For Norwalk’s Democrats, a big decision looms Tuesday

From left, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra and Common Councilman Matt Miklave.
From left, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra and Common Councilman Matt Miklave.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Democrats will go to the polls Tuesday to choose which of four candidates will be the one to carry the Democratic banner into the race for mayor against four-term incumbent Richard Moccia.

Tomorrow’s ballot will present voters with some clear choices: Do they go for young and energetic Vinny Mangiacopra, 31, who has a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in city management from the University of New Haven, according to his website; earnest Matt Miklave, 56, a partner in a New York City law firm, who has been a Common Councilman for a total of eight years and portrays himself as an outsider in the Democratic Party; enigmatic former five-term Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, 53, a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees who works on contract behind the scenes of various TV shows and who came within 850 votes of unseating Moccia in 2011; or the veteran former Police Chief Harry Rilling, 66, who served on the Norwalk Police Department for 41 years, 17 as chief, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Haven, according to his website.

Each candidate has spent hours knocking on doors and has been given ample opportunity to make their case to the voters through candidate forums, debates and interviews – live and via email – with NancyOnNorwalk and The Hour. Some have availed themselves of the opportunities more than others. Some have been more specific than others.

What follows is a list of highlights from each candidate’s public appearances and responses to questions. The list includes positions and promises. It does not include everything, but touches on what NoN feels are the most important issues.

Andy Garfunkel

• Came out against putting a BJ’s Wholesale Club on North Main Avenue and wants to entice businesses to bring skilled labor and professional jobs to the city.

• Vowed to find budget savings by cutting back or cutting out department heads, employee salaries and multiple department expenditures. Called for charter reform: eliminate or consolidate boards and commissions with overlapping jurisdiction, merge the town clerk and city clerk offices and eliminate “do-nothing” positions such as selectmen and city treasurer.

• Make mayor, town clerk and common council four-year terms.

• He is against outsourcing city services – “We need to remain loyal to our workers.”

• Said the city needs to financially support programs that help families and youth.

• Would strongly consider rejecting the mayor’s 21.5 percent pay increase approved by Common Council.

Vinny Mangiacopra

• Wants to clean up soccer fields in South Norwalk for community use

• Would work to change zoning regulations to keep out big box stores

• Wants “new eyes” on the budget, hinting at changes in top city staff.

• Supports early childhood education.

• Would create a jobs task force and Advance Norwalk, a city app to connect businesses and neighbors to compete with chains.

• Would advocate for West Avenue Connectivity Plan linking Wall Street and South Norwalk.

• Wants a department of social services to coordinate services for those in need.

• Has repeatedly promised to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Norwalk

• Wants to bolster the libraries.

• Wants more community policing

• Wants to set up a re-entry program to work with youth released from prison

• Would seek to modify or pull the plug on the Wall Street Place development agreement with POKO.

• Wants to do a communications and efficiency audit at City Hall to try to save on utility bills.

• Promised a “hard look” at whether City Carting’s 10-year contract is producing savings as advertised, and said he would “strongly consider” terminate the contract if it is not.

Matt Miklave

• Strongly advocates performance-based budgeting to improve efficiency and eliminate financial waste.

• Would establish economic accelerators to create environments to encourage new businesses to develop and settle in Norwalk.

• Is against big box stores

• Wants to arrange for volunteer professional experts to help social service agencies like Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON)

• Wants to support the NEON board and re-energize the agency

• Would advocate for more affordable housing

• Wants more community policing

• Supports full transparency in government and a greatly reduced use of executive sessions.

• Wants to remove the current leaders of the Democratic Party.

• Was against City Carting 10-year waste hauling contract, and plans to review it in detail and assess options.

• Said he would take the 21.5 percent pay increase approved by Common Council if he is elected. That amounts to a $24,502 raise over the current mayor’s salary, raising it to $138,465.

Harry Rilling

• Would make more soccer fields available for community use

• Restore city’s $12,000 funding for South Norwalk Community Center and help the agency and others seek grants

• Against putting a BJ’s Wholesale Club on North Main Avenue and big box development in general

• Would make more minority appointments to boards and committees to reflect city’s demographics.

• To cut the budget, would have reduced or eliminated raises of 4.2 to 9.5 percent to non-exempt employees, cut other salaries and some positions. Wants to increase the use of shared services.

•  Would work to improve NEON through better board appointments and professional volunteers

• Would create a housing and health commission to coordinate social service agencies and make services available to people who might not know what is out there.

• Wants to put more police on the beat.

• Has approached unions about expanded apprenticeship programs with trade unions to give youths not headed for college an alternative.

• Called for more transparency in all areas, including searches for key employees, such as the superintendent of schools.

• Is against outsourcing

• Favors working with POKO to make sure its planned Wall Street Place development happens

• Said he would ask Common Council to rescind the mayor’s pay raise


8 responses to “For Norwalk’s Democrats, a big decision looms Tuesday”

  1. EastNorwalkChick

    I do like Andy’s idea of consolidating or doing away with positions in City Hall, but he seems to be a no show on the campaign trail…struggling to understand this campaign strategy.

  2. Admo

    Yes What is up with Andy? Is he just a spoiler? I’m impressed with Harry and Vinny .Who cares about the leadership if the Demicractic Party in Norwalk? Not any Norwalkers!!!!

  3. Oldtimer

    Tough choice, four good men hoping to unseat Moccia, an extremely worthwhile endeavor. Knowing them all, my money is on Harry Rilling. He has the brains, the education, and the personality to make a difference in a very difficult job. Norwalk has a unique form of government where the real power is in the council and the mayor has limited powers. It was a part time job, until Irv Freese closed his photography business to devote full time to being mayor.

  4. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Anyone but Rilling… A vote for Rilling is a vote for Moccia. I think we all seen how poorly Rilling did as police chief.

  5. EastNorwalkChick

    @Oldtimer, agree about Rilling, he also has name recognition, my bet is Rilling winning the primary….

  6. Piberman

    Looks like opposition to BJs and outsourcing are the common paths to victory. With the exception of Attorney Miklave not much said on budget or taxes. One wonders whether these paragons of civic virtue are aware that Norwalk has the highest municipal salary costs of any city in CT. Voters seeking relief from punitive taxes or stagnant property values and Grand List won’t find relief from these mayoral wannabes.

  7. EastNorwalkChick

    @Piberman-Apparently you failed to read the first two points of Andy’s platform…the first one about enticing businesses to bring skilled labor and professional jobs to the city to grow the grand list or the second one about reducing City Hall overhead by consolidating or eliminated departments and positions….the same platform he ran on last time and missed being elected by 800 votes.

  8. Oldtimer

    Professor Berman
    You say Norwalk has “the highest municipal salary costs of any city in CT.” Would you please cite your source for that statement ? I have not been able to confirm it from any source available on the internet and would like to see the data.
    Thank You

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