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Norwalk budget numbers come up short for Mayoral candidate

Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, left; Republican endorsed unaffiliated candidate Lisa Brinton, right.

The election is Nov. 5.

Updated, 11:20 a.m.: Comments from Mayor Harry Rilling added.

NORWALK, Conn. — Republican-endorsed unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton claims response times by the Norwalk Fire Department have increased by a full minute during Democratic incumbent Harry Rilling’s three terms as mayor. But a review of 12 years’ worth of operating budgets by NancyOnNorwalk does not support Brinton’s claim.

Brinton further claims that the value of narcotics seized by the Norwalk Police Department has skyrocketed, and that the number of outstanding lawsuits against the city has nearly tripled, from 139 in 2012-13, when Richard Moccia was Mayor, to the current total of 400. Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik says the value of narcotics is subjective, and therefore not a reliable indicator. Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola attributes the increase in lawsuits to people challenging their property assessments due to the recent revaluation, and compares the 400 lawsuits to the 212 reported in 2017-18.

The value of seized narcotics, listed as $1.8 million in 2018-19 as compared to $450,000 in 2012-13, is a reflection of an increase in population, Brinton said in June. “So, more people, more crime.”

Several days later, Kulhawik said he “honestly {did} not know where those numbers came from. I am guessing they were estimates.  I never noticed it before. I don’t recall actually totaling the value of seized drugs over the course of a year.  It is not a true metric of performance either, which is why I probably never noticed it in the final budget book.”

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) provides “better metrics,” in numbers the state verifies and produces, he said. Last year’s NIBRS numbers have not yet been released.

As for the budget book stats on narcotics, he said, “I am not sure who entered the Narcotics Value or where the number came from. I am assuming it was an estimate based upon cases and values, as we do not actually make official estimates of the value of narcotics seized as it can vary greatly depending on how to value it. (Bulk form or packaged for street sale, etc.)”

“I am very surprised that she would use a budget book to draw these sorts of conclusions,” Rilling said in a Sunday email.  “I believe that shows her lack of understanding of municipal government budgeting. The numbers contained in the book are estimates and projections, nothing more. Budgeting is not an exact science. She’s making assumptions based on a cursory and incorrect review of the data.

He continued, “For example, did she not find it a little bit strange that all of the estimated seizure amounts ended in exact dollar amounts? Moreover one large scale seizure could skew the numbers dramatically. That is why it is necessary to dig down much more deeply into the data. To use these numbers and suggest that we have a major crime wave in Norwalk is irresponsible. Moreover as recently reported, major crime in Norwalk continues on the downward trend.”

NancyOnNorwalk reviewed 12 years’ worth of budget documents and compiled this data:

Value of narcotics seized & removed from the street

  • FY 2006-07: $250,000
  • FY 2007-08: $296,674
  • FY 2008-09: $300,000
  • FY 2009-10: $250,000
  • FY 2010-11: $250,000
  • FY 2011-12: $400,000
  • FY 2012-13: $425,000
  • FY 2013-14: $600,000
  • FY 2014-15: $900,000
  • FY 2015-16: $900,000
  • FY 2016-17: $900,000
  • FY 2017-18: $1,200,000
  • FY 2018-19: $1,800,000

 

Police and fire response times

“Our response times for our police and fire have gone from four minutes to five minutes in six years,” Brinton said on June 29.

She later said the police numbers haven’t gone up, but “look at the fire department.” At the July 23 Council meeting, Brinton said there are “more first responder calls and we have added another minute to our calls for the fire department.”

Rilling wrote, “Her assumptions are wrong again.”

The review of the budget books produced these statistics on police response time, under the heading, “Uniformed patrol response time to 911 calls within X minutes.”

  • FY 2006-07: 6
  • FY 2007-08: 6
  • FY 2008-09: 6
  • FY 2009-10: 6
  • FY 2010-11: 6
  • FY 2011-12: 6
  • FY 2012-13: 4.5
  • FY 2013-14: 4.2
  • FY 2014-15: 4
  • FY 2015-16: 4
  • FY 2016-17: 3.5
  • FY 2017-18: 3.5

Fire department statistics are murkier, as the style of reporting the data changed.

Before 2015-16, the listings were:

  • Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a fire call
  • Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a medical/EMS call

In the 2015-16 budget, the listing was boiled down to:

  • Average response time

The 2014-15 budget and the 2015-16 budget list different information for 2012-13.

The 2014-15 budget lists:

  • Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a fire call for 2012-13: 4
  • Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a medical/EMS call for 2012-13: 4

But the 2015-16 budget states:

  • Average response time for 2012-13:  4:55

Also, all five budgets between 2008-09 and 2012-13 say that both the “Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a fire call” and the “Average number of minutes it takes to respond to a medical/EMS call” is “4” in every year.

So, taking the more modern category listing, the results are:

Average response time

  • FY 2012-13: 4:55
  • FY 2013-14: 4:59
  • FY 2014-15: 5:07
  • FY 2015-16:  5:01
  • FY 2016-17: 5
  • FY 2017-18: 5
  • FY 2018-19: 4.95 (4 minutes 57 seconds, according to Norwalk Chief Financial Officer Henry Dachowitz and Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets Angela Fogel)

Regarding that last number: “.95” is said to be a percentage of 60 seconds, resulting in the four minutes and 57 seconds reported by Fogel and Dachowitz. Thus, the reported average fire department response time in 2018-19 is two seconds more than it was in 2012-13.

NancyOnNorwalk asked Brinton how she arrived by her statement that response times have increased by a minute.

“I viewed the last one in Moccia’s administration and then last years – and seem to recall that the performance metrics did not necessarily corresponding (sic) to the previous year.   There were inconsistencies – and performance tracking format do seem to have changed between administrations,” she wrote.

Fogel and Dachowitz said the change in reporting fire response time predates them and they don’t have an explanation, though “in an average budget book we probably have 40,000-50,000 data points, and it’s not surprising if there are a couple of errors in grammar and … numbers,” Dachowitz said.

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton, who was Norwalk Finance Director in 2015, did not respond to a Friday email.

Rilling wrote:

“Looking at the numbers you provided the police response time to 911 calls was six minutes in 2011/12. In 2018/19 the response time was 3 1/2 minutes. I think that is an excellent statistic and shows that our uniformed officers are performing their duties remarkably well. Also, as you pointed out, no real solid conclusions can be drawn from the Fire response times as the reporting method changed in 2015/16. A more effective measure would be a comparison of response times with similar size cities. I’m quite confident our Fire and Police Departments would fare quite well.

“The men and women of the police and fire departments are highly trained professionals. They wear their uniforms proudly and perform their duties remarkably well.

“My opponent likes to use scare tactics to suggest that Norwalk is on a downward spiral. From everything I hear when I’m talking to people that message is not resonating. They believe that Norwalk is a wonderful place to live and is a city on the rise.”

 

Number of calls

The reported statistics on the Norwalk Police Department show:

Calls for service

  • FY 2007-08: 68,778
  • FY 2008-09: 69,460
  • FY 2009-10: 70,000
  • FY 2010-11: 66,978
  • FY 2011-12: 67,100
  • FY 2012-13: 67,500
  • FY 2013-14: 67,511
  • FY 2014-15: 70,000
  • FY 2015-16: 68,207
  • FY 2016-17: 69,500
  • FY 2017-18: 57,807
  • FY 2018-19: 64,376

Medical emergencies responded to

  • FY 2007-08: 7,586
  • FY 2008-09: 7,606
  • FY 2009-10: 7,600
  • FY 2010-11: 9,088
  • FY 2011-12: 9,150
  • FY 2012-13: 9,300
  • FY 2013-14: 8,128
  • FY 2014-15: 9,000
  • FY 2015-16: 9,000
  • FY 2016-17: 8,200
  • FY 2017-18: 9,100
  • FY 2018-19: 2449 (It’s actually 9,610, according to Fogel)

A screengrab from CityRating.com

Again, the fire department is murkier. The categories changed in 2015-16, and it’s obvious that in the years before that numbers had arbitrarily been plugged in. In addition, the 15-16 NFD budget has a blank column for 2013-14 outputs. The numbers are in the 2016-17 book.

The fire department’s “total calls for service” was 6,507 in 2012-13 and 6,262 in 2018-19. False alarms were 1,045 in 2012-13 and 1,161 in 2018-19. Bottom line: “total calls” did not increase under Rilling.

So:

Fire calls

  • FY 2008-09: 2,816
  • FY 2009-10: 2,335
  • FY 2010-11: 2,358
  • FY 2011-12: 2,358
  • FY 2012-13: 2,358

Fire alarms answered

  • FY 2008-09: 1,195
  • FY 2009-10: 1,031
  • FY 2010-11: 1,051
  • FY 2011-12: 1,051

Mutual aid calls given and received

  • FY 2008-09: 23
  • FY 2009-10: 26
  • FY 2010-11: 26
  • FY 2011-12: 26

Car fires:

  • FY 2009-10: 57
  • FY 2010-11: 58
  • FY 2011-12: 58
  • FY 2012-13: 58

And:

Total calls for service

  • FY 2012-13: 6,507
  • FY 2013-14: 6,446
  • FY 2014-15: 6,685
  • FY 2015-16: 6,546
  • FY 2016-17: 6,159
  • FY 2017-18: 6,463
  • FY 2018-19: 6,262

Number of other fires

  • FY 2012-13: 101
  • FY 2013-14: 200
  • FY 2014-15: 126
  • FY 2015-16: 142
  • FY 2016-17: 104
  • FY 2017-18: 124
  • FY 2018-19: 100

Number of structure fires

  • FY 2012-13: 169
  • FY 2013-14: 159
  • FY 2014-15: 146
  • FY 2015-16: 158
  • FY 2016-17: 124
  • FY 2017-18: 142
  • FY 2018-19: 153

 

Number of vehicle fires

  • FY 2012-13: 34
  • FY 2013-14: 41
  • FY 2014-15: 30
  • FY 2015-16: 35
  • FY 2016-17: 46
  • FY 2017-18: 37
  • FY 2018-19: 24

 

Number of false alarms

  • FY 2012-13: 1,045
  • FY 2013-14: 1,055
  • FY 2014-15: 1,125
  • FY 2015-16: 1,075
  • FY 2016-17: 1,113
  • FY 2017-18: 1,104
  • FY 2018-19: 1,161

 

Number of good intent calls

  • FY 2012-13: 445
  • FY 2013-14: 385
  • FY 2014-15: 389
  • FY 2015-16: 406
  • FY 2016-17: 362
  • FY 2017-18: 386
  • FY 2018-19: 412

 

Fire Department 2011-12Final

Fire department 2012-13-FINAL-BUDGET

fire department 2013-14-FINAL-BUDGET

fire department 2014-15-FINAL-BUDGET

fire department 2015-16-APPOVED-BUDGET

Fire department 2016-17-APPROVED-OPBUD

Fire department-2018-19-Approved-Budget

fire department 2019-20 approved Budget

police department 2011-12

police department 2012-13-FINAL-BUDGET

police department 2013-14-FINAL-BUDGET

police department 2014-15-FINAL-BUDGET

police department 2015-16-APPOVED-BUDGET

Police department 2016-17-OPBUD

police department 2017-18 Approved-Operating-Budget-2018

police department 2018-19-Approved-Budget

police department 2019-20 approved Budget

43 comments

Debora Goldstein August 5, 2019 at 9:46 am

Well, the stats in the budget books have certainly improved since the last time a Mayoral candidate called out the City on fictional numbers.

From 2013 as quoted in this article:

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/02/norwalks-budget-a-process-in-need-of-reform/

“For example, in the budget, the Fire Department proclaimed that Norwalk’s firefighters battled exactly 157 structure fires in each of the last three fiscal years! What are the odds that Norwalk had the exact same number of buildings catch fire in each of the last three years? Clearly, these figures were inserted in the budget with little care whether they were accurate or even reviewed. We need to get real about how we measure success.”

The fact of the matter is that the budgeting folks are given these numbers to help justify budget requests. They are supposed to be our most bare bones attempts at measuring performance. If they aren’t accurate, perhaps we should be asking why. And perhaps we should be prioritizing those requests that meet or exceed performance targets and desired outcomes. For example, how many “medical calls” from either fire or NPD could have been avoided if ambulance response times were better?

The fact remains that we have one candidate who is looking to examine outcomes and measure performance. And we have an incumbent who shrugs and accepts “estimates” and even numbers a department head acknowledges he doesn’t know who did them or even having seen them.

Would Chief Rilling have overlooked those stats or found the increase in drug seizure numbers acceptable while he was on charge?

Are we seriously suggesting that increases in lawsuits due to property revaluation challenges from assessment to assessment proves that lawsuits have not gone up, instead of being an indicator that this reval has caused more unnecessary suits?

There are public relations reasons for inflating the $$ figures on drug busts. And for pointing out the number of reval challenges. But those departments should have to live with those numbers in ALL the contexts in which they are used.

Mike Mushak August 5, 2019 at 9:49 am

Instead of compulsively making up fake news to attack our dedicated first responders and Mayor Rilling, Republican-endorsed Lisa Brinton may want to offer her opinions on the current events that are effecting all of us, including the racism and hatred being pushed and defended by the GOP she is working with, and their treasonous refusal to defend our country from election interference by Russian hackers since they want that foreign influence to help them win by cheating our system.

Since over 90% of Republicans support Trump and his policies, this will be the biggest issue in the upcoming election no matter how much fake news Lisa Brinton throws out in her compulsive campaign of distraction through negative attacks on the dedicated staff and elected officials in City Hall.

Lisa, will you denounce the extremist Republican Party and their unwavering support of Trump and his racist, sexist, anti-science, anti-education, anti-LGBTQ, anti-environment, anti-immigrant, and dangerous foreign and trade policies?

Bryan Meek August 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

The ability to manage in crisis mode is a wonderful trait for a Police or Fire Chief, when you just need to get it done.

On the other hand, managing a city seems to require a different set of skills. The ability to analyze data and make appropriate decisions. Planning for land needs and usage. Proper allocation of resources. For example is the city better off having 3 paid mouthpieces and a 1/2 time ordinance officer, or should there be a more productive division of labor? Are the three full time mouthpieces warding off lawsuits? Is the 1/2 ordinance officer able to prevent illegal apartment dwellings from tanking the value of the grand list?

Will we ever get such a deep dive on the real numbers here, or is “the news” only interested in a challenger’s claims?

Debora Goldstein August 5, 2019 at 11:54 am

That’s right Mike. Change the subject to Trump. Even while using Trumplike tactics, charging “fake news” and dehumanizing the “other” by calling every registered Republican in Norwalk a racist, sexist hater.

Will you also be asking the Republican that the DTC cross-endorsed to renounce Trump, or is it only Lisa?

How’s about we stay focused on the fact that its a legitimate question to examine the City’s own records and look for things to improve, rather than reflexively go nuclear on anybody with the temerity to question them.

Bryan Meek August 5, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Excuse me, how could I forget about the 4th (and voluntary) mouthpiece? The above diatribe reminded me. Any minute, I expect he’ll renounce the vulgarities being spewed by the TTD commissioner, since he is so offended by things like that. Or are we just to believe that all of our city related issues are because of Russian hackers?

Paul Lanning August 5, 2019 at 12:34 pm

I don’t see how Norwalk local politics are connected to D.C. goings-on.
Regarding the increase in lawsuits, I’d ask whether every homeowner assessment appeal is automatically considered a lawsuit. If not, what is and what is not.

Steve Mann August 5, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Mushak has issued a vast sweeping indictment here of anyone, or anything not liberal. And he thinks the Republicans are a threat to democracy? So old, and so tiresome, and so untrue on so many levels… you know, Mike, like calling East Norwalk a ghetto? And that’s all I can offer which will comply with Comments guidelines.

Lisa Brinton August 5, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Pleased NON ran this story, if not the headline:-) but a couple of clarifications. Original comments generating this story came after a conversation with Nancy a few weeks ago, when 70 people attended a meeting at the main library, sharing anecdotal stories about increased traffic and safety concerns. I mentioned seeing an increase in response time for the fire department in the budget, speculating whether it had anything to do with traffic? Departmental reporting changes make it unclear. Other observations were made about other departments.

What this story points to and what I’ll do as mayor is reform Norwalk’s budgeting process and implement departmental controls, reflecting more performance metrics or outcome based budget assumptions – not just what we did last year with an x percent increase. Performance metrics drive more transparent budgeting, focus on outcomes and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Finally, I’d like to point out Matt Miklave, a former mayoral candidate in 2013, called for better city budgeting practices, following years of service on the common council. I agreed with him then and with the ‘growth’ Norwalk has experienced under this mayor – am pushing for it now. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to get a handle on why Norwalk’s operating budget has increased $70M since this mayor took office. Maybe there’s a good reason – maybe there isn’t.

Jeff August 5, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Just skim the headlines on NoN and you’ll be surprised by the quantity and variety of lawsuits Norwalk has been up against recently. And even if most of them are for property valuations, perhaps that’s really an indication that the assessment process was a mess (spoiler, it was. Just check the latest story from the Hour).

And Mike, you really need to get a clue regarding local vs national politics. Not everyone who disagrees with you is racist/sexist/etc. Not every Republican supports Trump. Your allegations are silly and misguided at best and dangerously inflammatory at worst.

PS this post may or may not be from a Russian hacker.

Nancy Chapman August 5, 2019 at 5:42 pm

I talked to Lisa after the June 29 traffic meeting. She said police and fire response times had gone up, that she had talked to Michael Foley about it and he said it was due to more traffic. She also mentioned confiscated drugs and said, “more people, more crime.”

John Miller August 5, 2019 at 7:19 pm

If anyone is interested in seeing what pure, unadulterated hate looks like, please see Mr. Musak’s comments above.

Mike Mushak August 5, 2019 at 9:51 pm

I love all the anonymous personal attacks on me on this post. Guess what? I’m not running for mayor, Lisa Brinton is.

Holding Lisa Brinton accountable for her daily outrageous and untruthful statements, as Nancy did in this excellent article, understandably sets her and her supporters’ hair on fire, but I guess not enough for them to use their real names, lol.

Funny how all the talk from the Lisa campaign is about “accountability”, but as soon as she is held accountable for her outrageous claims, the anonymous supporters and dubious names never seen before come out of the woodwork to attack me, on cue, lol.

It’s silly but then again when you have Deb and Bryan advising your campaign, anything is possible!

Michael Foley August 5, 2019 at 10:04 pm

Response times are very simple to figure out : Time of call received, time of dispatching the appropriate units , PD FD EMS, and time of arrival ! Traffic, time of day & weather, and where is the unit responding from are all factors that have to be considered!

Lisa Brinton August 6, 2019 at 6:32 am

Norwalk’s first responders work hard – made all the more difficult by the deliberate increase in population density and traffic and exacerbated by old roads and poor planning and zoning.

The conflict played out in this ‘performance indicators’ story (aside from a planning commissioner’s repeated personal attacks and invoking of national politics as a distraction to local government actions) is the Rilling Administration’s love affair with ‘growth of any kind’ – and apparent disregard for its operational impact on our fire department, police and schools.

The increased number of lawsuits – not yet fully reflected from the botched reval should also serve as a cautious reminder that city hall’s left hand does not know nor care about the impact it’s right hand is having on this city – nor the toll being taken on local residents.

Bryan Meek August 6, 2019 at 6:50 am

Mushak’s Trifecta.

Bike lane to no where on Belden.

Fantasies about 1600% inflation, when its only 300%.

$800k per unit low income apartments that will add bazillions to the local economy……when 5 years later, right around the corner 50% of Waypoint commercial is still vacant.

Keep on hating like the other TTD commissioner who is not Deb.

We’ll stay in the realm of facts.

Mike Mushak August 6, 2019 at 8:06 am

@ Lisa Brinton, there you go again, spreading fake news about Norwalk! It’s a bizarre compulsion, and needs to be outed to the public who need to see it for the propaganda that it is.

Case in point from your last comment above: your claim that Norwalk’s growth is out of control. That’s pure nonsense!

Based on census data, Norwalk’s current population growth over the last decade is among the slowest it’s ever been in Norwalk’s long history, about 5% compared to explosive growth of 20-50% in previous decades like the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s.

Imagine your reaction if this were 1965 and the city was doubling in size every decade with suburban sprawl
as your beloved subdivisions of single family homes gobbled up thousands of acres of open space across the city. There’s a reason suburban Dairy Farm Road was named that-it was home to dairy farms including Stew Leonard’s family farm. All gone in that mid-century decade of sprawl, but apparently the kind of growth you loved because it created the kind of segregated suburbia you feel most comfortable in. Sorry, but it’s true.

The truth is, the current growth pattern of concentrating density with infill projects near transit and in traditional commercial areas to create more walkable mixed-use districts is what progressive cities are doing across the nation, following smart growth standards that are correcting a century of wasteful car-oriented sprawl that Lisa apparently supports to absorb population growth.

Lisa Brinton, your obvious lack of knowledge of modern planning and zoning concepts and your embrace of obsolete 20th-century sprawl are no surprise for someone living in a suburban million-dollar house with a swimming pool in beautiful Rowayton, but that affluent lifestyle you apparently want us all to enjoy and your knee-jerk opposition to affordable housing choices including rental apartments is not feasible or attainable for the majority of Norwalk residents who are not as lucky in life as you have been.

The suburban exclusive elitism on display in your comments whenever you talk about planning and zoning issues is obvious to many of us who know what good planning and inclusive fair housing is all about, and your opposition to density and affordable rental apartments and fear of vibrant downtowns needs to be outed for what it is, which is nothing else but dog whistle racism.

Adolph Neaderland August 6, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Mike, for someone who takes liberty with the truth, you should not be knocking others –
Keep in mind, you were wrong in claiming residential mortgages being subsidized by the government, and conveniently forgetting that there was almost universal opposition to “more more multi story mixed use residential construction in downtown Norwalk”

( as I recall you retreated behind the wall of committee membership instead of admitting to a faulty memory when I produced the chart).

Your blind support of the current city administration may serve your political ambitions but does no serve the the best inters of the stakeholders.

As an aside, I am not anonymous.

David Mapley August 6, 2019 at 8:37 pm

This is a poor discussion – with marginal increases in response time and a growing population, of course delays and drug capture stats are going to increase. Can we have an intelligent discussion about rising property taxes, needless/strategic tax abatements, and how a beautiful city like Norwalk is run so expensively and poorly by a crony-ridden administration. How many tax dollars do we forego every year on sweetheart deals to rich property developers?? And why does State Senator Bob Duff, extoller of moronic platitudes, deliver back to Norwalk approx. 5 cents in every dollar Norwalk contributes to the state? Hey sheeple, we are a soft touch!!!

DT August 7, 2019 at 9:48 am

Mushak-

PLEASE keep push your far-left progressive agenda. It’s people like YOU who will lead to Trump’s re-election in 2020.
You give a bad name to moderate democrats.

Debora Goldstein August 7, 2019 at 10:03 am

Mushak tactic #2. Mushak is the expert on the only right way to change land use. Do not challenge the expert, especially when he uses the term “smart”.

Mushak tactic #3. Deliberately place a remark into a different context to argue it is factually incorrect.

Mushak tactic #4. Pretend not to notice the large group represented by an individual spokesperson when they disagree with him and then use another tactic to discredit the spokesperson.

Mushak tactic #5. Change the subject and make it personal.

Mr. Mushak is a Planning Commissioner, appointed and reappointed by the incumbent Mayor. He has influence over everything from capital budget funding to density to traffic to the condition of sidewalks in your area. Keep that in mind every time he attacks a political opponent and or disparages a neighborhood who disagrees with his definition of the “smart” way to do something there.

Debora Goldstein August 7, 2019 at 10:15 am

It’s time Lisa’s real opponent came out onto the field instead of deploying his proxy.

Will the Mayor come out and stand behind his appointed Commissioner’s remarks? All of them?

Mike Mushak August 7, 2019 at 12:03 pm

@Adolph Nederland, you are wrong, sorry. My claim that mortgages are the biggest affordable housing subsidy in America is absolutely true. This is one of the biggest causes of the long pattern of housing discrimination in America. Educate yourself before publicly reprimanding me, please. Read this piece:

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/8/15/financing-suburbia-how-government-mortgage-policy-determined-where-youlive

As far as your other claim about the chart claiming “almost universal opposition to multi-story mixed use residential construction in downtown Norwalk”, that’s clearly a non-scientific poll since I stated that it’s clear no one asked the folks living in those rental buildings how they feel about it, or the local business community. I’m sure if you included those folks, who are citizens too with valid input, you’d get a completely different result, no?

And as far as the anonymous personal attack from the new commenter “DT”, that’s hysterical! Thanks for the laugh! Would love to know why you want to hide your identity when lobbing attacks at someone like me who always uses my real identity. It’s of course unfair, but also silly. I have a good hunch who it is, lol!

Patrick Cooper August 7, 2019 at 12:20 pm

@Debora Goldstein – your examination of his tactics would be a reasonably accurate autopsy – except – he’s not that clever. MM is color by numbers, not Rembrandt.

But your conclusion is fair and legitimate: there is an election in about 90 days – when will the mayor speak for himself? When will the mayor clarify his positions versus the rhetoric that flows from his appointed commissioner? As long as he remains mute – it’s a sign of agreement.

So all you NoN readers – when MM spews his hate speech – you can apparently assume – that is your mayor talking. Until he opens his mouth and says otherwise.

Deb – my guess? The mayor will speak as infrequently as possible. Have you seen him? Let’s just say public speaking – especially unscripted – is not a “core competency”. But he is a gifted politician – one who knows deep down that every time he opens his mouth – he gives anyone who hears him a reason to consider the other candidate. His silence is discipline.

As “Dirty Harry” would say – “A man has to know his limitations”. Here in Norwalk – cinema comes to life.

Bryan Meek August 7, 2019 at 1:51 pm

The economic ignorance from the incumbents mouthpiece is truly astonishing.

The mortgage interest deduction is matched by the lenders who pay income tax on interest income. It is all baked into the pricing of real estate. Take away the mortgage interest deduction and witness the collapse of the US real estate market which accounts for 70% of our GDP. Our GDP accounts for 20% of the worlds. The debt is collateralized and owned by every developed nation in the world as well as the investment community. Eliminating the mortgage interest deduction beyond what the Alternative minimum tax limits, would be a good first move in starting a global economic meltdown.

The basic laws of supply and demand are realities apart from one commissioner’s utopian fantasies.

No wonder why we have all these projects that are not revenue neutral until the taxpayers are fleeced for the incompetence on display.

5 years later and Waypoint commercial is half empty, but we have the same cheerleader pushing more developer subsidies.

Tysen Canevari August 7, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Lets take a step back and look at why the fire departments times might be off a little.

1) It takes approximately 40 seconds longer to get to the fire engines in the garage from the bunkhouse in the new fire station.
2)Traffic in Norwalk is overwhelming wwith all the new apartments.
3)There is no fire department near the Wilton side of Norwalk. That really hurts response time.
4)The mayor and his staff took away the extra points on the exam from those that live here. Thus, you often have a guy from New Haven driving the truck and taking directions from someone who lives in Fairfield who is looking at the GPS screen and telling the driver where to go.

Give them support instead of harping on the response time. They do the best job they can given the resources. I applaud them

Mike Mushak August 7, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Nancy, the link in my earlier comment got mis-copied somehow, I’m sure on my end as I typed on my cell.

Here is the accurate link, which is required reading for the my dear friends commenting here who are arguing that mortgage deductions aren’t a housing subsidy, which is absurd as it is well-documented that it has been the biggest affordable housing subsidy ever granted, which has led directly to race-based housing discrimination over the last century.

Astoundingly Lisa and her usual small crowd of supporters are clueless about the history of housing policies and planning and zoning issues in general. They need to be educated before they embarrass themselves any longer, because I love them dearly.

Can you fix the link in my comment above as well? Thanks.

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/8/15/financing-suburbia-how-government-mortgage-policy-determined-where-youlive

Bryan Meek August 7, 2019 at 11:36 pm

Landscaping 101. Don’t pretend you understood Econ 101.

Vice Versa.

When I think about the bike lane to no where on Belden and who engineered that (not the Mayor, but someone he was trying to shut up), I think about a city out of control from reality.

Michael McGuire August 8, 2019 at 10:49 am

Mike Mushak

I read the article and it is very good. But I think you are confusing two concepts – subsidies vs. incentives.

Subsidized housing is a subsidy for the poor via redistribution of wealth (both monetary and influence) by government.

POKO is a great example as it provides subsides to the future POKO residents, subsidizes a bank bailout, subsidizes great returns to the top 1 percent who invest in the LIHTC, and creates political gravitas to those who crafted this deal (Our City Advisors). But the price tag will be borne by the Norwalk taxpayer for decades to come.

On the other hand, the Mortgage Interest Deduction is an incentive to have the individual willingly choose to invest in, and underpin, arguably one of the largest components of our consumption-based economy, home ownership. Any subsidy component, if there is one, is for the home ownership industry, not the homeowner.

Conflating the two leads to confusion and wrong conclusions.

On a different but related topic – Lisa Brinton is not against development at all. She is just against development that is not well thought out, well planned, or well executed – POKO again is the perfect example. The opaque backroom dealings and financial engineering that went into the POKO project will leave a long stain on Norwalk governance.

Keep in mind that developers work within the guidelines they are presented with. Therefore, since the City establishes the guidelines problematic development needs to be placed at the feet of those responsible. Sadly, with one-party rule that is not happening.

Lisa is Pro-Norwalk as in she is putting Norwalk before Party. I find that very refreshing.

Mike Mushak August 8, 2019 at 11:30 am

@Bryan Meek. Please keep up the ignorant and nasty comments! It only broadcasts to voters why you don’t deserve to serve on the Board of Education any longer. You are not a good example for our children, to say the least.

Your constant reference to the “bike lane to nowhere” on Belden Ave is a case in point. If you bothered to look it up, it connects to a system that isn’t completed yet, including the 26-mile Norwalk River Valley Trail that will cross Belden Ave next year, and to bike lanes on West Ave and Burrell that are proposed as future road work is completed. But don’t let that stop you from spreading misinformation and revealing your own ignorance!

And if your candidate Lisa is elected, we will see the end of the bike lane system even though it is only partially completed, as she is on the record as opposed to bike lanes, along with her support of a racist housing policy that includes opposition to rental apartments and affordable housing which puts her squarely in the current GOP camp pushing racist and regressive policies on a national, state, and local level.

What a shame for Norwalk that we have such folks running for office, but we can rest assured Norwalk voters are smart enough to see through this ugly nonsense.

Bryan Meek August 8, 2019 at 12:56 pm

The mayors mouthpiece has facts confused with being nasty, which better describes almost every single one of his posts.

The Belden ave bike lane to no where perfectly sums up his contributions to this city.

Incomplete. Dangerous. And poorly planned. 15 fatalities in NYC this year so far. We’ve had a couple of close calls on SHA and already a serious injury on Winfield. I hope it never happens again, but all will know who has their hands stained from these.

Drew Ablank August 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

Mr Mushak,
Would you ever consider running for office? Any office. But not as an appointee rather an actual candidate

Thanks

Bridget P August 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm

It sounds as though Norwalk is following the United Nations Agenda 21 initiative. Can anyone confirm? And has the mayor and his spokespersons communicated this to the voters? Among the goals are (Per the American Thinker),

” Up-zoning of low-density residential land around small towns into higher density zoning to permit construction of hundreds or possibly thousands of inclusive housing units, including apartments and condominiums

Inclusive housing with placement of multi-family construction on in-fill lots within existing residential single family communities

Endorsement of government-sponsored housing initiatives (subsidies) to ensure healthier, balanced neighborhoods”

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2009/10/un_agenda_21_coming_to_a_neigh.html

Tysen Canevari August 8, 2019 at 9:24 pm

Wasnt this topic about response times? It seems like it is about how fast can we rip into each other. Its too bad. When is the first Harry vs Lisa debate? Lets get it on!

Debora Goldstein August 9, 2019 at 3:32 pm

As usual, a legitimate question in the comments has gone unanswered.

Mr. Lanning,

No. Every homeowner assessment appeal is not automatically considered a lawsuit. The lawsuit comes after the appeal process is exhausted, when the property owner is entitled to file in a court.

Reportedly, many of the commercial property appeals are headed for the courts.

However, any bump in the numbers reported for the 2019 budget books could not be attributed to property tax appeal suits, unless I am mistaken, because they are stats for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018–at which point homeowners had not yet received their assesment letters, much less exhausted the appeals process that ran from late 2018 to early 2019.

Curious Voter August 9, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Did anyone ask the Fire Chief what he thought about the numbers? I’d be interested to hear from him. For instance, what’s the difference between a car fire and a vehicle fire, mobile home, tractor trailer category maybe covered by the vehicle definition? I believe their response time has to be between 4-6 minutes on average. In the Cranbury area maybe 8 minutes max. What about roads with speed reduction measures installed by the city? I think Tyson Caneveri mentioned those response times in that area. I think there should be a discussion about adding a Cranbury station. I’m not sure if Cranbury residents would be on board with a firehouse in the neighborhood because of noise. That doesn’t include the cost of personnel to cover the station at taxpayer cost. Their job is to protect lives and property. They have a better chance to complete that mission if they can’t get there fast. Give them what they need in my opinion. Just wondering if the Fire Chief agrees with the numbers being tossed about? Very confusing data, Police use a different reporting system to gather data. Fire Departments nationally use NFIRS I believe.

Curious Voter August 9, 2019 at 7:14 pm

Correction, “they have a better chance to complete that mission if they get there fast.”

Bryan Meek August 9, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Cranbury doesn’t need a firehouse. We could use a few paramedics close by. Have them at I Parc or something like that. What we do need is a new school. Cranbury is obsolete and I’m tired of pouring money into it that you can’t even see.

Paul Lanning August 10, 2019 at 1:41 am

Deb Goldstein—Thank you for taking the time to answer my question about lawsuits against the city. Given the cost of litigation, I doubt that most homeowners whose appeals were denied would sue the city.

Debora Goldstein August 10, 2019 at 9:26 am

Mr. Lanning,

Undoubtedly true. An even larger contingent of homeowners probably didn’t think it worth the time or money to appeal either.

But again, the folks who reportedly ARE bringing suit are the commercial property owners. Which can include, btw, the developers who build and manage those large, multi-unit residential housing complexes to which many neighborhoods are voicing opposition.

The mall owners, at the time they asked for the LDA amendment to remove the hotel (and downgrade the requirements for the anchor tenants), also agreed not to appeal their assessment for a limited period of time. You can be sure the gloves will come off after that too.

Jo August 11, 2019 at 10:41 am

Nice try, Mike Mushak, with your completely off-topic “Republican-endorsed” Lisa Brinton diatribe. You apparently underestimate the number of a) disaffected Norwalk Democrats, and b) never Trump Republicans. All which makes your tired stereotyping and generalizations, well…yawn.

Mike Maguire, thank you for the clarification on housing subsidies vs. incentives. The article did make sense to me until you pointed out this distinction.

And to whoever asked about the mayoral debate – Yes! Please BRING IT ON!!!!

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