody agreed that sidewalk improvements were needed, but it would take time. As far as bikes were concerned, the result which emerged – narrowing the inside lane and painting sharrows in the outside lanes, is not what I would have preferred, but it was a reasonable compromise in light of the conflicting interests of all the stakeholders. For what it’s worth, I travel frequently on Beach Road by car and by bike, and my anecdotal observation is that there is less speeding on Beach Road since this change occurred. Few people go the posted limit of 25mph, but there also appear to be fewer people passing me at much faster speeds when I travel that road at 25-30mph. So the change does seem to have made that road less of a drag strip.
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@M Allen
Your comment from 8:45am was one of the most reasonable and perceptive statements I have read regarding the politics of bike lanes in Norwalk. I agree that Mr. Mushak would advance the cause of bike lanes further if he were less of a partisan bomb thrower and more of a persistent advocate whose language welcomes people of all political persuasions to the cause. During David Marcus’s admirable advocacy for Beach Road bike lanes, I don’t recall him ever calling anybody a corrupt thug.
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I look forward to reading all the specific commitments that the four Democratic candidates have made regarding the installation of additional bike lanes in Norwalk. If they haven’t and won’t make any specific commitments, how will voters know which candidate will best reflect their interests?

YourDaddy August 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Mr. Mushak – your passion about this issue is clear, but I think your time would be better spent trying to bring your fellow Zoning Commission members around to your position, rather than preaching to the cast of characters that comment on this site. In the big picture, it’s embarrassing to see candidates so blatantly pandering for votes … riding bikes in jeans, speaking in a fake dialect, trying to explain why what they’ve done (or haven’t done) in the past isn’t a true indicator of what they’ll do in the future.

Mike Mushak August 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm

The Democratic nominees have all said they will follow the expert plans we all have already have paid for which Moccia routinely ignores. On Beach Road, a dubious poll came out, a few months after the safety advocates poll signed by over 500 folks supporting the bike lanes using the professional studies as their basis. The opposition poll used fear and coded language, including a statement that it was “outsiders” trying to shove the road diet down the throats of Norwalkers, which was wrong as it was thr local community including GOP councilmember Michele Maggio from theRvin Beach neighborhood who spearheaded this effort, and almost all of the folks who signed the original pro-safety petition were from the area, not “outsiders”. It sounded veryuch like a typical right wing reactionary tactic not based on facts or real data but solely on fear of change, and nasty tactics making fun of safety advocates who were described by prominent GOP politicians as “extremists”. Yes, parents from Marvin Beach who wanted a safer way for their families to get to the beach and to school were nothing but a bunch of hippie extremists!
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The lead page of the opposition poll showed a photo of traffic backed up on Gregory Blvd at the First Street Light, saying this is what would result on Beach Road with the road diet. The poll also used fear by stating that there would be huge traffic jams all over the place from the road diet, a completely false assumption as that assed all those cars were heading to the beach, and traffic always backs up at lights, which is what their function is to let the opposing street pass through. The poll made many false statements with no data or studies to back it up, unlike the professional studies that showed road diets working on any road under 20,000 cars a day. Beach Road on its busiest day may hit 2500 cars a day, at the most during the 2 day boat show in September. The fact that the 4 lane Beach Road is basically a highway to nowhere which takes over 98% of its traffic off of the 2 lane Gregory which functions fine did not seem to phase the opponents.

What we ended up with on Beach Road does not follow federal safety standards or even our own studies, which state bike lanes are always the safer alternative where they can fit. (They can fit in a 10/10/4 foot configuration as proposed in the $90k 2011 Bikeway and Pedestrian Plan, the 2011 NRVT Routing Study, and the $500k Comprehensive Transportation Management Plan.) NO study called for sharrows, except there was a single mention of sharrows in the Bikeway Plan for Beach Rd in a PRELIMINARY plan that did NOT make it into the FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS, because after the consultant studied andeadured the road further they realized bike lanes could fit and were the better and safer choice, which is why they did NOT recommend sharrows in their final report.
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But that little fact didn’t stop Mayor Moccia and the Traffic Commission from comprising public safety and installing the inferior and dangerous solution on Beach Road that no expert recommended .
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For brevity’s sake I will stop here with just that one example, just one of many, where Moccia cut corners and ignored experts on street safety in Norwalk. I want to end with this tidbit for those who are claiming I have a combative style that limits my effectiveness:
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For many years I tried to be persuasive behind the scenes and work quietly as M Allen and L Witherspoon seem to think is the preferred and most effective style for passionate advocates for change like myself. I was often immediately hit with multiple excuses as to why the city couldn’t do this or that. I was also burned many times when agendas appeared without my particular issue I requested listed, I was made empty promises to that never materialized (oh, it’s not a good time for that, lets wait till next year, and years go by with never any action,) and even lied to by a few city officials who just made up reasons why they couldn’t help (P and Z staff are masters of this art).
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I know so many dedicated and passionate folks in Norwalk who have just throwm in the towel amd given up trying to improve our seriously broken city ( broken on so many benchmarks relative to other similar cities around the state and country that it’s dizzying and depressing to contemplate).
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A long time Norwalk City Hall staff member once gave me this astute insider summary of the strategy many City Hall staff use to deal with folks like me who want them to help them improve the city: “We just wait them out, stalling or ignoring them so many times that they just get tired and move on, finally leaving us alone.”
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This is so wrong on so many levels from staff that are being paid very well by taxpayers like me who just want them to be effective and helpful. Since I am someone who knows the missing potential of Norwalk and understands much of what it really is missing and needs to succeed like so many other cities I have visited and studied, all backed up by the well- traveled professionals we hire to conduct our plans which I mostly appreciate and respect as we all should, I will not sit idly by and watch elected officials and well paid staff ignore what we need to succeed.
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I also will not be ignored, patronized, or lied to, which has happened so many times under the Moccia Administration that the only way I have found to be effective and not ignored is to give it right back. Obviously Moccia doesn’t like that, as he can dish it out freely but despises anyone who calls him out on his bad decisions and ineffective management, which is slowly diminishing the value of my financial and emotional investment in this city as well as the investments of so many others.
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I regret having to go so negative sometimes but when you are dealing with folks who circle the wagons and don’t want to work hard at any change, or don’t have the skills to but won’t admit it and instead get defensive and retaliatory, (classic Moccia, McCarthy, P and Z staff, for example) it leaves passionate and determined folks like me only one option: get loud, speak truth to power, and use facts to fight lies. Until we get the government we deserve in Norwalk through elections, and through systemic reforms and staff replacements, this is the only option many of us have to be effective. Sorry if it offends your sensibilities, but if you knew even a fraction of the self serving crap that this crowd has pulled off that is NOT im the best interest of Norwalk or its taxpaying residents and businesses, you’d feel the same I’m sure ! My biggest problem is that I care too much, but I live with that and it has gottene pretty far in life.
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Norwalk is a broken city on life support, and I have dedicated my life to fixing it. I am not going anywhere despite many (but not all) GOP folks who wish I would, so get used to it. I am strengthened by folks who seek me out and tell me to keep fighting City Hall because I am making a difference, including many GOP folks who are not in the nasty attack dog category like the party leaders Moccia, McCarthy, Schialabba, and Cavallo. They will stop at nothing to assassinate my character, just watch. Nothing this crowd does surprises me anymore, and lots of reasonable folks are sick of it, but my only strategy now is to fight fire with fire, and expose their tactics and lies to the public. If that comes off being a bad strategy for me, so be it. If we wait long enough, they’ll all just get tired and go away, and then perhaps Norwalk can begin to fix itself following actual experts’ smart advice that taxpayers and businesses here deserve.

LWitherspoon August 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm

@Mike Mushak
I’m not familiar with the “expert plans we all have already have paid for.”
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If one of the four Democrats is elected, what streets will have bike lanes that don’t have them now? Specifics would be greatly appreciated.

D(ysfunctional)TC August 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Planning’s bike path plan covers the lion’s share of the city, but left out Grumman Ave and Cranbury Park. In other words, it is nearly a useless waste of money. I think DPWs soft commitment to review every newly paved road for opportunity for bike lanes is more than appropriate. Let’s move on to some important topics now.

RU4REEL August 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I do not give dang if Mushak stirs the pot, he is helping ALL of us by speaking up LOUDLY.
He is doing us a service, how can anyone not get that?
Of course they dislike him, he is singlehandedly forcing transparency where none previously existed.
Either support the man, step up yourself or shut up and watch in silence from the sidelines!
Geez!

Mike Mushak August 30, 2013 at 2:25 am

L Witherspoon,we have many studies going back many years calling for bike lanes in Norwalk, including our own 2008 Master Plan, but most recently in the last 3 years alone we have had 4 taxpayer-funded studies covering possible bike routes in Norwalk, costing a total of $990,000. The plans call for a total of roughly 6 miles of near-future bike lanes installations, and long-term about 30 miles, and no one has ever suggested we are going to have or need bike lanes on all of our roads as some fearmongers would have you think. The practical locations are obvious to anyone who rides a bike or understands the city, and I would guess that even 30 miles of bike lanes ten years out may still only cover less than 5 to 10% of all the roads and streets in Norwalk, which would fulfill most of the needs of the growing commuting and leisure-riding public who will choose bikes instead of cars once we get the infrastructure in, just as studies have shown happens.
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I will try my best to summarize a couple of the plans here:

Here is the link to the 20ll Norwalk Bikeway and Pedestrian Plan (NBPP): http://ct-norwalk.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2115, which recommends over 6 miles of new bike lanes/sharrows in the immediate future (Tier One) for the following streets, roads, or avenues: Richards, Riverside, West Rocks, Rowayton, Flax Hill, MLK, West, and Wilson.
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Please note on page 33 that the plan recommends BIKE LANES, NOT sharrows, for Beach Road. Moccia rejected the recommendations of this study and two other studies that also called for bike lanes here, one at this exact location (The $200,000 NRVT study here at http://www.nrvt-trail.com/ and link to pdf “Study, Part 2”, page 125), and the other where conditions found on Beach Road exist, the $500,000 2012 Norwalk Comprehensive Transportation Management Plan (NCTMP)found here at http://www.vhb.com/norwalktmp/.
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That last study I mentioned, the NCTMP, has some redundancies in it with other plans as far as bike lane recommendations, but it adds more than the Bikeway Plan recommends, listed in Section 3, Chapter 1: France, Park St., Washington St., and New Canaan Avenue.
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Important note: Moccia STUPIDLY REJECTED the RECOMMENDED bike lanes on West Avenue in favor of a 4-lane dangerous speedaway like we already have. The safer solution of bike lanes and a road diet were recommended in the $500,000 NCTMP, and the $200,000 Connectivity Study linked here: http://www.connectnorwalk.com/wp-content/uploads/ConnectivityMasterplan.pdf, and shown on page ES2 and ES3.

This was a myopic and dangerous decision, especially since the developer of the $350 million Waypointe favored the bike lanes, because they knew it would be easier to market their building to both the 18-35 and older empty-nester demographic with bike lanes in front of it. This BAD decision by Moccia and Alvord, with NO pushback from our P and Z department that should be on top of this but is out in la la land when it comes to smart planning, is reason enough to finally fire Moccia in November, as he is selling our future and the future success of our new projects with thousands of apartments down the river because of some stupid obsession that modern urban design solutions that ALL the experts recommend won’t work here in Norwalk. We are competing with other cities now for businesses and residents who want to locate to a cool place with “buzz” and amenities like bike lanes,and to ignore this like Moccia has done on West Avenue and Beach Road is poor leadership and must stop soon if we want to succeed and expand our tax base and maintain our schools and services. We’ve already proven we can create a ghost town with bad planning decisions on Wall Street, and Moccia is repeating the same mistakes again on West Avenue. This is madness!
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Finally, please be aware that the cost of bike lanes is minimal, just paint and signs on most roads with no need for expensive new infrastructure, and the cost estimates in these plans includes a lot of other improvements way beyond bike lanes. When anyone complains that taxpayers can’t afford bike lanes, they are either being misled or they just don’t know what they are talking about. As I stated earlier in this thread, the economic returns of bike lanes are enormous, and any fiscally conservative citizen should support such a cheap way to transform our city from a dangerous place to bike to a bike-friendly city attracting residents and businesses and keeping the ones we have, just as so many studies have proven. The arguments against bike lanes are sounding more and more shrill and stupid every day in the face of such mountains of evidence about their benefits.
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That’s why smart Republicans all over the US are embracing bike lanes and other safety improvements to make our cities more “livable”, as much as the progressives have been for decades. In Norwalk, we always seem to be a couple of decades behind in our urban planning, as we have NO certified planners in our P and Z Department, but despite the inexcusable decisions Moccia has made on West Ave and Beach Ave which have both compromised public safety for stupid political reasons, we can look at Strawberry Hill and finally see a bit of light peeking through (if they are done right, because right now they look weird to many of us). Imagine if Knopp hadn’t lost in 2005, how much further along we would be in making Norwalk a vibrant 21st-century destination.

Independent Voter August 30, 2013 at 7:15 am

Thanks again, Mike, for calling attention to the wasted taxpayer money which has been spent on studies calling for the addition of inexpensive, quality-of-life improving measures which are then ignored by the City. One question: why aren’t the opponents of these measures foaming at the mouth over the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on the studies that call for them? For that matter, why is this city so fond of commissioning study after study which are then ignored when their conclusions are politically inconvenient for Slo-Mo & Co?

Where is the outrage from the loudmouths who are so fond of labeling Democrats as having “tax and spend” mentalities? All the money spent on the studies in question seems to have been done so under a Republican mayor.

Mike Mushak August 30, 2013 at 7:54 am

Great point, Independent Voter! The studies are often required by the state to get routine funding and grants, and then the consultants come in to Norwalk and are often appalled at what they find here, as I have attended many meetings and talked to the consultants. Please note that in my last post, I forgot to mention Srawberry Hill Avenue in the initial list of streets where bike lanes are recommended in the 2011 Bikeway Plan. I was actually thinking there was no need to list that street since they are now being installed (properly laid out, signed and marked we hope, as the city has a habit of skimping on these little but crucial details, and right now the layout seems odd.)
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If done correctly, the Strawberry Hill bike lanes will be a milestone for Norwalk, but which will not atone for the dangerous fiascos Moccia has created on Beach Rd. West Avenue, and Seaview Avenue, all in the last couple of years which are inexcusable, and need to be reversed as soon as possible, hopefully under a new responsible mayor after November.

Mike Mushak August 30, 2013 at 11:31 am

Oops, in my late night typing in bed I also forgot to list the bike lanes and sharrows recommended in the 2011 Bikeway and Ped. Plan for Highland Ave in Rowayton, in front of 3 schools where parents and residents complain of dangerous speeding traffic, which the bike lanes will naturally slow as the evidence shows. The plan shows bike lanes from Flax. Hill south to Highland Ct, and then sharrows south of Highland Ct to Wilson. Highland was just repaved this year without the cheap and easy bike lanes put in, which Dave McCarthy will need to explain to his constituents. Any road being repaved and restriped should follow the plans we have in place which taxpayers have paid for. What am I missing here?

The Voter Formerly Known as Independent but leaning towards registering as a Dem August 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

Mike – another situation where local GOP pols are happy to put State and Federal taxpayer dollars to use for boondoggles that nobody else wants, and then turn around and disparage Dems for “taxing and spending.” Hypocrites.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

About Nancy

Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.