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Editorial: Responsiveness, and lack thereof

NORWALK – Among the issues being bandied about as the mayoral campaign heats up is how Norwalk’s government responds to and treats its taxpayers.

In early May, NancyOnNorwalk contacted the four candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination and asked them for a copy of their responses to a questionnaire they had been asked to fill out for the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee. This was after the DTC refused to send us copies. We promised our readers to run their responses.

Three of the candidates responded with their answers. Matt Miklave sent his before we asked. Harry Rilling responded almost immediately. Vinny Mangiacopra sent his a week later and added more information to the end.

Andy Garfunkel, the Democratic challenger in 2011 who came within several hundred votes of winning, said in an email that he had told the DTC he would not answer the questionnaire, nor would he sign what has been characterized as a “oath” or “pledge” to the DTC. The only candidate that did sign was Mangiacopra, and he did not include that statement when he sent his answers to the questionnaire.

Garfunkel said he would be happy to discuss his refusal. Two weeks ago, we reached out again with a request for answers, with the option of not answering the questions pertaining to how he would involve the Democratic Party. He did not respond.

Garfunkel is not the only candidate who did not respond to questions.

We sent a list of questions similar to those asked of the Democrats — tweaked to reflect his incumbency and his party — to incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia, with a copy to Republican Town Committee head Art Scialabba, on May 15. Neither responded. See the questions in a pdf attached at the bottom of this story.

Garfunkel has been largely under the media’s radar thus far in his campaign.

Moccia states on his campaign website that, “Responsive Leadership has meant taking back our government, getting our taxes under control, increasing police resources, improving our schools and caring about our children’s future. Responsive Leadership means a vision for the future and following through on that vision by attacking problems head-on everyday, and not just on Election Day. …” Later, he asks, “Isn’t it right for Norwalk to continue with Responsive Leadership?”

Moccia has not responded to any requests for comments or information from NancyOnNorwalk since it began last fall.

Two weeks ago, we also requested an explanation of the proposed WiFi installation and computer purchases by the schools. We emailed Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona and Director of Technology Robert Polselli and asked them to clarify why the $770,000 WiFi installation was necessary and why students would need tablets and/or other computers. This was in response to several of our reader comments asking those very questions.

Neither Daddona nor Polselli responded.

NancyOnNorwalk continues to strive to present all sides from all candidates on all issues, but we can only do that with the cooperation of those officials who are elected, or wish to be elected, by Norwalk’s taxpayers. It is Norwalk’s taxpayers who pay the bills – including the salaries of elected and appointed officials – and we believe they deserve to be kept informed by those officials, and not just through select outlets or by answering only the questions the feel like answering.

Moccia questionnaire

Comments

21 responses to “Editorial: Responsiveness, and lack thereof”

  1. LWitherspoon

    @Mark and Nancy
    Thank you for sharing the candidates’ answers to the DTC questionnaire. No other media outlet got those – you should be proud. If Moccia does not answer the same questions to NancyOnNorwalk or some other publication between now and the election, it will be a disappointment. It is similarly disappointing that Mr. Mangiacopra refuses to release the document he signed pledging loyalty to the DTC. Why release the completed questionnaire but not the pledge?
    .
    From those questionnaires you did get, we learned about a big difference between Mr. Miklave and Mr. Rilling.
    .
    Rilling says clearly and concisely:
    .
    “Norwalk taxes are excessive for the services received in exchange.”
    .
    On the other hand, after pointing out that taxes are a necessary evil, followed by a lot of equivocating, Miklave says:
    .
    “I believe the public will support the level of taxes necessary to tackle the challenges we face.”
    .
    Obviously from these answers, Miklave is a lot more willing to raise taxes than Rilling is.

  2. Joe Espo

    Mark: it’s tough trying to un-burn a bridge. Nancy incinerated hers with the Mayor with tapegate. And it seems to even your low information readers that NancyOnNorwalk is devoted to blasting him out of office. So why would you expect the Mayor to respond to any request from you or Nancy?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Joe Espo
      Speaking of low information, the mayor’s refusal to respond to Nancy’s questions predates the incident with the accidental tape recording by several months. As for bridges, it is not our intention to burn or un-burn anything. It is to the advantage of public officials to respond to taxpayer concerns through the media. We see on the national stage that some in public office will only do that through friendly media outlets. We see the same in this case. No media outlet rises or falls based on someone’s refusal to speak. If public officials prefer to simply preach to the choir, so be it. We have a very astute, engaged readership for the most part, all capable of reading what others have, or don’t have, to say and forming their opinions. We know it is typical for some of those lower info types to whom you refer to shoot the messenger when they don’t like the message. And that’s OK.

  3. Suzanne

    I think the evaluative portion of Miklave’s platform answers the question about taxes: if you can evaluate the performance of City Government and cut out wasteful spending, correspondingly, depending upon the City’s needs, taxes would not necessarily need to be raised. It would be disingenuous of any candidate, Mr. Rilling, included to guarantee no raise in taxes (as in “read my lips”) when the actual conditions of the government for which we pay are unknown.

  4. LWitherspoon

    @Suzanne
    Mr. Miklave has had ten years on the Common Council to familiarize himself with the details of the City budget. If there is indeed millions of dollars in wasteful spending, why has he not identified it and called for its elimination?
    .
    Mr. Miklave’s answer would likely be that we need to change our budget process to incorporate Performance Based Budgeting. But there are no specifics behind that, and we don’t know what kind of savings, if any, could be achieved. In fact many have pointed out that PBB costs money up front to implement, and it’s possible that some money-saving recommendations will run afoul of Union contract rules. How about some specifics from Mr. Miklave on how he would address such a conflict?
    .
    Mr. Miklave has a long history of trying to have it both ways on the Council. His answer to the DTC’s question about taxes is simply more of the same. Mr. Rilling was clear and direct – taxes in Norwalk are too high for the level of services received. Amen to that. Mr. Miklave, by contrast, provides no such clarity. He waffles until concluding with the statement that “I believe the public will support the level of taxes necessary to tackle the challenges we face.” Watch your wallets, Norwalk.

  5. rburnett

    Nancy: I think you have a little more work to do. It is not like you to leave a glaring question unanswered!!! Why did Vinny wait a week and then “add(ed) more information to the end”? Did he see how weak his answers were and then borrow some of the platforms outlined in Miklave’s or Rillings questionnaire? Come on Nancy, read them and compare or ask the right questions.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @RBURNETT

      Nancy did not write the story. I did. It is not unusual for someone to take a few days (especially when a weekend is involved) to respond. In this case, Mr. Mangiacopra explained he was busy preparing for a major interview with The Hour’s editorial board. As for the extra material, we debated its inclusion in that particular piece, but decided that, as it was clearly marked as additional material, it was better for readers to have more info from the candidate than less. As for motivation, can anyone ever really know? We put it out there, and readers can draw their own conclusions. At least he answered the questions.

  6. Suzanne

    Mr. Rilling can say for his and your benefit that taxes are too high but I have yet to see how he is going to address the budget as it stands to reduce it and, therefore, reduce or maintain taxes at the rates they now stand (to which he objects.) I am committed to no particular candidate except the one that can remain coherent to a plan that will help our town. Mr. Miklave has a strategy, Mr. Rilling says, “Taxes are too high for services received.” I could say the same thing but that would make me no more valuable to the Town in reducing the burden. How does Mr. Rilling plan to do that? And, being so close to the City Government for so many years, how does he plan to extricate himself from the “business as usual” forms of governance and make real changes?

  7. Tim T

    “Moccia states on his campaign website that, “Responsive Leadership has meant taking back our government, getting our taxes under control”
    AS WE GET A TAX INCREASE
    “Moccia states on his campaign website “increasing police resources”
    AS CRIME IS OUT OF CONTROL
    “Moccia states on his campaign website “improving our schools and caring about our children’s future”
    AS WE DON’T HAVE MONEY TO FUND NORWALK SCHOOLS WHILE THE CHILDREN ARE USING WINDOWS XP PC’S
    “Moccia states on his campaign website “Leadership means a vision for the future”
    AS WE HAVE ONE DEVELOPMENT AFTER THE NEXT GOING NOWHERE aka HOLES IN THE GROUND
    “Moccia states on his campaign website “Isn’t it right for Norwalk to continue with Responsive Leadership?”
    SHOULD READ ISN’T IT TIME NORWALK GETS RESPONSIVE LEADERSHIP

  8. Tim T

    LWitherspoon
    Seems to believe what Rilling says..I truly can not understand why anyone would as this is the same guy who had one excuse after the next why his NPD could not solve a crime. This is also the same guy who said time and again they were close to solving these crimes and now Rilling is gone and the crimes are still unsolved. On the other hand Miklave is not making promises that he cant keep. Once again Rilling proves he is full of it.

  9. Oldtimer

    Joe Espo
    “unburn a bridge ? Tape gate ?” Are you kidding ? Nancy accidentally captured a conversation between Moccia and two union leaders. A editor filling in for her regular editor told her to use parts of that conversation in a story. As a courtesy to Moccia, she advised him and gave contact information if he wanted to comment or object before she wrote the story.
    He responded and intimidated her bosses and the proposed story was never written or published. That did not satisfy him and he filed a complaint with the State Police about alleged crimes that never happened. Your tax money was wasted investigating his complaint and no arrest warrant was issued. Am I missing something ? Any bridge that may have been burned was ignited from his end. Bet that he will be asked about that fiasco at a debate before election day. He may even be asked why he refuses to answer inquiries from the press that don’t involve cutting ribbons.

  10. Bryan Meek

    @NON. Thanks for trying to get the information on the school’s WIFI plan. Honestly the $770,000 number was fairly shocking to begin with, then finding out that it was proposed by someone who we dismissed for using our city credit card for personal use is beyond the pale. I don’t care if this plan cost $5 or $5 million. The person who put it forth shouldn’t have the authorization to purchase a pencil on the city’s behalf. You might also want to look into what it costs to commute by plane for a year. It is very disturbing to think what else might be slipping under the radar from this group. The fact that the city could not find an IT professional who lives inside Fairfield or even New Haven counties should be ringing severe alarm bells when you look at what else has gone on here.

  11. LWitherspoon

    @Suzanne
    All excellent questions. I agree that we need to know more about the specifics of what Mr. Rilling would do as Mayor. But Miklave’s use of PBB seems more like a rhetorical device that he and his supporters are using to promise all things to all people. Mr. Miklave has been repeating ad nauseum that we spend all our time looking at the portion of the budget that gets cut each year; he thinks we should be looking at the portion of the budget that gets kept. Like much of what Mr. Miklave says, it’s a nice sound bite, but what does it really mean? Does he honestly think that nobody looks at the portion of the budget that gets kept? If that’s true, the entire Common Council including Mr. Miklave should resign as they are all failing us. Mr. Miklave’s supporters have been commenting on these very pages that PBB would allow us to have high-paid City employees and low taxes. That’s simply dishonest and the fact that Mr. Miklave allows such statements to go uncorrected does not reflect well on him.
    .
    I hope you will agree with me that all the Mayoral candidates should tell us what they would have done differently in the budget that Council recently approved. What spending would they have added or eliminated, and what would the implications have been for Norwalk taxpayers? Answering that question would be a lot more meaningful than the current hopeful comments about finding waste in the budget or empty slogans and platitudes. In other words, tell us something concrete about their priorities as mayor, rather than just the usual happy talk we hear from most politicians. If they can’t or won’t answer, then are they really qualified to hold the office?

  12. Suzanne

    I am not sure, L. Witherspoon, what is unclear about “looking at the portion of the budget that gets kept.” Again, I am not endorsing anyone in particular but that sounds like a point by point review of how the City is spending their money. In other words, not rhetoric but a plan.

    And, I absolutely agree with you re: the evaluation of the recent budget by all of the candidates as a way to determine how they would operate differently. It would, perhaps, reveal, again, what they would DO as opposed to what they SAY, which currently consists of no details in a vacuum, all around.

    I am afraid, like Peter Berman indicates in another letter on this site, that lack of commitment to expressing anything substantive leaves Mr. Moccia with the upper hand by simply remaining silent. In other words, the GOP strategy seems to be, “Give them enough rope.” I am hoping the respective Democratic candidates do not comply starting with your evaluation of the recent budget.

  13. LWitherspoon

    @Suzanne
    “The portion we keep” vs. “the portion we cut” is not a plan, it’s an alliteration. Do you honestly believe that the Common Council and City Government looks only at the portion of the budget that gets cut? If so, the entire Council should resign.
    .
    When spending reductions are needed, how do you suppose they are found? The only way to find them is to review everything in the budget and make some hard choices about what reductions hurt the least. So a “point by point review of City spending” is not something new or innovative, it’s just a soundbite bereft of specifics. Granted it’s more clever than what we’ve seen from the Mangiacopra campaign, but it’s more or less then same as far as content goes.
    .
    A plan would consist of specific changes that the candidate would make to the most recent budget, along with an explanation of how that would affect our taxes. I’m glad we agree that all the candidates should tell us their plans for Norwalk with that level of specificity.

  14. David

    Allusions of grandeur, methinks! I know that you were formerly employed as a reporter, but at the end of the day, this is a blog. Now why should Mayoral candidates, or anyone for that matter, respond to every tom-dick-and-harry blog writer? That question might seem incredulous to you and your loyal supporters, but at the end of the day it’s a question you need to answer.

    Recently, it seems like any third party who wants to write a hack-job opinion on their political opponents is given ample space to write. That’s not “news” and it’s not “reporting”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I come here to read your opinions, but at the end of the day I take it for what it’s worth – a blog. Take yourself more seriously and perhaps others will also.

  15. Suzanne

    Dear David, hopefully a blog is a conversation, a forum where many different people can come to the site, share their viewpoints and come to a better understanding of ideas. This is the new media, the new town hall, the new (ok, not that new) town square and can be a valuable tool for that reason. There are those who use it to be plain goofy, snarky, mean, etc., but, then, there are those who are really thinking and trying to work out in their heads what makes sense about any given issue. Don’t underestimate their value when they are used correctly and succinctly. (It is also a place where people can learn to civilly agree to disagree.)

  16. David

    Suzanne, I fully agree with you. This blog is a conversation. Or at least it should be!

    The tone of this post was “what are they hiding?” If I were a politician (or CEO, Actor or someone else in the public sphere) I probably wouldn’t respond to an opinion driven blog either. This one or any other!

  17. Tim T

    David
    You seem to have this site confused with the Hour. The Hour is Moccia’s Blog. This site on the other had is an investigative news site something that Norwalk has lacked for about 20 years.
    Now do you understand?

  18. David

    Oh yes, thank you Tim, now that you have dispensed your pearls of wisdom it all appears so clear now!

    This isn’t a choice between the Hour and NoN – the hour is useless! No argument there. But let’s calm, down with the “investigative” angle, ok? How many times have you read the words “with information obtained through the Freedom of Information act…” Investigative journalism doesn’t ask questions, it obtains facts.

    NoN scratches the surface and asks more questions than it gives answers. It shines a light on issues that most people don’t hear of, and that’s all good, don’t get me wrong. It’s a heck of a lot better than what the Hour does. But it’s a blog. At the end of the day, it’s a public interest blog. I’m not trying to denigrate anyone by saying that just trying to put a little perspective in place, that’s all.

  19. Suzanne

    David, while there are articles by the Chapmans that are clearly marked as such that would constitute a blog/opinion or Op Ed pieces, most of the articles in Nancy on Norwalk are thoroughly investigated and factual, not blog-related opinions. When I refer to the “blog” part of this forum, I am referring to the resulting opinions from the fact-based articles presented, news-based and far more clarifying and comprehensive than any Hour product. If I want to see what’s going on with the Republican party in Norwalk or who got shot where (and why would I want to know that?), or a parade schedule, I see the Hour. If I want to know what really is going on in public meetings. with the Town Council, elections, development, etc., etc., etc., I see Nancy on Norwalk. It’s that simple: the Chapmans investigate jounalistically, the Hour as a community Republican bulletin. Useful to know what they are doing, but not journalism.

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