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Brinton Thomson takes aim at Rilling’s Walk Bridge tactics

The election is Nov. 7.

NORWALK, Conn. — Lisa Brinton Thomson, unaffiliated candidate for Norwalk mayor, on Thursday criticized incumbent Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling for his efforts regarding the state’s expected massive effort to rebuild the aged railroad bridge over the Norwalk River.

“The lack of leadership from our mayor and the state is simply not good enough,” Brinton Thomson said at a press conference, sitting near the Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX Theater and the Walk Bridge.

The state is expected to tear down the IMAX Theater to provide room for construction equipment. Aquarium leaders are working toward building a 4-D theater as a replacement on the other side of the aquarium, but funding is not yet certain.

“It’s a step in the right direction if the state actually makes one organization whole,” Brinton Thomson said. “However, there doesn’t appear to be anyone asking for, or fighting for, anything of this magnitude on behalf of the other businesses and residents that will also be affected by this project.”

“I am shocked and concerned by the very real prospect of actually paying for this (IMAX) building three times, with taxpayer money-albeit from different sources,” Brinton Thomson said, later explaining that “three times” refers to the initial construction, the building of a new theater and the pending demolition.

“Even if replacing the bridge is absolutely essential, and I am willing to believe it is, Norwalk is being treated as a mere bystander by the state,” Brinton Thomson said. “…I am at a loss for words when I consider that this past year, we had a 109-page report indicating the impacts that would befall Norwalk if this project went ahead. With no in depth analysis, even though a request for a written response had been made, the state was allowed to simply dictate that there was ‘No Significant Impact because of this project. And our mayor said nothing.”

“So far, the current administration has simply played ball with Hartford, trusting that they will make Norwalk whole,” she said. “Unfortunately, the state has a poor track record of looking after our city, having taken advantage of Norwalk for years with the Educational Cost Sharing formula – and so I have no reason believe they will look after our best interests now, unless we a lot more noise.”
She suggested possible compensations from the state:

  • “Norwalk should receive special allocations to assist with the construction of our two new schools, due to the near permanent removal of property tax producing residential and commercial properties from the tax rolls
  • “The state should help in the re-opening the Wall Street train station
  • “The state should insist Metro North make capital investments along the Norwalk portion of the New Haven line to compensate riders for delays and other hardships inflicted on the city.
  • “The state should provide grants to the taxing districts to compensate for the permanent removal of income producing customers from their service territories
  • “The state should, and this is a real minimum, provide a commitment to hire local labor and using local businesses where possible during the projects”

 

She did not respond to subsequent emails asking what capital investments she had in mind for the New Haven line.

Rilling has previously expressed support for a Wall Street train station.

His response to her comments:

“While I appreciate my opponents’ efforts to offer suggestions, her lack of understanding, experience and leadership ability is shining through yet again.  It is shocking to me that a person with zero experience in government, zero experience in managing large budgets, zero experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects would seem to think she knows better than our elected officials, attorneys, engineers, planners and citizens at the local, state and federal level who have been immersed in this project for over a year.

“We have hosted at least a half dozen public meetings (of which I believe Ms. Thompson attended one) where she could have had the opportunity to get a better understanding of the process and options. As I’ve said many times, my team and I have had over 50 meetings with the State. We understand what is at stake and are working in partnership with the state to accomplish the best outcome for Norwak.

“A true leader understands the process (or at least makes an effort to learn about it), the leverage points (not while there is no state budget in place) and works to achieve the best outcome for all stakeholders (not only a small group of friends). A true leader brings people together to find solutions (not putting stakeholders against one another).  A true leader does not make snap decisions and pronouncements with little to no information.

“I have been a staunch advocate for Norwalk throughout this process and will make sure we not only continue to thrive during construction but have a strategy in place to make South Norwalk an even more vibrant part of our City at the conclusion of the project.”

 

Brinton Thomson, in an email, said she had attended “two public hearings for sure.”

“The first one last year, when they proposed the three solutions and provided an overview in the Concert Hall,” she said. “At that time, I submitted a written statement for the Wall Street Train Station.   Then the one a couple of weeks ago.”

Rilling has said that he has been in 50-60 meetings with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to discuss the Walk Bridge project.

Republican candidate Andy Conroy has also held a press conference to denounce Rilling’s approach to the Walk Bridge dilemma. State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140), like Brinton Thomson a petitioning candidate, said at a recent debate that the “horse is out of the barn” as far as protecting Norwalk during the years of construction, agreeing with Brinton Thomson that once the Common Council authorized the signing of a master municipal agreement with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Norwalk’s leverage was gone.

Lisa Brinton Thomson, unaffiliated candidate for Norwalk mayor, expresses her thoughts Thursday while sitting next to the Maritime Aquarium.

12 comments

Sue Haynie November 3, 2017 at 6:36 am

Lisa will Fight for Norwalk, not just say she will.

Rilling’s statement is a deflection. Going to 50 meetings doesn’t matter if, in the end, he still undersold Norwalk. Rilling did not fight.

“The lack of leadership from our mayor and the state is simply not good enough,” Lisa Brinton.

Tony P November 3, 2017 at 7:06 am

Agree w/ Lisa here – two new schools, rehabbing/adding to Liberty Square and the Wall Street Station should be the minimum ask – everything else is icing. The new schools could also be a consolation prize for the state screwing us on ECS funding like, forever. Shes 100% right on this.

Patrick Cooper November 3, 2017 at 9:06 am

Lisa Brinton Thomson – do not underestimate her abilities.

Before today, it was unimaginable that @Tony P and I would ever agree on anything. Isn’t it refreshing when a cobalt blue union guy like Tony P and politically agnostic me can fully agree that Lisa is 100% right here. To those who say she can’t build a coalition – wrong. When competence and determination are focused on the right solutions – when these solutions supersede party affiliation and bind diverse residents by our common desire for what’s best for Norwalk – then you have truly found leadership.

This Tuesday, November 7th – vote for that future. Vote for Lisa Brinton Thomson for mayor – line D.

RJ November 3, 2017 at 10:13 am

Holding a press conference in front of the Walk Bridge to call out a “lack of leadership” from the mayor….what a great idea!! ♻️♻️♻️ 🙂

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

Lisa seems to be taking aim at Rilling’s lack of tactics. Most Norwalkers I speak to have no idea what’s coming down the pipeline and how completely their lives will be impacted, not to mention the impact on area businesses. Sounds like the FONSI report sat on the Mayor’s desk, buried in a pile that includes Firetree’s 2014 letter. There will be an impact. It will be considerable. And all the state is offering is a new seal habitat, a new IMAX, and an historic designation across the river. The Meercats are getting more out of this deal than the average Norwalker.

Diane Lauricella November 3, 2017 at 10:52 am

One aspect of the negotiations that I find alarming is a supposed agreement about assigning $2.5 million taxpayer dollars for an iron fence around Lockwood Mathews Mansion. This needs to be put on HOLD immediately pending an open, transparent discussion that involves the general public.

What was the PROCESS to decide this tradeoff and exactly who was involved in that discussion?

While I am very glad that the historic value of the bridge has been part of the discussion, it appears that there could be many more viable ways to expend the historic project money.

Norwalk is blessed to have many dedicated, knowledgeable citizens who care about the historic fabric of Norwalk but couldn’t this money be better spent on rebuilding the facades of historic Wall Street and helping historic SoNo’s economic slump as well? Just asking.

Whoever wins this election day, both on the Council and in the Mayor’s office, a true sign of leadership is the ability to prioritize needs. Certainly iron fencing cannot be the only important historic need. What other projects could be viable?

The question must be, “It may be nice, but is it necessary?”

Cindy November 3, 2017 at 11:51 am

Let’s stop acting like nothing is being done for the sake of political theatrics.

Sorry… this is a B.S. propaganda event staged a few days before the election. ( no different than the bogus Poko event )

All it does is show how ignorant Lisa is on the topic of the Walk Bridge. ( and Donna you can spin this any way you want, it doesn’t change the fact that Lisa is uninformed )

The city has been meeting with the state for months and months over the impact of the project.
Pena has been relocated, other property owners compensated, Maritime Center compensated for the new building/Imax, the latest Lockwood portion compensated. Discussions related to the impact to Veterans park and Seaport Association are being held.

This state hasn’t even finished the full scope of the project so how do we/they know exactly what is impacted? It seems to me as the planning gets to a stage where the impacts are known, the State has been very responsive in addressing our concerns.

Yes! Let’s ask for all sorts of things in terms of compensation but lets get real. It took the State legislators months to come to terms for a budget and now they’re going to pay for new schools? what?

What precedent would this follow? None! and the state is not going to start handing out money for projects that are in no way shape or form related to the Walk Bridge Project.

I can’t wait for Election Day to come so all this drama can stop. Enough already.

While I do not agree 100% with everything that Harry has done in his 4 years, I truly believe he is the best candidate for Mayor. The alternatives are grim and any of the others will actually be a detriment to the progress of Norwalk.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 3, 2017 at 12:48 pm

@Cindy, East Norwalk businesses are taking a hit on this project. Great that Lockwood Matthews and the MA will get taxpayer money to spruce up. But what is being done to compensate Norwalk residents and business owners for the colossal impact on their lives and livelihood? What specific things has Harry done to advocate for Norwalk, which is now just taking one for the team so that metro north and Amtrak can make infrastructure improvements?

Cindy we are all ears. What I’ve read is that Harry goes to a lot of meetings and takes a lot of lunches. If he’s come back with more than a doggie bag, I’d be surprised. I stand by my earlier remark. The meercats will come out of this mess better than the average citizen. And their life expectancy is only 10-15 years. The state has thrown us a bone. If this project has real value for the state and northeast corridor, they can be persuaded to pony up. But for whatever political reason, Hartford Democrats have apparently leaned on the mayor to keep the demands to a minimum. I suspect there were deep political motivations at work here involving Malloy and Duff at a minimum. Imagine if Malloy had moved on to become secretary of transportation under a Clinton administration what a feather in his cap the Walk Bridge would be! The spending is breathtaking. Norwalk has never hired its own engineers to weigh in on the need to tear down and rebuild the bridge. The road lowerings in east Norwalk could have been addressed using bridge strike technology. But Harry’s anonymous, proud loyalists are still blowing smoke up our skirts on behalf of a mostly well meaning but largely ineffectual incumbent.

Debora Goldstein November 3, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Mitigation, for impacts is required by law, and will be done when they become known. By law, the removal of the bridge which is listed on the national historic registry, requires compensation in the historical arena…thus the lockwood matthews improvements and the creation of a historical records of the bridge removal.

And yes, eminent domain victims get “compensated” FMV for their land and buildings.

The compensatory requests above and beyond those required by law are the negotiable items , much like the Q Bridge project.Such as rebuilding the maritime,and upgrading it.

Bryan Meek November 3, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Weld it shut and re-evaluate options before this atom bomb project destroys our city. Our Mayor should stand for us first before the DOT.

Rick November 5, 2017 at 6:17 pm

The deal at the Mansion was a disgrace a fence should of gone around the Cemetery where FBI facts show curfew fences and cameras are the norm for sacred places of rest.

Norwalk has way too many problems to leave it to those concerned in where its going and nt where it is.

facts will show and Cindy is right, a spanish cop in Norwalk where they still go out and get other depts to send a woman and someone who speaks spanish but The Hour makes it sound like progress is soaring.

The accreditation of the NPD at what cost and some chiefs say its a waste of money you get decals for the cruisers and based on officers and population does the city get billed.

GGP is losing ground while building on it, Norwalk was sold a mall what is it we are actually getting? 50 restaurants and a grocery store

Everyone is going solar power but Oyster shell

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