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.”