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Moccia, Miklave engage in point-counterpoint

Mayor Richard Moccia, left. Common Councilman Matt Miklave, right.

NORWALK, Conn. – A pointed disagreement at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting  pitted Democratic mayoral hopeful Matt Miklave (D-District A) against Mayor Richard Moccia in a rare direct, face-to-face exchange between the incumbent and a challenger.

Moccia, who has said he will not engage his Democratic opponents until after his general election challenger is chosen in the Sept. 10 primary, took exception to criticism from Miklave over what the councilman called a lack of ordinance enforcement by the Moccia administration.

Talk to the state legislature, Moccia said.

Miklave first wandered off into critical territory when he questioned whether the blight ordinance that was being discussed would ever be updated or “tweaked,” as other council members said it should be.

That hasn’t happened with the ethics ordinance passed in 2007, Miklave said.

“Although we have repeatedly asked for training exercises for every council member on ethics, freedom of information and open meetings, and that was a request that was made multiple times since I was re-elected back in 2011, there has been no such training provided to council members,” he said. “So it’s easy to say that we are going to be doing these things when the public is paying attention, but when the public is not paying attention anymore we just go on our own way. That’s my concern about the blight ordinance as well.”

No reaction on that one.

Miklave then went on to echo comments made by Councilman Fred Bondi (R-At Large), regarding the eyesores created by commercial properties.

“I understand that we have lots of laws on the books that just are not being enforced,” he said. “It’s fine to pass an ordinance. I think this is a good start. … I just hope that this council and future councils continue with those efforts to make our laws more enforceable, to give our officials the tools to execute on those properties that are causing blighted areas in our community and that the administration actually starts enforcing the law. I continue to believe that has been a lack of that in the last few years.”

Moccia didn’t miss a beat.

“Mr. Miklave, I am going to take exception,” he said. “I think you should check the website out and see how many cases that we have currently, either in housing court for health violations, zoning violations, cease and desist orders. The problem lies not within this administration or in our staff, the problem lives within the court system that you deal with, that has no separate zoning docket to handle zoning. They fit the zoning cases in between.”

The city has had cases in court for years, “because they fit them in when they can,” Moccia said.

“I know that the assembly did create a trial basis for a zoning docket somewhere up the state,” he said. “The housing court was formed many years ago to take the housing issues out of the superior court and move it to a separate court, and that has expedited many of the problems with landlord-tenants. We don’t have that same luxury with zoning.”

There are probably about 200 cases in court at the moment, Moccia said.

“So I have to take exception that nothing is being done,” he continued. “I think, perhaps, talk to the legislature, as have been done with the domestic violence docket, to also create a land use docket that zoning cases can be expedited instead of languishing in the court for two or three years or longer. Just my comments.”

The mayor had the last word on the topic.

While there was no debate at the meeting, Miklave did answer an email afterward asking if he had anything else to say.

“I understand why he is sensitive,” Miklave wrote. “Other mayors in other cities have been able to tackle these issues. I am simply saying it is about time Norwalk did.”

10 comments

Don't Panic August 14, 2013 at 8:10 am

Looks like Mr. Miklave hit a nerve there. His plan to implement Performance Based Budgeting to free up valuable tax revenues to tackle long standing problems that this administratiion just shrugs at is the only plan that proposes solutions along with the resources to get the job done.

A search indicates that NYC, a much larger beat to monitor and enforce code violations, does not have a separate zoning court or docket for code violations. They seem to administer these enforcement efforts robustly through their Department of Buildings before using courts as the last resort.

Perhaps having a Mayor with more experience in the law will help devise strategies for getting those cases moved along.

rburnett August 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

Don’t Panic: This is not NYC nor is it New York. Connecticut has a process that must be followed and the city is powerless to change that process. Once a cease and desist order is issued, the matter goes to the court – period, the end. The Mayor is right, these cases take years to adjudicate. It is easy for the “I have a plan man” Miklave to publically make untrue comments because he doesn’t have a clue about the law when it comes to these kinds of things – kind of sad for an Officer of the Court – certainly not Mayoral.

Don't Panic August 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

@rburnett
I stand corrected about the legal process. Please don’t attribute my misunderstanding of the law to Mr. Miklave. He quite ably speaks for himself and is a lawyer, whereas I am not.

Since you seem so knowledgeable, I will ask:

Is there room for additional code enforcement options PRIOR to a cease and desist? The City seemed to have no problem passing a blight ordinance last night that allows the city to perform repairs on a residential property without the owners consent and to saddle them with the costs of that repair via the tax collection system which can ultimately lead to seizure of the property.

I am curious as to why the rules might not allow for similar treatment of commercial owners.

Tim T August 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Looks like Miklave called Moccia on the carpet and made him look like a fool. The only answer Moccia seemed to have is yet more excuses for his failed administration.

rburnett August 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Every process such as this must include a method of appeal and ultimately, must proceed through the court system. If the city repairs the personal property of a resident, they must file a lien against the property. Again, the owner has a right of appeal. These things do not occur within a week, or a month, and sometimes take a year or more. Also, who repairs or cleans up the property (city workers – outside vendors?) and who pays for those costs while this is appealed? You, the taxpayer, that’s who.

I was just saying that in regards to the issues raised by Miklave and Moccia, Moccia was right and Miklave, being a lawyer, should have known the process. He probably did but was using the soap box for his campaign. After all, he got coverage didn’t he.

spanner August 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

A good point rburnett but it took Miklave to bring to my table some of the figures and facts that always seem to elude some of us taxpayers. side note Harry cut money from the police dept in 09 a large sum in fact that has nothing to do with this at all.From my soap box

oldtimer August 15, 2013 at 2:11 am

Spanner
Do you think for a second that the budget submitted for the police dept is what Harry wanted, with no direct orders from the mayor ? By the time any part of that budget request is available to the public, the mayor has had his say in private. Now, during the campaign season, we hear the mayor wants to add police manpower.

spanner August 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Old timer it just took 48 hours to admit to a shooting in Norwalk.

I’m under the impression in 09 Harry gave back the money out of his budget by the way the reporter wrote it.

spanner August 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm

A $469,000 budget cut that will reduce patrol, community police and the vice and drug squad will not affect service, Chief Harry Rilling said Friday.

guess Dick told him to say that as well Old Timer this was in 09 when crime increased

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