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Longtime Norwalk neighbors’ group changes as members express concern, optimism

Former Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton leads the April 23 meeting of the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA) meeting in City Hall.

Updated, 11 p.m. June 2: PDF of Lauricella resignation email added. Updated, 9:30 p.m.: Link added. Correction, 6:50 p.m.: Mulvehill. Updated, 3:17 p.m.: PDF replaced.

NORWALK, Conn. — Changes are afoot at the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations, with new leaders, new bylaws, a new executive committee, and diverging opinions about the changes.

Longtime leader Diane Cece is less involved, bylaws are being re-written and a provisional executive committee has been formed, with former Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton taking a leading role. Some say the group has been “hijacked” for political purposes, claiming that there aren’t enough interested activists to fill the executive committee because people are disaffected.“We are in the process of redefining what CNNA is … what our focus is and how we are governing ourselves,” Brinton said at the April 23 CNNA meeting, which she led. “Previously, Diane Cece – who has given her life, blood and soul to this organization for many, many years – has some other obligations, namely work, so she has backed off a little bit.”

The coalition was formed to “find issues common across neighborhoods – or potentially affecting more than one neighborhood –  so that they could join together to have a larger voice,” former CNNA coordinator Julie Burton wrote in an email.

Member neighborhood associations select a representative to attend meetings.

“The CNNA seeks to provide a common voice on larger Norwalk issues by providing information to members on important issues, meetings & events and to solicit fair and equal participation of neighborhood association and residents,” the group said in press releases when it was led by Cece, under the title “CNNA coordinator.”

In the past, residents fought battles in their neighborhoods, Brinton said on April 23.  If there was an issue elsewhere in the city, they didn’t care.

She sees CNNA becoming “smarter” and more active on city-wide issues.  “We have got to move strategically, we’ve got to move up the value chain and get smarter,” she said at the meeting, which featured a presentation by Tax Assessor Michael Stewart.  “I learned a lot tonight about this reval. (CNNA) can start looking at where we are giving away money. I don’t believe our Common Council and even our mayor really has grasped the financials of this city and what it takes.”

Stewart presented so the group could “get smarter about the grand list and where the money is. I think we have got to start talking money, we’ve got to start looking at where these tax breaks are and start making financial arguments,” Brinton said.

“We are in the process of creating a new executive structure and bylaws, so that the neighborhood coordination work does not befall onto one person,” Brinton wrote in an e-mail after the meeting.

A new Provisional Executive Committee, she said, consists of Brinton,  Adolf Neaderland, Marija Bryant, Isabelle Hargrove, and Donna Smirniotopoulos

Two more members are “anxiously” needed, Brinton said during the meeting.

“Additionally, Theodore Stepanoff is our new representative for the POCD Oversight Committee – serving with Adolf Neaderland,” she wrote in her email. “We hope to have a new governing structure by the fall.”

The pair replace Cece and Diane Lauricella, who were originally appointed to the Committee by Mayor Harry Rilling.

 

Lauricella: ‘hijacked’ group features heated discussions

Lauricella said she resigned from the POCD Oversight Committee because CNNA has been “hijacked by several frustrated, partisan members who took advantage of its structural dysfunction in order to push their agenda and a ‘scorched earth’ approach to dealing with CNNA governance, the City and Norwalk governance.”

“I had been a productive, long-time member of CNNA who is not afraid to take on controversial issues,” Lauricella wrote. “Lately, it is becoming harder to do so without being subjected to bullying, shunning and disrespect from some of the past and present CNNA leadership.  A ‘militant’ caucus has seized control of CNNA and I do not want to be a part of that ill-advised approach.  No wonder citizens don’t want to get involved.”

Lauricella provided multiple email exchanges and a text message exchange between her and Cece, which included F-bombs in capital letters.

The text message had been inspired by a lengthy email Dec. 1 exchange between Lauricella, Smirniotopoulos and Deb Goldstein and copied to others, beginning with a discussion about the POCD and CNNA’s representation on the Oversight Committee, but devolving to Goldstein using capital letters to accuse Lauricella of “APPROACHING SLANDER” and Lauricella issuing two emotional replies, saying in one, “I will not be a scapegoat for anyone.”

“I am worried about you and I do not believe that I deserve your rath {sic} in this disrespectful tone,” Lauricella replied.  “… Also, cut out shouting at the group with a subject line in capital letters!  Being louder and aggressive does not necessarily mean what you say is correct.  As Diane Cece always says, why would a person be SO defensive unless there was something to be defensive about?”

Cece replied that day to a Lauricella text:

“PLEASE GET OFF THAT F******  THREAD WITH DONNA AND OTHERS ON IT OR I AM SENDING ALL THE EMAILS TO THE MEDIA AND SEE WHAT PRESS CONFERNCE COMES OF THAT!! Yes, my f******  caps were on.”

CNNA Nov-Dec 2017 angry emails addresses removed

“That is not the way a good coordinator handles disputes. I hardly ever text anybody,” Lauricella said recently.

Cece did not reply to an email asking about the text message.

“The CNNA is supposed to be non-partisan and a welcoming resource for neighborhoods that want to learn and compare notes about the City,” Lauricella wrote in an email. “Certain CNNA members feel it is better to fire off impersonal accusatory emails than engaging in diplomatic face-to-face resolution of disagreements.  There is definitely a need for a dispute resolution policy.”

Brinton said she would have no response to Lauricella’s comments.

NON requested support of Lauricella’s claim that CNNA is dysfunctional and hijacked by partisans.  In addition to the above exchanges, Lauricella provided an April 18 email from Smirniotopoulos and described it as particularly offensive.

“If anything, the Planning Commission seems to embrace poor planning warmly in all its iterations,” Smirniotopoulos wrote. “A roomful of chimpanzees could have run last night’s PC meeting and achieved better results throwing darts.  Hard to get upset about the lack of ‘response’ to our letter from {Chairwoman Fran DiMeglio} when the attitude of the group is to complain about projects that didn’t pan out (that they’ve conveniently forgotten they approved a few years ago when they served on the ZC) or to pat themselves on the back for how great they are, or to ask for the special things they want (can we just build a couple balls fields, ring them with bike lanes and call it a day?).”

Smirniotopoulos continued, “With only a few exceptions, the commission puts little thought into  their decision making, and a ‘plan’ has almost nothing to do with it.  They have so little clout, that no one comes to their meetings, not even them.  Alan Lo and Redevelopment were no-shows.  And they all seem to think the key to unlocking the secret heart of the city’s 35% Latino population is via Eloisa {Melendez} and {ED} Camacho.  Really?”

Goldstein and Smirniotopoulos were vocal proponents of Brinton’s 2017 mayoral campaign, and continue to advocate many aspects of Brinton’s platform in that race, including Zoning reform and charter revision.  On Sunday, Smirniotopoulos explained that her CNNA involvement has included drafting a “plausible working document as a starting point” for new CNNA bylaws last year, using bylaws from the Norwalk League of Women Voters, two Brooklyn neighborhood associations and the existing CNNA bylaws. These were then revised by a group that included former CNNA leaders, and an election was held for provisional executive committee members.

“Like any worthy enterprise, CNNA meetings are sometimes characterized by lively debate, but more often by information sessions that cater to the needs and desires of CNNA members,” she wrote.

Diane Lauricella resign from CNNA

 

Other perspectives

NON contacted other CNNA members to learn their opinion of the organization’s new leadership and direction.

Urban Mulvehill did not return a phone call.

“I think it’s a bunch of people who have very strong opinions,” Bryant said. “Some I agree with, some I don’t.”

CNNA has worked too hard to build credibility to lose it, she said, explaining that the provisional executive committee is meeting to work out what structure the organization should have moving forward, still with the same purpose, still a voice for the residents, making sure somebody is looking out for the neighborhoods.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski said Lauricella’s description of CNNA’s direction is not accurate, but did not explain why.

Isabelle Hargrove wrote:

“The robust involvement of taxpayers in city government is paramount to keeping local elected and appointed officials focused on the will of Norwalkers, not just well-connected special interests. … CNNA is in the process of creating a more formal organization for itself so it can serve residents more effectively. As with any evolving organization, there can be squabbles and differences of opinions, but CNNA should remain committed to being a non-partisan group and any effort to change that should be met with stern opposition. The best way to prevent any partisanship or ‘hijacking by a few’ is for more people with diverse political opinions but a shared interest in Norwalk to join, which is why CNNA has called for more residents to get involved.”

 

Colin Hosten said he agreed with Hargrove and Obuchowski.

David Westmoreland wrote:

“I believe that the current efforts to review {CNNA’s} by-laws and governance is a healthy practice. I hope that they adopt similar rules regarding transparency of posting meeting notices, agendas, and minutes to the same standard that they hold public officials to, which has not been done in the past, including their executive committee meetings. CNNA can be, and has been, a useful organization to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas amongst the wide variety of diverse neighborhoods in Norwalk.”

 

Lauricella’s complaints were not the first to reach NancyOnNorwalk. In late March, a participant speaking off the record said, “It’s been hijacked by nasty people, sending out letters that say they’re from CNNA and they’re not. They are always calling for transparency. I want to know how this executive board was voted in.”

Smirniotopoulos on Wednesday produced a Jan. 22 email that announced the planned formation of a Provisional Committee, sent to her as a CNNA member.

“The neighborhood associations will never agree {on citywide issues}, it’s about exchanging information,” a concerned citizen speaking not for attribution recently said, complaining that Cece and Heather Dunn had hijacked the group, “running it badly,” never posting agendas or minutes, and letting Brinton use it as a platform for her Mayoral campaign.

Brinton is likely using the group as a platform for her next Mayoral campaign, but will likely make improvements in how the group is run,  the source opined.

“They hijacked it for their own devices and a lot of neighborhood associations quit coming,” the source said, calling Lauricella’s commentary largely accurate but seeking to avoid retribution by staying anonymous. “Hopefully, Lisa will turn things around, make it transparent and follow meeting rules.”

 

Brinton responds

Brinton on Sunday, speaking for herself and not as a CNNA member, replied in an email:

“I agree that CNNA is about exchanging information.  I disagree that neighborhood associations are quitting. If anything, we are growing as we help more neighborhoods organize.  Over the years I have been active, meeting attendance has always fluctuated, based largely on which neighborhood was facing attack over Norwalk’s outdated land use and zoning regulations.

“I’ve been involved with the neighborhood organization for several years, as have been many other neighborhood activists, so I take issue with the comment that I’m using the organization as a mayoral platform.  If I’ve exerted influence, it’s been to increase the group’s understanding of the economic consequences of Norwalk’s land use, exemplified when CNNA hosted a meeting about the revaluation from the Tax Assessor – where we had a packed room.

“While I appreciate the kind words by one of the anonymous commenters, I am NOT ‘running’ CNNA.  I ran a meeting.  There is an interim board in place, currently consisting of five members.  We are still seeking to fill two more slots.   It’s been a thankless job to educate and share information that quite frankly the city should be doing better.  Diane Cece did a superb job, but the old saying that many hands make for lighter work is what is at play here as we change our governance structure.”

From left, Norwalk Tax Assessor Michael Stewart and Assistant Tax Assessor William O’Brien speak on April 23 with the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations in City Hall.

20 comments

Cecilia Andy June 1, 2018 at 11:38 am

Will anyone from the CNNA be speaking at the upcoming appeal hearing on June 7th for the zoning permit issued for an elder care business on Forest Hill Rd? I would think this would be a good fit for their stated mandate of “find issues common across neighborhoods – or potentially affecting more than one neighborhood – so that they could join together to have a larger voice.” Their representation could also be beneficial for preserving the residential character of Norwalk neighborhoods.

Rick June 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm

outstanding article shows what happens behind the scenes.

Colin Hosten has to understand you cant play political sides when running for office. I openly challenged village creek on helping us turn the tide on Meadow st and got nothing but a vocal defense on past and presence issues. Was it because running for office stops the concern or shows reaching for a position you cant take one.

Money buys silence it buys time it also comes with a price on quality of life.

Look what we have done! So what join the crowd and consider defeat a badge. But don’t ignore help over politics thats what we have at city hall and the statehouse.

I heard from some that have no clue whats going on in the city, never did i hear facts were wrong and when additional firepower was offered it was suggested enough was available.This is what money gets you when planning on a wild card at Manressa. Imagine living here and seeing this for at least 15 if not 20 years.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/2+Meadow+St+Ext,+Norwalk,+CT+06854/@41.0869334,-73.4197479,38a,35y,328.5h,45.08t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e81e5e7af17aaf:0xc5256e8a4ad8a251!8m2!3d41.085563!4d-73.42333

a long standing problem on meadwow street yet the tip of the iceberg. To ignore help is one thing but ignore the history on how the city got this far into a mess is another. To defend new blood over old blood in a politically charged race with no facts hurts everyone.

There is a driving force in the city already who has done very little for the whole city just small sections bringing change that goes against the core of this those living here for years. Sometimes it goes against common sense that goes against everyone.

Changes have brought controversy , replicating some cities that have already changed back policies proving wrong for our current lifestyles. When does Norwalk stop listening to common sense its still free.

Its ok to argue common sense but when your against good ideas gone bad and have the history how we got here ,those who have brought the change figure fought hard won’t give up a win even if its a bad win.

Things have changed the old guard never endorsed never interrupted a good fight when common sense prevailed. Didnt defend unless it was warranted but by forming a organization with some who ignore common sense it encourages chaos.

South Norwalk has a great group of concerned residents there is no need for splinter groups diliuting the message or joining the opposition , or protecting some of the trouble that has set upon the city over the years.

The getting what we want and screw the rest of the city must stop. Politically motivated people use the system for votes not progress. Swing votes in special sections of the city has happened for years no matter what party runs the show.

Westport Firefighters among many issues have asked why if you live in the city should you get less for services while everyone pays the same in tax? Maybe its time to look at who pays what in our the city and what they get.Looks like one of our problems is theirs now.

If your neighborhood gets a grant where everyone pays for it so you can advance your own hamlet good for you, but when the fight is on for issues that concern the whole city why stay silent you have been paid haven’t you? Its even worse when the problems effect the health of theses gated communities pollution has no boundaries last time i checked.

Walk away and ignore whats in your backyard and defend those actions you have gained nothing.

Have a meeting on Meadow st and see who shows up before the election lets clean the air or the room whichever works it will bring facts to the table Im sure most won’t want.

This before the election was a great article the fall out should be a weekly series showing those doing a victory lap to an empty speedway has at least a Meadow st connection.

What about those kids taking the school busses feet from the controversy what about the health of those parents waiting for the bus twice a day on Meadow that could care less if Maressa opens again of if the rock crushers as many 15 sit feet from the bus stops.

One year oysters were given out when Village creek the creek itself was said to be polluting the oyster beds it was one of the best bait and switch tactics of city hall where residents thought Norwalk was taking care of business. It was disgusting treating people like that who live on Meadow st but they pulled it off and the election went fine.

The city has gone out of their way not to let anyone know whats going on at Ryan park or day st another tragedy unfolding on ones health but its south Norwalk so who really cares? The EPA came in to handle the PCBs who actually knows whats in the dirt the kids play on after a unsecured hazardous waste site is being remediated?

Debora Goldstein June 1, 2018 at 2:35 pm

People still don’t get this “appointment” to stakeholder committees thing. The mayor gave two seats on the POCD steering committee to CNNA as a stakeholder group. CNNA appointed its representatives (and their replacements).

I am disappointed that the reporter chose to look for “other perspectives” among people who have not attended CNNA meetings regularly (some not at all) since the discussions began about the provisional executive committee process.

For context, the public and the neighborhoods should know that CNNA voted to focus on three main areas of focus in 2016, bleeding into 2017, and formed sub-committees (based upon volunteers) to work on each topic. They were a sub-committee on CNNA GOVERNANCE (led by Diane L) which was supposed to work on the by-laws and governance structure; a sub-committee on the POCD (don’t know who led this committee, because I wasn’t on it) and CHARTER REVISION (which I led).

My sub-committee met throughout 2016 and early 2017. We held off on issuing a final report to CNNA because by early 2017, we were concerned it would be viewed as entangling CNNA in the politics of the mayoral election, due mostly to my participation in it. We did NOT use any of the material from the CHARTER REVISION sub-committee in the mayoral race.

Similarly, the POCD work was effectively elevated throughout 2016 with CNNA holding organized education sessions on the POCD, including a well-attended charette on communication methods which produced a suggestion list for the benefit of the Steering Committee afterward.

The work that continued to stagnate throughout 2016 and early 2017 was the work on the governance of CNNA, which triggered the full-court press at the end of 2017 (AFTER the election was over, and as the first public POCD session work was underway).

I am also extremely concerned that NON did not redact individual email addresses when publishing email exchanges, as is common practice in the newspaper industry.

Lastly, it should be noted that I was never contacted at all for comment or further information about the conversation showing in these emails, nor was I informed that they were even going to be published. I note that the thread attached is a selected thread which omits most of my side of two conversations that were going on at the time (and obviously all of the verbal communications that were not captured in any emails).

I am not on the Provisional Executive Committee by choice, because CNNA is contemplating, as it works through the new governance structure and by-laws, whether it is a conflict to have an elected official on the Executive Committee. I think that is a good thing.

I fully support the efforts of the Provisional Executive Committee, and think that CNNA will be the stronger for the exercise. Most of the issues about transparency are a function of folks not attending the meetings/not attending regularly/or not getting their reports on CNNA meetings at their respective neighborhood association meetings.

Cecilia, the first stop with an issue like that appeal is your own neighborhood association (West Norwalk?) and your Neighborhood rep needs to bring it to a CNNA meeting. I will note that the ZBA agenda for that date is not yet posted…but I encourage folks (CNNA or not) who are concerned about land use issues keep an eye out for the new agenda (http://www.norwalkct.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=9569&month=6&year=2018&day=7&calType=0)

I would like to attend myself, but will, unfortunately have another meeting to attend that night on behalf of MY neighborhood for another city decision that needs attention.

Patrick Cooper June 1, 2018 at 2:57 pm

@Cecilia Andy – good example. Want others?

How about the East Norwalk TOD spot zoning fiasco – regardless of vocal opposition – was approved? How about the BJ’s on Main Street? Just had a condo association get a two-thumbs down trying to halt that – because what Norwalk needs is more retail. Firetree on Quintard? We’ve yet to get the bill for that. Police Station settlement. How about a four-story luxury tile center on Oakwood development – opposed by that neighborhood? And the 1000 apartments going in just up Glover from there – without the Route 7 extension (blocked by Toni Boucher) completed.

How about Wall Street? A Poko resolution anytime soon? DuLeep building, how many years now? Any more parking lot / land deals? The Apartment’s going in on High Street? On top of the single worst stretch of single lane RT. 1 – with a half-assed fix for the France St./ North St./ East Ave traffic stranglehold.

How about the changes to the LDA’s for the Mall? Waypointe? How about the millions of tax dollars given away to the favored, campaign contributing developers, with abatements, tax credits, and back-room deals?

I could go on – forever. It’s not going to stop – there is no accountability because there are no consequences. We give people who sell weed jail-time; we give people who destroy billions in property value $100,000 a year pensions. Several of them.

Lastly – @Cecilia – will you be there on the 7th?

Disastrous land use decisions define the legacy of our secretive mayor, and the 14-1 council is largely complicit. We need more than 35% voter turnout – we need people to look beyond party affiliation – and look at the actions and results. We need a professionally managed municipal government – we need charter revision. Boy o Boy – we need something.

James Cahn June 1, 2018 at 3:14 pm

That email exchange is HILARIOUS. I recommend reading it with the Benny Hill Theme playing in the background for extra hysteria.

Protip: When Donna Smirniotopoulos is the voice of reason in your email exchange, it’s probably time to take a breath.

Nancy Chapman June 1, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Deborah Goldstein is correct, I should have removed the email addresses from that PDF. This was an oversight, and I have replaced the PDF.
I am not aware of who does or does not regularly attend CNNA meetings. Many people were contacted and asked for an opinion. Ms. Goldstein was copied on several emails regarding this story.

Debora Goldstein June 1, 2018 at 5:13 pm

At 4:11pm today, Nancy Chapman wrote:

Deb,

If you have email exchanges that you feel better tell your side of the story I would be happy to add them to the story.

Nancy Chapman, editor, publisher
NancyOnNorwalk.com
===============================================

Here is the timeline of Nancy’s contact with others about these emails exchanges:

Dec 2017: First received emails from Diane Lauricella

Early May: Multiple people were solicited by Nancy Chapmman for comments about the CNNA process and about Diane L’s allegations. I only know that because some shared that with me. No emails sent to Deb Goldstein by Nancy suggesting private emails were going to be published. No emails to Deb Goldstein by Nancy asking about the process, or my observations of the meetings I had attended from December to March.

May 28th: Diane Lauricella-the primary source for this article STILL had not provided Nancy with her resignation letter from CNNA dated April 6th. Nancy had to receive it almost two months later from another source, but no alarm bells rang about the selectivity of the material that was being provided.

May 28th: I was FIRST copied on an email TO NANCY about the provisional executive committee appointment process.
=======================================================

Here are all of the emails from Nancy on which I was copied in any way shape or form after that point:

On May 28, 2018, at 5:31 PM, Nancy Chapman wrote:

Donna, please remind me: how long have you lived in Norwalk?

Nancy Chapman, editor, publisher
NancyOnNorwalk.com

———————————————–
On May 29, 2018, at 7:55 PM, Nancy Chapman wrote:

Was the election for a new ExCom advertised? Was there an agenda circulated that included the election of new leaders?

If there was, can you direct me to that document?

Nancy Chapman, editor, publisher
NancyOnNorwalk.com

——————————————————–

Your readers can be the judge of whether you fairly applied journalistic standards to solicit any rebuttal from one of the subjects of your article. Or whether I had any way of knowing that you were going to publish private emails of mine on your news site. Or whether you had all of the relevant emails. Or that you focused on the personal attacks instead of the subject of the dispute.

Nobody reading these emails can possibly understand what the disagreement was about. And THAT should have been the news story, because the POCD will drive the City’s decision-making for years to come.

EnoPride June 1, 2018 at 6:49 pm

This article is informative and unfortunate at the same time. While transparency is always refreshing, this article is releasing “too much information” in a way that is cringeworthy and that imposes on some individuals’ rights to privacy. Releasing private texts? Sophomoric at best. Readers need not be partial to this info. The article succeeds in painting a few of these very passionate people in a not so good light and at the same time it does a great job of exposing the frustration of all of these people who, though they at times have differing strong opinions, for the most part share the common goal of desperately and urgently wanting to improve our city. Let us not forget this piece of it. Patrick Cooper has done a fine job of listing the less than stellar Norwalk issues of the moment, and it is a saddening and quite frankly embarrassing list. I agree too that it is not the complete list. We could go on. No wonder everyone is heated. Can’t blame them. Please take note of the public’s frustration, City Hall! The frustration is palpable on this site.

There is a fine line, however, between sharing passionately strong opinions on how to fix what is broken efficiently, and being mean spirited in exchanges whenever the opinions are challenged or are differing by the opposition. The saying “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” comes to mind here. A less mean spirited approach and more diplomacy on the part of some of these mentioned individuals would go very far, and would attract more of the right kind of support from the public, and dare I say from City Hall?

Cecilia, You should attend the meeting you inquired about. The more public presence and response the better. Make your voice heard. The school budget BOE meetings got a bit of momentum because of the standing room only turnout and the passionate outcry of the community. Someone has posted in the past that you need at least a 35% or more public turnout for the Common Council to have a different perspective than what they walked in the door with in some cases. Sadly, I am starting to believe this, as are other residents who have become more engaged in the process. I often see the Common Council and P&Z vote unanimously on most items and I am perplexed by this. Attending these public hearings is an eye opener, displays why we have so many frustrated residents who feel unheard and who are in lots of cases just as informed (or more informed in some cases!) than the council members. Attending these meetings underscores all the more the importance of the public’s involvement.

Cecilia Andy June 1, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for sharing the many instances of questionable land use decisions which appear to have cost the taxpayers dearly. I wish the CNNA well and think the city is in dire need of their stated mandate.

To say that city hall is totally disconnected to the betterment of our communities and neighborhoods is an understatement at best – malfeasance anyone? Or, perhaps more firepower is needed in the corporation counsel and zoning offices. Both appear not to have the bellicose element required to defend our city from an onslaught of questionable development. I once heard through a zoning officer that appeals meetings rarely resulted in permits being overturned and were at most “comfort” therapy for the dismayed – only in Norwalk, right? Regardless, I hope the fix is not in with the proposed elder care facility on Forest Hill and applaud the neighborhood for appealing. Similar to Firetree, it simply should never have been green lighted.

Bob Welsh June 1, 2018 at 9:19 pm

@EnoPride

I cringed while reading parts of the exchange too. I suspect it is included because Diane Lauricella alleges nastiness and shunning; others dismiss it as ‘lively debate’. Readers may judge for themselves.

Lee F. June 1, 2018 at 9:22 pm

I read this entire article and still don’t know what CNNA is, what it’s supposed to do, goals, accomplishments, etc. A bit of background would be good. Or a website link.

Bob Welsh June 1, 2018 at 9:36 pm

@Lee F.

I believe this part of the story speaks to your questions:

The coalition was formed to “find issues common across neighborhoods – or potentially affecting more than one neighborhood – so that they could join together to have a larger voice,” former CNNA coordinator Julie Burton wrote in an email.

Member neighborhood associations select a representative to attend meetings.

“The CNNA seeks to provide a common voice on larger Norwalk issues by providing information to members on important issues, meetings & events and to solicit fair and equal participation of neighborhood association and residents,” the group said in press releases when it was led by Cece, under the title “CNNA coordinator.”

In the past, residents fought battles in their neighborhoods, Brinton said on April 23. If there was an issue elsewhere in the city, they didn’t care.

She sees CNNA becoming “smarter” and more active on city-wide issues. “We have got to move strategically, we’ve got to move up the value chain and get smarter,” she said at the meeting, which featured a presentation by Tax Assessor Michael Stewart. “I learned a lot tonight about this reval. (CNNA) can start looking at where we are giving away money. I don’t believe our Common Council and even our mayor really has grasped the financials of this city and what it takes.”

Stewart presented so the group could “get smarter about the grand list and where the money is. I think we have got to start talking money, we’ve got to start looking at where these tax breaks are and start making financial arguments,” Brinton said.

As does this:

“I agree that CNNA is about exchanging information. I disagree that neighborhood associations are quitting. If anything, we are growing as we help more neighborhoods organize. Over the years I have been active, meeting attendance has always fluctuated, based largely on which neighborhood was facing attack over Norwalk’s outdated land use and zoning regulations.”

Marija Bryant June 2, 2018 at 9:12 am

The genesis of the unfortunate personal clashes detailed above arose out of good intentions to ensure that Master Plan outreach sessions accurately captured neighborhood concerns. The original disagreement was about the tone of the letter to Planning outlining CNNA’s position. Diane L. expressed serious concern about the tone of the original draft – and I wholeheartedly agreed. How that devolved into the type of damaging email back and forth shows an organization that needs to take a serious look at it’s internal functioning. That was the intent of the CNNA provisional executive committee. Maybe the original mission is changing. Maybe the approach needs to be recalibrated. Maybe it needs an infusion of strong new blood. Maybe it’s outlived its usefulness. This type of blaming, however, is a huge waste of time and energy.

PIBerman June 2, 2018 at 11:46 am

Have Master Plans in the past positively impacted Nowalk’s chaotic development ? If so how to explain our shabby Downtown remains the shabbiest Downtown in Fairfield County ? Was hiring a “City Planner” from leafy New Canaan without big City experience the best wwe could do ? Really ?

Nancy Chapman June 3, 2018 at 4:14 am

In actuality, Diane Lauricella did send me her resignation letter. It was in the midst of many emails, which I struggled to keep track of, and when Lisa Brinton asked me about it on May 28, I said, “I don’t believe she sent me her resignation email to CNNA but she sent me so many emails that I may have lost track.” I spoke with Ms. Lauricella on the phone last night and she reminded me that she had sent it.

She sent it to me on May 2. I have attached a PDF of it to the story.

As for “private” emails, everyone knows when they send an email that it can be forwarded to anyone. In this case, the email chain was sent to seven or eight people, leaders of a public organization that frequently advocates for transparency. Ms. Lauricella sent them to me in an effort to justify her claim that CNNA has been taken over by “nasty, partisan” people; they are also background information for a text message that featured abusive language. The emails are impossible to summarize and I thought I should let the public judge for itself. As I said, I was sent many emails; I published only the exchange I thought relevant in that context.

Lastly, Ms. Goldstein is incorrect that Ms. Lauricella sent me emails in December. On May 7, she sent me emails that were written in December.

Lisa Brinton Thomson June 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

It’s unfortunate Ms Lauricella pursued a ‘scorched earth’ approach to an internal disagreement over POCD feedback to city hall. As they say, that’s now water under the ‘walk’ bridge 🙂

What seems to have been lost in this story is the total exasperation by many over continued land use mismanagement at taxpayer expense.

Even as the 2018 POCD takes form, parallel spot zoning changes continue to take place, along with a proposed ‘Innovation District’ using $15m of taxpayer money.

To top it off, city hall just revealed their angst over Mr. Milligan’s bail out of a portion of the Wall Street area with the purchase of POKO 2 with his own money – not taxpayers.

If some think reading the private emails of local activists makes for good fodder, then reading the email exchanges of city officials over land use giveaways, overpayments, tax credits and lawsuits for West Avenue, POKO and the Wall Street area should make for even better!!!

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