NORWALK, Conn. — The Bike/Walk Commission is set to “begin” work, as one of its founders moves on to the Planning Commission.
Mayor Harry Rilling’s latest round of appointments received unanimous support at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, with two members of the Republican minority granting former Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak the honor of amused commentary.
“I was wondering what I was going to do after I was done being on the Council,” Michelle Maggio (R-District C) said. “Now that I know Mike is going to be on Planning, sitting up there with Nora (King), I am going to go and watch the fireworks. Enjoy. Thanks, Mike.”
First up for a vote were the seven members of the Bike/Walk Commission, with Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) explaining that the Council voted last month to make the Bike/Walk Task Force, created in 2014 with Mushak as co-chairman, a permanent governmental body.
“I think they have done incredible work. They have really gotten involved in a variety of city departments,” Kimmel said.
“It just goes to show what happens when you bring people together who care about the city who care about what they do, and they can make such wonderful improvements,” Rilling said.
The packet for the Aug. 8 Council meeting explains that the Commission will:
- Promote a Complete Streets program, facilities for bicycles and pedestrians
- Review, promote and update the city’s master plan for bicycles and the master plan for pedestrians
- Assist in implementing the transportation component of the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD)
- Review and provide advice, as early as possible, on projects that have an impact on biking and walking
- Coordinate public awareness campaigns and seek grants to further its goals
- Report to the Council yearly
Directors of the Planning and Zoning Department, the Health Department and the Redevelopment Agency, as well as the Norwalk Police Chief, will be ex-officio members of the Commission, with the Health Department and the Department of Public Works providing staff support.
Approved as Commission members Tuesday were:
- Nancy Rosett
- Peter Libre
- Michael Heslin
- Peter Franz
- Kevin Kane
- Jud Aley
- Colin Grotheer
Also approved was the appointment of John Crespo to the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission. Council member John Kydes (D-District C) said Crespo had come highly recommended by NHMC Chairman Tony Mobilia and is highly needed as the Commission handles harbor issues during the Walk Bridge construction project.
Crespo is an environmental professional working for AECOM Corporation as a senior environmental scientist, according to his resume.
South Norwalk landscape architect Eric Rains was appointed to the Parking Authority after being lauded by Authority Chairman Dick Brescia.
Rains was challenging yet supported a year and a half ago when he was one of the few people to attend a Parking Authority public hearing on SoNo parking rates, Brescia said.
“The way he handled himself at that first meeting where he was both challenging and supportive suggests to me that he would be just the kind of member that we would want on the Parking Authority and just the kind of member of the Parking Authority that would benefit the city,” Brescia said.
Seven people were reappointed to Commissions:
- Timothy Buzzee, Human Relations Commission
- Rahoul Duperville, Human Relations Commission
- Carol Gavriliedes, Human Relations Commission
- Yvonne Rodriguez, Human Relations Commission
- Mary Geake, Fair Rent Commission
- Brenda Penn-Williams, Fair Rent Commission
- Sonja Oliver, Fair Rent Commission
Reappointing Commissioners eliminates the problem of a learning curve, Michael Corsello (D-At Large) said.
Corsello said he served on the Fair Rent Commission years ago.
“The issues are not easy. The meetings go long into the night. From everything I have heard they’ve been doing a great job,” Corsello said.
Anyone who knows Mushak knows “he is incredibly passionate and dedicated to the city of Norwalk,” Tom Livingston (D-District E) said. “His contributions to the city are quite numerous, everything from landscaping around Mill Hill to around the city, and his experience with Zoning and land use issues … make him a great addition to the Planning Commission.”
Kimmel said he enthusiastically supported Mushak’s appointment, explaining that years ago he only knew Mushak by his letters to the editor and thought, “This guy is pretty smart.”
Then, when Kimmel became a Council member Mushak would come to Committee meetings.
“It seemed as if he knew what was on every page of every plan that the city ever paid for,” Kimmel said. “I am wondering, ‘my lord, how does he remember this stuff?’ The point is, he has a real feel, a real enthusiasm and passion for these kind of issues, the kinds of issues that the Planning Commission takes on and he understands what is in front of him, understands where we should be going long term. So I think this is an excellent appointment.”
Mushak has a “tremendous amount of energy,” Council President John Igneri (D-District E) said, describing Mushak as someone who is all over the city doing things but, “Most importantly, he has a vision, he knows where the city should be going in many areas.”
“It takes someone very special that does so many things for the city when you are not an elected official, and you are not on any of these committees,” Steve Serasis (D-District A) said. “Ever since I have known you, Mike, you have done everything possible and it never was limited to your neighborhood or district. … (The appointment) just means we are going to get you even more, we will just get you to do more things.”
Rilling said Serasis hit the nail on the head.
“You do so much for the community just out of the goodness of your heart,” Rilling said. “You are not being paid for it, you donate so much time and so many materials to make the city a better place. It’s noticed.”
Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said Mushak truly inspires her, and Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) offered a tongue-in-cheek comment: “I know him to be a very shy person, reserved with his opinions and – wrong guy.”