Morris, defying illness, moves ahead with primary challenge to Rilling

State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) explains his Norwalk mayoral campaign to District B Democrats on Monday in Calvary Baptist Church.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bruce Morris is moving ahead with a run for mayor, planning on challenging Mayor Harry Rilling in a Democratic primary, in spite of being told by a doctor not to do it.

“After I decided to run for mayor and I was putting all my plans together, I ended up being diagnosed with cancer,” Morris told District B Democrats on Monday. “It was a blip along the road, something unexpected. But I knew I felt led to do, when I made that decision in December and January, it was a self-less decision.”

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

Surgery for his prostate cancer was “100 percent effective,” but a misdiagnosed infection has knocked him out, Morris said, explaining that on Sunday, he had decided not to go ahead but on Monday, he woke up and changed his mind, because people are depending on him and Norwalk is not headed in the right direction.

“We have one community vying against another. We distinguish ourselves as Cranbury, Rowayton, West Norwalk. I believe in one Norwalk. I believe in diversity. I believe in leveraging our assets. I believe in leveraging the strength of all that Silvermine guild that we have out there, connecting that with West Norwalk, with everything that’s happening on West Avenue, and having development that is not competing with South Norwalk,” said the Rev. Morris, speaking like a preacher from a pulpit.

“Oh God, oh God,” murmured John Mosby, one of about 40 people in Calvary Baptist Church for the monthly District B meeting, where party members voted to recommend their candidates for election.

Morris, District 140 State Representative, received 14 votes from District B, while Rilling got three. The Democratic Town Committee will vote Thursday on the party’s officials endorsements.

Other districts have gone for Rilling in a similarly emphatic way, but Morris said he never expected to win the DTC endorsement, and has been planning to go to a primary all along.

Morris filed papers to run for mayor in April but has been silent since then. On Monday, he explained to District B that he had been planning to make an official announcement and outline a platform for a large crowd, but continuing illness stopped him. He had gone right back to work in the legislature after his surgery instead of taking the two weeks his doctors recommended but he contracted an infection in the hospital, he said.

State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) reveals that he has been treated for prostate cancer, Monday in Calvary Baptist Church.

“To make a long story short for you, for the next eight weeks my doctors were treating the wrong infection. Instead of getting better, I was getting worse. In fact, last week was in the hospital,” Morris said. “… This is a story I did not want to tell but I felt I needed to tell this story to you now, because I am committed to you. We came up with a slogan, Morris is for Us, in 2006. I meant it.”

Earlier, Morris said, “Many of you asked me to run for mayor. Many people for years asked me to run for mayor, and I have stayed resolute to finishing the work that you elected me to do back in 2007.”

He had promised to make a difference with health care, education, judicial reform and “property tax by way of ECS (Educational Cost Sharing formula).”

“I have fulfilled the promises that I made,” Morris said. “I have sponsored historic legislation in each one of those areas. ECS, Certainly, we are not getting our share of ECS but we have gotten more than we were and I have made certain of that every year. I followed Bipartisan processes to do that. I have never run for mayor because I wanted to make sure I was doing what needed to be done at the city level.”

The decision to run for mayor was made prayerfully in 2016 because he was concerned about “development that did not appear to be inclusive” and “civic process that were exclusive, were not allowing our voices to be heard,” he said.

“Around December or January, I told many of you sitting in this room I had come to the conclusion, ‘Yes, this is my time. I need to do this,’ and I felt led to do this.”

Morris said he has survived terminal liver disease and his wife has survived cancer. Now, he’s on intravenous antibiotics and his doctors say that in two weeks he’ll be fine but he doesn’t have the physical stamina to pursue a primary challenge, so he was going to withdraw, he said.

To pursue a primary, Morris would need to get signatures on a petition. In 2013, Democratic mayoral candidates needed 775 verified signatures from registered Norwalk Democrats to qualify for a primary.

“It’s hard because this city is in a transitional point, a pivotal point, a critical point, in determining our future,” Morris said.

Doctors said the best thing for his health would be to spend four weeks doing nothing, but, “I got up this morning, my wife and I, and said, ‘You know what? I have fought every other battle. I will trust the same God that I have trusted this far, that he will give me the strength, he will give me the people that know what’s wrong in this city and know what’s right in this city, the people who want to fight for what’s right in this city. The people who know the real Bruce Morris, not the ones who write their little excerpts on blogs or whatever else, but the ones who know that from 1979 until now I have served as a public servant for free, until I became a State Representative,’” Morris said.

Petitioning to get on the ballot as an independent made good sense but, “believe that our current mayor, his policies and his stands, needs to be challenged,” Morris said. “There needs to be an open conversation about what is happening in this city.”

Morris said, as he said previously, that Connecticut cities haven’t done anything to be self-sustainable, and, “The city of Norwalk is one of those that has the greatest ability to become self-sustainable.”

Monday’s news that Norwalk is considering tax incentives for developers is welcome, as Norwalk needs an economic development plan, Morris said, advocating a “Norwalk First policy.”

There’s development that contributes to the grand list, but, “Tell me how many people out of the city of Norwalk got jobs on all those different developments?  Tell me how many businesses here in the city of Norwalk were contracted to work on those jobs? What good is it to draw $1 billion worth of development? ‘I’ve got $1 billion that I have added to my grand list but, I missed that opportunity,’” Morris said, decrying the lack of jobs that would be “real economic development.”

“I am going to tell you the Bruce Morris plan,” he said, promising to raise the median income.

“We are one of the only urban neighborhoods in urban cities that does not have a department that specifically makes certain the small, minority and women-owned businesses are given real opportunities,” Morris said. “Imagine we have a mayor… That makes sure we are deliberate about this…. That’s how we build the economy in our city. That’s an economic development plan.”

“Education, that’s going to be my pivotal piece. I’ve got a challenge with where we are in education right now,” said Morris, who as former Norwalk Public Schools human relations director is suing the Board of Education, the city and the school district.

“I promise you, there is no way as an ex officio member of the Board of Ed – I would be hands on mayor,” Morris said. “You are not going to have these last-minute negotiations between the teachers’ union and the ‘Board of Ed.’ You are not going to have these pro forma surveys that are given out, but as a community, as a city, we will develop together a real plan, a real plan of action that the entire city, all five districts, buy into.”

State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) explains his Norwalk mayoral campaign to District B Democrats on Monday in Calvary Baptist Church.

Norwalk needs to be proactive on affordable housing because many of Norwalk’s young adults can’t afford to stay here unless they are living with their parents, he said.

“We have not gone back to look at the affordable housing statutes/regulations in this city in a long time,” Morris said.

That’s “little bit of a snippet of the things I would advocate for,” Morris said.

“There is a lot more but guess what, if you are able to help me, if you believe in me, if you think I am doing the right thing, I am telling you tonight, I am putting my all on the altar,” Morris said. “I am putting everything out here for you, my health, my life, my family, my service. It is available if you think I can help you. It is available if you think that, guess what, Bruce Morris has fulfilled every promise that he has given to us. … That is what I am asking. Who will you trust in November? Me? Harry? Who is the Republican guy – Andy Conroy? Who? I fulfilled my promises.”


John Levin July 18, 2017 at 7:44 am

It’s great to see participation in the process. Some new faces would be really great too.

Nora K King July 18, 2017 at 8:24 am

Really. What has Harry not done? He helped build new schools, start redevelopment, bring a nice and civil tone to town hall, work with developers, tried to change zoning, the city charter and worked hard to make Norwalk a better place. It is a tough job and Morris has always worked for one goal. Himself! I haven’t know his work since 1979 but I have certainly seen his work in the past fourteen years and I am so not impressed. The only person who benefits from his work is himself!

Rick July 18, 2017 at 10:26 am

What has Harry done?

Stantec was hired to do many jobs in Norwalk the court decisions on this company all over the country tells the story their work is more than questionable many links on Nancy shows this.

The Mall will need a lot more services from the city than anyone Is letting on a open check was given ,the GGP has history not the kind a mayor should be pleased with.

Environmental damage to a creek the city has thrown money into before remediation. Laws need to be enforced the money could of been spent better.

Throwing money around to the power plant folks like remediation and giving the land back to Norwalk is going to happen. Google power plants for this company in Norwalk they turn them into gas plants and are very successful in generating power.

Disasters growing al around the city while uniformed council members sit ands wonder when the truth wilkl leak out for an informed vote.

Residents asking for help on Quintard ave when it came to Firetree, now one point that was breached drew a couple of lines in the lawsuit both the mayor the police chief and someone else with authority in city hall ignored a simple request now its part of a court case taxpayers will be foot the bill. Our own legal council several times in meetings against firetree could not answer legal jargon, why was that?

Fines for environmental damage the city created yet our own city environmental officer has nothing to do with, price on the fines would of bought some talent for the city.

The city has Ryan park with PCBs in it ,job run by contractors who could only work for low hanging fruit cities whats wrong with that picture when sending kids back into a park again after the job is done we have who’s word its clean and done right?

The redevelopment agency could use some oversight and leadership and none of that is coming from city hall.

The Parking Authority is doing street work on sidewealks and sign installing while the professionals at the dpw with the equipment and knowledge is locked out costing the city mega money for a parking authority delivering poor workmanship.

Never understood why city owned vehicles are run by a private New Jersey firm for the Parking Authority or why they marked a private parking lot on mlk so the private owner could lock out people from parking there next to the station and use it for himself.

The city has ignored may professionals and their inputs for years, some who have expertise in the wall st area are brilliant but not in the loop ,last minute concessions has left windows of opt closed for the suggestions.

Out of town ambulances are filling Norwalk streets our own police log is showing an increase this year the average 70,000 calls are growing the type of responses are no longer just barking dogs or parking complaints.

Reports from other police and fire departments with GGP malls are showing a year after the construction a 40 percent increase in crime and fire response creating budget problems on hiring more personal ,where is Norwalks report on what the city will need for adequate protection for the rest of the city?

A substation at the mall is what most departements are taking around the country according to GGP Norwalk has shown no interest but is leaving some space behind lets see if that’s the case.

Parking spots at the mall and including the garage has been cut most cities embrace the 75 spots for commuter parking but in a city like Norwalk parking is not a problem so those spots were eliminated who thought 75 parking spots could be worth anything? Not city hall it was a real estate take back good move city hall developers rock !

Lets not talk homeless until the Oyster Fest as it nears the strofilino tenants will be kicked out a ritual for the last ten years by dpw

But Norwalk has bike lanes now not all has been bad news.

Spirit store next to RC no one suggested Rowyaton wouldn’t want such a draw at their door? That got a lot of attention .

Democratic party is split down the middle two halves don’t make a right meetings are designed to cater to each half its not right.

Legal dept the zoning and planning boards all need a clean sweep those In Village creek got to see first hand how the city fails its residents, but the y have Duff and now know they are screwed.

The city is waiting to hear how bad its going to be from the State when does Norwalk plan on nothing and work with something?

The public art project, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Our Town” program, with matching funds from the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the city, had a budget of $100,000, RDA Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer said in 2014 and this was before pot became legal (taken from NON) embellished by me.

The last word in the sculpture, as you head north, is “wonderful,” Wallerstein said.

I cant even begin to comment on this work of farce.

The list grows the city will be a destination look around whats going on in Stamford and Bridgeport this time of year, shootings hard core crime the police fight back and they all come to Norwalk where the low hanging fruit is .

This isn’t about Bruce or Harry its about us ,so here is the partial list of ills the next candidate needs to deal with

Buying votes this time around may not work once you read into the ills the city has and didn’t have a few years ago.

The jobs created and promised by the city on Day st didn’t happen even construction happened in Pa and snapped together on site ,how many hardhats by Norwalkers do you see in the city right now?

There has to be reason for all this money be spent on a mayors job in a failed state, the one who spends the least may be appropriate for the job ,the one down in the trenches with the taxpayer and not in the pockets of developers may make more cents after all.

Mr Conroy was showed very little respect by city hall last few meetings he had he couldn’t even get decent council yet Knopp was given the max.

Politics have been played so hasn’t the voters of the city now what? Vote the same game payers in ,the hands have been dealt the taxpayers have lost how stupid do they think we are?

Lets all meet at the automated parking garage and see how our tax dollars have been spent.

Laurie July 18, 2017 at 10:51 am

I can only speak about my interactions with Mr. Morris but he had me, a private citizen, banned from setting foot in any school in Norwalk without showing just cause. He promised to produce a report explaining why; he never did even though he repeatedly promised one. He also made accusations against me, which I proved false, and never apologized.

My intent is not to sound like a disgruntled person attacking Mr. Morris. I merely wish to point out that Mr. Morris has a history with Norwalk and we need to remember some of the things he has done. I am especially concerned that a person who is willing to sue Norwalk has the audacity to run for mayor.

Concerned July 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

I would love to know who exactly told him to run. This is nothing more than a ploy to tug at the heartstrings of the Norwalk public that doesn’t want him to run.

Patrick Cooper July 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Bruce doesn’t listen to his Doctor, not a good idea. For his own sake, and actually – for the health of his sweet-home District, he should. I’m sure it’s uplifting to his flock that he is following his passion – and staying in the race. Dis-B Dems will not be denied.

Here’s the thing – though. They better be sure about the math. There’s a saying – “Don’t make your bed in a burning building”. What no one at Calvary Baptist said to those attending – we are risking everything here. You see – I’m sure they are counting all the free cheese coming their way when Bruce gets hold of the budget. But remember this – what happens to Dis-B Dems when he doesn’t? Further, what happens when they lose to Harry in the primary, and yet by doing so – they soil him as a candidate with “true Democrats” who vote party alone. I imagine there will be many a dilemma in SoNo – cause when your guy doesn’t win – what now? Just stay home? When folks are left with voting for a compromised and weak Rilling, his bizarro superman counterpart Andy Conroy, or a breath of fresh air in Lisa Brinton Thompson – you can see how Lisa can win.

Every person who pays any attention to current affairs knows – elections have consequences. Be careful.

huh? July 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Bruce Morris is a career obstructionist and its no different here.

Useless at the state level. ECS? Seriously? We’ve been short changed for years and this budget season stand to lose even more than any other city that receives funds….What has he done exactly?

…and seriously? Shirley Mosby for Board of Education?

The tide is changing in District B… maybe not this election cycle but it will change.

Sensible Citizen July 19, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I’ve read through the comments and really couldn’t stop laughing. It wasn’t laughter because I actually thought any of the negative comments were funny…but more so because it is comical to hear people go crazy over things…especially in politics.

I’ve lived in CT for over 20 years and have know Bruce Morris for almost that entire time. I remember when he was an advocate in the schools where his children attended…and when he finally was voted in as Director of Human Relations, I felt it was about time he got paid for all of his hard work prior for FREE.

I’m not commenting because I’m voting for him. I would if I were still a Norwalk resident…but to know him is to love him. He’s a good man. Not a perfect man…but without question a good man. He truly has passion for this city and the people in it. He’s one of the smartest men I have known. As I mentioned before…he isn’t perfect…BUT he IS PERFECT for Norwalk.

This man has defied so many odds in his life and I’ve literally seen his miraculously recover from terminal liver disease. I remember when I first met him…his prognosis was very bleak. I’m not religious but I do believe that God makes no mistakes and for him to still be here…and present…at a time that his leadership is needed most…I believe this is his time.

I’ve met the current mayor…and he seems okay…as far as mayors go. I don’t know about policy and all the nonsense that goes on behind the scenes…but I KNOW Bruce…and he doesn’t talk for the sake of talking. If he sees something wrong…he will rise to the occasion and try to help.

Does anyone ever really know what other mayors in the past did before they were mayor? Joe Ganim did some of the worst things a mayor could do…got locked up for a while…got out and won his office back. Now I know you can’t really bring Bridgeport into this but from an ethics standpoint…Norwalk could stand to have this man running the city.

The reason I hate politics is that people don’t give a crap about it until they think or feel they can make a difference by choosing a side. I’m big on UNITY…standing together for a cause bigger than oneself. There is too much division in our country and in the world as it is…at least from a local perspective…for a good community – full of diversity…the time is NOW to stand together as one.

Change is good and it’s time for Bruce Morris to stand up as mayor.

I didn’t know he had cancer…and I’m happy to have read that he’s recovering from it. For those who say he needs to listen to his doctors…okay…I sort of agree…however, when you have mission that you’re passionate about and feel led to do…there isn’t a single thing that can stop a person like that. I salute you Mr. Morris…for not backing down…for not giving up and for being an inspiration to someone that is actually paying attention.

Someone said he has the audacity to sue the city – then run for mayor…well that’s apples and oranges. His reasons for suing…although public knowledge is HIS business. His alone. It has nothing to do with his desire to run for the highest office in the city. People are so petty. Again, he isn’t perfect…he puts his pants on the same way I do and laces up his shoes the same way too. He’s HUMAN.

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