Letter: RTC chief asks, ‘Where’s candidate Rilling’

The remarkable change between then-candidate Harry Rilling and now-Mayor Rilling is a thing to behold. Now that he is in office, we don’t seem to be hearing the same things, or anything at all for that matter. And the attention to issues that was going to be a priority for Harry if he was elected seems be gone.

For instance, most of us remember that when NEON began having financial and management issues, a group of NEON employees and parents stormed city hall to insist on some kind of intervention by Mayor Moccia. Candidate Rilling was right there in the middle of them, chanting for action on Moccia’s part. It never seemed to enter Rilling’s mind that this charity was not and is not a city agency and is not in any way controlled by the city.

Yesterday, The Hour reported that NEON is now on the verge of bankruptcy, and that the workers will be on the street, and that anyone who depends on NEON will face a complete loss of service. Where is Harry? Why is it only State Sen. Bob Duff who has anything to say about this? Not a word out of our new mayor on what he is doing to save NEON, as he insisted that Mayor Moccia should have done.

The same can be said of the contrived “wag-the-dog” situation that was made a front- page drama when construction began on West Cedar Street prior to the election. To stir up ethnic animosities, then-candidate Rilling and then-Councilman Warren Pena were talking about how this was done, allegedly, to disrupt minority-owned businesses in the area. But a couple of weeks ago there was another article about how the same project has continued on, with nary a word from our mayor or from Pena, who is now a candidate for the State House. For some reason the project seems to be no longer a concern of theirs.

The one thing that’s most apparent is that, for our new mayor, silence is golden. You would think that Senator Duff has much more to do with the running of our fair city. He is mentioned in almost every article having to do with Norwalk, at every level, and very little is said by Mayor Rilling. The mayor is adept only at forming committees and panels. These he sends off to “study” problems that affect our city, but he’s not very good at taking the lead on anything.

In a way, though, this makes sense. If one says nothing, takes no stand on anything, never sticks one’s neck out, assigns others to do the job, and delegates all responsibility, that person can then blame others for any failure or inaction. Oh, and we are still wondering why he said nothing at all about an assault on elderly members of his party by another leader in his party. But I think we know why.

I guess we can hope, though, that the mayor is still just trying to get his bearings. Let’s hope he will soon be exhibiting the leadership he promised.

Peter Torrano

Peter Torrano is chairman of the Norwalk Republican Town Committee.


25 responses to “Letter: RTC chief asks, ‘Where’s candidate Rilling’”

  1. Piberman

    Norwalk’s GOP quiet approval without objection of Mayor Rillling’s proposed tax and spending increases for the coming year also speaks loudly. On key issues like taxes and spending both parties believe “silence is golden”. Stagnant property values suggest otherwise.

  2. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Well, there you go again, Republicans.

    The only “instant action” to fix Norwalk’s problems that I can remember from the many years of Republican mayors we’ve had, generally came just before elections when our pothole-pitted streets would finally get a cosmetic makeover.

    Granted: Two years is a ridiculously impossible time span for any one man to overcome civic inertia and to correct mountains of issues that have been neglected or improperly addressed for decades. No one can do the job in four or five months.

    House cleaning takes a while, and with his first term as mayor almost 1/4 over, Mayor Rilling has already succeeded in changing the tone of city government in Norwalk.

  3. EveT

    Mr. Torrano misremembers or perhaps was not there. The night when NEON folks stormed City Hall, candidate Rilling spoke in an attempt to calm the situation. He was not “in the middle of them, chanting for action on Moccia’s part.” Similarly, candidate Rilling expressed concern about the West Cedar Street project as another ribbon cutting that would not get finished in a reasonable length of time, not throwing accusations about “disrupting minority-owned businesses in the area.”

  4. Norwalk Voter

    It just may be that Mr. Torrano and Mr Schialaba are the reason we no longer have a Republican Mayor. They like to throw the virtual shoe at those who hold office, while contributing little or nothing themselves. Mr. Rilling is working hard daily to make a difference in this city. Criticizing from the sidelines is very easy. Short memories seem to inflict the Norwalk Republican leadership when recalling the last 2 do-nothing former Republican Mayors. Give this Mayor and Council a chance. You may be amazed!

  5. rburnett

    Well….it didn’t take long for the “ugly snake” to raise its’ head. Torrano – who openly stated he never knew what he was supposed to do as a Captain on the police department – now comes out swinging at Rilling.

    Is this all you have??? Must be you are worried Rilling has quickly gotten things moving after EIGHT years of stagnation under your buddy. Open your eyes and look around. Things are happening right in front of you.

    Welcome to the Republican world of bashing – we thought Scilabba (sp?) was bad. Torrano and his venom will make him look like Pope Francis.

  6. anon

    Where has Rilling been and are Duff and Malloy on Norwalk payroll? Berman in agreement, GOP agreed to tax increases not acceptable either.

  7. Oldtimer

    I know you believe part of your job, as Republican town chair, is to throw rocks (figuratively, of course) at every Democrat you see as a threat to your party re-gaining the mayor’s office. It is hard to understand such an attack this long before the next election cycle, but you probably know that Harry will be hard to beat with any candidate now on your Republican radar. This attack may help your party cause, but it just may do more harm than good.

  8. EastNorwalkChick

    Red meat to the Republican base….

  9. John Levin

    Seriously? I really hope that this letter is not an indcator of what Norwalk voters should expect from the local republican party for the next 2 years. We deserve better.

  10. the donut hole

    Rilling’s first job is getting state Dems re-elected. Then he can pretend to work on the city for a few months, then run for re-election.
    Every Norwalk mayor has been and will be the same as long as we have a 2 year mayor.
    No where in the city charter does it say that creating task forces and campaigning for state offices is part of the job. It does however say that department heads report to the mayor. Maybe he should take a few minutes out of his busy schedule of sucking up to the party machine to work on city business with his department heads. The last guy may have been a beast to work with, but at least he was a leader.

  11. Peter Torrano

    Thank you for all the comments. It is interesting to me, and I find it quite curious that now that mayor Rilling is in office, and someone, me in particular as the RTC chair, points out some obvious concerns and questions, that the same group of people who so vigorously attacked anything that the Moccia administration did is in defense posture for their mayor. That’s as it should be, and we would do the same when we were attacked. But, it does not change the question: why is it we hear from Duff, and not Mayor Rilling? Have any of you read the most recent articles in the paper or on NoN? Duff, Duff and more Duff. And, Candidate Rilling was, in fact, in the halls of City Hall chanting along with the crowd for Mayor Moccia to respond. He was not there as a peacemaker, as is alleged. Go back and read about West Cedar Street when the original accusations were made by Pena and Rilling. It was designed to cause more racial upheaval in a last ditch attempt to gain more votes for the Rilling campaign, and against Moccia. And, as a past law-enforcement official, and now the standard bearer for his party, why did he not speak up about the assault perpetrated on two older individuals of his own party/ Valid questions, all. Anyone remember Candidate Rilling saying at several debates, and in interviews on Channel 12 News that due to his years of experience running a major department in the city, that he was ready to hit the ground running on day one? He did not sound then as a person who needed to learn the ropes and get his feet wet. He sounded like a person who would take charge. So, no hard feelings my friends. I have my point of view, shared by many before I authored the letter, and you have your point of view. There are still so many things we can do together to make Norwalk better. Oh, and please stop the racial accusations. It’s childish and non-productive.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Peter Torrano


      In the interest of accuracy, here’s a link to our coverage of the situation at City Hall. Nancy was there, she witnessed the whole thing and shot the video. On the video we see then-candidate Rilling walk in, chant twice with the crowd “open our school,” then stand and watch. On another video further down the page, we hear him take questions, try to calm people and express surprise that the people had been told Head Start would be closed the next day. At no point did he chant about then-Mayor Moccia. That version was given in a letter to the editor by your predecessor, not exactly a detached observer.

      We welcome you and the rest of Norwalk’s Republican leadership as well as the rank and file. Much like the RTC has made an effort to show it is not what it has been portrayed to be, we are happy that you and several other Republican leaders have decided for yourselves to see that we are here to bring fairness to all, not just one point of view.

  12. minimum wage worker

    @ John Levin,

    Who cares… what you think.

  13. Gerry K

    Seems to me there are a few reasonable comments made here. A candidate said he was ready on day 1, and then day 1, 100 and 200 pass without much anything more than a bunch of blue ribbon panels being appointed.

    I remember seeing the film of Harry with a real smirk on his face chanting with the crowd. I could find the link if I cared enough. Lying to support a politician is silly.

    This is the party chair of the opposition…I expect him to bring these things to light. Thank you, Mr. Torrano. Now I can make a judgement of whether or not this rises to the level of incompetence or if it is just noise.

    If a problem was bad enough to get mentioned in the election, it deserved the immediate attention of the new mayor. That these issues are now ignored is kind of amazing to me.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Gerry K

      I just posted the link to that video along with a comment. You are correct. Mr. Torrano is doing what the opposition party does. And the party in power does what it does. And somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

  14. Mary Webb

    rburnett: What things are those? There is not a thing going on in this city that isn’t the result of things put in place in the last administration. Rilling is getting his pay check and looking pretty overwhelmed. I think he is sorry he ever got into this job.

    I don’t believe the city had anything to do with closing NEON, and Rilling should have known that then…chanting “Open Our School” with a mob? That is beneath even David Watts…well, no, actually it isn’t, I guess, but it surely is beneath what a mayor should be doing.

    If Rilling took the opportunity to lead by saying “I want to do this….” and followed it with a bold statement, and got it done, I would be impressed. Unfortunately, Mr. Torrano is right, lots of things said in a campaign and no action afterwards.

  15. Oyster

    “Last ditch” would suggest that Rilling was somehow in danger of losing in a squeaker. Rilling pulled a little over 9000 votes to Moccia’s tally of about 7500. The election brought about near record breaking turnout.
    As several other characterizations in this letter seem equally faulty, based upon other fact-checking, perhaps we should bear this in mind when reading future letters from this source.

  16. Bill Dunne

    Rod Lopez-Fabrega seems almost surprised that anyone should be holding Mayor Rilling accountable for his administration. But holding a politician’s feet to the fire is a necessary and time-honored tradition in American politics, as Mr. Lopez-Fabrega surely knows, since he was the author of numerous attacks on former Mayor Moccia, on issues big and small. So any surprise seems rather odd.
    Now, the only specific assertion that Mr. Lopez-Fabrega raises in Rilling’s defense is that the mayor has “succeeded in changing the tone of city government in Norwalk.” Well, in that respect, I’m not sure he really disagrees with Pete Torrano, whose letter essentially notes that the tone has gone from audible under Candidate Rilling to inaudible under Mayor Rilling. We hear very little from our mayor on the pressing issues facing Norwalk, ranging from the proposed oversized mosque in the Oak Hills neighborhood to the plight of anti-poverty programs in Norwalk as NEON collapses. Instead we hear from Bob “Standing Up for You Except When It Counts” Duff.
    Oh, and speaking of NEON, it would be nice to hear Mr. Rilling explain why he thought a recent former board chairman of the financial catastrophe that is NEON would be a perfect choice to sit on the Board of Estimate and Taxation — the body that oversees the financial health of our town. (Full disclosure, I’m a member of the Republican Town Committee, of which Mr. Torrano is chairman.)

  17. Peter Torrano

    Oyster, I spoke of two events, one was verified by the video posted by Mark Chapman of Candidate Rilling chanting with the crowd gathered to see Mayor Moccia, and the other is of Cedar Street and the race baiting for votes. The text below was in the article in The Hour of October 23rd and updated November 2nd

    At Don Floro Restaurant on Wednesday, Democratic mayoral candidate Harry W. Rilling, Councilmen Warren A. Pena and David A. Watts, and more than a dozen others challenged how the city handled the project and urged Latino voters to vote Democrat on Nov. 5.
    “This lack of communications, this is not the exception in Norwalk, this is the rule,” said Rilling, the city’s former police chief. “Very little communication comes from City Hall to people who are affected by what’s happening.”
    Pena called for an “on-going dialogue” between City Hall and the Latino community, and described Republican Mayor Richard A. Moccia’s contact with that community as limited to attending ribbon-cuttings and cultural events.
    Moccia characterized such comments as “pandering and demagoguery.”
    “This race baiting has got to stop,” Moccia said. “It’s got to end. That’s not the way to campaign.”

    I believe this should clarify for you that my characterizations were not “faulty’ but factual. You may want to read the entire article for your own edification, then report your findings to the readers of NoN. If you find that I was wrong, and you can show me, i will apologize to NoN readers. I can only assume you will do the same.

  18. Peter Torrano

    Nancy, thank you for that information. Very thoroughly reported.

  19. Suzanne

    Mr. Torrano, while some of your points are well-taken, I do think there is value in a more civil government. The invective was high and out-right rudeness seemed the norm under the last administration. I would say the same, BTW, if it was under the other party’s watch. I think it is valuable to ask the questions but, also, a good idea to keep the past accusations out of it. Come clean and make your arguments: Where is Harry? without digging up what seems to be varying recalls of past events. I would have chalked your statement all “up to politics” but I have to say the same thing: we don’t seem to hear much out of this mayor and having regular communiques about what is being accomplished would not only be helpful but for those of us feeling left out, hanging on a limb, necessary.

  20. Piberman

    Some history may help here. None of Norwalk’s recent newly elected Mayors have “hit the ground running”. Not surprising because none if them ever offered detailed plans of what they would do as has been done by most candidates of CT’s larger cities. And not surprising because Norwalk’s mayors are increasingly playing a “ceremonial role” as opposed to a managerial role. Keeping prior administrations in place illustrates the point nicely.

    If past is prologue Mayor Rilling will enjoy several terms in office. What GOP Chair can best do to spur informed discussed is to identify the GOP platform on key issues. Its a real mystery. The GOP in power decades ago – real fiscal conservatives – bears little relation to the City’s GOP currently. Witness the sharp escalation in City spending and taxes under Mayor Moccia that propelled Norwalk to offering the highest muni salaries of any City in CT.

    So far Mayor Rilling hadn’t shown interest in controlling City spending and taxes. But “hopes spring eternal”. And the GOP similarly ignores curbing spending and tax hikes. Changing Norwalk’s reputation as an overtaxed and poorly managed City takes more than throwing bricks at a newly elected Mayor. Or dealing with low hanging fruit issues.

    The real enchilada Mr Torrano is curbing City spending/taxes. What’s the GOP plan ? More of the same ? We’d like to hear the GOP views. That’s how to get attention. The “smart money” is betting that the GOP doesn’t have a spending/tax plan. Show us that we’re wrong.

  21. Peter Torrano

    Suzanne, thank you for your reasoned response. I’ve heard the accusations of incivility in the past, and that is one thing I’d like to make certain doesn’t happen. Some in the party may have been guilty of incivility, but in fairness, it did happen on the other side as well. Note the various bloggers who would go off on name calling rants, alleging all kinds of mismanagement and wrong-doing, all in defense of their party. Read the reports on the Zoning Commission meetings and the offensive personal attacks they perpetrated on other commission members. I’m referring to elected and appointed Democrats. I’m sure that since you read NoN you know exactly who I’m referring to. I thought my argument/questions were pretty straight forward. When others in high office are doing the bulk of the talking for Norwalk, and it happened again today, we as taxpayers and citizens have a duty to ask where the elected leadership in Norwalk is, at those times. That, I believe, is what I did. I must say, though, that is a pleasure to have this civil conversation with you. It’s a rarity in today’s world, especially in politics.

  22. Ark

    I guess Eve T. did not watch the Videos on NoN where Harry was deep in the pack supporting NEON chanters in support of Chiquitta. The only thing Harry should do is get ride of NEON and please don’t saddle us with another anti-poverty agency which only serves to make money for its corrupt employees and officers.

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