Four Norwalk Dems duel in The Hour debate

Norwalk Democratic mayoral debate
From left, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, Common Councilman Matt Miklave, former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel and District D Democratic Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra debate Friday morning at the Norwalk Inn.

NORWALK, Conn. – One thing is certain – there will be a Norwalk Democratic primary this September. All four Norwalk Democratic mayoral hopefuls said Friday morning that they would force one if they didn’t get their party’s nomination at the July convention.

Surprised? Probably not. There wasn’t much surprising about the Historic 2013 Mayoral Debate hosted by The Hour at the Norwalk Inn. Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel emphasized that he is the one candidate who ran against Mayor Richard Moccia before, and nearly won. Common Councilman Matt Miklave would like to institute Performance Based Budgeting – something he will begin on day one in office. District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra thinks there are too many struggling people in Norwalk, something he lays squarely at the feet of Republican Mayor Richard Moccia’s administration. Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling thinks Norwalk needs civility and he has the experience necessary to bring it.

“Together up here you see four candidates,” Garfunkel said at the end of the debate. “Together combined we make one fantastic candidate up here. It is unfortunate that we cannot put this together a little bit quicker. But our goal is to get into office and change the direction of how Norwalk works. I’ve been there before, been there very close. We just need to pick up that torch and get us a little bit farther to win that election.”

A bit of scorekeeping:

Mangiacopra scored the first laugh. Asked about signing what has been called a pledge to remain true to the Democratic Party, Mangiacopra pointed out that he knew they were in the Norwalk Inn – bastion of the Republican Party.

Mangiacopra also scored the first rebuttal. Same question. After his three opponents weighed in on the document – Rilling said he didn’t see it as a pledge, Miklave said he did and took pledges very seriously and Garfunkel said he had pledged to make Norwalk a better place, which was the most important pledge he could make – Mangiacopra said he was looking forward to serving every person in Norwalk.

“However, leaders lead,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that the Norwalk Democratic Party is important. We do have a commitment to that as elected officials and people pursuing office. I am committed to that organization and making it better. Because that’s what leaders do, they make people around them better.”

A question about support for Oak Hills golf course and a possible driving range drew a variety of answers. Mangiacopra said he supported a driving range as he wouldn’t have much choice given the decisions made by the Moccia administration but he would seek resignations from the Oak Hills Park Authority should he become mayor. Rilling scored a laugh – wouldn’t it be nice if the holes were bigger? – and said the idea had been around for 15 years. If someone had a successful idea he would look at it but the priority would be to make the course affordable for residents. Garfunkel said he supported a driving range, but the first tee would be a better place than the woods designated by the OHPA.

Miklave said “I would love for there to be a driving range at Oak Hills golf course. I just don’t think the current crowd has the ability to manage it. … I think topographically the golf course is a tough place with its current configuration. I think we have to look at alternative to build a driving range. Having teed off on rocks before, that is not good for our clubs.”

Rilling became a bit of a target in a question about crime. While Garfunkel said police officers needed to be deployed to crime hotspots and investments must be made in community organizations, Mangiacopra emphasized that the “current police chief” had instituted foot patrols, something that Norwalk has needed for years, he said. Miklave said Rilling’s answer referring to statistics and to preventing crime wasn’t good enough because people do not feel safe. He said he had asked for eight years if Norwalk needed more police and he had been told no.

Rilling said Miklave did “not have a true understanding of what community policing is” and that he had asked for more police officers every year.

After the debate, Rillling said that line of commentary proved one of his points.

“That’s what politicians do,” he said. “That’s why I said I kind of believe that I have not been in the political arena. I believe in telling people what I believe and what my position and my platform is. I will say that there’s two ways to have the tallest building in town. You tear down everybody else’s, or you build the tallest building. My campaign has decided that we are going to build the tallest building.”


9 responses to “Four Norwalk Dems duel in The Hour debate”

  1. M. Murray

    Looks like another Party Committee is requiring an oath of loyalty:
    I volunteer to become a practicing lawyer of the People’s Republic of China and promise to faithfully perform the sacred duties of a socialist-with-Chinese-characteristics legal worker (中国特色社会主义法律工作者); to be faithful to the motherland and the people; to uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system; to safeguard the dignity of the constitution and the law; to practice on behalf of the people; to be diligent, professional, honest, and corruption-free; to protect the legitimate rights and interests of clients, the correct implementation of the law, and social fairness and justice; and diligently strive for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics!

    At least they make theirs public

  2. Norwalk Dinosaur

    I watched the debate and the biggest laugh line of the day came when Harry Rilling declared that he is the breadth of fresh air that Norwalk needs! What a joke.

  3. Mike Mushak

    Any one of the four candidates would be a breath of fresh air after the noxious fumes of the last 8 years, but Harry Rilling does offer a credible and electable choice, and was correct in his choice of words in my view.

    Rilling is the guy who most worries the GOP leadership, which is why he has been the target of so many vicious and unfair attacks. It is appearing that they will say or do anything to keep their power, which they do nothing with except continue the current broken system and bad policies.

    Why doesn’t the Hour organize a Moccia Q and A forum, with questions submitted by the public and kept secret until the moment they are asked, to prevent rehearsal time? It would be great to hear Moccia’s defense of 8 years of tax increases and bad planning decisions, and hear his version of where Norwalk should be going.

  4. Piberman

    No debate was held just a series of one minute presentations to questions posed by publisher Valiente. Just a presentation by 4 candidates with similar views – education, safety and development. Informal discussion afterwards suggested disappointment with the non-debate debate. Softball questions and a one minute rule without a chance for candidates to challenge each other made for a modest event for about 150 attendees. Is this a prelude to the Hour’s “fall event” ? Will Norwalk have a real debate before he election ? Stay tuned. There’s a real opportunity for the Party to offer a much better format during the primary season. Lets encourage the Party to host a real genuine “debate”. Even the breakfast was disappointing – runny eggs !

    1. Mark Chapman

      I have no idea what the vote was on the Board of Education regarding secrecy — the vote to keep the names secret was done in secret, Nancy said (executive session).

      As to your second point, neither you nor I know who in the community is satisfied with the BOE process. We do not print the names and comments of people we talk to in casual conversation. Other comments here suggest there are people who are not pleased with the secrecy. The method, as you may have read in the story, is used by about 30 percent of Proact’s clients. It is not the norm. That is the story, which was done in response to inquiries and comments from the community.

  5. Tim T

    How anyone could support Rilling is beyond me. He is a big part of the reason Norwalk is the disaster it is.

  6. Don’t Panic

    Actually Miklave scored the first laugh…during opening remarks.

  7. NorwalkVoter

    It is good for that audience to hear the issues discussed by the Democrats. One of these men will be the next mayor.
    It sounds like Chet was shocked by the thought of multiple candidates and a possible primary. It is done in cities all over the state and all over the nation. A good airing of the issues and having choices is always good… it is the Democratic way 🙂

  8. Norwalk Dinosaur

    @Mike Mushak – I appreciate your work on the zoning commission and that you are personally close with Mr. Rilling because of this, but the man is not a Democrat. If he wants to run as an independent, or more appropriately, a moderate Republican, than fine. But he is vying for the Democratic nomination. In the past 8 years, he has NOT done one thing for the Democratic party. This type of hubris is insulting.

    More alarming however, is his track record as Police Chief. South Norwalk is not a safe place to live. Parents are in fear every day they send their kids off to school and trust between the public and the PD is abismal. He can preach how he has managed a multi million dollar budget, but balancing budgets and results are two very different things. Our streets are not safer as a result of his leadership.

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