Opinion: We need a mayor who’s loyal to Norwalk

Republican mayoral candidate Andy Conroy. (Contributed)

Andy Conroy is the Republican-endorsed candidate for Mayor of Norwalk.

In the past week, Mayor Harry Rilling on two separate occasions chose to stand with Governor Dannel Malloy and Hartford Democrats and against Norwalk taxpayers and families trying to make ends meet.

Norwalk has been threatened with serious funding cuts as the state’s budget crisis drags on, but Mayor Rilling called for the governor to veto the bipartisan budget that passed the General Assembly.  Now, Governor Malloy has just followed through on that threat.

Crafted by the Republican caucus but passed with some Democrats in support, that budget would have retained Norwalk’s current levels of funding for its school system, its special education classes, and several programs for low-income families.  It would have done so even as Connecticut is mired in a historic fiscal crisis with no end in sight.

Yet the mayor, instead of being a voice for fiscal sanity and making Norwalk’s funding his paramount priority, gets on board with the governor’s veto.  I, for one, cannot understand a Norwalk mayor accepting such a poor outcome for the people of Norwalk.

Why would he reject a budget that protects Norwalk’s finances during a fiscal crisis? There seems no other explanation other than pure, unadulterated partisan politics.

So, now, Norwalk stands to lose $4 million in town funding and education aid.  The legislature’s budget would have stopped all of that from happening and held our city harmless — all without raising taxes.

Many mayors in Connecticut, regardless of party affiliation, had rejoiced at the achievement of a budget that avoided cuts to aid to their towns without raising taxes.  The Connecticut Council of Municipalities and the Council of Small Towns, which represent the best interests of town budgets, both endorsed this budget, as did numerous other civic organizations.  Despite this, Mayor Rilling joined the partisan parade advocating for a veto.

All Rilling needed to know was that the budget was put together by Republicans and that Governor Malloy, a fellow Democrat, opposes it.  Never mind that it also attracted support from three Democrats in the State Senate and five in the House.

He and another Malloy loyalist, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (also a Norwalker, remarkably enough), this week came together at two press conferences where they blasted the bipartisan budget.  To attempt to justify their position, they cited proposals for modest reductions in state’s higher education system, and a requirement for teachers to contribute an extra 2% towards their pensions over two years.

We have only to look at the other budgets that failed to pass the legislature to see how much worse things potentially could be for Norwalk.  The governor’s own budget proposal would have entailed large cuts in revenue sharing with municipalities, cuts in education funding, in special education funding, in Care4Kids funding, in MealsOnWheel funding, and a host of similar programs that serve our state’s most vulnerable citizens – all of which were protected in the Republican budget.  In return, Connecticut residents would have been hit with more taxes in a dozen different ways, including a new tax on cell phone bills.  Local property taxes would need to be increased to pay for teacher pension costs that Malloy wants to offload to the municipalities.

In sum, the mayor has demonstrated a stunning lack of regard for Norwalk’s finances.  He cannot hide behind his ostentatious support for teachers and Norwalk Community College, because with the General Assembly’s budget dead, things will likely be worse for all of Norwalk and especially our school system.

A budget crisis manufactured in Hartford is no time to play politics with Norwalk’s well-being.


amar haouari September 29, 2017 at 10:15 am

You republicans are destroying a minority business here in Norwalk at oak hills ,{…}
You know it and being quiet,
when you point your finger
Take a look at yourselfs first,
Amar Haouari.
Editor’s note: This comment has been modified to conform with the comments policy, which prohibits ascribing motives.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 29, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Thank you, Mr. Conroy, for speaking out on Mayor Rilling’s role in the Hartford budget crisis. Mayor Rilling has time to attend rallies to decry fake problems invented by Bob Duff for a photo op. But he either lacks the attention span needed to review the budget that was sitting on Malloy’s desk or he simply prefers playing party politics to true leadership.

Norwalk is not a partisan city. It’s beneath us to continue to operate like a party machine. Mayor Rilling, we expect more and better from you than to smile at the camera during made up protests (there were two this week alone) while neglecting your actual duties, like attending ALL WestCOG meetings and asking the right questions–frankly ANY questions–during the DOT’s Walk Bridge presentation. Allowing Malloy to veto a bipartisan budget without expressing any concern for the financial impact on your own city is disgraceful.

Wallace September 29, 2017 at 1:48 pm

How can I trust a candidate that won’t even provide a recent headshot?

I’m already deceived before anything else.

David McCarthy September 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

@Amar Haouari Help me understand how Republicans are having an impact on your business?

Are you perhaps being misinformed? There are only 3 Republicans on the Oak Hills Park Authority out of a total of NINE members. They were all appointed by Mayor Rilling (who is a democrat) and none are particularly political, and to my knowledge they only care and work to make the park a better place. Let’s not make your issues into something they aren’t by making unfair statements

Mike Mushak September 30, 2017 at 9:58 am

Donna, your comment that “Norwalk is not a partisan city” is interesting. Can you name another non-partisan city?

I have seen them in other parts of the world, but never here in America. Perhaps you are better-traveled than me.

Thank you!

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 30, 2017 at 11:17 am

Can anyone elaborate on what the requirements are to be labeled a minority business? Mr. Haouari alleges that the OHPA is knowingly destroying a minority business. Elsewhere Mr. Haouari has adopted the vocabulary of Jim Crowe era lynchings, which would suggest that one of the owners is African American, and further, that the business is targeted for closure because of the race of the owner. Since these are very serious allegations, we should have more information to back up Mr. Haouari’s claims, or conversely, evidence to refute them. But the charges Mr. Haouari levels against the OHPA and the Norwalk Republican Party are serious enough to merit further investigation.

US Blues September 30, 2017 at 1:32 pm

amar haouari – no one can understand what you are saying – stop speaking in code and clearly outline your grievances.

Otherwise, all we hear from you is wah-wah-wah-wah. Really, you are not make a point, any sense and not very credible.

Help the people of Norwalk understand.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 30, 2017 at 4:02 pm

@Mike Mushak, I love being invited to participate on your NoN Quiz Show! First, you’re right. I am better traveled!

For best non-partisan U.S. City, I nominate Greenville, S.C., which has been led for 22 years by Mayor Knox White. Knox is a Republican, but you wouldn’t call Greenville a Republican city. It is widely known as a moderate city and an overall great place to live.

The practice of vetting local candidates via party primaries is not common. Most cities go with a non-partisan open election process, even if the number of candidates running requires a primary to narrow the field.

In fact, if you look at the Greenville government web site, or that of Spokane Valley, WA, you will be hard pressed to find a party affiliation for anyone. In Greenville, there was a switch to non-partisan elections, which was successfully overturned in 2015 under threat of a referendum. The reason was that some minority candidates were concerned about being able to run successful campaigns without party backing. Significantly, the objections were not related to persons of “opposing” parties fighting over whether or not to fill potholes. Reasonable people agree on most things, which is why the wanton partisan displays I’ve seen since moving to Norwalk have me so dismayed. True or not, Mayor Rilling appears tied to Bob Duff’s apron strings, and Bob to Chris Murphy’s and Dick Blumenthal’s. Mayor Rilling could have suggested our legislators in Hartford take another stab at the budget. Instead he attended not one but two photo-op protests that employed disingenuous and some false propaganda to scare voterss, among them our youngest voters.

But a thousand thanks for this challenge. Please make my “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” T-shirt a size medium.

Andy Conroy September 30, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Nancy has my permission to use any head shot she has from recent video footage and camera shots. Her pick, Andy Conroy

Al Bore October 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Mr. Conroy, Norwalk needs to stop catering to the unions that currently run the city and stand up to them. The mayor elected by the people of the city needs to start running the city doing what is right for the people that live in the city and most of all pay taxes to the city. Having the union support means nothing since most of the city employees just work here for the great Norwalk salaries and benefits and live elsewhere. Enough of the usual status quo BS let’s make Norwalk a place that people want to buy a home and raise their families in because it is a great place to be. Smart development, great schools, and no more apartments; let’s attract people that want to invest their money into Norwalk to live. We are too overcrowded right now and someone needs to stop the madness. I wish I knew your thoughts about this so I could make an informed decision in November. I am still not sure where you stand on a lot of issues like our poorly rated schools, overcrowding, new apartment buildings everywhere, illegal apartments and multifamily houses , traffic, and lot’s of quality of life issues that exist in Norwalk. Tell me where you stand on these issues please. I have no idea who to vote for I am sick of status quo, it never works.

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