NORWALK, Conn. – It’s coming, Bruce Morris said, of the mayoral campaign announcement he has promised.
“I may have more to say about this matter sometime between Wednesday and Friday,” the District 140 State Representative said in a Sunday email.
Morris on May 1, after a District B Democrats meeting that featured shots at Mayor Harry Rilling, gave NancyOnNorwalk a preview of ideas he said motivate his move to challenge Rilling for the Democratic Party’s endorsement in a primary this summer.
“A real mayor ought to be proactive and not so reliant on state dollars. What if those dollars go away? What if the state revenues are not continued?” Morris said.
Morris said he needs to prepare for his run by reviewing the studies and plans that have been done to attempt to steer Norwalk’s development, to see the current status of yesterday’s hopes.
“One thing I love about Norwalk is its diversity,” Morris said, talking about the different neighborhoods and their possibilities.
“I have never been in the position to look at each of these areas and how one feeds into another,” Morris said. “That’s what we need to take a look at. Parking has been an issue, whether it’s down on Wall Street or down in South Norwalk. There may a study out there, that I may not be aware of, that provides a plan for parking that will bring foot traffic down to both South Norwalk and Wall Street.”
The original Transit Oriented Development (TOD) plan had the South Norwalk train station serving as an intermodal facility, he said.
“I haven’t heard about that in a long time so these are the things we need to review, find out where they stand. I have been supportive of the Webster Street block development as a major piece of connecting what you’ve got going on in South Norwalk. That would not be exclusive to what could happen down on Wall Street,” Morris said.
Each area of Norwalk could have its own theme to attract people and businesses, he said.
“Those are the types of things that as mayor, I would actually take a look at. I would take a look at this entire city,” Morris said.
Silvermine, Cranbury and Rowayton each have unique attributes, Morris said.
“People want a bedroom community in the outskirts of Norwalk and we need to protect that, because what I hear from people all the time, they feel they’re being pushed out of these areas. I want to protect that. You have those that want to protect the village feel of Norwalk. These are the kind of things I would want to look into,” Morris said, adding that he was not prepared to fully comment.
He’s aware of development plans because he sat on committees, going back 20 years, and, “I want to make them happen,” he said.
Morris sponsored legislation to get funding to study Martin Luther King Drive, which languishes as mostly empty industrial space, he said.
He had sat on Committees for some of the city’s plans and intends to review them, with a desire to enact things that have not come to fruition, he said.
Morris is listed in the 2005 South Norwalk Planning Study as a Committee member.
“Some may say that that’s already been done, well if it’s been done, what is the strategic plan to get it done? It’s good to have books and plans on paper that draw dust but what are the timelines for getting certain things done? What do we need to do, to get either state dollars or federal dollars, or fostering the private-public partnerships that get some of these things done,” Morris said.
Morris talked about public-private partnerships at a recent League of Women Voters Pie and Politics event, speaking of an “empowerment model” that would attract businesses to vacant property in Bridgeport.
“We need to move from this model where cities are always saying we can’t survive unless we get money from the state,” Morris said. “…As Mayor, that is exactly what we would be doing.
Morris’ move to run for Mayor comes as the Board of Education works to ask for state funding for a new school behind the Nathaniel Ely preschool, a plan that has drawn objections in District B. Morris and other argued repeatedly for more community input, although the BoE held a series of public meetings, and the BoE approved the plan 5-4.
His supporters made their dissatisfaction with Rilling known at the District B meeting, over the new school and plans for the Pathways Academy at Briggs. (See separate story.)
“The last time we were in the Mayor’s office and I asked the Mayor what was going on with the ‘Board of Ed’ and everything, the Mayor said to me that he had no influence over those people,” Ernie Dumas said. “Now, he is the Mayor of the city, telling me that he had no influence, which I thought was something awful to say.”
District B Vice Chairman Bobby Burgess, a long-time political operative who is described as fueling voter turnout in the district, pounced on the Briggs commentary.
“The Mayor is Mayor of all people,” Burgess said. “I think we should get some of the parents, have them meet with the Mayor, and get his opinion… he should come to the rescue. We should get his opinion.”
“Ever since I have been in this city, every Superintendent and Board that I have every worked for and under has always tried to see what is the tolerance level of the second floor of City Hall,” Morris said. “Because at the end of the day it is the Common Council and the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation) that must approve those budgets.”
“I am always glad to meet with anyone at any time on any issue,” Rilling said in an email. “I work closely with the Board of Education and try to do what is best for the youth of our city in every decision I make. I meet with Dr. Adamowski frequently to discuss issues that arise and need my attention. … I prefer to have an amicable working relationship with the Board rather than a strained relationship that used to exist. We get better outcomes if we work together. Some may not see it that way but that is how I prefer to conduct city business.”