Correction, 11:45 p.m., July 23: Candidacy is “unlikely.”
NORWALK, Conn. – It’s time to oust “Tired Harry,” Darnell Crosland announced Friday, issuing campaign phrases like “Let’s Fix It” and “Cross Over to Crosland.”
Crosland stood in front of about 40 people at his campaign kickoff in Paella Tapas Wine Bar and touched on the reasons he has left the Democratic Party and registered Republican, seeking to replace Mayor Harry Rilling and become Norwalk’s first African American Mayor. He took many shots at Rilling, predicting that The SoNo Collection will fail and calling the plan to restart Wall Street Place, a.k.a. “POKO,” “simply more of a bailout to save the banks and simply because your current Mayor is in bed with the developers.”
Video by Harold Cobin at end of story
“I know my candidacy here tonight is an unlikely one, an African American boy with a funny name like Darnell, from the Bronx, with parents from the Caribbean. In many regards, it takes some audacity for me here tonight, asking for you to accept my application to be your next Mayor… Norwalk has been in a ‘Harry situation’ for far too long and it’s time for change.”
Crosland is competing with unaffiliated candidate Lisa Brinton for the Republican endorsement, after being recruited by former State Senate candidate Marc D’Amelio. Republicans meet Monday evening to vote on endorsements.
Brinton and Rilling have qualified to be on the ballot regardless of that outcome, Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said. Crosland had not raised any money as of June 30. He has hired a campaign manager and issued a series of Tweets, condemning broken promises from Democrats.
Crosland ran for Judge of Probate in 2014 but failed to get the Democratic endorsement last year. Democratic opponent Doug Stern won the election.
‘Represents American values’
D’Amelio introduced Crosland, noting how Crosland drove up in a Maserati when they first met and describing the birth of their friendship, which he said would last the rest of their lives.
“You’ve got a guy who came from nothing, that put himself through school,” D’Amelio said. “Who is one of the most prominent attorneys in the City of Norwalk. So he represents not only the values of Republicans, not only the values of Democrats, but the values of Americans. He has 100% of my confidence and faith that he can do this job.”
Crosland said his mother is an immigrant and he decided to become a criminal defense attorney so he could help others. He described the influence his grandfather had upon him, how his grandfather moved back to Barbuda and opened the first gas station there, teaching his grandson the value of work.
Crosland unveiled the phrase “Tired Harry” by saying he was going to be Trump-like. People like Rilling are “impatient, disinterested and they don’t care about you or me and they become arrogant, because they are tired.”
He slammed Rilling for having three pensions; NancyOnNorwalk has previously reported that Rilling has two.
“What do you get? You get the bill,” Crosland said.
‘They realized malls are no good’
“We all like to shop… what the hell was the Mayor thinking when he decided to build that mall? Traffic will be terrible. Small business will suffer. Then we turn around and give the builder a tax break instead of making them pay us,” Crosland said.
The SoNo Collection is in an Enterprise Zone. The Common Council negotiated a deal where mall owner Brookfield Properties will pay $2.5 million a year for seven years and then pay the full $5 million bill, instead of paying nothing the first two years, 50% of its bill in the third year and then 10% more in each following year.
“The Stamford mall down the street, they realized that malls were no good, and that malls are failing. So they closed the mall,” Crosland said. “What did we do? We decided to open a damn mall. Really? Who’s idea was that? Tired Harry.”
Crosland predicted, “In a couple of years, that mall will be an empty building. We could have brought Amazon here when New York gave it up. We could have bought other industries and jobs here but instead, our Mayor decided to make his friends rich with another bad deal … come November it will be time to shop for a new leader.”
Crosland also said he’s taking D’Amelio’s campaign slogan, “Enough Duff,” because, “Bob Duff contributes to Harry’s campaign and Harry contributes to Bob Duffs campaign. So when Bob Duff fails to bring money from Hartford, Harry doesn’t stand up to him. But I will and you will.”
“No other campaign is asking the people of Norwalk what is broke in your lives,” Crosland said, comparing the situation to inviting a plumber in and then not telling the plumber what’s broken.
Rilling, Brinton reply
Rilling responded with this statement:
“I will not engage Darnell in his negative style of campaigning. The references he makes to Wall Street place using offensive language is inappropriate and off-base.
“Moreover the attacks on the Democratic Party he is now making are the same attacks he directed at the Republican Party just 12 months ago when he attempted to secure the Democratic nomination for probate judge it is clear that Darnell is willing to do anything and say anything to further his own agenda.”
“I agree a campaign should be about the issues. I’ve been in touch with Norwalk residents for over decade, as an advocate for both school and land use reform. In recent years, I’ve pressed harder for folks to understand the direct linages between the two and our need for a healthy tax base for downtown revitalization and neighborhood quality of life.
“Unfortunately, we have a long history of electing folks who need to learn on the job, ignore the interconnectivity of the different city departments or re-elect people who pretend everything is great, when it’s not. I’ve been door-knocking for over a month, asking residents and businesses what their concerns are: Top of their list: the rise in property taxes, the mall construction and all the fortress apartments. They’re concerned about traffic, safety, schools and other quality of life issues associated with the increased density. Norwalk has grown too fast, without a plan or sufficient tax revenue for infrastructure. I intend to address these issues through more inclusive leadership, smarter financial management and utilization of best practices.”