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Rilling’s 2013 statements a reason to vote Brinton

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Due to an editing error, this letter did not post properly on Oct. 31. NancyOnNorwalk apologizes for any confusion.

It’s Halloween, and what’s even more frightening is we have an election only a week later. When considering the candidates for mayor, it’s important to know if “they do as they say,” or they say one thing, and do another.

I recently looked back at published statements made by a contender in this year’s Mayoral race when petitioning voters to become the chief executive of Norwalk:

 “Yet another big box is about to go up on Connecticut Avenue, further clogging an already congested stretch of roadway. The traffic congestion is also set to spread to Main Street and Westport Avenue where developers are eying new sites for even more big boxes. Is that what we want for our city? More parking lots and strip malls?

Big-box stores with large floor area, wide selection, discount prices, and huge parking lots can be cheap places to shop. Unfortunately they also generate lots of traffic, pay minimal property taxes, employ workers at rock-bottom wages (often part-time and without benefits), and take the place – quite literally – of mixed-use and other development that would provide housing, better jobs and business opportunities for Norwalkers.

 While the headlines in Stamford herald NBC Sports, Bridgewater Associates, Starwood Hotels and the massive Harbor Point development along with the thousands of high-paying jobs, housing units and well over a billion dollars’ worth of taxable new development, the headlines in Norwalk announce the arrival of more big box stores and strip malls like CVS, Lowes and maybe even a BJ’s Wholesale Club. Why do we get the traffic congestion, the low paying jobs and the negligible property tax revenue from this type of development?

 I’ve talked to many Norwalkers who ask themselves these same questions and the answer is simple: neighboring communities are pursuing better development for their communities while Norwalk keeps approving the big box stores under our welcoming zoning regulations.

 And all-the-while our local mom and pop businesses are wondering if they’ll be the next one forced to close under pressure from these multi-national corporations.

 It is now too late to undo much of the damage caused by big box stores and we have missed our chances for much of the development that passed us by for other towns, but a new city administration needs to blunt the ongoing harm as quickly as possible.

 Mayoral inaction on zoning is hurting our city badly and needs to be corrected. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of past years, lest Main Avenue and Westport Avenue become two more impassable arteries in our city. This is one area where new forceful leadership can make a very visible difference.”

 

The candidate who spoke these words may surprise you…it was then Zoning Commissioner candidate Harry Rilling…in 2013.

All I can say is that I couldn’t agree more with that Harry Rilling. We SHOULD be targeting better development – and – Mayoral inaction on zoning IS hurting our city badly. The central question is – why did you say this, and then do something else?

A new city administration needs to blunt the harm as quickly as possible and forceful leadership CAN make a difference! That’s why I’m voting for Lisa Brinton for Mayor on row D on November 7th. She has committed to a serious plan to reform the process producing poor land use decisions, and is the only one doing so. We simply can’t afford not to.

Patrick Cooper

Norwalk

22 comments

Sue Haynie October 31, 2017 at 7:22 am

Rilling’s message has little content beyond more of the same (yada yada), taking credit for things that would have happened anyways (like Waypointe), it was someone else’s fault (like library parking fiasco), he likes the job (good raise, 2 pensions)

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 31, 2017 at 11:53 pm

When I posted my comment this morning, there was actually no content in this space. The post was blank.

Thank you Patrick Cooper for reminding voters that commissioner Rilling’s agenda in 2013 included sustainable growth, mixed use development, high paying jobs and sensitivity to traffic congestion associated with rapid growth and big box stores. Since then we’ve added a Lowe’s, Waypointe apartments, a mega mall, and a metro north project that could shut Norwalk down, plus not one but two fast food chicken emporiums on Connecticut Avenue thaf seem to tie up traffic coming and going 24/7. What part of the original agenda is Mayor Rilling promising this go round?

Victor Cavallo November 1, 2017 at 12:37 am

@ Donna Sm..s: I shop for lumber at Home Depot. I shop for BBQ grills at Lowes. I shop for TVs at P.C Richards. I shop for computers at Best Buy. I shop for camping equipment at Dick’s. I eat meals at Chick-Fil_A and Popeye’s and I buy food at Shop-Rite and Stop and Shop and I buy {…} – Tequila – at Liquor Mart and I buy appliances and clothing at Kohl’s and I eat at Wendy’s and I buy party stuff at Darinor Plaza and…more …and..more. So if you’re saying that Norwalk would be better off if Connecticut Avenue were to be demolished to abate traffic and I were to be deprived of my lifestyle for the benefit of your political vanity, well you can go…{…}
edited to remove insults.

Victor Cavallo November 1, 2017 at 1:11 am

Nancy: ‘fess up. There were no insults hurled; I actually wrote “expletives deleted” in the post to allude playfully to restrained language but which I wouldn’t dare iterate on this blog. And you want me to attend your fundraiser?

Bob Welsh November 1, 2017 at 8:29 am

Victor,

Your attendance at the fundraiser would be most appreciated. You’ll enjoy tasty food and refreshing beverages at the Petrini’s hot new stock-exchange themed restaurant. Plus there will be no need for playful alluding — you can hurl insults at me to your heart’s content, expletives deleted or otherwise.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 1, 2017 at 8:45 am

Victor, for the 26 years I lived in Westport, I shopped at those places too. They attract customers from all over. They don’t have to be clustered along CT Avenue Norwalk. And if there were traffic studies dome for both Popeyes and Chick Filet that accounted for their potential impact not only on traffic generally but divining how the two together would impact traffic, I’d be surprised. More likely Mike Gallante performed his usual magic, focusing on one specific intersection without looking at spillover in both directions on CT Ave. Some of these conveniences are fine. Must Norwalk have all of them? Wouldn’t a Bridgewater instead of two Walmart’s be a healthier balance, adding to the grand list without tying up traffic night and day?

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

@Bob Welsh, not sure what insults were edited out, but there is an implied insult in Victor’s use of ellipses instead of using the letters of my last name. Donna is fine. Donna S is okay. But Donna Sm…s is about more than Victor’s laziness. After all, he mustered the energy to type the rest of the rant.

Victor, if you can’t manage the entire name, I understand. Donna is fine. Donna S is acceptable. Donna Sm..s is not. It’s more insult than convenience. {…}
Comment edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives.

Debora Goldstein November 1, 2017 at 10:58 am

Good morning Victor,

Thanks for stepping up and endorsing Mr. Rilling’s performance over the last four years, his 2013 platform notwithstanding. I’m sure row A appreciates it.

The fact remains that the position he took in 2013 reflected what the neighborhoods wanted. After four years there has been little progress in putting balance into development in Norwalk.

It is not out of bounds to want to discuss something more than Victor Cavallo’s personal shopping preferences.

I don’t just shop at HD and Lowe’s but Carlyn’s and Ring’s End, for example.

There’s one candidate advocating for real comprehensive planning, and aligning zoning to the plan. She also wants to fix the structural problems to allow those plans to be implemented.

Bring on Brinton! Vote for leadership on November 7th row D.

Al Bore November 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

The traffic in Norwalk is ridicules and getting worse. Smart development please no more big-box stores and stop with all the apartments. Enough already think first please and don’t let the developers shape Norwalk so they can fill their pockets and go home to their quiet non congested towns. You can’t drive here anymore without total congestion. THINK before you let them build!

Rem November 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm

What a smoking bombshell! I’d really like to find out what happened to bright-eyed idealist “let’s change Norwalk” Rilling and how he turned into “let’s not change Norwalk because everything’s fine and dandy!” Rilling. It’s quite the reversal!

Pamela Parkington November 1, 2017 at 1:25 pm

I’m a little confused here, “The central question is – why did you say this, and then do something else?” What specifically was the ‘something else’?

Lowes property was purchased 2012.

Waypoint property purchases around 2010.

Home Depot & Toys R Us are somewhere around 1993.

COSTCO land purchase goes back to 1998.

None of these big box stores fell under Rilling’s tenure as Mayor. The massive development you see in Norwalk was started years ago, these things just don’t pop up overnight.

So again I ask, what specifically was the ‘something else’ in regards to development and zoning issues?

Or is this, let’s blame him for everything that’s wrong with Norwalk thread.

And why is it that everyone picking on these two fast food chicken places? Too lowbrow for you? You know you live in Norwalk right not Westport or Darien?

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm

@Pamela Parkington, I’m picking on these two chicken places because I can’t get into the parking lots to buy the chicken. And when I try to do something else on Connecticut Avenue, I have to fight the traffic trying to get into these two chicken places. I’m not anti-chicken, just anti-poor Planning.

The original Waypointe approvals were given in 2011. Subsequent changes and additions have occurred under Rilling, most recently last month when the Zoning Commission granted an approval for a changed previously rejected by the Planning Commission.

The Lowes project began under Moccia and wound down under Rilling.

The SoNo Collection is all Rilling. And Rilling owns Firetree. Firetree alone turned my head around on insider governance and mismanagement at city hall. It’s possible to be a great guy and not be the best person for the job. Harry’s a good guy. But he’s not the mayor we need now. That person is Lisa Brinton.

Al Bore November 1, 2017 at 5:12 pm

So Pamela, you trashing Norwalk is ok however us saying let’s not continue heading down the wrong path, that you have a problem with. We can’t undo the past but we can try to make the present and the future better in Norwalk and that will only happen if we think before we build! You ever drive through Darien it is no picnic, so I’m not sure what you mean I just want to see things get better and smart development certainly can help.

Debora Goldstein November 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Pam,

They are picking on the two new fast-food restaurants because they have noticed that it now takes up twenty minutes to traverse that small stretch of Connecticut Avenue going Northbound, and that was not the case before they opened. People are paying in time and pollution, whether they eat there or not.

Education101 November 1, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I am a proud supporter and endorse Mayor Rilling for a third term. Please understand the mayor does not sit on a throne and can not simply waive a wand and change the structural state flaws preventing corporate development here. It’s unfortunate to see the same set of bashers littering the board and undeservedly criticize the mayor when it’s common knowledge that Connecticut does not have a friendly corporate environment (GE, Aetna . . . ring a bell?). Last I heard Stamford had a 50% commercial vacancy rate and in lieu of vacancies or more housing, I’ll put up with the traffic and take big box.

Mayor Rilling’s leadership credentials are stellar. Protecting tax payers against onerous mill rate increases /growing the grand list, intervening with the BOE when their proposed budget went off the rail again, saving the city millions in legal exposure with the mosque settlement and acting as a fiduciary when massive capital expenditures were being proposed for new schools. So let’s be real here and understand that this race is not about big ideas but about the practicality of managing city government which is a grind last time I looked at the city’s charter.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 1, 2017 at 8:36 pm

@Education101, I do not see Lisa Brinton’s candidacy as limited to big ideas without practical considerations about getting work done. But you cannot have lived in Norwalk through the Firetree mess and earnestly believe Mayor Rilling did not drop the ball. He was sent a certified letter from Firetree in 2014. The terms of the Federal BOP RFP mandated that this letter be sent to city and town leaders in order for the vendor to qualify for the funding. Firetree had not won the contract in 2014, nor did they own the propriety on Quintard. I have heard three explanations now from the mayor’s office regarding how this information was handled.
1. We get a lot of mail. We don’t remember this one.
2. We do remember this one and we gave it to corporation counsel.
3. We gave the letter to P&Z. The last one really shoots a hole in the argument that P&Z had no idea what was going on unlit neighbors alerted them. It will take millions to settle the litigation and still the likeliest outcome for Quintard is that #17 return to its former purpose as drug and alcohol rehab.

I have other reasons for not supporting the mayor’s reelection. Many of those reasons are attached to the particular strength of his chief opponent, Lisa Brinton. And many others are connected to gaffes I’ve seen over the past year. Fix it first. Library parking lot. Enabling the text change to the LDA to allow GGP to break ground without the mixed use we were promised. Failure to attend WestCOG meetings with any regularity, but managing against all odds to drive to New Haven to be photographed signing a mural on behalf of a non-US citizen resident of Norwalk. Rilling appeared with Bob Duff in protest of the first bipartisan budget—twice. After Malloy vetoed, the mayor said he had never endorsed a veto “per se”.

With all due respect, anyone who is truly proud to support the mayor’s history of missteps should not be posting anonymously. It makes people wonder how proud you really are.

Isabelle Hargrove November 1, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Education101. I guess everyone is entitled to their own history. I was personally very involved with the mosque and it is nothing but a huge stain on Mayor Rilling’s record. This senseless project was aborted DESPITE Rilling’s best efforts to wash his hands of it at the expense of the neighborhoods.

Growing our grand list???? Our grand list grew 1% last year, with ALL the development happening in town. BTW, Westport grew 2% with no grand change to their town. Do you live in Norwalk CT? Maybe you are on the wrong blog.

Also, you might want to check with Harry. Every speech he gives, he touts the $130M he just spent on the schools capital budget? So, it appears he bought into the massive expenditures for new schools, not that fiduciary after all…
Again, I am not sure whose record you are talking about.

It appears Education101 is much like mayor Rilling, good at grandstanding but loose with the facts. We can do better.

wineshine November 3, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Traffic in Norwalk IS a problem, but the bigger issue are the driving habits of Norwalkers, or at least those on our roads.

Cutting through parking lots to avoid lights is routine. Money spent on No Right on Red signs is a total waste. Turn signals appear to be totally optional. Tailgating? Don’t get me started. Traffic light synchonization is non-existent. The concept of alternating traffic at a four-way intersection of stop signs is lost on many. Right-of-way rules of the road are completely misunderstood. There is no excuse for being the first in line for a left turn, and getting “stuck” at a light. You pull your car forward, at which point you have the right of way, and make your turn. Yes folks, even if the light has changed. The DMV will be happy to provide you with a book of Rules of the Road. If everyone observes them, we have order. Otherwise, we have Norwalk.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

About Nancy

Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.