Vote no on poorly structured charter revision

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(Nov. 4, 1 p.m., updated editor’s comment: Council member Bruce Kimmel denies making the statements attributed to him in this letter. NancyOnNorwalk could find no record of the comments attributed to Mayor Harry Rilling.) 

To the Editor:

Someone is trying to confuse Norwalk voters over the charter revision issue.

In the last council term, it was Councilman Bruce Kimmel who effectively ended all discussion of charter revision when he pointed out that no one from the public was asking for these changes and that it was only politicians and outside business interests who were calling for an extended mayoral term.

He was right then, and he would be right now.  However, a highly partisan Council has changed his mind.  Let’s get to the facts.

The proposed charter changes, if adopted, will not save one cent, because elections cost money to conduct and will still have to be held. Off-year elections will not have a “head of the ticket,” so voter turnout will plummet.  The party in power will have a vested interest in using its mayor and fundraising to campaign hard for its candidates, resulting in lopsided councils in every off-year cycle.  This proposed change is intended to exploit that and to change the balance of power away from the citizens’ representative body, the Common Council to a puppet master mayor.

The Board of Ed also will face difficulty in getting voters to turn out, which means that extremist candidates, or candidates running with a special interest, may find it easier to win, enabling them to derail positive change in our school system in favor of potential monetary gain.

The pay raises for the council are a simple matter.  Every other board and commission in the city, including the Board of Ed, is composed solely of volunteers.  That is a good thing, and my hope was that the council would make themselves the same rather than seek to make themselves each mini-mayors collecting a percentage of that office’s salary.

Contrary to claims, the Chamber of Commerce never made any reference to “a dearth of planning” when they asked for the change.  As documented in several news stories at the time, the Chamber’s goal was to create a stable environment for outside business to come in and negotiate deals. To some ears, that sounded like “BJ’s”, and it sounded like mayors getting “flexibility” to do things that were unpopular with citizens but favorable to a developer.  Personally I support business, but I don’t think relinquishing that sort of local control is in Norwalkers’ best interest.

Bottom line, the only argument for changing the mayor’s term is to allow mayors to do things that people don’t want them to do.

At different times, Mayor Moccia, Mayor Rilling, and even mayoral candidate Kelly Straniti all endorsed the term extension, but they all favored it only with other associated changes in the way municipal elections are conducted.  Each noted separately that the mayor’s term should not be changed without addressing the term and election of the council, the board of education, as well as other offices such as the taxing district officials. It is an egregious omission to cite the endorsement without that caveat.

The fact that Harry Rilling, our current mayor who would love another four years of city salary on top of his retirement dollars, is actively raising money to support this change is a clear conflict of interest.  The fact that Mr. Kimmel’s wife is the chairman of the PAC that was organized IN AUGUST to advocate for these changes, has not been addressed at all. This is curious in that Mr. Kimmel has announced loudly that if and when Mayor Rilling doesn’t run for the office, he will.  That the treasurer of the PAC is also the president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, the largest public union in the city, which supposedly would be “the other side” in eventual contract negotiations with the city seems awfully cozy. It suggests that something larger is afoot here.

Even those who want a longer term for the mayor, either because they don’t like campaigns or don’t want to donate, or something else, should VOTE NO to this change as proposed, because it has been structured poorly and will have major negative consequences for Norwalk.  The only ones pushing for it are the ones who will directly and personally benefit from it now.  That should be duly noted. The entire thing needs to go back to square one and be done right.

David McCarthy
Former Common Council member

(Continued editor’s note: NancyOnNorwalk has not heard Bruce Kimmel say that voters did not demand charter revision and cannot find a record of such a statement. Asked Wednesday about mayoral aspirations, Kimmel said, “I have no intentions of running for Mayor, nor have I said to anybody anything indicating I would. It’s been a non-issue for me for a number of years at this point. I have no idea why Mr. McCarthy would conjure up such a statement and say I made it.” NancyOnNorwalk has never heard Kimmel say he wanted to be mayor.

Mayor Rilling, in a 2013 League of Women Voters debate, said that he favored 4-year terms for the Mayor and the Council, but did not link the two concepts or express the idea that they should “only” be done in concert with each other. NancyOnNorwalk can find no record of him saying he favored 4-year terms for the Mayor only if there were other associated changes.)


David T McCarthy November 3, 2016 at 9:36 am

Nancy, I find it curious that you need to put these editors notes in to defend people, while others you relegate to making comments. You are not omniscient and in on every conversation. I am saying that I have heard all of the things here. If Mr. Kimmel wishes to deny that he said any of these things, let him. He did say them. If he is using you to cover for him, shame on both of you.

You can see in your story here http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2015/02/norwalk-charter-revision-being-debated-without-a-consensus-yet/

that Bruce Kimmel was wrestling with the fact that no one was asking for these changes. He subsequently came into the caucus and announced that he had concluded that we shouldn’t do it because no one was asking for it from the public. The caucus is not the confessional, and he certainly has no expectation that this would remain private, and it is easily confirmed with the other members of the caucus.

He subsequently said that he and Harry were going to “flip for” who had to run for mayor in 2017 with Harry Rilling, who at the time, maintained he did not want to run in 2017, because this was the lie he told to get others not to run.

Mr. Kimmel, by saying that I am “conjuring up” such a statement, is calling me, a private citizen, a liar and thereby libeling me. I demand a retraction of this and admission that he said all of these things.

Lisa Thomson November 3, 2016 at 10:26 am

Nancy, Since when do you editorialize on Letters to the Editor? I am afraid you are letting your bias against Mr. McCarthy show. Speaking as an unaffiliated voter, who votes the person, not the party, I feel you are NOT holding the Rilling Administration to the same standard you did Moccia’s. FYI, I voted for Harry and Bruce in the last election and did not vote for Dave.

I am in this charter revision campaign fight because after hearing the Dems complain for eight years under the Moccia administration, as soon as they got power, they behaved with the same partisan nonsense they accused the Republicans of. I am sick of party politics – we need a City Manager that would take the partisan nonsense out of governing our city. #NorwalkFirst

Nancy Chapman November 3, 2016 at 11:11 am

Dave, if you had written it as “I heard Bruce Kimmel say” I would have let it go. You write about these alleged statements as if they were facts that everyone knows about. I feel that, as editor, I need to put a qualifier in. The editorial notes are factual and will not be withdrawn.

David T McCarthy November 3, 2016 at 11:25 am

…I heard Bruce Kimmel say in front of 5 other people…and therefore my statements are correct and factual, and his are…?

Mike Mushak November 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Reading the comments above, I can’t help but be reminded of the completely bogus “elder abuse” accusation Dave McCarthy leveled at his polical opponents in the last election, when he thought nothing about making up his own facts to attack others with no regard to the consequences of lying about such a serious subject.

He also, on the record, fabricated non-existent traffic accidents to support an unnecessary and poorly designed $3 million project on Rowayton Ave that has actually made that area more dangerous with increased speeds and shorter sight lines, and certainly less attractive than it used to be prior to the project.

And also when he was on the Council, he voted to approve pedestrian improvements in South Norwalk which he later claimed were a waste of taxpayer dollars, claiming he was hoodwinked when he clearly never read his package before he voted to approve it. Then he opposed the safety improvements, which are now enjoyed by hundreds every day including elderly and children, without even consulting the Councilmembers from that district, demonstrating a complete lack of empathy or respect for others in his pursuit of his own self-promotion.

Fabricating his own reality and denying facts seems to be a bad habit for Dave McCarthy, all based on what the record shows.

Nancy Chapman November 3, 2016 at 1:36 pm

I have invited Mr. McCarthy to put me in touch with the “5 other people” who can corroborate his account of alleged statements by Mr. Kimmel. I would like to talk to them for purposes of a story.

Mike Mushak November 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm

It is ironic that many of the “small government” Republicans commenting on articles here on NON apparently want our city government to hand-feed them information with flyers hand-delivered to their doors, info that anyone can easily find online on any device including their phones.

I am also astounded that many commenters here who are opposed to the first Council pay raise in 36 years, are also relatively financially secure, while nearly a third of the city (30% to be exact) falls into the low-income ALICE definition by the United Way that is at or just above poverty level. Basically the working poor., who may decide to run for office if they can afford babysitters or the extra travel and expense of serving their community through public service.

With all the accusations of hidden agendas and absurd conspiracy theories being spread around by many of the “no” crowd, I offer one theory here that actually makes sense to me of where some of the opposition may be coming from: If it is truly unaffordable for any low-income folks to run for office, as has been described on the record, then the urban core loses many potential candidates including many women and minorities who may be struggling to feed their family on smaller paychecks than the more secure suburban folks commenting here.

I also don’t understand how the RTC was once for 4 year terms and increased pay raises, but now they are not. The politics of obstruction is astoundingly transparent now. Here is the comment form Peter Torrano, former RTC Chair, in a NON article on January 31st, 2016:

“Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano said he supports charter revision, with some caveats.
“I think the Democrats and the Republicans are on the same page with the basic idea of extending the mayor’s term to four years,” Torrano said. “We will also be exploring extending the term of office for the Councilmen, and possibly increasing the pay for the Council people, which is a paltry $50 a month right now.”
But, “We don’t want to turn this into a situation where everyone has input into this and, ‘We’d like to have everything in the charter changed.’ We’d like to focus on these two or three specific items initially,” Torrano said. “That doesn’t mean that in the future we can’t open up the charter for other things. If we can agree, then our committees will focus on just these things, the salaries and the extended terms for the Council and the extended term for the mayor, then we’ll move forward on that and we’ll put it out for a vote.”

I absolutely agree with my friend Pete Torrano! What happened to the RTC’s original position? It may just be itself a victim of obstructionist politics that is not in the best interest of the city.

Andrew November 4, 2016 at 7:17 am

I am a Republican who does not support the charter reform as it stands. Not because of what it does, but the way it was done. And done before any other reforms.

The headline on this article is “Vote no on poorly structured charter revision” and I support that. Come back with a better structure, and one that addresses the needs of the citizens and I would be more than happy to support a 4 year term.

I will vote NO until that is done.

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