Editorial: A vote for openness, honesty and civility

NORWALK, Conn. – There has been a lot of speculation throughout the campaign about where we at NancyOnNorwalk stood. There have been allegations of bias in the reporting and presentation, which we have denied and continue to deny. There have been suggestions that we favor one party or the other. Again, to repeat the oft-repeated phrase of the incumbent mayor, not true.

We have had angry emails and calls from both sides of the aisle. We have had questions ignored by both sides of the aisle. We have presented both sides of the story when both sides were available. And, through it all, our readership has doubled (unique visitors) and our page views have tripled. We must be doing something right.

We were not going to endorse or recommend candidates. However, as we have learned more about the candidates, we feel the need to make some exceptions.

A few weeks ago, my personal ballot was going to be split evenly between the major parties. That is no longer the case. When the Republican Party decided to boycott our Common Council question-and-answer request, it raised our suspicions. Then, when we saw the Republican Party boilerplate responses to the League of Women Voters’ questions, we made up our minds.

First of all, those responses were angry, dismissive and insulting. They were also misleading and, in some cases wrong — and this, to a non-partisan organization (LWV) trying to fulfill its mission to educate voters. The responses were highly partisan and showed a desire to make Republican Party speeches instead of allowing the public to see just what the individual candidates were thinking and how much they knew.

To excoriate Democrats for supposedly signing a pledge to put party over public was the height of hypocrisy – a bar that has been set very high, indeed – first, because the Republican Town Committee DID insist that at least one member – and multiple RTC members have said it was more – sign an oath of allegiance.

Second, the majority of the Republican Party Common Council candidates answered seven of the eight LWV questions with identical replies, indicating the replies, and the opinions they reflect, are those of the RTC. Who needs a pledge or an oath when you can simply tell everyone what to say? And the fact that the candidates allowed words to be put in their mouths indicates that they will not or cannot think and act independently.

We also have a problem with candidates we will call D-publicans – Republicans who won’t stop clinging to the “D.” Those are candidates – Bruce Kimmel and Michael Geake — who were Democrats, who were elected as Democrats in 2011, who quit the Democratic caucus and, in one instance (Geake), the party itself, and caucused with the Republicans. Then, just before the Democratic mayoral primary, Mr. Geake re-registered as a Democrat to vote in the primary. Both he and Mr. Kimmel, who still claim to be Democrats, were nominated to run as part of the Republican ticket. They accepted. Mr. Kimmel recently endorsed Republican Mayor Richard Moccia for re-election and was one of the Republican-backed candidates to say what he was told to say in the LVW responses. This despite his years in office. He should have at least called upon his experience to give voters some window into what his current thinking is. Then again, by his actions, he may have told voters all they need to know.

At least Mr. Geake came up with his own answers.

In 2011, Norwalk’s Democrats thought they had elected a majority on the council that would give some counterbalance to the Republican mayor. With the defections, the Democrats became the minority party and lost parliamentary control of the body.

Not that the Democrats did not bring about some of their own problems. Government by public spectacle often backfires, as the Republicans/Tea Partiers in Washington have found out. And, while some events of 2012 certainly begged for public attention – and the other media chose to ignore at least one of those stories – there are better ways to do it. The “clown show,” as it was called by some, undermined Democratic Party credibility.

As for our choices, we urge District E voters to choose Democrats John Igneri and Kate Tepper for Common Council.

The knock the Republicans have put on Mr. Igneri is that he hasn’t accomplished anything in his single term on the council. We feel that he has — he has shown that one can behave like a gentleman and a professional and still represent District E. We feel that, in an atmosphere not rife with rancor and buffoonery, Mr. Igneri and Ms. Tepper could bring a lot to the district and the city. We feel that David McCarthy’s often rude and condescending behavior is not something that voters should encourage, and that Emily Wilson’s contentious tenure as Zoning Commission chairwoman has shown she is too highly partisan to be an effective council member. Voters should also remember that both Republicans were involved in the misleading attack flier left at homes in West Norwalk, complaining about a vote mayoral candidate and Zoning Commission member Harry Rilling made on an issue involving the proposed mosque. The flier did not mention that Rilling was one of six out of seven members voting in favor of the resolution (not in favor of allowing the mosque), and that Ms. Wilson voted the same way. This is not the kind of honesty the transparency Norwalkers deserve.

As for other council seats, our sentiments above preclude us from recommending many other Republican candidates. However, Doug Hempstead and Richard Bonenfant have our support for at-large seats. Both are gentlemen with Norwalk’s best interests at heart and have demonstrated the ability to think for themselves.

We recommend Democrats Kevin Poruban and newcomer John Kydes in District C and express disappointment that Republican Michelle Maggio rejected the opportunity to allow the voters more insight into who she is, because she was on our original list for support.

In District D we strongly recommend Democrat Marilyn Robinson. In addition to the District E duo, this may be the most obvious Democratic choice on the council ballot. She is smart, experienced, outspoken and professional. She knows the lay of the land in City Hall and has said she will be fully involved. Again, we are disappointed in Jerry Petrini, a council veteran and good guy, who seemed to have more allegiance to the Republican Party than respect for the voters when it came to answering the LWV questions. He had been on our list.

In the at-large race, in addition to the two Republicans, Democrat Olivia Dardy, who has demonstrated intelligence and discipline in her life as an athlete and coach and who we believe will bring some much-needed new thoughts and energy to the Common Council, deserves a shot.

We struggled with Democrat Warren Peña. Mr. Peña barely made it onto the council in his first run in 2011. The image he presented in debates and forums was one of a centrist, a responsible, intelligent candidate who would be all business on the council. Then Mr. Peña got involved in the bombast and uproar that marked 2012. In his role as a leader of the SoNo Community Center, he had a very public battle with the leadership at Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, calling out that leadership over issues surrounding their shared building and NEON’s administration of SoNoCC-intended grants. While Mr. Peña looked bad at the time – and raised questions of a conflict of interest because of his role on the Common Council – hindsight gives us a different perspective. A contrite Mr. Peña, in his answers to NancyOnNorwalk’s questions, spoke of learning a lot in his first term and his desire to have another chance. We believe in second chances.

We have no recommendation for the fifth seat.

As for the Board of Education, we noted above there are several good candidates. This is a tough choice. We would like to see less politics and more focus on what’s good for the kids, as scores show Norwalk lags behind state averages, although it does score better other cities in most grades and subject areas.

With a strong, experienced and well-respected superintendent on board, we feel it is important to elect a diverse board that will put the kids first and that will support the superintendent’s efforts while, at the same time, keeping costs in check without creating a feeling of resentment. We strongly feel there is no place for partisan politics on the Board of Education. It is a place for dedicated, educated and committed individuals whose No. 1 concern is the education of the children and how best to do that with fiscal responsibility.

Because we believe all of the candidates have their strong and weak points, we are going to refrain from making specific recommendations. Instead, a few comments:

Republican Susan Haynie and Steve Colarossi are two passionate, knowledgeable people who were part of a board that restored fiscal balance and recruited a top-notch superintendent. Then again, they were part of the board on whose watch the district lost track of millions of dollars; they helped bring in Susan Marks, who brought in Elio Longo, who caught the mistake and set the BOE back on track after a horrible year filled with cuts. Then Ms. Marks quit and Mr. Longo went to Westport. The two candidates are also frequently at odds, often in a manner that, if they were students, would earn them a trip to the principal’s office. It would be to the district’s advantage for them to learn how to peacefully work out their differences, because they both have so much to offer. Ms. Haynie has come in for withering commentary from teachers’ union president Bruce Mellion in the union newsletter. For some people, that makes her a hero. For others, not so much. For Mr. Colarossi, the opposite is often the case.

Mr. Colarossi has split with his Republican Party to run on the Community Values ticket with Andres Roman, a newcomer with a compelling back story, a solid education and a career as a probation officer and counselor that requires him to make difficult decisions that can have profound effects on people’s lives. A parent with young children in the system, Mr. Roman wants a chance to help guide Norwalk education.

Democrats Sherelle Harris and incumbent Heidi Keyes and Republican Lauren Rosato, along with Ms. Haynie, are being backed by the reform-minded Red Apples, a professed non-partisan group concerned with the direction of public education. Ms. Haynie and Ms. Keyes are the only incumbents in that group. Ms. Rosato is the former president of the education foundation, and Ms. Harris has a long and solid history of community involvement in South Norwalk, including years as a librarian working with children.

The grouping was not done by the candidates but by the Apples, causing some confusion among people who thought the candidates were turning their backs on their political parties. Not so. Still, a non-partisan Board of Education is not a bad thing, and a board with an even split, with members working for the good of the students, is most desirable.

Two Democrats – Shirley Mosby and Haroldo Williams – and Republicans John Bazzano and Artie Kassimis round out the field. Mr. Kassimis is running for re-election, and has served the past year as vice chairman. Ms. Mosby has been on the board before, having served after being appointed to fill a vacancy. Both candidates have a history of community volunteerism and reaching out to youth groups.

Mr. Williams is a businessman making his first run at the board, while Mr. Bazzano is a veteran banker with J.P. Morgan. Both could bring some solid financial and business knowledge to the table, which could provide extra value during what is sure to be a tough budget year.


23 responses to “Editorial: A vote for openness, honesty and civility”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    Thank you NON for your reporting on this race, I find your reporting balanced and more open than other journals.

    Yesterday, I received a robo call from Michael Geake on behalf of the Moccia campaign. There were no advertisements of accomplishment, the call started out with “I am Michael Geake and I am a Democrat just like you”, then the diatribe about the City Hall fight and Travis Simms, preceeded by the statement “The Norwalk Democratic party is falling apart”. Really? I watched Sue Haynie’s video here where she took the most of her time to attack, instead of citing her accomplishments and her vision going forward.

    I am too tired of this constant attack mode I see the Republicans in, and very few words from this Mayor, whose in constant lock down mode when it comes to the media.

    I agree with most of your assessment, and if there are those who believe “divide and conquer” is the best plan of action to win an election, they should remember, someday it could be used against them, in fact, I think this Tuesday, it will be used against them.

    Humility is a wonderful trait, and it is found among the best thinkers, those that others cannot dream to touch, so when I see the constant arrogance that has become the badge of this administration, I am reminded of the African saying:

    The empty gourd makes the loudest noise.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Don’t Panic

    Mr. Geake is in no position to judge the state of the Democratic Party here in Norwalk, not having been there to witness it himself.Had he not turned his back on them, he’d have seen a diverse group working together, campaigning cooperatively, and coming up with new ideas for mproving Norwalk that go beyond maintaining its AAA bond rating.
    Apparently, the BOE is the only organization that is capable of reforming itself in Mr. Geake’s mind.

  3. Norwalk Lifer

    @Don’t panic, well, considering that the head of the Republican party in Norwalk, sent Colarossi a letter concerning his “membership” in the Republican party and how he, Art would be “looking at the names of those to be on the BOE”, I have to tell you, I find this whole campaign season akin to a Seinfeld episode “A whole lotta talk about nothing”

    We have serious issues in this town, and to the illustrious Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Geake who are now “at large” I have one thing to say, you DO qualify for the GOP, you are “quitters” just like the Governor of Alaska.

    Perhaps to seek higher office? Let’s hope not.

    Norwalk Lifer

  4. Don’t Panic

    If only that were so. If Norwalk was flush with cash, with low taxes, great services, outstanding education and quality of life for all of our residents, then we would have the luxury of arguing about “nothing”.
    Unfortunately, this election promises to have serious impact on whether we move ahead and work together or stay mired in divisive politics and stalled progress.
    Campaigns are marketing. Governing needs to be responsible for results. The fact that there are incumbents who are touting our current conditions as a good job indicates that they truly believe this is the best we can do. I believe we can do better. That will require a paradigm shift in thinking that very few individuals are capable of, with or without partisan affiliation.
    If we can create an environment where one or more of these rare individuals can provide a fresh direction, then perhaps we can truly see some leadership on a bi-partisan basis. I simply don’t see that kind of change coming from a slate of candidates who submitted identical answers to a questionnaire designed to enlighten voters.

  5. RU4REAL

    Thank you NON, without your diligence in honest reporting the Repubs would have gotten away with much of their nonsense. The citizens of Norwalk owe you big time for helping us make an informed decision on Tuesday.

  6. Piberman

    And the new ideas in this election were ? We’ll learn about the value of unprecedented union support in electing a mayor without prior elective. And whether Norwalk will be the first CT city that elected its former police chief as Mayor. Most important we’ll learn whether voters appreciate the transformation of our BOE and further enhance its capabilities with competent and courteous members. As in all our recent elections the winners will always be our city employees – highest paid of any city in CT.
    Property owners come in second with stagnant property values. Imagine the good times when city employees fully control our politics and budget.
    Voters may then receive a civics lesson.

  7. Bill Dunne

    “There has been a lot of speculation throughout the campaign about where we at NancyOnNorwalk stood.”
    No, Mark, there wasn’t. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  8. piberman

    The real underlying theme of this election is whether our public unions vigorously supporting Democrats can do to the City of Norwalk what they’ve done to the State of Connecticut. We know what happened in Hartford – biggest tax hike in our State’s history
    and the nation’s slowest economy. And we know what happened to Bridgeport when unions controlled the City’s finances.

    Hold on to your wallets Norwalk taxpayers !

  9. Joe Espo

    “…our readership has doubled (unique visitors) and our page views have tripled.”
    Mark, you should explain to your “readers” that this doesn’t necessarily translate to twice the number of readers. A reader could check-in on lap top at home with ATT DSL service, on a desktop at work with Time Warner business internet, and on a Blackberry through RIM servers . That’s three visits through three different devices through three different IP addresses – by one reader. So when you’re counting “visitors”, you are more likely counting the device as a “visitor” and not the user-reader.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Joe “Espo”

      You, as a “reader,” are correct. I suspect not every one of our “readers” suddenly decided to start “reading” from multiple “devices” over the past “month.” And your “theory” does not “explain” the pageviews. You while “your” attempt to discredit “us” is not surprising, it is, as usual, a “desperate” attempt by “someone” who is all too illustrative of the “mindset” that is bringing so much toxicity to this city.

      Thanks for “reading.”

  10. EastNorwalkChick

    As I have posted before, this is the first time in all the years that I have been voting for local elections, that I feel that I am fully informed on each one of the candidates. Thank you Nancy and Mark.

  11. M Allen

    The debate? Have you never attended a political debate before? The incumbent seeks to spin the reality to his favor. Highlight the good and avoid the bad. But the reality is at least in part based on truth. It’s based on an actual record of having to deal with real issues. The opponent, doesn’t have to have a record in dealing with any of these issues. He is allowed to be vague because he cannot be measured. Its purely hypothetical what he may or may not do. So it’s pretty easy to say, well, I’ll meet with everyone and get their input and then I’ll make the right decision. Were it only so easy. But let’s not be surprised by either side in the debate. Neither party ever answers the question they were asked: they answer the question they wish they were asked. Mayor, Governor, President, representative from some back woods district. It matters not. Other than showing more respect and sitting down with all parties to hug it out, I’m not sure what we can even hold Harry accountable for if he is elected. Because he really hasn’t said what he will do other than: better than that guy. Easier said than done.

  12. Suzanne

    Mr. Dunne, Every Republican candidate had the opportunity to let their platforms be known and voices heard in Nancy on Norwalk. They were invited but refused to participate, in particular those who are running for City Council. You cannot blame NON for not being inclusive when the Republicans refuse to be included. I would have liked to have seen just what they had to say. Pity. Apparently, the Republicans in this town feel NON is biased but they are responsible for making it that way. Go figure.

  13. Joe Espo

    Mark: I frankly haven’t seen this city as polarized or “toxic” as it’s been during this election cycle. It originated with the “Occupy Norwalk” break-everything crowd that won seats on the council two years ago. They purged the democratic party of the “deniers”, pushed the deniers to caucus with the republicans or give up all together, demagogued and demonized, and demonstrated their inclinations with events like the brawl at city hall. But NON gave them a voice and NON gave Nancy a voice to prosecute retribution against the Mayor and all things republican. So take some credit for the toxicity; it was by design and you succeeded wonderfully.

  14. M Allen

    I’m not going to claim outright bias from the NoN site. You want real bias? Read the comments. Do I think it has a tilt? Sure. But then again, Connecticut is pretty tilted these days. Despite that tilt, it does provide local news focused almost exclusively on city government. And for that I’m grateful. I’m pretty sure the readers here, by and large as represented by the comment section, are capable of reading between lines. At least we’re getting something and something is better than nothing. The Hour doesn’t report it all that well. Sadly, The Hour is a shell of what it once was and is pretty thin in all departments. Other online dailies are out there, but in total, I think NoN does a pretty good job of at least covering what is going on.
    I recognize that the “recorder incident” may still stick in the craw of some and that aids in the whole bias argument as it does in whether or not the Republicans choose to frequent this site. But I think the biggest issue NoN faces when the bias charge comes up is related to the short lifespan of the site. It has only been around for a couple of years. Thus, in reporting on city government, its stories have focused exclusively on a single administration. It is hard to judge bias in such a short timeframe. I believe more could have been said with regard to differentiating between critiques (sometimes stinging) of Moccia’s actual record versus the mere words of the mayoral challenger who is allowed to get away with vague answers about what he will do if elected. But that is what challengers do. They can’t be measured or held to account because they haven’t done their time in the proverbial foxhole. Managing a city department isn’t the same as managing the city as a whole. Challengers always get a free pass in that regard. There is nothing new with that here.
    In the end, time will tell whether or not bias exists because if and when a change in government leadership happens, we’ll see how the stories are written then. I’m glad we have a website focused almost exclusively on city government. I don’t have to agree with every word written because I have a mind of my own. But at least its a place where I can read some details and then look into for myself those areas where I have questions.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ M. Allen

      This is about the most intelligent take on this topic I have seen. Thank you. (By the way, it only SEEMS like a couple years. NoN marked its one-year anniversary Oct. 29.)

  15. Piberman

    The real story will be what happens to Nancy’s readership after the election.
    Will unhappy Democrats be supportive of an alternative media ? Republicans may not be so generous. Despite the best of intentions Nancy’s was the Democrat’s dugout. Not surprising. Democrats have been on the outside looking in for most of the past several decades. Oops have to go. Another robo call from the Rilling camp. No. 10 and counting. Maybe its 15 now.

  16. M Allen

    Oops sorry, one other thing. I may not cry bias (much) but I do disagree with their endorsements. I understand some of the logic, but disagree on the outcome. I don’t think it fully fathoms the potential result on the taxpayer. Especially when one considers the districts that weren’t part of their process.
    In District E, it’s pretty easy to rip into two of the most visible candidates in this race. The endorsement of incumbent Igneri may be one thing, but Kate Tepper? Did you endorse her simply because she wasn’t McCarthy or Wilson? Are these endorsements FOR Igneri and Tepper or simply against the other two? The focus of your reasoning seemed anti-McCarthy/Wilson rather than pro-Igneri/Tepper. McCarthy and Wilson were out there and visible. Easy targets. But there seemed to be little in the way of reason to vote for the other two.
    What about other Districts? Where was coverage and opinion on those more in the shadows? Did you ever, in any article, comment on the candidacy of Melendez? I’m sure she is a wonderfully nice young person who should be encouraged to continue to get involved. But was there no concern by your staff about her experience or ability to do such a meaningful job as council member? Was there concern that making such a comment would be somehow politically incorrect? While you are capable of endorsing the two Democrats in District E because you’re obviously against the two Republicans, why not make the same call here with Simms or Melendez in Districts A & B? Was your analysis of the Republican candidates such that their backgrounds were so bad that it nullified any weakness in their opponent’s “qualifications”?
    Like I said, McCarthy and Wilson were highly visible and had track records you could point to, for good or for ill, depending on your view. But for a site focused on city government and politics, your analysis of anyone else was kind of lacking. Sorry. But those other districts matter too.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ M. Allen

      Read the District E endorsements any way you like. We stated our case for both and our reasons for not wanting the others sitting on the council. As for races where we said nothing, it is because we could not recommend anyone. We stated our opinion about those who used the boilerplate RTC response to the League of Women Voters questions. We cannot support that kind of disrespect to the voters, or the LWV. The fact that the answers were what they were sealed the deal. However, we could not recommend the Democratic candidates for any number of reasons. Sometimes silence speaks volumes. This is one of those situations where, if I were voting in every race, my ballot would have a lot of blanks.

  17. Brennah McFadden

    Still wondering how Haynie gets a pass after the problems she’s caused (big raise for teachers next year, ordered payback to administrators, legal bills going overbudget). Guess the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is writing on NoN.

  18. Daisy

    How could you POSSIBLY claim to be independent? A five year old could spot your Democratic leanings.

  19. kmokeefe

    As for NON being the Democrat’s “dug out” I ask readers to go back to the substance and tone of the the reasoning behind the endorsing editorials. You might find that there is real substance as opposed to negative – and biased – opinion. We get real reporting here, not bought and paid for political advertising. Bravo NON!

  20. Norwalk Lifer

    Miss Daisy

    How could you POSSIBLY claim to be independent? A five year old could spot your Democratic leanings.

    You were quick to assume that the HR manager was hired by Knopp, when indeed he came into office under Moccia,

    Isn’t that a little leaning in itself?

    A five year old? surely you are older than that!

    Norwalk Lifer

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