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Norwalk political roundup: Zoning, Crosland and Facebook part II

Norwalk Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin talks to Common Council members in April as then-Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan listens.

NORWALK, Conn. —Some Norwalk political developments:

  • City seeks consultant for Zoning overhaul
  • Crosland plans campaign kickoff, Tweets anti-Rilling sentiments
  • King alleges borderline harassment

 

Zoning overhaul

Norwalk is seeking consultant services for building Zone regulation analysis and recommendations, in a RFP issued Friday. This would “provide the framework for a comprehensive rewrite and reorganization,” with a budget of $20,000. The deadline for submission is Aug. 2.

“We are in the final steps of adoption of the 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development (Citywide Plan),” the RFP states. “In addition, we are preparing a TOD {Transit Oriented Development} Plan for the East Norwalk area and have completed rezoning for portions of our urban core. In response to recommended actions within the Citywide Plan and other planning initiatives, a comprehensive reorganization of the Building Zone Regulations is warranted.”

This was approved as part of the 2019-20 operating budget, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said Friday.

Overhauling the Zoning regulations will be a two-step process, he explained.

“This is phase 1 where a consultant is going to work with us on structural issues, what’s needed for realigning with the POCD, interview various stakeholders on issues they see, get input form the Commission and then help us prepare a budget for the complete overhaul, including evaluating code types,” Kleppin wrote. “I plan on putting that request in for the 2020/2021 Operating budget.”

Mayor Harry Rilling in November mentioned that the City planned to do an overhaul of the Zoning codes once the POCD is complete. Kleppin said a year ago that Norwalk needed to hire a consultant to overhaul its Zoning regulations.

 

 

Crosland: time to shop for new leadership

Republican Mayoral hopeful Darnell Crosland plans a campaign kickoff at 6 p.m. Friday in Paella Tapas Wine Bar, located at 44-46 Main St.

A Darnell Crosland Tweet.

“Please join me next Friday as we lay out our plan to stop fake property tax assessments, backdoor deals for development, and a terrible mall that will be empty in a few years. It’s time to shop for new leadership,” Crosland tweeted (last) Friday.

Crosland, a lifelong Democrat, turned Republican early this year after addressing the Republican Town Committee and announcing an intention to run for Mayor. He is competing for the Republican endorsement with unaffiliated candidate Lisa Brinton. Both hope to defeat Rilling, a Democrat seeking a fourth term.

Republicans and Democrats plan to endorse candidates Monday, July 22.

In 2014, when he was Norwalk NAACP President, he lost a race for probate judge against incumbent Judge Tony DePanfilis.  Last year he sought the nomination only to be spurned by the Democratic Town Committee and lose a primary to the eventual winner, Doug Stern.

A Darnell Crosland Tweet.

When Dems nominated Stern instead, Crosland charged that it was due to his racism.  His recent tweets spoke of broken promises.

“The Dems promised me that when I grow up and graduate law school, I can have equality,” he wrote in one. “Can I really be anything? Probate Judge? Or was that also a lie by Harry & Dems?”

Crosland posted a photo of a Alabama plaque commemorating lynching in Selma and wrote, “History,. Yep, it hurts. What hurts more is smiling faces lying to the races. It’s a Harry situation in Norwalk when things look different but everyone is still getting hosed by back door deals and no true diversity. Ask the Mayor why he was surprised that I was running? #SMH.”

 

‘You may have missed a pattern here’

After Friday’s story about Rilling and others blocking Donna Smirniotopoulos from their personal Facebook pages, and several private Facebook groups, emails flew.

Smirniotopoulos forwarded a New York Times story about President Donald Trump being told by an Appellate Court that he can’t block people on Twitter. She addressed elected and appointed officials who have blocked her ­– Rilling, Chief of Staff Laoise King, Planning Commissioner Mike Mushak and Board of Education member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell – and said:

“How long do you intend to continue violating my civil rights?  Between the Randall case and the recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit ruling against Donald Trump, who has been blocking users from his Twitter account, the law is clear.  Blocking me on Facebook is a violation of my civil rights.  You all use Facebook to discuss the city’s business.  Facebook is used as a political tool, especially the pages “We Are From Norwalk” , “Norwalk Zoning Matters” and “Norwalk Parents for Education.”  I have been blocked by you individually and banned from NPFE, where Mrs. Meyer-Mitchell continues to discuss matters of import to Norwalk voters.  Recently, Mrs. King and Mayor Rilling have engaged with citizens on WAFN regarding city policy and beach parking.  I have been blocked from that dialogue.”

Meyer-Mitchell founded the parents page but is not an administrator now, due to being on the Board of Education. Meyer-Mitchell and Mushak declined to comment to NancyOnNorwalk, but Smirniotopoulos forwarded NoN an email from Meyer-Mitchell:

“I unblocked you earlier this week.  The blocking was of a duration of two weeks, subsequent to some posts that you made regarding my family.  I do request that you stick to issues and not bring my children into the public arena.  As you may be aware, I have not been an admin of the Norwalk Parents for Education group for a number of months.  Last year my private attorney advised me that you were not entitled to be a member of a private Facebook group.  Out attorney will review the evolving case law.  You are more than welcome to email me, call me, or participate in public comment.”

 

King responded to Smirniotopoulos:

“Donna,

“You may have missed a pattern here. A pattern which you have brought on by your frequent inappropriate and borderline harassing behavior. You are the sole individual who has been blocked by me or the mayor. There are many critics and dissenters out there who regularly opine on their disagreement with City policy, criticize the mayor and others who have not been blocked. While I cannot not speak for the others who have blocked you – I can tell you that I operate my Facebook page as a personal page. A quick review of it will show family gatherings, special occasions and news articles I find interesting. The same can be said for the Mayor’s personal page. As with life, citizens sometimes interact with us during our personal time. I have answered general informational questions while grocery shopping, getting my nails done, when out to dinner with my family and if I am browsing Facebook and see someone is confused or has a question. Neither of us announce policy, solicit public input or begin public dialogue on city issues on our personal pages. There is an official city of Norwalk Facebook page where that takes place. No one has been banned or blocked from that page. There is also no practice of regularly blocking dissenters. You are literally the only individual the mayor and I have ever blocked. I can tell you my final straw was a few months ago where you tagged me incessantly over and over again in one day to the point my phone was buzzing every few minutes throughout the day. Additionally, many of the tags were personal in nature, criticizing everything from my shoes to my custody agreement with my ex-husband. While you may think the attached court case is applicable here I believe there are major distinctions. I will not be unblocking you. I have referred this issue to the Law department for review.

“Laoise”

 

 

 

The writer of this article has also blocked Smirniotopoulos on Facebook, and has not blocked anyone else.  Smirniotopoulos violated the NoN comments policy numerous times and was banned from the comments section more than a year ago, after multiple warnings. Despite the ban, she has continued to attempt commenting, in violation of the comment policy.  She has charged that the ban shows favoritism towards the Rilling administration; the overwhelming majority of reader comments that appear on NoN are critical of city officials.

Rilling said he blocked Smirniotopoulos because she’s used profanity. Smirniotopoulos recently began an email to Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr with the words, “Dear Motherf—–”

“Though Mayor Rilling claims my use of profanity in a private email to Jeff Spahr motivated the ban, this excuse does not hold water in the court of law nor in the court of public opinion,” Smirniotopoulos wrote.

Rilling previously said that he requested a legal opinion on whether the recent court rulings pertain to his personal Facebook page.

Crosland issued a Tweet slamming Rilling for blocking Smirniotopoulos.

“This is why we can’t move forward in Norwalk,” Crosland wrote. “The Mayor can simply shut down his personal Facebook or Snap chat page and grow up. But no, he will spend thousands of the tax payer’s money having his legal team look at and bill us for this silly little issue.”

Rilling declined to comment. Brinton has been silent on the issue.

Donna Smirniotopoulos, left, and Lisa Brinton attend the May 13 Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA) meeting in City Hall.

13 comments

Jason Milligan July 15, 2019 at 9:40 am

NON is one of my favorite things about Norwalk so I hesitate to be critical here and in a comment a few days ago. You are doing so many things right and I applaud you efforts.

Though I am curious the manner in which Donna has repeatedly tried to comment on NON.

Donna has claimed she has not tried to comment after the ban.

Could you share why you think, or how you know it was her?

I have privately requested that Donna be reinstated since I value her opinion. Now I am asking publically: can she be reinstated?

She is very well informed and a terrific writer.

It would seem that the new comment policy might be enough to allow Donna’s reinstatement…?

If she violates the comment policy then the comment gets removed.

Prior to the new policy some of the comments would get personal and nasty.

I believe that the comment section has been much more civil lately.

Adolph Neaderland July 15, 2019 at 11:02 am

The zoning issue is a city issue, with diverse interests, as such all city stakeholders must be involved in addition to the consultant.
Realtors, business owners and developers would likely have quite different interests than residential homeowners.
Finding common ground should be the goal.

Danny July 15, 2019 at 11:17 am

I’m getting a headache, just keeping up with this drama. It’s an embarrassment to the city and needs to cease immediately. All this negative energy should be rerouted to something more important, such as education or lowering taxes.

Grow up, people.

Rusty Guardrail July 15, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Crosland is a blatant opportunist unfit for any public office.

In his failed defense of convicted pimp/drug-dealer Tanya McDowell, Crosland used his NAACP platform to libel and wrongfully shame Norwalk in the national media.

Republicans: Endorse Lisa Brinton. She can win.

Bobby Lamb July 15, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Don’t know what happened to my comment. I don’t think it was offensive or violated the policy. But still think it needs to be said – that last picture speaks volumes. I definitely don’t want those two running this city.

Bob Welsh July 15, 2019 at 3:19 pm

@Jason

A quick review of recent site logs shows that she attempted to comment at least nine times, despite the ban.

Bob Welsh July 15, 2019 at 3:28 pm

@Bobby Lamb

You’re welcome to opine on who you want to run the city, and to cite facts in support of your opinion, but opining on an individual’s stability crosses the line into a personal attack. In general it is better to talk policy rather than personalities.

Jason Milligan July 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm

She has been banned like a year or more. Your comment policy has changed in that time period.

In the name of Free speech can her ban be lifted?

Btw she has never once asked me to help get her reinstated. This is 100% masking because I believe she can add to the dialogue.

Few pay as much attention.

Kathleen July 15, 2019 at 6:07 pm

Jason, I agree with you that Donna is a good writer and very well-informed. However, please know that she cannot abide a difference of opinion.Instead of adding to the discussion, she goes into full attack mode as a first choice. I am thankful that you have not experienced this, but do recognize that others have.

Victor Cavallo July 15, 2019 at 7:36 pm

It’s both regrettable and amusing that I’m not the only Donna-blocker in the entire City of Norwalk; but it’s consoling that I’m simpatico with the sentiments of distinguished company; as with NoN for one, the Mayor, Laoise King, maybe Zoning Commissioner Nate Sumpter? I’m sure there are many, many other victims of Donna’s well reknowned and publicly demonstrated vicious vituperousness; enough to start a small fraternity.

I first had to block Donna from Facebook a looooong time ago. Then I had to spam-block Donna from my personal email after she woke me up a few weeks ago with 1:00 am ringtone notification of a nasty-gram on my phone. It wasn’t prefaced with a “Dear M….f…..r” greeting like Norwalk Deputy Corporation Counsel M. Jeffry was graced with; but too close for my comfort.

I’m hoping that Lisa Briton distances herself from this person…and really, really fast! As you can see above, the optics aren’t good. And the prospect that Lisa or any other chief executive might rely upon, or grant Donna a role in running this City is spine-chilling.

Rusty Guardrail July 15, 2019 at 8:06 pm

Opinionated and fierce though she may be, Donna does her homework. NoN has a number of myopic commenters who offer little or no facts to support their assertions. I surely wouldn’t put Donna in that category.

NoN’s policies are of course at the discretion of NoN. Personally I’m not offended by cursing. I’m offended by smarmy patronizing comments like “Grow up people” (above).

Keeps it Interesting July 15, 2019 at 9:44 pm

While “Dear M….f…..r” is a bit over the top, doesn’t she keep it compelling? Just sayin’

Lisa Brinton July 15, 2019 at 10:19 pm

Another busy day of door knocking – speaking with regular residents about their concerns with the city.

It’s unfortunate NON picked a photo (an unflattering one at that 🙂 that has nothing to do with the story. This photo is from a CNNA meeting of which I was previously a board member, alongside several other neighborhood leaders. The meeting was a panel discussion with 35+ people re: open space. It had been a long, long day 🙂

Just to dispel any ‘rumors’ NO promises or offers have been made to anyone for any position in a Brinton administration. Period. This city needs an operational and benchmarking audit more than anything else.

As to previous speculation re: the Chief of Staff position, it is my understanding that Ms. King has an employee contract with the city that extends well beyond the 2019 election. That position is filled.

Bob is absolutely right, focus must remain on policy. I’m a facts and figures kind of gal. The budget has grown by 24% under this administration – over $70m in 6 years. The grand list isn’t keeping up. Residents are up in arms over the increased density and their property taxes. Our streets, sewers, beaches and classrooms are feeling the strain, while quality of life goes down. This is MY focus.

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