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Norwalk political notes: NPS calendar draws outrage, Dias lawsuit works toward trial date, Lavielle scores 100

A pair of Change.org petitions: One posted by Leah Reeves, top, and another posted by Nora King, bottom.

NORWALK, Conn. – Some Norwalk political notes for you:

  • NPS calendar shift inspires dueling petitions
  • The ‘other’ POKO lawsuit
  • Lavielle hits the 100% milestone, again

 

‘Decision makers do not take working families’ needs into consideration’

The Norwalk Board of Education’s recent vote to reschedule the 2021 spring break from April to March is being condemned by one online petition and supported by another.

The scheduling decision discriminates against working families, Leah Reeves states in her Change.org petition, posted on Aug. 27.

The change was well thought out and well communicated, Nora King states in her Change.org petition, posted Friday, three days later.

King is a Rowayton resident, a constituent of District E BoE rep. Mike Barbis, who spearheaded the shift.

As of early Sunday morning, the anti-change petition had 265 signatures and the pro-change petition had 47.

“Childcare and vacation camps are only offered when the majority of schools are not in session,” Reeves wrote in her petition. “Over the years, having a vastly different schedule than surrounding towns has created a tremendous hardship for my family as well as other families in Norwalk as affordable childcare, or any childcare for that matter is not available for Norwalk Working Families.”

The “critical change” was voted on “during one of the busiest vacation weeks of the year,” Reeves states, calling for a new vote now that school is in session. Reeves is also pushing for a new policy that would put an end to votes on critical changes when school is out.

King’s petition lists reasons why a March break is beneficial and states:

“Private schools have been having a March break for years.  They do it because it works academically. Norwalk has been working hard to improve our schools and raise our test scores. The BOE worked hard to keep the February break, which most parents and children look forward to.

“Working families do support this because the breaks are well thought out and are staggered before the summer break.  There are many affordable camps that are established in the area for working families during vacation week and these organizations will support the calendar.”

 

 

Dias lawsuit twiddles on

Along with the three lawsuits filed by and against real estate developer Jason Milligan regarding POKO, the stalled Wall Street Place project, there’s an additional suit that doesn’t get much attention. The lawsuit has been largely omitted from NancyOnNorwalk stories because the past year’s action on it is has been mostly limited to legal maneuvering.

The lawsuit, against the City and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, claims the City in 2008 announced an intention to take Dias’s property at 20-26 Isaacs St. by eminent domain and replace it with a street adjacent to POKO.

POKO Partners signed a contract with Dias to buy his property for $2.5 million but never came up with the funds. In June 2015, Dias was deprived of parking and access to his property, the complaint states. Dias expected the City to buy the property if POKO did not complete the deal, it states.

According to the suit, the defendants have essentially warehoused his property without paying him. It accuses the Agency of unjust enrichment by allowing POKO partners to default on its contract with him. Dias is seeking compensation.

The defendants take issue with Dias’s interpretation of the Land Disposition Agreement for the POKO properties. They maintain it was Dias’s responsibility to hold POKO Partners to its contract, and they argue that Dias’s “years of silence and inaction” amount to tacit approval of the LDA and the associated redevelopment plan.

Points of contention include arguments over who would be required to testify.  Then-Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan eventually gave a two-day deposition but a demand from Dias that Sheehan be deposed again before leaving town was denied by the court. The defendants have sought access to correspondence between Milligan and Dias’ lawyer, Daniel Benjamin. Judge Alex Hernandez ruled in favor of the defendants and the emails were recently turned over, but with extensive passages redacted.

There has also been wrangling over whether Philip Dias would be required to testify.

A trial is scheduled for April.

 

Lavielle votes every time

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) voted in every one of the 388 roll call votes called in the House during the 2019 regular legislative session, according to a press release.

The release, issued Friday, quotes Lavielle, an Assistant House Republican Leader, as saying, “I am pleased to have earned a 100% voting record for the 2019 regular legislative session. Every vote in the legislature is important, and my constituents expect me to be present for each one. Representing them in Hartford is a great responsibility and a distinct privilege, and I am grateful to them for placing their trust in me.”

She then slams the Democratic majority by saying, “Connecticut’s economy is lagging behind not only the rest of the country, but also the economies of its neighboring states. We can’t change that without growing our tax base by attracting and keeping businesses here. Unfortunately, during this session, the legislative majority seemed determined to do exactly the opposite. The state budget bill raised taxes on small business owners by $50 million; the increase in the minimum wage to $15 was approved with no analysis of the level that would be appropriate for Connecticut or of the ability of small businesses to sustain it; and the numerous expensive public-sector union contracts approved this year by the legislative majority will continue to put enormous pressure on state finances. Many of my constituents were concerned about the consequences of these anti-business initiatives, and I was proud to be on the floor for each vote and to speak on their behalf.”

16 comments

Lisa Brinton September 3, 2019 at 7:29 am

The other lawsuit – there sure seems to be multiple politically convenient ‘interpretations’ of the LDA by the City of Norwalk.

The number of local businesses ruined by City Hall’s mismanagement and shroud of secrecy surrounding the original Poko deal is truly depressing.

Sadly, it reminds me of the Reed Putnam/95/7 property deal and the taking of various local businesses – only to go through a host of LDA changes over the course of 20 years to then put it in the hands of private developers receiving property tax credits, while their investors also earn investment tax credits as we build the last mall in America.

Norwalk’s political establishment continues to sell out, either intentionally or through stupidity and mismanagement – supposedly in the name of progress. Unfortunately, middle class homeowners continue to pick up the costs of the lawsuits, settlements and downstream city costs – while the connected make out.

Bobby Lamb September 3, 2019 at 7:40 am

Says the woman who is advocating dropping the Milligan suit thereby giving a city parking lot to her biggest donor for free.

Jason Milligan September 3, 2019 at 8:16 am

Bobby,

I paid $3.2 million for the parking lot in an arm’s length transaction. Check the deed at City Hall.

The lot was given away to Olson long ago. There is no magical way to get it back. Even to have gotten it back from Olson would have required a payment of $3 million.

If it makes you feel any better Olson didn’t pocket any of the money from my purchase. All of the money went straight to the hard money lender that had a mortgage against the properties, the purchase was nearly $2 million short of what was owed the lender.

If Olson made out financially it was when he was able to refinance the properties including the parking lot that he got for free. (That refinance was specifically allowed and approved by Norwalk’s City Council by both Democrats & Republicans through the “Loan Recognition Agreement”)

I don’t know for sure but I really think that refinance money was like rain in the dessert for Olson when it came in. The carrying costs of all the property and land was huge for all those years.

Regardless Olson has passed away.

And I now own the lot.

Lisa Brinton September 3, 2019 at 8:49 am

Bobby Lamb – Two year’s ago during the LAST election, I advocated for holding Citibank Responsible. My position remains unchanged. I didn’t even know Mr. Milligan two years ago – so please don’t try to rewrite history or my position on Poko.

This mayoral administration has wasted $700,000 of our money on a vendetta lawsuit. The $1000 donation pales in comparison to the mayor’s $150,000 donations last campaign that can be directly attributed to developers who have benefitted from the city. A quick glance at his fundraising this year shows no change in his patronage strategy.

No doubt, Mr. Milligan wants to bring the back room ‘negotiations’ of taxpayer money out in the open. As do I.

Bobby Lamb September 3, 2019 at 9:03 am

Jason – I’m pretty sure that’s the point of the lawsuit. It wasn’t legal for him to sell it to you under the circumstances and you’ve admitted right on this site that you knew that. End of the day it’s public land that you are now going to develop and profit from – and your biggest cheerleader took a huge campaign donation from you. I have no problem with you trying to make money off of this – you have no obligation to protect the tax payers – you’re a businessman – find loopholes where you can and make money – that’s what we all do in our businesses. My problem is with a candidate running on a bs platform of anti corruption, protecting the tax payers money and transparency using this situation as an example of what’s wrong with the city. From what I can see she’s grasping at straws, making things up and is more guilty of what she’s claiming to be against than the current mayor. It’s the epitome of hypocrisy.

Piberman September 3, 2019 at 9:19 am

Ms. Gail Lavielle continues to be among the most impressive CT Legislators in modern times and has a resume that puts to shame virtually all CT public officials. She sets the “gold standard” for public service.

Jason Milligan September 3, 2019 at 9:19 am

Bobby,

“Wasn’t legal” is inaccurate.

A breach of a contract is not illegal. It is a civil matter that can result in monetary damages.

Olson breached the LDA (contract). So did the City and Agency.

The LDA (contract) may no longer be valid. That is partly what 1 lawsuitvis about.

The main point is my purchase infused much needed capital and energy into the area. POKO had grinded to a halt and was plaguing the area.

Many positive things have happened since my purchase.

I am a more engaged owner with more resources than Olson.

The good news is all options remain possible. My door, phone, ears and mind are wide open.

Jason Milligan September 3, 2019 at 9:25 am

The civil fine is not considered to be a criminal punishment, because it is primarily sought in order to compensate the state for harm done to it, rather than to punish the wrongful conduct. As such, a civil penalty, in itself, will not carry jail time or other legal penalties.

Patrick Murphy September 3, 2019 at 10:22 am

Gail..great job!

POKO – for real?!!!!! The City and Redevelopment Agency and POKO partners? Who the heck was watching over this? I’ve been associate with urban redevelopment agencies and this never happened.

Where are the City’s checks and balances, shouldn’t that be at the common council level? Who reviews and approves these things?

Ursula Caterbone September 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

So far today all those who posted comments have identified themselves with their full names. This is as it always should be.

Isabelle Hargrove September 3, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I applaud Rep Lavielle’s attendance record. But even more importantly, Gail is an exemplary representative. She does her homework, listens to her constituents and truly fights for their interests and welfare. She does not grandstand to gain political kudos or placate residents while working behind their back to advance an agenda they oppose.

She has proven to be one of the too few honest brokers in Hartford. We should remember the importance of that when voting in November. Who will truly have your neighborhood’s or city’s back and who is just advancing a political narrative or special interest despite its local impact?

I hope we vote for the Gails of the world…

Claire schoen September 3, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Just a footnote – Lisa Brinton’s comments were all posted – the system we use can be quirky at times and occasionally things don’t all get delivered in sequence…

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