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NPS handles fallout from Middle School Choice ‘miscommunication,’ answers questions

Randy Funke speaks to Norwalk Public Schools administrators Monday in Norwalk High School.

NORWALK, Conn. — School district leaders fielded questions about Middle School Choice on Monday, quelling some of the controversy by emphasizing that next year’s incoming sixth graders will be about to attend their neighborhood school if that’s what they want.

The outcry inspired recently by a district announcement was blamed on “miscommunication.” Continue reading NPS handles fallout from Middle School Choice ‘miscommunication,’ answers questions

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Long-delayed Freese Park project set to begin

The Freese Park railing.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is poised to spend nearly $526,000 to rehabilitate a dilapidated railing in Freese Park, at Main and Wall Streets, an expenditure approved recently by the Common Council.

The project goes back to a master plan completed in 2017 and has been out to bid three times, Norwalk Parks Superintendent Ken Hughes said Sept. 14, calling it “the infamous Freese Park railing.” Continue reading Long-delayed Freese Park project set to begin

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Norwalk Council greenlights marijuana in city, ball moves to P&Z

Meek’s candid criticisms caught on camera

Tuesday’s Common Council meeting on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — Common Council members have approved a cannabis ordinance for the city along party lines. Leaders said it’s “just a beginning,” as results from its implementation will be reviewed as time marches along and revisions will be made accordingly.

The sole no vote came from the lone Council Republican, Bryan Meek, appointed recently to represent District D. The ordinance is “a solution that’s looking for problems,” he said during the meeting. In a recess, he called the State legislation that has inspired the ordinance a “land grab” and said investors who spend millions on a cultivator license will then have to “give” a member of the minority community a 60% stake in the business and have them “do nothing.” Continue reading Norwalk Council greenlights marijuana in city, ball moves to P&Z

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Norwalk TMP struggles to tame ‘complex intersection’

Saturday on East Avenue. In the foreground is the pedestrian crossing to Morgan Avenue.

NORWALK, Conn. — Efforts to improve one of Norwalk’s most challenging intersections has had one neighborhood resident feeling perplexed and frustrated.

After more than a year of intermittent work on the East Avenue intersection near the Town Green, the City “seems to be preparing to permanently close off one of the two lanes that go toward Westport Avenue,” the resident wrote last week, alleging this would lead to collisions, backups and “constant blockage in the intersection.” Road rage would ensue and more toxic fumes would be in the air. Continue reading Norwalk TMP struggles to tame ‘complex intersection’

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An urgent call from local Quakers

Send signed letters to [email protected]

Since the 1600’s Quakers have asserted the importance of standing up for truth, the equality of all people, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. We call upon our fellow citizens of the U.S. to respond to the assault on the Capitol as a deliberate, violent attempt to prevent the clear winner of the 2020 election from taking office.  We have heard testimony from former Trump Attorney General William Barr and the Secretaries of State of key swing states that claims the 2020 election was riddled with fraud are demonstrably false. Disinformation campaigns have misled many Americans to the contrary.

We call on all citizens to resist efforts to undermine our current democratic processes and to support true reforms to our still imperfect systems.  We need to work locally at the state and national levels to prevent an authoritarian takeover of our government. Continue reading An urgent call from local Quakers

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Congratulations to NPS’ Jim Martinez

(Contributed)

Send signed letters to [email protected]

I would like to congratulate Jim Martinez, Education Administration for School Counseling and Social Services K-12 for Norwalk Public Schools. During National Hispanic Heritage Month, Jim recently learned that he will be awarded the Latino Administrator of the Year award by U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, former Commissioner for Education in Connecticut. The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) will host their 19th annual gala awards ceremony in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Jim will receive the award.

Bien hecho, mi hermano!

 

Sherelle Harris

Norwalk Board of Education member

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Stefanowski takes aim at CT police accountability law

GOP candidate for governor says accountability law, which limits searches and clarifies standards on force, is too restrictive

Accompanied by a police officers from Hartford and Fairfield, Bob Stefanowski arrives for his press conference on crime on Thursday, Sept. 29. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

The 2022 Election is Nov. 8.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski’s plan to make Connecticut safer from crime turns on revising use-of-force standards and other elements of the police accountability law adopted in 2020 in response to outrage over the police killing of George Floyd.

Contradicting statistics and research, Stefanowski said Thursday crime was “out of control” and Connecticut’s two-year-old accountability law, which bans chokeholds and clarifies standards for fatal force, is the main cause of police recruiting difficulties that were documented prior to 2020. Continue reading Stefanowski takes aim at CT police accountability law

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Lamont, Stefanowski paint different pictures of CT in first debate

Gov. Ned Lamont, Bob Stefanowski and Rob Hotaling in the studio at NBC Connecticut in West Hartford. (NBC Connecticut)

The 2022 Election is Nov. 8.

Trailing by double digits in recent polls, Republican Bob Stefanowski repeatedly jabbed at Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday, trying in the first of two televised debates to stoke voter concerns over inflation, crime, police accountability, local zoning and how children are taught sex education in public schools.

The Democratic governor and Republican challenger, joined by Rob Hotaling of the Independent Party, diverged sharply in their views of Connecticut in a 60-minute debate that NBC Connecticut live-streamed and recorded for broadcast at 7 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Telemundo will show it Saturday at 11 a.m.

Stefanowski was the aggressor. He portrayed Connecticut as dangerous, overburdened by taxes and struggling economically, but he said it can still afford to spend billions in budget reserves to raise pay for police and teachers and lower household costs for consumers. Continue reading Lamont, Stefanowski paint different pictures of CT in first debate

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Crime fell in Connecticut, but Republicans say it’s still an issue

Statistically, Connecticut and the rest of New England are among safest places from crime.

Commissioner James C. Rovella and Gov. Ned Lamont at the news conference releasing crime statistics. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

The 2022 Election is Nov. 8.

Connecticut resumed its decade-long drop in crime last year after an increase in 2020, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

Violent crime fell the most, dropping by 9% from 184 to 168 offenses per 100,000 persons in a state that generally ranks among the safest in America, along with the rest of New England. Property crimes fell by 2%. The overall drop was 3%.

Gov. Ned Lamont was present for the release of a report that comes in the final six weeks of a reelection challenge from Republican Bob Stefanowski, offering a rebuttal to Stefanowski’s claim that crime was “out of control” and rising.

“These numbers show a very positive trend. And really hats off to our State Police and our municipal police,” Lamont said at the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection headquarters in Middletown.

The Stefanowski campaign had no immediate comment, but House and Senate Republican leaders forcefully moved to undermine its message.

“Ask your neighbors and friends if they feel safer today, despite what this report says, after the majority party has decriminalized some offenses, emptied out state prisons, lessened penalties and altered bail requirements in recent years,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said the report glossed over a rise in unsolved cases. Clearance rates dropped to 16.7% in 2020 and 15.5% in 2021 after averaging 23.4% over the previous eight years.

The release of the report comes a day before Lamont and Stefanowski are to meet in the first of two televised debates, providing statistical ammunition for the Democratic governor. (NBC Connecticut is live-streaming the debate at 12:30 p.m., then broadcasting it at 7 p.m. and again at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Commissioner James C. Rovella, who oversees an emergency services department that includes the State Police, acknowledged the political dimension of releasing the statistics now versus waiting for the FBI’s delayed national report.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that I hold on to these numbers any longer. I’ve had them for about a month waiting for the FBI to release,” Rovella said.

Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Minnesota, North Dakota and others have already released their statewide data, not waiting for an FBI report that appears delayed to a shift to a new reporting system, Rovella said.

In response to a reporter’s question, Rovella said politics played no role, but he acknowledged questions about the timing were inevitable, whether the release came now or closer to the Nov. 8 election.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Rovella said. “Another three weeks is the other side of the coin … So the numbers should come out, and they should come out now, because this is usually, traditionally, the time we put them out.”

Lamont said he played no role in the timing of the release, but he acknowledged that crime, crime statistics and perceptions about crime historically shape American politics.

“I remember President Trump’s inaugural, where he was talking about American carnage, carnage in the streets, and a lot of fear mongering. And I think that was incredibly unfair to police forces across the country,” Lamont said.

Statistical trends do not provide the same emotional impact of individual crimes, and Lamont made no effort to say anyone anxious about crime is wrong.

“If there’s a crime that happens in your neighborhood, your street, your community, that hits very close to home. And we take that to heart,” Lamont said.

Aside from disagreeing on actual crime trends, Lamont and Stefanowski have differed over the police accountability bill adopted in Connecticut in 2020 after the police killing of George Floyd.

Stefanowski blames the new law, specifically a provision limiting immunity for police in civil lawsuits arising from wrongdoing, for the difficulty in recruiting police.

Rovella said recruiting for police and other first-responder jobs is down across the U.S.
“That’s a national trend, not only with police but with fire and other public service, so we’re battling that as we go. So most of your police departments and your regional academies have all went to smaller size classes,” Rovella said.

Lamont said he always is open to tweaks and improvements to the accountability law.

“I’m willing to talk to the legislature about that. But I think you heard from the commissioner that what you see in terms of recruitment is a nationwide phenomenon,” Lamont said. “So, I don’t want a lot of misinformation out there.”

Candelora, the House GOP leader, blamed only legislative Democrats.

“The Democrats have put the rights of criminals ahead of our police personnel when it comes to qualified immunity and other policy changes they have enacted in the last few years and have exposed our sworn officers to unprecedented liability that has caused many to alter their procedures,” Candelora said.

House Republicans conceded last week there have been no personal liability verdicts returned against a Connecticut police officer since passage of the law.
A national survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found no single cause for the recruitment challenges.

“Rather, multiple social, political, and economic forces are all simultaneously at play in shaping the current state of recruitment and retention,” the chiefs reported. “They are both systemic in nature and reflect individual- level considerations, making solutions to the problem particularly challenging.”

Rep. Greg Howard, R-North Stonington, a police officer, said he still believes the accountability bill “continues to weigh heavily” on officers.

The State Police releases annual statistics set against 10-year trends, centering on so-called index crimes tracked by the FBI for its annual Uniform Crime Report.

Violent crime — defined as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — fell from 10,361 offenses in 2012 to 5,957 in 2021, a drop of 43% over the decade. Murder is the rarest, and aggravated assault the most frequent.

There were 150 murders and non-negligent manslaughters reported in Connecticut, up 3 from 147 in 2020, a high for the decade. Over 10 years, the state has averaged 112 murders or manslaughters a year.

After being relatively flat for most of the decade, the U.S. murder rate also jumped in 2020 to 6.55 cases per 100,000, up from 5 in 2019. The rate in Connecticut went from 3 per 100,000 in 2019 to 4.13 in 2020.

Aggravated assaults in Connecticut fell to 3,079 in 2021, down from 3,699 in 2020 and 5,417 in 2012. After falling from 806 to 638 in 2020, the number of reported rapes increased to 786 last year.

Rovella, a former homicide detective and Hartford chief of police, said the most significant numbers for him were those showing a favorable trend in aggravated assaults.

“What’s good about these numbers, so overwhelmingly, to me is aggravated assault,” Rovella said. “These are the assaults committed by hands, bats, knives, non-fatal shootings. They’re down dramatically.”

Property crimes were down from 56,140 offenses in 2020 to 54,964 in 2021, driven by 1,258 fewer burglaries and 896 fewer motor vehicle thefts. But there were 978 more larcenies in 2021.

No national comparisons for 2021 are possible until the FBI releases its report, but previously the 10 safest states were Maine, New Hampshire, Idaho, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wyoming and Virginia.
Connecticut crime statistics can be viewed online at https://portal.ct.gov/DESPP/Division-of-State-Police/Crimes-Analysis-Unit/Crimes-Analysis-Unit

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Milligan buys ‘the whole block’

Is Milligan good for Wall Street? Two stakeholders respond.

Real estate broker Jason Milligan, Thursday on River Street, with a “Milligan Way” sign. “I now own every property on River Street,” he said. “Should we change the name?” (Contributed)

NORWALK, Conn. — Real estate broker Jason Milligan, self-described Wall Street Redeveloper, said he now owns every property on River Street.

Milligan said he bought 48 Wall St. and 16 River St. for a total $4.2 million Thursday. It’s a purchase he’s been hinting at for a while, promising to blow “Laoise King’s socks off.”

King is Norwalk Chief of Staff. She didn’t reply to a Thursday email giving her a chance to respond to Milligan’s statements. Continue reading Milligan buys ‘the whole block’

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Keegan says he’s weathered Ian

Common Council member Thomas Keegan (R-District D), April 19 in the Norwalk Inn.

NORWALK, Conn. — Tom Keegan picked a great time to retire to Florida. He says he’s fine.

Keegan, a retired Greenwich police officer, resigned from the Common Council on June 29 and moved to Rotonda, Fla. That’s between Sarasota and Port Charlotte, north of Fort Myers and near Venice, locations you’re hearing about on the national news programs. Continue reading Keegan says he’s weathered Ian

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Rilling: Milligan flouts rules; Milligan claims he ‘had a point’

Scenes from Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. Real estate broker Jason Milligan recently turned down a settlement offer in the lawsuit filed against him by the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. He’s been seeking publicity for a counter offer. The City offered to drop its lawsuit for $4.5 million. Milligan would settle the suit by selling the City the former Leonard Street municipal parking lot without making a profit.

NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor Harry Rilling released a statement Wednesday regarding real estate broker Jason Milligan’s behavior the night before.

Milligan attempted to speak about the City’s legal department during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting under the guise that “Corporation Counsel” was on the agenda, though it was listed simply as a heading with no items for the Council to discuss or vote on. Rilling ruled Milligan “out of order” and said he’d call security if Milligan didn’t sit down, but then gave Milligan, who is embroiled in multiple lawsuits with the City, three minutes to speak about the cannabis ordinance up for a vote.

Milligan didn’t say anything about cannabis but instead complained that he’d been interrupted and couldn’t put his thoughts together. A recess was called and when the meeting resumed, Milligan attempted again to press his freedom of speech issues. He eventually relented and allowed the next speaker to take the lectern. Continue reading Rilling: Milligan flouts rules; Milligan claims he ‘had a point’

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