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.
“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.”
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.”