NORWALK, Conn. — Republican Norwalk mayoral candidate Andy Conroy is criticizing incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling for a “laid back, go with the flow” approach to development, also calling campaign contributions from out of town developers a “conflict of interest.”
Conroy, in a Saturday press release, outlined three priorities that “he would take as Mayor that would comprise his strategy towards growing Norwalk,” before taking aim at the mayor’s fundraising success.
“Norwalk voters should be alarmed that much of the small fortune accumulated by the Rilling campaign has come not from Norwalk families, but from developers who don’t even live in Norwalk,” Conroy said. “These outside donors have a clear interest in making sure Norwalk elects a mayor who will help them make money. Before voting for the mayor, voters must ask themselves if they are comfortable with what appears to be a blatant conflict of interest.”
As of Oct. 1, the Rilling campaign had raised more than $144,000. Another filing is due Tuesday.
Rilling called Conroy’s accusation of a conflict of interest “silly,” as land use decisions are made by independent Boards. He has never tried to influence anyone on the Boards, because that would be unethical, he said.
Conroy’s press release continued:
“City development has become a delicate subject in Norwalk, as many homeowners fear for the future of Norwalk while it expands and continues to offer contracts to outside developers to build apartment buildings, strip malls, and office space. Conroy outlined priorities to maintain control over development projects, to protect the interests of Norwalk’s families, and to stay focused on the long-term goals for the city.
“1. A temporary moratorium on development pending reviews of the impacts on public works infrastructure and potential need for expansion of education, police, fire, health and emergency services. Require the same prior to granting permission for future development projects.
“2. Windfall developer profit reform; add protection to City in future Land Disposition Agreement’s (LDA’s) and other related development agreements.
“3. Zero tolerance for POKO-like failures. City of Norwalk agreements are not to be set aside because we feel sorry for a developer. This extends to rebuilding and repairs.
“‘I am not anti-development, I am for smart development, and so far no other mayoral candidate has told us what ‘smart development’ actually means,’ said Conroy. ‘My strategy outlines what ‘smart development’ means.’
“‘All of these priorities represent the concrete vision that is currently lacking in our city’s approach to development,’ Conroy said. ‘As mayor, I would make sure no development occurs without first making sure it is managed responsibly and that all stakeholders in the process are on the same page, or we at least have heard and understand any objections.’
“Conroy also added that Mayor Rilling’s campaign war chest contains a ‘staggering’ number of high-dollar donations from outside interests, including more than a dozen ‘mysterious’ donors who have no apparent connection to Norwalk nor a history of donating to Norwalk mayoral campaigns.
“‘Norwalk voters need to take a look at the alarming number of $1,000 donations the mayor has received from outside developers. It is staggering,’ said Conroy. ‘How can Norwalkers expect the mayor to act in their best interests when so much of his donations have come from the very people who want to profit from developing in Norwalk? It is truly unprecedented for a Norwalk mayor to receive so many outsider contributions.’”
“People are very excited about what is happening in Norwalk and a lot of people want to invest in Norwalk to make sure that that we keep moving forward in the direction we are moving now.
“The attack there’s a conflict of interest is silly because we have a Planning Commission and a Zoning Commission that review the projects that are proposed for the city. I do not influence their decisions, but when they make their decisions they look at all aspects of every project and they look at the impact of this project is going to have on our community’s infrastructure and whether or not those projects fit within our master plan.
“If you look at other campaigns in the past people are interested in investing in Norwalk donate to mayoral campaigns. People who believe that Norwalk is moving in the right direction will invest in the campaign of the person they think is best suited to keep Norwalk moving in the right direction.
“I am very comfortable when I look at the numbers of people from Norwalk who invested in my campaign or donate to my campaign. More than 80 percent of all my donors came from Fairfield County. Anybody that wants to look at my numbers are very welcome to do so.
“Apparently, Mr. Conway forgets that there is a process in place to look at the projects that are being proposed, to make sure that they are in the best different interest of our community.”