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Norwalk election notes: Division abounds

The election is Nov. 7.

Updated, 12:30 p.m.: Comments from David McCarthy.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s some election notes for you this Friday:

  • Who speaks for whom?
  • Formerly leading Republican boosts non-Republican candidate
  • Divided Norwalk?

‘Another Mushak missive’

The NoN comments section blew up Thursday as partisans traded charges and repeatedly sought to designate surrogates for campaigns other than their own.  If you have a few hours to spare, you can read the comments here.  The exchange led the NoN board of directors to post a reminder of the Comment Policy.

Mike Mushak, a supporter of Mayor Harry Rilling, listed a litany of incidents involving former Republican Common Council Member Dave McCarthy, and then questioned Brinton Thomson’s judgment over what Mushak alleged was a close association with McCarthy. “Dave McCarthy has found a new home with Lisa Brinton and a new tactic: return to politics in Norwalk not by being elected … but by sneaking in through the back door by supporting a political newcomer who should know better.”

Asked about McCarthy’s connection to her campaign, Brinton Thomson, in an email, replied: “Dave McCarthy is not the subject of the Lisa For Norwalk campaign.  We will not indulge Mr. Mushak’s toxic rant by dignifying this with a response.”

McCarthy, in a comment replying to Mushak on the NoN thread, said, “Mr. Mushak’s outright lies here libel me, and I call for a full retraction. That he has somehow shifted from attacking Lisa to trying to somehow associate her with me and thereby prove something is as laughable as his repeated attacks. I have donated money to a fine candidate, as I have to both Democrats and Republicans I felt were worthy over the years.”

Meanwhile, Brinton Thomson supporters alleged close ties between Mushak and Rilling, who this year appointed Mushak to the Planning Commission.  “It’s sad that the incumbent has accused other campaigns of going negative, and we have to waste time on this blatant mud-slinging on his behalf by his supporter,” Brinton Thomson treasurer Deb Goldstein said in a comment.

“Welcome to another Mushak Missive, courtesy of the Rilling Campaign,” Goldstein wrote in response to one of several lengthy posts by Mushak criticizing Brinton Thomson.

NoN asked Rilling if Mushak spoke for his campaign.  “No one is speaking for the Rilling campaign except me and those I authorize to speak for the Rilling campaign,” Rilling said in a phone call, asserting any suggestion that Mushak was speaking for the campaign is “totally false.”

“I’ve got a city to run. I speak for my campaign or I authorize someone to speak for my campaign. Mike is speaking for Mike,” Rilling said.

“There’s always been an issue between Mike and Dave, way back,” Rilling said. “I don’t think I knew Mike Mushak before I became mayor.”

A Democrat said Monday that the Brinton Thomson camp had taken over the NoN comments section and people were letting them do it, as a type of echo chamber, talking to each other.

Mushak said Thursday evening that the Brinton Thomson team was running amok in the comments section, so he was inspired him to speak up because no one else was.

“I’m just getting started,” he said.

“They seem like a gang of angry thugs,” he said in a late-night text message. “Ever hear Deb Goldstein say something nice about anyone or anything?”

 

 

McCarthy supporting Brinton Thomson mayoral bid

McCarthy, former Republican Town Committee vice chairman, appears to be publicly supporting Lisa Brinton Thomson’s independent Mayoral campaign while encouraging voters to ignore the Republican mayoral candidate.

Republican mayoral candidate Andy Conroy acknowledged at his Monday press conference that many Norwalkers don’t know he’s running for mayor, and that he needs to do a better job of spreading the word.

That drew a comment McCarthy on the NoN story quoting Conroy: “Mr. Conroy’s complaint seems self-inflicted. I don’t quite understand his motivations, but I reluctantly advise any Republican to simply ignore his somewhat unintelligible campaign, as he seems to be signalling you should.”

“Really sad, Dave. That you felt compelled to post this comment is really sad,” RTC Chairman Victor Cavallo replied.

McCarthy donated $1 to Conroy’s campaign, while donating $500 to Brinton Thomson’s.

“I have donated money to a fine candidate, as I have to both Democrats and Republicans I felt were worthy over the years,” McCarthy said in a comment on  NancyOnNorwalk today regarding his Brinton Thomson campaign donation.

He declined to comment further by email.

Rick Joslyn, Conroy’s campaign manager, said Thursday that Conroy was unaware of McCarthy’s comments. His email:

“Andy is far too busy with the campaign to peruse comments sections! I did check it out though, and it’s not at all surprising to see those kind of negative comments from him.

“As far as I know, Mr. McCarthy withdrew from politics, resigned from the Republican Town Committee, and announced plans to move out of Norwalk.  I had heard he had attached himself to Lisa Brinton’s candidacy for Mayor and has been helping her campaign, so it appears he is just resorting to attacking Andy on her behalf.  Andy, meanwhile, is focused on running a campaign that will bring together a winning coalition based around his vision of Norwalk and how it can be better for all.”

McCarthy, in an email to NancyOnNorwalk, pointed out that his intention to leave Norwalk was already the topic of an NoN story that mentioned that his house was for sale.

“It has not sold, but I don’t believe I have lost my right to free speech.  I have not attached myself to anything,” he wrote, continuing:

“I made a campaign donation to Lisa, who actively opposed me two years ago because I feel very strongly that the corruption in the Rilling Administration … is so rampant that he must be defeated.  Mr. Conroy has refused to run an active campaign, and when he has bothered to show up, he appears disheveled and disoriented.  I have asked him personally and directly to drop out of the race, because he is only splitting the ever growing anti-Rilling vote.  I have not done this at anyone’s direction, and I only did so reluctantly, and largely in private, because an accomplished and reasonable person is embarrassing himself.

“I am not sure who would have told Mr. Joslyn anything, but I am not surprised that like the mayor, he responds to legitimate and factual criticism with deflection and attempts at character assassination.  … Mr. Conroy reported in his own story that people don’t know he is running for mayor, three weeks before the election.  That is self-inflicted because he has not run a campaign.  He has a potted plant (the default WordPress install) as a website at http://conroyformayor.com/  I am not so partisan that I would support someone who will not support themselves.”

 

McCarthy and Brinton Thomson were both part of a successful effort to reject ballot questions opposing four-year mayoral terms and pay raises for Common Council Members.  Prior to that, Brinton Thomson reportedly campaigned against McCarthy’s Common Council re-election bid in 2015.

The last prominent Republican not to endorse the top of their party’s ticket was Republican Common Council member Nick Kydes in 2013, who endorsed then-candidate Harry Rilling, a Democrat, over incumbent Republican Richard Moccia.

 

‘So little unity’

Regina Krummel attended Thursday’s mayoral debate at the South Norwalk Community Center, declining to offer an opinion about the candidates afterwards.

The debate ended on a rancorous note.

“I think the city is so incredibly divided,” Krummel said. “I think there is so little unity. They talk about diversity but there is absolutely no unity in the city. I really feel that, more than when I first moved here. … It’s worse now than it’s ever been and there is no reason for this.”

Asked about that, State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140), who is also running for mayor as a petitioning candidate, said, “There are elements of us that are very divided. We used to be very united. Quite frankly, we are. Politically, we know that both of the political parties are divided – both of them. Why do you think I am running petition?”

Two Democratic incumbents are running as petition candidates, he said, naming Board of Education member Shirley Mosby and Common Council member Steve Serasis, who has switched his voter registration to unaffiliated.

Former Common Council member Sharon Stewart is also on the ballot without a Democratic Party endorsement, he said.

“Republicans are just as divided,” Morris said. “We are finding that party politics – it’s not the party, sometimes it’s just the leadership within the parties, are not doing enough to unite people around, ‘What are our common agendas to really help move us forward as a city? And picking the best candidates to get that done.”

NancyOnNorwalk expects to post a story Monday about the debate.

33 comments

John E. Tobin October 20, 2017 at 6:19 am

Our city leaders should focus on the many issues facing Norwalk, not on which candidate certain people may or may not support. All of this talk should be seen for what it is, election year mud slinging. This is all designed to deflect people’s attention away from the issues. The candidates need to rise above the rancor. It just leads to mis-statements about who knew who and when they knew them. Clearly Mayor Rilling knew Mike Mushak before he was mayor.

Stuart Wells October 20, 2017 at 7:39 am

Lisa Brinton and Bruce Morris are running as Petitioning Candidates for Mayor. Diane Lauricella is a Petitioning Candidate for Council at Large and Steve Serasis is a Petitioning Candidate for District A Councilman. Sharon Stewart (for Council at Large) and Shirley Mosby (for Board of Education) are on the ballot because they were endorsed by the Working Families Party. Serasis and Mosby are incumbents.
Under state law a candidate may not appear on the ballot as both a party-endorsed candidate and a Petitioning Candidate, but may be endorsed by two or more political parties. Such a cross-endorsed candidate will appear on the ballot line for each of those parties as long as the parties have obtained a ballot line for that office – either by being a “major party” (Republican or Democratic) or, in the case of a “minor party” (Working Families) by obtaining sufficient petition signatures this year, or by the minor party’s candidate receiving enough votes the last time that office was on the ballot.
There, see, nothing at all complicated or confusing about our election laws concerning “ballot access” — piece of cake.

Kathy Cole October 20, 2017 at 8:08 am

NancyOnNorwalk expects to post a story Monday about the debate? I would have thought NancyOnNorwalk would have posted a story today about yesterday’s debate. Instead you chose to give more space to Mike Mushak rantings by writing about his rantings followed by another section devoted to his major topic that Dave McCarthy supports Lisa Brinton. Ridiculous.

And in full disclosure, I am a very proud Lisa Brinton supporter.

David McCarthy October 20, 2017 at 8:32 am

I am very curious as to how I had no comment and then a few lines later, i have a comment and then I decline to comment again. I am starting to think that there might be some bias here, both in giving a platform to allow defamation as well as “selective reporting”

I responded to your email, which included multiple baseless accusations about some sort of association with Lisa, and I responded within 31 minutes. #fakenews

Pamela Parkington October 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

“We are finding that party politics – it’s not the party, sometimes it’s just the leadership within the parties, are not doing enough to unite people around, ‘What are our common agendas to really help move us forward as a city? And picking the best candidates to get that done.”

The NDTC voted and chose what the majority believed were their best candidates to run.

Nancy Chapman October 20, 2017 at 11:34 am

Dave, you sent an email that began with “off the record.” I replied and asked if the entire email was off the record or just the first paragraph. You didn’t reply to that one. We therefore didn’t use those paragraphs. Now that I have clearance, I’ll be adding them to the story.

The story clearly indicates that your statements were from the comment section, a public forum.

My email to you quoted the words of others and asked you about them, which is standard journalistic practice.

Rem October 20, 2017 at 11:35 am

Not sure what the comment above about thugs is about. I’ve unfortunately met real thugs (not on purpose), and also a politician whom I later found out hired a security officer to beat up people (this was not in the USA) and I don’t think any of the mayoral candidates are “thug-like”. Also I’ve been to CNNA meetings and Deb Goldstein has always been soft-spoken and polite.

Nancy Chapman October 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

Kathy, yes, I’m posting a story Monday. I need to sleep and as is obvious, I spent yesterday afternoon moderating comments rather than completing the two stories I was working on. I am going to write a full story that completely covers the debate, not something thrown together to make a deadline. That takes time.

Bob Welsh October 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Kathy:

A former vice-chair of the Republican party publicly advised Republicans to ignore the party’s mayoral candidate, and he publicly supports an independent. By any definition that is news.

Also, please see yesterday’s reminder from the NON BOD about comments.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 20, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Mushak: they seem like a gang of angry thugs.

And the CNNA meeting where Mushak wielded a broad cudgel against the entire room was an example of what?

His apology at the next meeting notwithstanding, Mushak also squeezed in an “I felt unsafe” comment seemingly to defend the bad behavior. And yet no one really felt unsafe or threatened during that tirade. Nor are Mushak’s comments here—as provocative as they often are—any cause for real alarm. {…} Mayor Rilling does not consider Mushak a spokesperson, which is wise because Mushak isn’t doing the mayor any favors.
Edited to remove an insult.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski October 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I’d just like to say I’m glad to see the word “publicly” spelled correctly, not just once but three times.

Mike Mushak October 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I do not work for the Rilling campaign, even though Deb Goldstein wrongly stated that I did. I’m too busy to work on anyone’s campaign, but I do strongly support Harry as he’s the best candidate by far.

I got to know Harry when he ran for mayor in 2013, and at the same time while serving with him on Zoning a few months before he was elected. Technically John Tobin is right, I knew Harry before he was mayor. But before that few months time I only knew him as the competent Police Chief but never met him.

His calm and professional approach even during the most difficult situations, and his outstanding resume and experience is why I supported him then, and why I continue to support him now. Harry has devoted his entire life to helping Norwalk andcots diverse communities, and that combination of skills and passion is admirable.

Donna, you again misrepresent the facts. At the CNNA meeting you speak of, you accused me of “weilding a broad cudgel against the room” after I stated calmly that I had heard a lot of anti-development sentiment in the room. I was then hit with shouting by you and several others by all accounts.

Just today, on a comment on another post, you said everyone in the room except one didn’t want any more apartment buildings built, which is what I heard also in the room which is why I mentioned it. That’s the “broad cudgel” I supposedly wielded yet that same observation was just supported by your own recollection of the opinions everyone shared in the room! Isn’t that interesting to say the least.

You then stated here in NoN that since I had made that “broad cudgel”, I didn’t belong on the Planning Commission, even though we had never met and you had no idea of my long history fighting for our communities all over the city. It’s like you moved here and decided to pick fights with everyone in sight including dedicated volunteers as well anyone who dared to disagree with you.

. Now that you told the truth about my statement that reiterated your own account of what was said, I assume you will apologize for making that false allegation. I’ll be waiting!

I did apologize to the room at the next CNNA meeting because I felt so bad about saying what I thought I had heard at the time, and now confirmed by you it actually was, but based on your extreme reaction and personal public attack on me over it, I felt like I had to apologize just to keep the peace, and I did say it was based on misunderstanding what I had said. Now I know I was manipulated by your irrational attacks, and am wiser to it now.

And to your other point, I did feel threatened earlier in that meeting when I stated calmly that the zoning conflicts with the contractor yards all over South Norwalk are a legacy of the dozens of factories that once were there, and that I had an etching in my house of the area in the 1890’s that showed SoNo was a sea of smoke stacks with a factory on almost every block, including Ryan Park that currently has contaminated soil from a former factory that has to be mitigated.

No sooner did I say that and someone I had never met before jumped out of his chair, and came over to me as he shouted at the top of his lungs that I was dead wrong and that “AMEC didn’t belong there”. It was also bizarre as I was also against AMEC and had said nothing about it actually. After the man stood right in front of me shouting and waving his arms, he left the room. Despite being a bit upset after that unprovoked attack as anyone would have been, that’s when I continued my commenting (it was my turn to speak as we went around the room) and said I had heard a lot of anti-development sentiment in the room, and a few folks including you continued the verbal assault against me. The organizer of the meeting, Diane CeCe, said nothing at the time as folks interrupted me as I spoke with rude shouts. She also the two mayoral candidates Lisa Brinton and Brice Morris speak freely from their seats in the middle of the room, even though the meeting wasn’t noticed as a mayoral forum. I mentioned that as well, and shouting continued!

I know lots of folks who won’t ever go to another CNNA meeting after being verbally assailted like that over the years, and I saw it happen that night also to a representative from Silvermine who was humiliated by Deb Goldstein in front of everyone. It was embarrassing for everyone in the room.

Now I’m convinced I never needed to apologize for anything I said that night, now that my observation there was proven right by your own admission, and yet you continue to hurl insults at me for simply stating the truth.

I think everyone can what’s happening here, which is basically the same version of what happened at the CNNA meeting. Apparently no matter what I say I will be attacked by folks with their own political agenda, namely to promote Lisa Brinton by spreading misinformation and attacking anyone who dares question her or her supporters.

I call that thuggery, and we had that for years under the prior mayor. I’m afraid the evidence points to a return to that dysfunctional system under Lisa, considering the bad behavior we are seeing of many of her enablers and supporters. And that’s a “broad cudgel” based on the evidence before me.

Cindy October 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm

It seems to me that the Democratic party is unified in their decision not to endorse Bruce Morris, Sharon Stewart, Shirley Mosby and Steve Serrasis. Do you really need a lengthy explanation as to why?

The article and comment from Bruce Morris make it appear as if there is some inner turmoil within the party. There is not. The party has clearly decided to endorse other, better suited candidates.

…now if you look at other candidates/parties and the folks that are continually commenting and disputing their candidates positions etc, it paints quite a different picture. This is what residents have to look forward to if voting for one of these other candidates.

I’ll be sticking with Harry.

Jody Sattler October 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm

I also donated $500 to Lisa’s campaign. Will I also get berated by Mike Mushak for my support? Will I be the next topic of criticism for my years of service to the City of Norwalk?

I believe Lisa is the best candidate for Mayor of Norwalk. I am tired of the city departments having zero accountability. A city manager would give department heads a real boss who could assess performances, track projects, plan for the future and avoid the constant reactionary decision making that occurs now.

Vote for Lisa for the future of Norwalk. Vote for the others if you want to continue the same antiquated practices of the past. It’s very simple.

Mike Mushak October 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Jody, of course not. Dave McCarthy was outed for all his bad behavior and dirty politics over the years, things I’m sure you would never have done as most people wouldn’t.

This includes distributing racist fliers full of white supremacist-inspired language {…}, misleading the Common Council and the public many times on the record, making false allegations against his politcal opponents, and following a political opponent around to secretly record him and then publishing the videos online.

If you haven’t done any of those things, no need to worry!
Comment edited

Bryan Meek October 20, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Curious. Has anyone yet seen a bicycle using the sharrows on Grumman and Toilsome since they went in last month? How much money did we waste on these? Or are we multi-tasking and stealing lawn signs at the same time? At least that would save on the overtime.

David McCarthy October 20, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Nancy…check your outbox for ‘stuck’ email. No such email arrived. Thank you for correcting the issue.

Mike Mushak October 20, 2017 at 11:49 pm

Bryan, thank you for your question. I’ve seen cyclists on these roads, both before and after the sharrows were added, just as I’ve seen them increasing all over town.

They are not a “waste of money” by any definition. It’s been proven that bike-friendly neighborhoods have higher property values and are more attractive to families with young children as well as older folks and retirees who want to bike for exercise.

In fact, studies show bike lanes and sharrows return at least $4 in economic rewards for every $1 invested, or a 400% return on the investment. As a money guy wouldn’t you say that’s a pretty smart investment, especially since it’s just cheap paint on the road?

That’s not to mention the safety benefits, including slower average speeds (5-7 mph slower with sharrows and bike lanes, a big concern in a city where speeding is the biggest complaint at City Hall), which benefits car occupants as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Car accidents at slower speeds reduce both injuries and deaths for the car occupants, so why not add a bit of cheap paint on the road to achieve these goals?

If a pedestrian or cyclist is hit by a car going 40 mph, they have a 90% chance of being killed. That mortality rate drops to 50% at 30 mph, or 10% at 20 mph. Since both kids and adults are riding bikes and walking to Cranbury Park and Cranbury School, which are located near Toilsome and Grumman, as well as other folks just out walking their dog or pushing their kid in a stroller, or anyone of any age going for a bike ride, it makes perfect sense to help save their lives by adding some cheap paint to the road to slow traffic and remind folks that bikes may be sharing the road.

In smart communities across the country, bike lanes and sharrows can’t be put in fast enough to improve safety and attract families and retirees.

This includes red states and Republican-run cities in places as conservative as Texas and Oklahoma and Indiana, all places I’ve ridden bikes at on extensive bike lane systems in both urban and suburban settings. This is because smart leaders on both sides of the aisle see all the evidence, and know it makes not just fiscal sense, but also a moral responsibility to save lives and reduce injuries, not just for cyclists but for cars and pedestrians as well.

We see more and more folks biking every day, and hear stories around town of dusty old bikes in garages and sheds being brought out and used for the first time in years as folks feel safer and more confident cycling on our expanding network of bike lanes and sharrows.

Meanwhile, smart conservatives and liberals alike from across the country can’t put in bike lanes fast enough (and tolls, but that’s another story for another time!), because they see all the great benefits flow from such an easy and minimal investment.

It ‘s astonishing to see anyone in 2017 describe a simple cheap improvement like bike sharrows, that provides so many economic and public safety benefits, as a “waste of money”. On the contrary, the evidence from around the country shows it’s one of the smartest and easiest investments any city can make to maintain healthy attractive neighborhoods for folks of all ages and abilities, with stable property values and high quality of life.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 21, 2017 at 12:54 am

@Mike, if there was some enforcement of existing bike lanes, adding more might make sense. I don’t see cyclists using bike lanes on Water street. Usually I dodge bike going the wrong way on the sidewalks.

Mike you did not know who I was at the first CNNA meeting I attended—at which you wielded a board cusgel. You introduced yourself to me at the second CNNA meeting I attended. If you think on reflection that you were right to attack everyone in the room for things they didn’t say, then there is no value to any dialogue with you.

[ignore]

Bryan Meek October 21, 2017 at 9:10 am

It’s only a matter of time before a cyclist is killed on Grumman Avenue. Comparing older cities with 100 year old infrastructure and layout to newer, more modern ones with very wide roads is foolish. The layout on Belden Avenue isn’t even within suggested safety guidelines. The late Hal Alvord said as much and was replaced not shortly thereafter. The city will eventually be held liable for this. When society keeps catering to just a few out of the needs of 1000s, insolvency is inevitable.

Mike Mushak October 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Bryan, the bike lanes on Belden Ave follow national standards. We have 5 foot bike lanes in most places there but we had to do 4 foot bike lanes in a few places where there was limited room, a situation recommended by AASHTO in situations where lane narrowing isn’t enough to get the space needed but where safer bike lanes are preferred.

Hal Alford may have said they didn’t because he didn’t support them and actually fought them, but that was based more on politics at the time then on AASHTO standards that we showed him many times. I’m not sure why he chose to ignore the AASHTO standards, but he did.

As far as Grumman Ave,and anywhere else in town, bikes are allowed by state and federal law on all roads. They are there already as folks ride their bikes to the park and school and for general recreation and commuting. Adding sharrows or bike lanes only enhances the safety of what is already allowed, and actually helps reduce speeds which reduces deaths and injuries for car occupants as well as pedestrians.

So all users of the road benefit, cars, bikes, and pedestrians, including local residents tired of speeding traffic through their neighborhoods.

Mike Mushak October 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Bryan, I forgot to respond to that study you linked to and your comment “this is what progressivism looks like.”

I appreciate your opinion so I read the article. It showed the spike of deaths was attributed to 3 things:

A 62% increase in commuting by bicycle, so naturally accident rates would increase.

2/3 of the cyclists killed weren’t wearing helmets.

1/3 of the cyclists killed had high blood alcohol level.

So the takeaway of that study is always wear your helmet, and don’t drink and ride. Thanks for sharing. Nice to learn something useful from reading NoN!

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 21, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Before Norwalk adds more bike lanes, can enforcement be stepped up? Walking along Water Streer, across the Stroffolino and up Seaview Avenue, bikes on the sidewalks are commonplace. Pedestrians often have to step into the bike lanes or into traffic to avoid the bikes. And then there are the kids popping wheelies on Water into oncoming traffic, often without helmets and after dark without lights.

Also how many studies has the city paid for over the last ten years or so, what has the cost of these studies been and what are the measurable results? I know the parking study and POCD development are ongoing to the tune of $400,000. There’s a TOD study. There was a $500,000 transportation management plan commissioned by dpw in 2012. And there was a Norwalk Pedestrian & Bikeway Transportation Plan by Fitzgerald & Halliday. That must have cost something. At some point a Yale student and others also addressed the issue of connectivity, bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.

The City has spent a bit of time and money on studies. Do we need another consultant to collate and consolidate the information from all the other studies to make sure that the Master Plan includes data from all of the other studies we’ve already paid for? IMO the POCD is underfunded. And maybe some of the other studies have been duplicative.

Bryan Meek October 22, 2017 at 12:15 am

Mike, Does the Bike lane crusade dictate policy for DPW under the current team? You seem like you might know? Thanks for helping Nancy shine a light.

Mike Mushak October 22, 2017 at 7:58 am

Bryan, the goal has always been a collaborative effort between departments including the new Bike/Walk
Commission (formerly the B/W Task Force), DPW, P and Z, Redevelopment, Police Department, and Rec and Parks, to help implement the recommendations in millions of dollars of plans and studies including DPW’s own $500K Transportation Management Plan, the Norwalk Connectivity Study, the Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Plan, and the Norwalk Bike Route Plan.

These plans and studies are all available online, and the new Bike/Walk Commission is tasked with helping coordinate the departments to help implement them.

Since most of the hard-working (and I’d say overworked because they are understaffed from years of budget cuts) city engineers in DPW don’t live in Norwalk and most don’t ride bikes or have the time to walk around our numerous neighborhoods, they rely on the plans and studies and feedback from the public and safety advocates to help them make decisions.

Since most of the bike infrastructure is just cheap paint in the form of stripes and symbols, and simple signage, it’s been a relatively small expense to absorb for the great return on benefits, including slower traffic speeds, safer sidewalks (the bike lanes act as a buffer between traffic and sidewalks in some places, like Beach Rd.), higher property values and neighborhoods more attractive to young families and retirees or folks “aging in place” (as studies have shown), and most importantly increased safety not just for cyclists of all ages and abilities, but also for pedestrians and cars with expected reduced deaths and injuries resulting from slower speeds.

All Bike/Walk meetings are noticed and open to the public, all the plans and studies went through a rigorous process of years of public meetings and workshops going back at least 10 years, and improving bike infrastructure and pedestrian amenities is in our current Master Plan of Conservation and Development and will most definitely be in the new one as well, as an essential element of our city’s future as it is in every town and city around the country.

Bryan Meek October 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

@Donna. Not sure if you are talking about the same survey (Fitzgerald & Halloway), but that one left Grumman Avenue off in spite of having almost every other major street and the fact it connects to Cranbury Park. Magically, the sharrows ended up on there even though it wasn’t part of the study. So we spend money on the surveys and then the commission does whatever the heck it wants to anyway….and we pay for it all.

Mike Mushak October 22, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Bryan, Grumman Ave is listed in the study, on page 7, because it’s near a school and a park.

Toilsome was not listed but we got public feedback from Cranbury residents, when working on the City-wide Bike Plan in 2014, that cyclists used Toilsome frequently because of lighter traffic there instead of using Chestnut Hill/Newtown Ave., and on the map it’s a good parallel to Chestnut Hill.

Two years ago when Chestnut Hill (Route 53) was repaved, we worked hard to get ConnDOT to narrow the travel lanes to 10 ft instead of mostly 12 feet previously. They stubbornly insisted on 11 feet even though 10 feet is in their own standard for arterials (10-12 ft is the standard listed). So, we got slightly wider shoulders but if the DOT
had listened to us we would have had shoulders a foot wider on each side, and slower traffic as 10 foot lanes are shown to do in National Highway Adminstration studies. These studies show 10 foot lanes work fine in areas with speed limits under 40 mph, and on Route 53 it’s 30-35 mph.

So, the engineers at DOT decided pedestrian and bike safety were not a priority on that road, and refused our local feedback on improving safety there.

Now traffic is still speeding at 45-50 mph in thf 30-35 mph zones, and the skinny shoulders are too dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians who we see a lot of along that corridor. We have this experience a lot with the DOT ignoring common sense solutions on our roads, mostly because of arrogance and nothing else.

Literally weeks after the new wider lanes went in an elderly man was struck and killed near the Lutheran Church while walking along the road. I still wonder if the state had listened to us if that man would have survived.

It’s a fact that if you are a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car going 40 mph you have a 90% chance of being killed, but the mortality rate drops to 50% only 10 mph slower at 30 mph, and you have only a 10% chance of being killed if hit by a car going 20 mph.

It makes a huge difference to slow traffic even by 5-10 mph which is what sharrows do, making the street safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and cars since injuries and deaths in cars drop also in accidents at slower speeds.

Since Grumman is a known speedway for folks heading to Cranbury Park, Cranbury School, and points north beyond in Westport, we felt it was a priority for Cranbury residents to help make their neighborhood safer as soon as possible with the traffic calming effects of sharrows.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 22, 2017 at 10:03 pm

@Bryan Meek, I’ve read mixed reviews on the safety of sharrows for cyclists. Ideally we’d have protected bike lanes, trails and sidewalks. And traffic safety would be enforced for cyclists and cars. I’m not sure how much the city spent on the Fitzgerald Halliday study. But Norwalk seems to have a few expensive studies in the can without having anything that consolidates all the data and conclusions into something that looks like a Master Plan with teeth that informs Planning and Zoning decisions instead of multiple duplicative studies and plans that may or may not compete with each other.

Without enforcement of existing bike lanes, there’s no point adding more.

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