Editorial: Sticks and stones and hypocrisy

(Updated 6:20 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, to remove unrelated story from the end of the file. And thank you to the anonymous person who alerted us to its presence.)

NORWALK – Sometimes I think it would be fun to do a Jon Stewart-like weekly video wrap-up of Norwalk politics.

For those you not familiar with “The Daily Show” host, Stewart’s signature bits involve recapping the news and setting up video clips by asserting something that the clip will totally disprove, or a clip that will lay bare blatant hypocrisy or flip-flopping.

And so it went in the story we posted Wednesday morning of Republican and almost Republican Common Council members defending the appointment of Bill Dunne by Mayor Richard Moccia to the Planning Commission.

Speaker after speaker defended Dunne from what some called personal attacks by Democrats — made in the past, not Tuesday night — trying to undermine the appointment. It was suggested that Dunne — an accomplished professional writer given to wielding a pen like a scalpel while performing political evisceration via letters to the editor or Facebook posts — should not be judged on his writings.

Gentlemen, ready for your close-up?

First, the attacks. Democratic Councilman David Watts was the creative force behind a video that showed photos of Dunne and screen shots of his Facebook postings. Watts gave a “heartfelt” speech about how Dunne and other Republicans have mounted personal attacks against members of the Democratic caucus, and how wrong that was. Watts did not mention his supporters’ and family members’ highly personal attacks on Moccia and even on political opponents of Vinny Mangiacopra, who Watts supported for the Democratic nomination for mayor. He also didn’t talk about his “Brand New Car” video rapping the mayor for purchasing, right after his 2011 re-election, a new SUV on the city’s dime to replace his city-owned hybrid. That could be chalked up to an issue-oriented, rather than personal, attack, though.

Then we have David McCarthy, who has made very public, highly personal comments about fellow elected officials and others, with particular vitriol aimed at Board of Education member Mike Barbis. His attacks include a video he made showing Barbis using a Rowayton Hose Company pickup truck for personal reasons, accusing Barbis of misusing taxpayer-funded equipment. Turns out the truck was not taxpayer funded and Barbis’s use of it was not a problem, according to a Hose Company official. The video has since been taken offline. Other personal attacks have included publicly calling people criminals or saying they were guilty of crimes (Barbis and our own Nancy Chapman) and frequently calling other public servants liars in comments on this site.

We might also point out these two pithy gems from Dunne himself, directed at Matt Miklave as posted on a Norwalk Patch story from Nov. 15:

• Bill Dunne November 15, 2012 at 03:04 PM

Can an insufferable, tedious, pompous windbag be elected mayor of Norwalk? I guess we’ll find out.

• Bill Dunne November 15, 2012 at 03:18 PM

Some people think they’re Napoleon. Matt Miklave thinks he’s Cicero.

Personal attacks indeed. And why is there so much talk about the need for civility?

As for not judging a nominee by his or her writings — EXCUSE ME? How many federal nominees have been hung up in Senate confirmation hearings, especially over the past five years, because of something they wrote decades ago, maybe even while they were in college?

We all put our opinions into print and those opinions give people a window into who we are. In Dunne’s case, his Facebook postings (no longer available to the public) were highly partisan and stridently anti-Obama, but that does not have anything to do with whether he would make a good Planning Commission member.

However, Dunne’s many postings that reflected a disdain for environmentalists and environmental issues, including climate change, may give one pause. Planning means more than economic survival. It means sustainability in the environment. It means making sure decisions made today are going to be good decisions 10, 25, 50 years from now. And no matter how good one’s intentions may be, even basic, letter-of-the-law decisions can be interpreted differently depending on one’s personal perspective. Don’t think so? Look at the Supreme Court, which is supposed to interpret the Constitution and uphold the laws of the land, but invariably winds up making 5-4 partisan decisions based on ideology.


5 responses to “Editorial: Sticks and stones and hypocrisy”

  1. EveT

    With this kind of vitriol permeating our city government, is it any wonder that so few voters turn out in our elections? Or that so many of Norwalk’s smart, dedicated, good-hearted citizens are unwilling to run for office or even to get involved with the Dem or Rep Town Committee? The environment is so toxic that an awful lot of us just shake our heads.

  2. Suzanne

    “However, Dunne’s many postings that reflected a disdain for environmentalists and environmental issues, including climate change, may give one pause. Planning means more than economic survival. It means sustainability in the environment. It means making sure decisions made today are going to be good decisions 10, 25, 50 years from now.”

    Perfect, just perfect. A new appointment “respected by all” who “disdains environmental concerns” on the Planning Commission. How is it that this person garners so much respect for his views and is so “right” for such an appointment? And, as you ask, why are we to disregard all that he has written on the subject of the environment as though everything he believes in in writing is satire? Another Moccia stooge to guide us, lead us, take our environment to a “higher place” (read Pottersville degradation) or another appointment that furthers us down the road to not only foolishness but real decisions that will hurt our future? I don’t think Mr. Dunne will be changing his stripes anytime soon to “consider the children.” What a farce and what a joke and what a shame on the Council for this without-objection approval.

  3. Piberman

    The heart of the matter is Norwalk’s tradition so eloquently stated by 3 decade serving Councilman Doug Hempstead – there are no qualifications to serve on any board or commission. Anyone can serve. As long our political parties and voters admire that “standard” well qualified citizens avoid volunteering. The absence of standards cuts across our entire city government. Elected officials and party maintain their silence when two BOE members rejected Dr Riviera’s appointment without explanation, when NEON imploded and when both the P&Z and BET so egregiously fail their responsibilities. Attendance at Council meetings reflects the public’s “interest” in these painful proceedings. Even our local elections are noticeable for their lack of substance and public interest. Public interest and participation in city governance is at an all time low. Not a single elected official has the temerity to question why we have the highest municipal labor costs of any CT city. Not one ! No other city looks to Norwalk to hire the best of the best administrators. Norwalk is a city in real crisis. That’s what stagnant property values amidst a nationwide housing price boom is telling us. Wait for the revaluation.

    The sad part is that within memory of long time residents our City was once well governed. By those who grew up during the Depression and served in the War. By and large they never went to college. But many put their shoulders to the wheel and started their own businesses. These were our “gatekeepers”. We all talked together in those halcyon times – Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We were proud of our City. No nasty letters to the Editor. We were respectful to each other.

    Times have changed. Our City is effectively run by our unions with their “golden contracts” granted by indifferent officials. Partisanship runs swiftly through the body politic. Rancor is the spirit of discourse.

    To those who object to Dunne’s appointment here’s a suggestion. Let’s see how he studies up for his new appointment. After all few if any P&Z members would likely make the “grade” in our neighboring towns. None reportedly are professionals. If there are no standards as Council President Hempstead tells us (without objecting) then why protest the appointment of this accomplished well spoken appointment who delights in being a conservative’s Conservative. As long as our elected officials maintain there are no standards for appointments in City government then how is Dunne not qualified at the outset ? Dunne at least believes in appointment standards unlike our Council members. He won’t be a wallflower.

    Let’s redirect our attention and ask the candidates why they have so little to say about a City that is failing the expectations of so many of its citizens. Why the failing BET goes unchallenged by an unconcerned Common Council. Ditto for not assisting NEON to manage effectively. And the list goes on and on. Whom among our Council stands tall as a champion of exemplary government. Citizens there us work to do. Ask questions. Silence only benefits the current arrangements. And lowers property values as more residents exit what used to be described as the only successful integrated middle class city in CT surrounded by America’s wealthiest families in suburban splendor far removed from the real world.

  4. Suzanne

    Just because Mr. Hempstead says there are no standards for appointed positions doesn’t mean we should lower them. I still can’t see why we should delight in Mr. Dunne as “the conservative’s Conservative” if he has made his decidedly uninformed environmental position already known.

  5. Oldtimer

    Doug Hempstead is mistaken. There are standards for appointments, Moccia’s standards. While we might prefer some expertise in the business done by a particular board or commission, Moccia has his own ideas. As much as possible, he wants appointees to reflect and endorse his point of view, and to act accordingly.

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