Norwalk political notes: Inside and out

Norwalk Common Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B).

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Monday:

  • An opponent for Wilms?
  • Bowman plans exit
  • Duff SGC move
  • Barron slams King’s ‘silly’ comment
  • Barron admires Norwalk


Ben Page-Fort versus Wilms?

Ben Page-Fort is interested in running against State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) this year, according to minutes of the Feb. 20 Democratic Town Committee meeting.

Neither DTC Chairman Ed Camacho nor DTC Vice Chairwoman Galen Wells returned an email asking for Page-Fort’s contact information.

Page-Fort is the senior business development manager at Stat-Pro, the “leading provider of cloud solutions for risk, performance, attribution, GIPS composites management and reporting,” according to his LinkedIn page. He’s held that position for nearly a year; before that he was a senior account executive at IBM, from July 2015 to March 2017.

His IBM career goes back to December 2013, beginning with the Blue Spark Strategy Program for a year and four months, then as a risk analytics sales specialist for nearly three years.

Page-Fort holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Connecticut School of Business. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and business technology.

City tax records show he moved to Silvermine in 2016.

Wilms is seeking his third term, after succeeding Larry Cafero in 2014.


Bowman plans to leave Norwalk

“I will probably be moving out of Norwalk pretty soon, because I can own a home someplace else,” Common Council member Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) said on Feb. 21, during a discussion about the cost of housing in Norwalk.

Council member Doug Hempstead (R-District D) had asked Human Relations & Fair Rent Department Director Adam Bovilsky and Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney about the low percentage of city employees who live in Norwalk.

“I will tell you I hear over and over and over again, the people who say it’s too expensive to live in Norwalk,” Bovilsky said. “We have folks that work for the city full time and are in public housing. They still qualify for public housing and the rents are too high.”

Higher level employees may have applied as professionals but don’t want to move their families, he said.

Bowman said she lives in St. Paul’s Flax Hill Co-op, described by the Simon Konover Company as “subsidy, affordable.”

Three Norwalk Police officers live in St. Paul’s, along with Council member Travis Simms (D-District B), Bowman said, explaining that she used to think police officers should live in Norwalk but “when you start looking, it’s almost like common sense.”

Bowman said in a follow-up email that the date of her exodus and final destinations are “still to be determined.”


Duff seeks state protection for elected officials

There’s no authorship listed for Connecticut General Assembly Raised Bill 319, but it appears connect to State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).

An Act Concerning Parent Members Of School Governance Councils would protect the right of public officials to serve on School Governance Councils.

The Norwalk Board of Education is considering a policy change to prohibit certain elected and appointed officials from serving on SGCs. Duff is on the Norwalk High School SGC.

This is a topic on the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education, where BoE Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek posted a letter and said, “Senator Bob Duff, standing up for himself.”

The Feb. 6 letter is from Duff to the three Committee on Children leaders asking that the Committee raise An Act Concerning Parent Members Of School Governance Councils.

The bill wouldn’t affect Duff, a parent told Meek on the Facebook page, saying, “Actually He is not standing up for himself at all. This is his last year on the council and he would be grandfathered anyway. He is standing up for others.”

Meek replied, “That’s a fair assessment. Where are the letters pleading the Governor or others to stop cutting our grants?”

Policy Committee Chairwoman Heidi Keyes said, “Our SGC is still up for discussion as a policy committee. We will be discussing this and other issues relating to SGC.”


Barron: King’s comment ‘inflammatory’

Finance Director Bob Barron at a recent Planning Commission meeting responded to a comment left by Commissioner Nora King on NancyOnNorwalk.

“That’s silly,” he said of King’s comment alleging that fees go into the Rainy Day Fund, “which Bob Barron won’t let us spend on items that our important to the tax base.”

“I don’t let anybody spend anything,” he said. “I make recommendations. Appropriate bodies appropriate and you can spend up to that appropriation. The Common Council makes the appropriations for capital and the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation) makes the appropriation for operating budget. The idea that you would write this inflammatory language, ‘that Bob Barron won’t let us spend on items that are important to the tax base’ is just silly and it’s untrue.”

Regarding her description of an “ugly cycle… controlled by the Finance men that don’t even live in the city,” he said, “I’ll tell ya, I think there’s advantages for having people that live in the city, that know the city, inside and out. But I think there’s disadvantages, too. Do you want me voting on something that impacts the teacher that has my son in the classroom? Do you want me voting on a Parks program that other members of my family are in? I think that there’s a level of objectivity that you can maintain and it makes it easier. I think any professional will maintain their objectivity whether they live in or out of the city but I think living out of the city allows me to maintain a level of objectivity that maybe someone that lived in the city didn’t.”

“So those three items are completely wrong, completely inflammatory and frankly, I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Michael Ferguson said he hadn’t seen King’s comment. Barron handed out copies.


Barron admires Norwalk

The city’s Triple A rating is a big topic as budget discussion continue; Barron told the Planning Commission that he used to be finance director for West Haven, which was rated Triple B minus.

“They had their problems,” Barron said. “It was a family run town. they have a lot of difficulties. I am so impressed with Norwalk. I am impressed with the volunteers in each of these agencies, the amount of time you have to spend to prepare for these decisions. I make my recommendations based on the financial impact. You guys live here, you know what your vision for the city of Norwalk is and I encourage you to make your recommendation based on what you want to accomplish. I am just doing the financial analysis to give you the impact of whatever level of funding you choose.”

Later, he said, “I am so impressed with all the Commissions and Committees that I come before. It is a real privilege to work in Norwalk. It is a very, very well-run town and I can say that from having an outside perspective.”


Dave McCarthy March 5, 2018 at 7:04 am

Bob Barron is a professional who is held hostage by the system and mayor. Nora King demonstrates who she is again by her {…}comments
Edited to remove an insult, a violation of the comments policy

Nora K King March 5, 2018 at 8:24 am

This article is ridiculous.

1.) Bob Barron should have better things to do at work than be reading blogs.
2.) I stand by my comments 100%. Bob Barron doesn’t not consider the full picture. A bond rating or a beautiful budget is meaningless if people don’t want to live here. If Mr. Barron doesn’t start ensuring that the tax burden shifts more fairly between residential and commercial the people who choose to live here will not want to. His time should be spent trying to ensure our next revaluation is done correctly and there is equity between residential and commercial There was way too many tax dollars left on the table due to undervalued commercial properties. If he spent his time here perhaps we could fund our BOE initiatives or how about fix our ball parks? He nor one Common Council person has addressed how we are failing the community due to lack of strong athletic programs or inferior ball parks.
3.) Nancy – out of that entire meeting this was your focus.? What about how we have no ball parks that our kids can compete in? How about that Nathan Hale was built without bathrooms? How about we are not investing in our sidewalks or our footpaths? Or how about the Common Council gave the developer a tax abatement and we must pay for their infrastructure but the project he promised was not the one that is going to be delivered? All of those important topics were discussed but no mention?
4.) I stand by all my comments I made regarding Mr. Barron. I think the Finance Director should be reviewed based on how well his recommendations map to the POCD and as well as how accurate the revaluations are done. I am tired of paying salaries, pensions and raises based on performance not being tied to an actual result besides just a bond rating. These city officials are being paid based on my hard work and tax dollars and I want accountability for a better quality of life in Norwalk.

Bob Welsh March 5, 2018 at 10:47 am

Nora, Nancy previously wrote about ball fields here:


Nancy’s budget story included mention of using the rainy day fund to improve parks, schools, and sidewalks here:


I have observed Nancy working hard to present diverse viewpoints and report on as many meetings as she can. If we totaled up the public meetings Nancy regularly attends, it would probably exceed the total for most if not all of Norwalk’s elected and appointed officials. I have often heard Nancy express frustration over not being able to report more than she already does.

This article which you apparently don’t like consists of five short and diverse items related to Norwalk politics. If you believe that it’s not news when a senior city employee publicly criticizes a Planning Commission member’s comments, then on this point we have a difference of opinion.

Much like Nancy, you already devote a lot of time in public service to attending meetings. If you want to shine a light on an issue you believe to be important, you are invited and encouraged to write a letter to the editor or op-ed, for which you can even suggest your own headline. Your insights, views, and concerns will reach a large audience of civically-engaged Norwalkers.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Donna Smirniotopoulos March 5, 2018 at 12:05 pm

I’m in the awkward position of defending Bob Barron against Nora King. Mr. Barron seems to frame his role properly. He makes recommendations. The CC and the BET (and the mayor of course) have the final say so. The city has a problem moderating the behavior of public figures, especially on social media (though I was recently assailed in public by a long time appointee). Would the mayor or Laoise King consider asking the Ethics Committee to draft guidelines for public officials, both appointed and elected, and city employees? Private citizens aren’t bound by the same rules of conduct, though civility is usually the better path. The efforts of some city officials to stifle public comment concern me though I think this is mostly a matter of no one having given proper guidance to those who represent the people’s interests.

piberman March 5, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Every year without fail City officials cite our Bond rating as proof positive of our fiscal stewardship. Demonstrating over and over again their “unfamiliarity” with bond ratings as measures of expected payback. Not fiscal competence. But its easy to measure the City’s fiscal competence in housing values. Between 2010 and 2016 City median housing values plummeted from $485k to $425k. Over 20,000 units that’s a loss exceeding one billion dollars. (US Census Fast Facts). And we have a well documented exodus of long time homeowners unable to afford living in high taxed Norwalk.

That well paid City employees can’t afford to live here is an ongoing tragedy and reflects the enormous changes in our once well admired City where even though City employees were not well paid most lived here. Adding significantly to our community. Old timers used to say the heart and soul of Norwalk were its long time residents, local shopkeepers who lived here and our City employees who live here. Together they made our City and an admired City it was.

As long as Supt. and BOE (as publicly reported) claim they seek to keep school salaries competitive with the surrounding wealthy towns (amongst America’s richest) we know our future. Ever higher taxes, much lower property values, major exit of long time residents and influx of renters. Of course a City Hall (Mayor and Council) that stubbornly refuse to use prof. search to hire top talent, preferring ‘comfort hires” just makes the problem more onerous.

Those of us who have lived here many decades know “help is not on the way”. Our City is no longer here. And in another decade or less there will be no collective memory of what was lost. Sadly there are great business talents among our residents. But as long as City Hall and the BOE act as if sharply declining home values is that from their hand those of us with the requisite skills will not serve knowing our abilities and talents are not welcomed. Just about everyone we meet, including younger families, talks of where to move. Who wants to remain in a City where the value of ones chief asset declines and is likely to do so.

Mayor Rilling could change Norwalk’s future in our one Party City. But that would require ensuring professional management charged with creating an affordable City government. One that by the test of the market place sees rising property values. Not falling ones. That would be a lasting Legacy. And the way to advertise is lowering City taxes and holding our highly paid administrators at City Hall and in our schools responsible for doing more with less. Not spending always more for the same services and getting salary boosts.

The test of a great place to live is whether outsiders want to buy in. So we know how Norwalk stands. We are leaving. And help is not on the way. Unless our political leaders decide to manage our City for its residents and taxpayers. And time is really running out. As we’ll all see when the next Recession comes.

Eleanor Lx. March 5, 2018 at 8:30 pm

NoN has become an invaluable service to the citizenry of Norwalk and some of the commentators are very well thought out as demonstrated in this article. I only wish this level of discourse was available in the public arena many years ago and could have really helped some of the challenges of today.

McKeen Shanogg March 5, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Let’s see, on the one hand we have complaints that Norwalk’s housing is too expensive (i.e. can’t afford to live here), while on the other hand we have complaints that property values are stagnant (i.e. not high enough).
Reminds me of a story where “This porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold.”
Could it be that in reality our property values are “just right”?

Joe March 6, 2018 at 1:45 am

Thanks Nora King.

You are the first city official I ever heard describe the costly effects of Norwalk’s growing residential zoning violations.

Our AA zoned West Norwalk neighborhood is deteriorating quickly because of illegal boarding houses.

We’ve been let down by city officials and BOTH parties…kind of like living in Bridgeport-lite or West Haven…here comes more taxes for less.

Al Bore March 6, 2018 at 7:43 am

Stagnant property values for a decade, fix it city hall. I want to move to Westport but it cost too much and no one is helping me.

Nora K King March 6, 2018 at 8:16 am

Bob Welsh – I adore am a huge support of Nancy and sorry it didn’t come across that way. She provides such a valuable asset to Norwalk.

My reflection should have been more focused on Mr. Barron and the need for where his focus should be. Fixing our flawed commercial valuation system in Norwalk. If we fixed that we would have more money to fund the quality of life initiatives that so many residents want.

Mike Barbis March 6, 2018 at 8:19 am

Peter Berman — there you go again with your imaginary quotes. Please indicate to me where the BOE has stated we need to match the salaries of our wealthy neighbors. WHere oh where?

There is a limited pool of educators/administrators with very specific certifications — everything from an O-92 and upward. If you have a given certification, such as an O-92, there is a minimum salary commanded. Its just the reality of education and certification. As a former professor, I would think you would understand that.

And, if you are going to move, call me and I can list your house for you!

Bob Welsh March 6, 2018 at 11:37 am

Thanks Nora for the kind comments for NON. And I hope you do find the time to submit that Op-Ed — it sounds like it would be an interesting read.

Nonpartisan March 6, 2018 at 7:54 pm

It so sad when a person with a masters from an Ivy League school needs to live in “affordable” housing and plans to relocate from norwalk to buy a house.

So sad.

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