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Brinton releases platform; Rilling campaign calls it ‘flattery’

At left, Republican-endorsed Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton; at right, Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling.

The election is Nov. 5.

NORWALK, Conn. — Lisa Brinton has released her platform in her effort to be the next Mayor of Norwalk, ahead of her community town forums.

Adam Wood, campaign spokesperson for incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, sharply criticized the platform, calling it “convenient because the Mayor has already implemented most of what she says she will do or already has it in process.”

Brinton, an unaffiliated voter who is appearing on the Republican line of the ballot, plans two community conversations, one from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10 (today) at Brien McMahon High School and the other planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at Norwalk High School.  “She will present her platform for reform based on her assessment of Norwalk’s fiscal health and her ideas for change,” a press release said.

“Norwalk must remain an affordable and livable community where residents and small businesses are heard when deciding our future,” Brinton states in her platform. “I’ll bring stronger, more inclusive leadership and smarter financial management to preserve Norwalk’s economic health & quality of life.   My reform platform brings accountability, balance and change to City Hall for a healthy, affordable and more economically balanced future, with initiatives that ensure residents are treated evenly and fairly, while providing an economic plan for Norwalk’s success.”

Rilling is seeking a fourth two-year term. Brinton was one of three challengers in the 2017 election.

 

 

Brinton’s “Reform and Prosperity” platform:

Quality of Life Management 

  1. Stand up for Norwalk residents. Residents are increasingly concerned about uncertain tax hikes and a diminishing quality of life due to increased density and a lack of specific goals or caps by the city. Our schools, roads and city services are overwhelmingly impacted. My first responsibility is to advocate for residents, not the policies of a specific political party, special interests or the state.
  2. Protect neighborhoods with updated zoning regulations. Norwalk’s rich history cannot be lost to oversized, unsightly development based on tax credits while routine neighborhood maintenance suffers.  Development must be smart, scaled and pay for itself. I’ll continue to advocate for updated zoning regulations to reflect more form-based zoning, focused on building facades and public realm, size, scale, types of streets and architectural design instead of overly specific and often contradictory abstract metrics which miss their intended purpose, creating loopholes and abuse for those with deep pockets.
  3. Create a Livable Norwalk inspection program to address the rental market including review and enforcement of quality of life ordinances.  Norwalk’s multi-unit rental market now constitutes nearly 50% of housing stock. The city needs to ensure units are safe and up to building code in order to minimize accidents, protect taxpayers from liabilities and ensure appropriate tax revenues are collected. Ordinances haven’t kept pace with recent developments or population boom.  Noise, blight, parking, traffic, apartment occupancy, and health and safety ordinances must be reviewed. The new program will be paid through a combination of restructuring of the mayor’s public relations unit and raising user fees for multi-unit landlords.
  4. Fund master plans for parks and recreation facilities. Norwalk parks offer diverse recreational opportunities for residents. Unfortunately, improvements have been underfunded for years. Increased population demands our greatest assets be preserved for the next generation. I’ll  focus attention on restoring open space in South Norwalk, as well as improving the tree canopy in urban areas. Restoring recreational space for Norwalk’s disengaged youth must be addressed given the YMCA loss and uncertain future of SONOCC.
  5. Introduce a traffic safety enforcement schedule.  Build on my support of the Vision Zero Traffic Safety Initiative by proactively implementing measures to insure our roads are as safe as possible for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Institute a routinely scheduled police presence at specific locations to reduce motorist speeding and traffic violations.”

 

Leadership & Political Culture Reform 

  1. Implement an inclusive and transparent process for political appointments. Although the charter promotes Norwalk as a strong council weak mayor system, the mayor wields much ‘hidden’ power through appointments to dozens of city boards and commissions.  As our city grows in complexity, “I’ll put safeguards in place to ensure that the best qualified citizens serve versus patronage appointments.
  2. Mandate ethics training for every city worker and political appointee. Establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding patronage or the “friends and family” culture with city contracts. Support ordinances requiring full disclosure of contributions from bidders and contractors.
  3. Establish charter revision task force. As the primary framework for political and operational functions, the city charter affects all government functions. Establish a task force to review and address shortfalls and map out a more effective 21st Century structure and present it to the public for comments before a formal charter commission is formed.  A series of public review sessions will be held before any ballot consideration.
  4. Review City Hall communication.  Acknowledging that the public uses, receives and prefers various methods of communication, I’ll insist City Hall review its policies to ensure timely notification of upcoming events, programs, sustainability initiatives, public meetings and new developments.”

 

Financial Management Reform & Economic Development 

  1. Review budgeting process and audit third party agencies. Improve departmental cost controls by standardizing performance metrics focused on supporting residents and examining outcome-based budgeting for more transparent use of taxpayer dollars by instituting a compensation structure for top administrators tied to measurable goals.
  2. Upgrade IT databases and practices of building, zoning and tax records. Over 85 percent of our city revenue is derived from property taxes.  City databases don’t interface properly, resulting in inefficiencies, delays and inaccuracies between various departments, which impact city functions from planning and zoning, to permits, land assessments and ultimately property taxes.
  3. Support local businesses with best practices and smart development. Oppose revision of the (POKO) Agreement. I support affordable housing in Fairfield County based on rent paid, not government defined, crony capitalism, concentrated in fortress apartments at great expense to taxpayers, which still fails to serve our most vulnerable. I’ll advocate for restoration of the Wall Street train station, Garden Cinema and Main Library and work with local businesses to formulate city wide parking plans conducive to growing customers, not chasing them away.
  4. Advocate 90-day moratorium on Walk Bridge project. Formally request the governor impose a 90-day review period for the project to assess true costs and alternative solutions directed at minimizing operational and economic impact on residents and businesses in East and South Norwalk. We have one of the longest coastlines in Connecticut and remain the state’s number one oyster producer. Environmental impacts must be safeguarded. I’ll also undertake a review of the needs and opportunities for the Upper Harbor as it ties to the bridge replacement. IMAX Theater replacement costs must be reviewed, as well as the compensation due Norwalk for the disruption associated with this project.
  5. Build on Manresa Study. Explore as a marina and solar farm for the Federal Marine Highway Project.  Expand the under-usage of America’s navigable waterways, as the next least expensive option of coal-ash remediation needed to address Manresa’s former power plant life.  Norwalk has the local expertise of a designer and builder of hybrid shipping vessels, putting us at the forefront of this green initiative with owner NRG. This would draw on “Norwalk’s maritime history and minimize disruption in Norwalk’s Harbor, leaving it for pleasure craft, shellfish and small fishing. The plant, an eyesore, with diminishing property tax receipts, must be addressed.
  6. Support economic development focused on trades and technical jobs.  Drawing on my personal business and education experience, I’ll adopt city-wide strategies further integrating our high schools with Norwalk Community College, local business and technical trades.  Norwalk has a long history of creating goods and services. When combined with a tight knit trade community, we can jump start a service incubator for technical trades, culinary, medical and maritime fields. I will also explore recruiting a national university for a satellite campus in Norwalk.
  7. Seek supplemental school funding from third parties and increase overall city grant writing.  Dedicated resources are needed to pursue city grants directed at reducing the tax burden on residents for different city departments. Millions are distributed each year by federal, state, non-profit and corporate foundations. Education alone represents 54% of the budget and is growing. I support the on-going improvements in Norwalk’s schools and spending focused on students, but will build on my 12 years of district and state activism to pursue state and third-party financing for unfunded mandates associated with spiked enrollment. I’ll promote the success of our urban school district for supplemental funding via grants, and partner with corporate and non-profit foundations for career opportunities.”

 

‘Plagiarizing’ Rilling’s ‘good work’

Wood responded:

“At best, Lisa Brinton is not paying attention to what’s happening in Norwalk. At worst, she’s plagiarizing the good work the City of Norwalk already has underway.

“Lisa’s platform is convenient because the Mayor has already implemented most of what she says she will do or already has it in process. It’s 2019, but the most fitting proverb to describe this platform was written almost two hundred years ago, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’

“The Mayor’s opponent wants to protect neighborhoods? Then she should thank the Mayor for building out a neighborhood improvement team for the first time in Norwalk’s history, for pursuing responsible community development and for lowering crime in every neighborhood across the city.

“She wants to fund a park’s master plan? Norwalk is already doing this. She should thank the Mayor for hiring talented staff to lead this project and the council for approving funding for this plan.

“She is worried about uncertain tax-hikes? Everyone is. She should thank the Mayor and his team for keeping the mill rate low, for strong fiscal management and conservative budgeting. Most single-family homeowners saw a tax decrease this year, and because of the Mayor’s strong financial management, Norwalk is well-positioned to weather economic uncertainty for years to come.”

24 comments

Paul Persius October 10, 2019 at 4:57 am

…so we have 2 looming, very large issues presented on NON (POKO and this article) and not 1 comment from my mayor.

Mike Lyons October 10, 2019 at 7:23 am

Interesting contrast in approach by NON. When Harry Rilling submitted his summary of why he should stay mayor, no responses from Lisa Brinton were included in the article (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/10/opinion-norwalk-is-not-losing-its-charm-its-enhancing-its-assets/). But when Lisa issued her platform, NON made sure to get attacks on it from Harry’s campaign to include in the article before publishing it. But don’t worry, there’s no bias here folks!

RE October 10, 2019 at 7:27 am

“Most single-family homeowners saw a tax decrease this year” — the public needs to see proof of that claim. Maybe it’s just me and everyone I ask whether their taxes went up, are on the other side of a decrease.

Mike Mushak October 10, 2019 at 7:51 am

Nothing new here. No one could say it better than Adam Wood did in the article:

“Lisa’s platform is convenient because the Mayor has already implemented most of what she says she will do or already has it in process. It’s 2019, but the most fitting proverb to describe this platform was written almost two hundred years ago, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’

“The Mayor’s opponent wants to protect neighborhoods? Then she should thank the Mayor for building out a neighborhood improvement team for the first time in Norwalk’s history, for pursuing responsible community development and for lowering crime in every neighborhood across the city.

“She wants to fund a park’s master plan? Norwalk is already doing this. She should thank the Mayor for hiring talented staff to lead this project and the council for approving funding for this plan.

“She is worried about uncertain tax-hikes? Everyone is. She should thank the Mayor and his team for keeping the mill rate low, for strong fiscal management and conservative budgeting. Most single-family homeowners saw a tax decrease this year, and because of the Mayor’s strong financial management, Norwalk is well-positioned to weather economic uncertainty for years to come.”

Vote for Harry Rilling and Democrats this November!

James Cahn October 10, 2019 at 12:30 pm

It’s hard for me to judge which is most evidently on display here: the typical thin skinnedness of Norwalk’s incumbent political class; the unsophisticated, condescendingly misogynist tone; or the pure cleverness in the strategy of being able to successfully forgo the development of ones own, similar document with the declarative, “Yeah, we’ve either done all that or are going to do it. That’s our platform, too.”

You may not like Lisa and you may have no intention of voting for her but it should be expected that you’d show her the same respect to which you’d imagine yourself entitled.

Kathleen Montgomery October 10, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Adam Wood, might you be able to provide us with data on your claims “lowering crime in every neighborhood, and most single-family homeowners saw a tax decrease this year”?

Mike Mushak October 10, 2019 at 2:03 pm

@ James Cahn, You think Lisa deserves “respect” after she has spent 3 years trashing the mayor and city staff and even volunteers, insulting them relentlessly?

Just read her many nasty comments on NoN since 2016. It’s all on the record. Talk about a double standard!

And this from a Republican no less, the party who has made actual misogyny an official campaign strategy. The Republicans loved it when Trump made “Lock her up!” a rally cry that had the crowd on its feet, and when he admitted grabbing women by the genitals, his poll numbers immediately shot up among Republicans. What was that all about?

Use “projection” much?

Tony Pavia October 10, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Lowering crime? Two blocks away from city hall there’s a legit crime wave going on – car break ins, homes entered, property stolen. Thieves hit the same homes, in some cases, twice.

John Miller October 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Kathleen: I can’t speak to the claim that crime is down in most neighborhoods but, like you, would really appreciate it if Mr. Wood would provide definitive, verifiable data that most single-family homeowners saw a decrease in their property taxes this year. I’m just not buying it.

Nancy Chapman October 10, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Hi Mike. It’s basic journalism – the Mayor submitted an opinion piece, and it’s clearly marked that way. His opponent released a platform; she didn’t send it as an opinion. I treated the release of a platform as a news story, which requires me to get both sides of the story. If challenger Lisa Brinton submits an opinion, it will run without a reply provided it meets certain parameters, such as it’s not slanderous and it is factual.

Bob October 10, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Harry does not want to have a debate against Lisa. She will eat him up and spit him out. It’s a mismatch.
Sadly, we have a bunch of brainwashed Mike Mushak’s out there voting for Harry, regardless of Harry being the worst Norwalk mayor of all time.

Bob October 10, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Mike Mushak-

I’ll throw it right back at you…Do you or Harry deserve any respect after three years of trashing our President?
Double standard much?

niz October 10, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Politics get ugly, that is for sure. I think each have good ideas and one has implemented theirs, some are good to some and not so good to others, the voting citizens will decide. In the meantime I would like east norwalk to have a grocery store… yes traffic is crazy, but considering the growing population, we should get one… or markets for produce, meat, fish etc… open the coffee shop at the ENRR as well, IJS pls don’t nobody bite my head off for my input?

Isabelle Hargrove October 10, 2019 at 4:38 pm

I am actually very happy that this article gave an opportunity for Mayor Rilling to address Ms. Brinton’s ideas and priorities. It provided a sharp contrast for voters.

Ms. Brinton has a carefully articulated strategic plan aimed at addressing the top issues faced by Norwalk. It outlines much-needed reforms in the way city hall operates, both to increase transparency and fair access and to make life easier and more productive for both employees and customers. It provides ideas and priorities to improve our quality of life and spur real economic growth. All of it to make Norwalk a more attractive place to invest in, both as homeowners and businesses. It advocates for a stronger defense of Norwalk against deep pockets and the State. It takes a stand against POKO, the Walk Bridge, the lack of open space in South Norwalk, and the lack of ordinance enforcement and updates to finally deal with issues that have plagued neighborhoods.

I think it’s dead on and it renews my hopes that Norwalk’s future can be bright for its average residents. But just as importantly, it demonstrates Ms. Brinton’s respect for voters and commitment to working on our behalf instead of playing 1st couple of Norwalk.

The Rilling administration’s comments are just the contrary. They lack depth, they are dismissive of Ms. Brinton and voters’ concerns. They are the same canned attacks or meaningless actions (putting teams together and holding listening tours after 6 years). It’s not about providing information or articulating a plan for scrutiny. On the contrary, it is only meant to provide a cheap narrative in the hope that everyone is too busy or misinformed to care. Norwalkers deserves better!

Isabelle Hargrove October 10, 2019 at 4:45 pm

@ Mike Mushak. You can repeat a million times that Lisa Brinton is a nasty woman with nasty comments about volunteers, staff, etc… it will still not make it true.

BTW, I thought we frowned upon the word nasty? Or is that just when the other side uses it?

Ron Morris October 10, 2019 at 4:59 pm

Bob
I fail to see anyone trashing your President. What I do see when it comes to the President is people pointing out facts.

James Cahn October 10, 2019 at 5:06 pm

@Mike Mushak At the risk of appearing to explain myself, I think my comment was only an observation informed by a recent reading and attempt at nesting Empiricists (specifically such as Hume) with Aristotelian ethics. These are probably quaint anachronisms in a world where we now have the profundity to know all we might need to know of each other by demanding binary answers to “Trump questions.” But, I’m not the smartest guy in the world. So, at least by that measure I’m “with it.”

That aside, I’m not sure there are many other ways to interpret the clear invocation of a sort of dominance hierarchy and accompanying suggestion as to where Brinton might belong on it, who might imagine it’s their role to put her there and why; which also suggests a view and understanding of the same in the mind of (at the least,) Mr. Wood. This is as dismissive and illustrative, for the identical reasons, as the episode which you reference from Donald Trump’s campaign. I think to see it otherwise is less an example of “projection” than cognitive dissonance. Especially in consideration of the context I’ve offered.

Peripherally, I don’t subscribe to the idea that elected officials are beyond critique and I think it’s dangerous to suggest otherwise…especially when mating it to the suggestion that to do so is “disrespectful.” I think that elected officials should be criticized often and harshly. I think that if Brinton manages to be elected, she should (and should expect to) be criticized often and harshly. I think it’s eminently correct for our elected officials to feel the dull, uncomfortable pressure of an externally applied heightened sense of urgency and accountability.

Anyway, always enjoy tossing it around with you, my friend. Even when we disagree. Maybe ESPECIALLY if we disagree. I hope summer treated you guys well!

Joanna Cooper October 10, 2019 at 10:30 pm

The attempts to smear, fabricate and misdirect information by team Rillings mouthpieces is failing. I’m not buying it. It’s particularly amusing that Mike Mushak doesn’t seem to understand that everything that comes out of his abrasive mouth only hurts mayor Rilling. He doth protest too much methinks! I hope Mike will resign from every committee and appointment he works at in city hall when Lisa wins the election.

Go LISA! I can’t wait to celebrate your victory!

James Cahn October 11, 2019 at 8:19 am

@Joanna Cooper: I hope he doesn’t. Don’t we bemoan the fact that our current Mayor’s office is too filled with ideologically guided people who are more apt to fall victim to “group think” than to give thoughtful, if passionate consideration to the issues at hand? I think Brinton and Mushak could make a dynamic team. We should want that. We should actually demand it.

Mimi Chang October 11, 2019 at 9:27 am

Mr. Wood’s rudely dismissive and marginalizing statement about Ms. Brinton is a head scratcher with regards to plagiarism:

”At best, Lisa Brinton is not paying attention to what’s happening in Norwalk. At worst, she’s plagiarizing the good the City of Norwalk already has underway.”

Wikipedia definition of Plagiarism:

“Plagiarism is the ‘wrongful appropriation’ and ‘stealing and publication’ of another author’s ‘language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions’ and the representation of them as one’s own original work… Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to penalties such as suspension, expulsion from school or work, substantial fines and even incarceration.”

Question for Mr. Wood: How is it possible for Ms. Brinton to plagiarize a Rilling platform that does not exist? If a platform did exist, the public could access it in order to compare and contrast it with Ms. Brinton’s platform. Calling plagiarism on Ms. Brinton where it is unsubstantiated is a pretty serious accusation, judging by the above definition. Ms. Brinton’s platform is clearly her own.

The Rilling Administration has not in almost six years come close to proactively addressing 12 of Ms. Brinton’s 16 reform initiatives. It is dishonorable for Mr. Wood to claim otherwise. I wish the Rilling Administration addressed initiatives 1 & 2 under “Leadership and Political Culture Reform”, to bid adieu to the special interests stacked committees and “friends and family” appointees situation we have at Norwalk City Hall which block public opinion and progress. It is obvious the administration has not addressed traffic congestion and enforced traffic safety on a routinely scheduled basis, so they cannot lay claim to that. Despite constant pleas from the public, they have been lax to a fault on zoning enforcement, which negatively impacts quality of life. They have not been transparent and forthright about POKO and all the sunk costs taxpayer money wasted on a negative ROI unfinished building, and they certainly haven’t conducted a much needed forensic audit on the infamous Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, which Ms. Brinton appears to address in one of her initiatives. They have seriously shortchanged NPS their fair share of education funding from Hartford, where Ms. Brinton has a plan there.

Mr. Wood’s sour grapes response and false cry of plagiarism to Ms. Brinton’s authentic, well articulated platform is a study in smear tactics and reactive versus proactive politics. This campaign season, the Rilling Administration’s special brand of “D” stands for “Disingenuous”.

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