Alvord: South Norwalk paving had nothing to do with Election Day

Paving is done on Election Day in South Norwalk. (Contributed photo.)

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – There was no Election Day conspiracy to tie South Norwalk traffic in knots, the director of the department of public works says. In fact, the mayor did not even know the paving was going on, he said.

DPW chief Hal Alvord said he made the decision to pave North Main Street on Tuesday, Nov. 6, which led to a complaint filed with the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission last week by the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee. Although the complaint alleges voter suppression by both Mayor Richard Moccia and “governmental officials in public works,” Alvord said the timing had more to do with Connecticut Restaurant Week, Superstorm Sandy and falling temperatures than the location of polls and the Democratic Town Committee (NDTC) headquarters.

“Nobody was kept from voting,” he said. “In fact, we were busting our tail the week before that making sure we could get could get roads open, and the power company got power on to all of the polls in the city. Why this is even (an issue) beats me.”

The complaint says, “(I)t is unfair that eligible voters in the District B area were hindered from free access to the polls,” by work on both North Main Street and Taylor Avenue.

“It was imprudent for the mayor and his direct reports to initiate any municipal projects on Election Day that would obstruct the major roadways in SoNo and greatly impact the accessibility and mobility of voters” said NDTC Chairwoman Amanda M. Brown in a statement.

District B Chairman Bobby Burgess agreed it was a problem and he supported the NDTC complaint. Burgess said he got complaints from voters and called U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich), who contacted Moccia.

The city wasn’t doing work on Taylor Avenue, Alvord said, adding that Yankee Gas might have been over there. North Main Street had been milled and the catch basins had been replaced, Alvord said. It couldn’t be left that way through the winter.

The SoNo paving had originally been planned for the night of Oct. 21-23, but that changed when area businesses were contacted, he said.

“We were going to try and do that at night. We wanted to avoid impact to the businesses during the day,” he said. “On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night, the movies, the restaurants, their business is way down. So we would have less impact doing it at night on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. That was the plan.

“I went to (Director of Business Development and Marketing) Tad Diesel to ask Tad to help us get information to all the businesses in SoNo what the plan was because we can do fliers, but he’s got contacts through the Chamber of Commerce and everything else with the businesses in the area. He agreed to help. He started to talk to the businesses, and the restaurants immediately said you can’t do it that week, that’s National Restaurant Week.”

There was a meeting with Diesel, Moccia and Alvord. According to Alvord, “The mayor said, ‘Let’s leave Restaurant Week alone,’ you know, ‘Let’s give the restaurants their chance, let’s plan on doing it the week of Halloween.’ Well, of course then, unfortunately on the 29th, Superstorm Sandy.”

He continued, “We couldn’t pave in the middle of a hurricane so we put it off for another week. By the time we got a lot of the roads open and everything else, then we had this monster snow squall, and the temperatures dropped below freezing. You can’t lay asphalt in freezing temperatures, so I made the decision, get it done in the daytime.’

Paving has always been done on Election Day, he said, all over the city, weather permitting.

“We had to get it done; the temperatures were dropping,” he said. “I couldn’t leave the street like that through the winter. It would have been a real disaster for our snow plows and everything else, so we paved it that week. I didn’t even know, not that they care or believe me anyway, but I had no idea there was any kind of political office on the street. Didn’t have a clue.”

The last Moccia had heard about it was the meeting in October, he said.

“The mayor didn’t even know we were paving down there that day, On Election Day he got a call, I think from Jim Himes, asking him – hey, was he aware. The mayor called me frantically in the morning, going, ‘Hey, Hal, what the hell is going on?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re paving, mayor.’ He said, ‘Well, I got this call from Jim Himes. Can you get those guys off the street?’ ‘Well, they’re laying asphalt now, I can’t stop them in the middle of it.’ ‘But, can they finish up quickly?’ I said, ‘We’ll get them as quickly as I can.’ I think they were out of there like 2:30 or so.”


5 responses to “Alvord: South Norwalk paving had nothing to do with Election Day”

  1. oldtimer

    What else did we expect them to say ?
    All through the civil rights movement, people would say ” that may be what happened, but that was not our intent”. The term “de-facto” grew out of those excuses and applies in a case like this. Nobody expects to get the mayor or one of his department heads to admit an intent to hinder voting in South Norwalk, but the facts speak for themselves. The paving could have been done the next day. While they were checking with all the neighborhood businesses for when they could pave with the least impact, he wants us to believe he didn’t notice Democratic Hqs ? Whoever had Taylor Ave closed could have waited until the next day, unless it was a dangerous emergency.. It is Alvord’s job to approve/disapprove road closings and it is disingenuous for him to say he didn’t know.

  2. jackie lightfield

    oldtimer, look at a map and explain how North Main Street is essential or even the primary street for getting to Columbus School to vote?

  3. Debora

    The Democratic HQ office was on North Main and had been for months. Closing access to it hindered access for those that MOST needed assistance getting to the polls. Volunteers that were driving folks around who had difficulty walking or had other need of assistance needed to report there to get their assignments. The more you slowed them down, the fewer got to vote.

  4. jlightfield

    Debora, apparently you are unaware that the Democratic HQ entrance also faced the Webster parking lot. And that the Webster parking lot entrance is MLK. There is no reason for people to drive on North Main St. to reach that Democratic HQ. None.

  5. Bryan Meek

    1000s of residents still did not have electricity that day from storm Sandy, but still managed to vote. The precincts in question also had larger turnout than the last presidential election.

    We keep the polls open for 14 hours just because there are sometimes inconveniences in life that prove a little difficult to get by. Wasting state resources on frivolous issues doesn’t help anyone.

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