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Norwalk ‘Innovation District’ coming back to public hearing, possible vote

A view of West Avenue from the roof of The Berkeley on the corner of Maple Street and West Avenue and across the street from The Waypointe. The Berkeley and its sister building, Quincy Lofts, were built by Belpointe Capital.

NORWALK, Conn. – The proposal to create tax incentives for what was formerly known as an “Innovation District” may be voted on Tuesday.

Common Council members are holding a public hearing on the ordinance they have crafted for what is now called a Real Estate Tax Agreement, within specific boundaries in Norwalk Center. The agenda calls for them to “discuss and vote” on the drafted ordinance, which is connected to the Wall Street – West Avenue Neighborhood Plan.

The maximum amount of incentives to be offered is now $10 million, a total over a five-year period, Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said Jan. 15 at the Ordinance Committee meeting. That’s in comparison to the $15 million that was discussed as recently as August. Continue reading Norwalk ‘Innovation District’ coming back to public hearing, possible vote

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Holocaust survivor to Norwalk children: ‘Take care of each other’

Holocaust survivor Werner Reich talks to Norwalk children, Jan. 22 in the Family & Children’s Agency Ben Franklin location.

NORWALK, Conn. – The good people did nothing, Werner Reich said over and over again recently to Norwalk children, explaining a trauma of his youth.

“Today I am going to talk to you about what happens when we don’t take care of each other,” the Holocaust survivor said Jan. 22 to ASPIRE afterschool school program students in the Family & Children’s Agency Ben Franklin location.

Reich, 91, went on to quote Winston Churchill as saying that “since the Mongol invasion of Europe in the 16th century there has never been extermination of such a scale,” and struggling to come up for a term of the murder of millions of people in the 1940s. He hid in an apartment with resistance fighters when he was 13- to 15-years old, but one day there was a knock on the door and the Gestapo – the German secret police – took them away and beat him, he said.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story Continue reading Holocaust survivor to Norwalk children: ‘Take care of each other’

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Opinion: We don’t need more gun laws that don’t work

Craig Hoffman

With the regularity of Punxatawny Phil emerging from his burrow on Groundhog Day, the state legislature in Hartford has begun a new session with yet more gun control legislation at the top of their “to-do” list. Never mind that Connecticut is near the top of the list with 89 gun-related laws already on the books.

Every time something bad happens, the knee-jerk reaction from certain legislators is to pass yet one more law so that “this will never happen again.” This is a totally unrealistic approach to anything, as a perfect world filled with rainbows, lollipops and unicorns cannot be achieved through legislation. Continue reading Opinion: We don’t need more gun laws that don’t work

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Pension debt stands between Lamont and fiscal stability for CT

Ned Lamont talks to Norwalk Democrats in January.

In the context of the state budget, the pension fund for teachers is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.

The annual contribution Connecticut now must make to the long-neglected fund grows regularly — often massively. And every other priority in the budget must accommodate it.

For Gov. Ned Lamont, who insists he will end Connecticut’s cycle of budget deficits — there is no route to long-term stability that doesn’t have to navigate its way through the teachers’ pension.

“Let’s fix this damn budget, once and for all!” Lamont said in his Jan. 9 opening address to legislators. “In six weeks, I will present to you a budget which is in balance not just for a year, but for the foreseeable future.” Continue reading Pension debt stands between Lamont and fiscal stability for CT

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Duff isn’t ‘standing up for us’

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Sen. Duff’s public rebuke of Norwalk’s Board of Education Chair for a letter has no precedent and raises disturbing questions. Sen. Duff remained quiet several years ago when three Democrat BOE members with NAACP support accused the entire BOE of “discrimination” but failed to submit any evidence. That accusation had no precedent in Connecticut and damaged our City’s reputation. All three BOE members subsequently either retired or were defeated during re-election. Continue reading Duff isn’t ‘standing up for us’

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Good news about Norwalk

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Someone once said bad news travels faster than good, so I’d like to share a lot of good news out there about Norwalk, including a lot we don’t often hear about:

  • Grand list is up and taxes are stabilized and even going down for the majority of residents as reported (thanks Mayor Rilling and city staff).
  • Schools are getting better with more investment and renovations (thanks BoE).
  • A new school will be built in South Norwalk, Columbus school will be renovated, and Norwalk is poised to be first district in the state with K-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) Program (thanks BoE, Common Council, Mayor Rilling).

Continue reading Good news about Norwalk

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Hamilton discusses ‘quite striking’ Rainy Day Fund

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton speaks to the Common Council, Tuesday in City Hall.

Updated, 9:57 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – The growth of Norwalk’s Rainy Day Fund over the last four years is “quite striking,” Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said this week, attributing the growth to “ultra conservative budgeting assumptions.”

Hamilton, in multiple meetings with elected and appointed Norwalk financial shepherds, has fielded a variety of questions about the 2019-20 recommended operating budget, many about the unassigned fund balance, or Rainy Day Fund, which has grown from $34.6 million in 2014 to $57.7 million in 2018.

The recommended budget Hamilton helped craft plans a $6 million drawdown from the fund balance. Hamilton said he personally would be comfortable drawing down $4 million next year and $2 million the year after that, to bring the fund down to $45 million. Continue reading Hamilton discusses ‘quite striking’ Rainy Day Fund

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Norwalk Council OKs Oak Hills restructuring after citizens protest ‘surprise’ deal

Golf carts lined up near the Oak Hills Park pro shop in June. (File photo)

Updated, 11:14 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline
NORWALK, Conn. — The Common Council on Wednesday authorized the deal it has worked out with the Oak Hills Park Authority, over the protests of four citizens who said the deal had been developed behind closed doors and just became public knowledge this week.

The three-part action authorized an $83,000 special appropriation to cover the Authority’s investment in custom restaurant equipment, allowing the cash-strapped Authority to meet its payroll obligations over the winter; changed the terms of the 2005 loan, with about $2 million outstanding, to make the interest rate zero, retroactive to Fiscal Year 2017; and eliminated the yearly payment on the loan in favor of collecting $2 per round of golf monthly, beginning on July 1, 2020. The Authority will also make an annual payment of 1 percent of its audited annual gross golf revenue.

It’s the fourth time the loan has been restructured, Paul Cantor protested to the Council, charging that the deal had been made outside of the public eye. Continue reading Norwalk Council OKs Oak Hills restructuring after citizens protest ‘surprise’ deal

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Norwalk roundup: Redevelopment on the move; concern over Briggs students; assessment appeals due

The First Taxing District building on Belden Avenue. (Google)

Updated, 11:03 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk news items for you:

  • Potential Redevelopment move to Belden Avenue said to be part of library’s ‘perfect storm’
  • Penn-Williams repeats: Briggs kids are falling through the cracks
  • Deadline approaching on appeals to property assessments

 

Continue reading Norwalk roundup: Redevelopment on the move; concern over Briggs students; assessment appeals due

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Celebrating Darwin Day

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How fortunate we are in Connecticut to have leaders like Rep. Jim Himes and Sen. Dick Blumenthal who show a passionate and unbridled commitment to using science as a tool for developing effective government policy, and who again have introduced Darwin Day Resolutions into the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.  Our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation asks that we contact our legislators to urge their support. I propose that you use their form to send a message of acknowledgement and appreciation for their roles introducing these symbolic, yet important, resolutions.

And don’t forget, our 11th Annual Darwin Day Dinner celebration is this Saturday, Feb 16, in Stamford.  (see www.DarwinDayCT.org).  Science fun!

 

John Levin

 

Levin is a member of the Chapman Hyperlocal Media, Inc. Board of Directors, and a mensch.

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Norwalk notes: Lawsuit concern, Brinton slams Rilling, RIP Jackie Steiner

Wall Street Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Nancy McGuire listens to Norwalk Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss (not shown) explain a revision to the Wall Street/West Avenue Redevelopment Plan, last week in City Hall.

Updated, 11:02 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – Some noteworthy Norwalk items:

  • WSNA warns of possible litigation over Wall-West plan
  • Brinton slams Rilling over proposed budget
  • Jacqueline Steiner, 1924-2019

Continue reading Norwalk notes: Lawsuit concern, Brinton slams Rilling, RIP Jackie Steiner

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Norwalk Council notes: Library cafe, parking lot sale, and IMAX update on tap

A rendering of the cafe proposed for the Norwalk Public Library.

Updated, 10:42 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what’s on the Common Council agenda for Wednesday:

  • A café for the library
  • Sale of the YMCA parking lot
  • ‘Restructuring’ will facilitate construction of new Maritime theater

 

(The Council was originally set to meet on Tuesday, as is standard, but the meeting was postponed to Wednesday. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with a presentation of the recommended 2019-20 operating budget and at 8 p.m. continue with the regular agenda.)
Continue reading Norwalk Council notes: Library cafe, parking lot sale, and IMAX update on tap

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Opinion: The educational status quo was not acceptable

Norwalk is experiencing a demographic transformation. Its population is increasing and becoming more diversified. These changes have transformed our schools. The current student population is roughly fifty percent Hispanic. And sixty-three percent of our students are considered high needs.

Rapid change often produces conflict. Typically, long-entrenched officials and well-connected community leaders are slow to adjust to the new reality. This conflict between the past and future generally leads to acrimonious debate, screaming headlines, and unsubstantiated allegations. Continue reading Opinion: The educational status quo was not acceptable

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